Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Friday, August 9, 1985. 9:43 PM": A story based on "The Needle Has Landed" by Neko Case, as suggested by musician Mike Lust of Tight Phantomz (4/100)

Friday, August 9, 1985. 9:43 PM

I: Sparrow

Sparrow pointed at the radio station and told the driver, “Right there is fine.” She walked around the building a few times checking for renovations, security updates. She stood facing the street with her hands in her pockets, kicking her heels against the steps to the front door. Then she turned around and walked into the building, past the receptionist, and into the sound booth. The DJ didn’t want to tell the police he had been physically removed by a gangly redhead in a white leather jacket, so he stayed silent and in the hallway.

She locked the door and dug through the records. She found singles of “Carmelita” and “Cherry Bomb” and stacked them. She slipped the LP of Small Change by Tom Waits underneath. The pile was growing. She picked up the 45 for “The Boys Are Back In Town,” put it back, and then grabbed it again. She was talking to herself as if trying to remember the items on a grocery list left at home, saying things like “Did he like KISS as much as I did?” and “Is ‘Memory Motel’ a bit chintzy in a situation like this?” The DJ was watching her through the window. She turned to the door and started asking him the questions. “What was playing when he left me at the bus station?” The DJ didn’t even shrug, just stood there defeated. “Oh,” she said to him, “‘Magic Man.’” She paused for a second to hear the song that was playing, then looked back to the DJ and said, “Peter Gabriel sucks.”

Sparrow had worked at a station in Minneapolis years ago, and ran the controls effortlessly. She cleared her throat and said, “Hello, Tacoma. This will be the last time I come back for the last time.” She laughed and dropped the needle.

II: Hudson

Aside from a few gaps here and there, Hudson’s left arm was already covered in tattoos. That night was the blackout. Wrist-to-shoulder with nothing but black. Usually former Nazis get it to cover all their swastikas and SS logos. Two other tattoo artists were getting ready, putting on their gloves, prepping their machines. Hudson was shaving his arm. They had a tray full of ink, all of it black. Hudson was going to start at the bottom and the other two were going to start at the top. They were going to meet near his elbow, and between the three of them, they’d use all the ink.

He got his first one the night he dropped her off at the bus station, his truck sputtering in the cold and kicking smoke as he pulled away, barely giving her enough time to slam the door. It was 1976 and the closest tattoo shop was fifty miles way. He floored it and still managed to drink a twelve pack by the time he got there. He picked an eagle off the wall of designs, one in mid-flight and going down. It took up his whole bicep. When she came back for the first time two years later she walked into his trailer and when Hudson stood up he grabbed the thing nearest him to throw at her. It was a bible. He threw it just like a Frisbee and hit her right between the eyes with the base of the spine. He went out a week later and got a cross on the bottom of his forearm. When he pointed at the ground it was normal and chaste and when he pointed at the sky it was inverted. By the next time she came back, Hudson had his own tattoo shop. It was 1983 and she stayed the whole summer, the two of them going out to the air force base and lying in the bed of his truck, the planes flying fast right above their faces. When summer was over, he got the 446th Airlift Wing inked into the top of his forearm, moving in a straight line toward his fingers.

“You ready, Hudson?” said one of the other tattoo artists.

“Yeah, just shut that damn radio off. I hate Peter Gabriel.”

Someone behind him clicked the radio off and they sat there in silence until Hudson started his machine. “All right,” he said, and then laughed as he dipped the needle into the ink and pressed it to his skin.


Neko Case is redhead from Virginia who is an honorary Canadian and Washingtonian. In addition to performing in several punk bands earlier on in her career, she has put out albums with The New Pornographers, with Carolyn Mark as one half of The Corn Sisters, and as a solo artist. Her song "This Tornado Loves You" is my favorite song ever. I have written a heroic crown of sonnets about a fabricated relationship with her, which is admittedly creepy, though I know a guy who used to draw pictures of my friend Ashley as a topless mermaid killing herself with a sword, so it could be a lot worse, really. Neko currently lives with her dogs in Tucson, Arizona.

Mike Lust lives in Chicago, Illinois and plays guitar/vocals in the rock band Tight Phantomz. He is often in need of a haircut. He used to play in the band Lustre King, who were pretty badass. I once convinced original TPz drummer Jay Dandurand that Vinnie Paul of Pantera plays in cowboy boots and records all his tracks with quarters taped to the beater of his kick drum pedals. I will forever be in debt to Mike for writing the song "Hash Sisters," which ranks only slightly below "This Tornado Loves You" on my list of favorite songs. For the past few years, Tight Phantomz have been trying to release Silk Prison, a massive, ridiculously great double album whose delayed distribution has led it to be called "the Chinese Democracy of our times" by followers of the band. Though Silk Prison is currently unavailable outside of a few CDR copies (one of which I would love to have), you can get your fill of riff-filled debauchery by picking up the 2004 EP Nightfool and the 2005 full-length Crazy When Wet.

"Sickening" from Split with Tornavalanche/Silk Prison

"There Goes My Protege" from Silk Prison

"Ahead, So Gone" from Silk Prison

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Hyper Ballad" by Björk, as suggested by writer Benjamin Rosenbaum.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Facts": A story based on "Crosseyed and Painless" by The Talking Heads, as suggested by writer Kirk Nesset (3/100)




Talking Heads are a band from New York City who are most famous for condoning arson as long as it involves a danceable beat and having an arrow in one of their song titles. Their music has often been confused with the sound of two robots fisting each other. Nobody knows why jam bands insist on covering their material ad nauseum. It turns out that their song "Once In a Lifetime" is completely different than "Love of a Lifetime" by Firehouse.

Kirk Nesset is the author of two books of fiction, Mr. Agreeable and Paradise Road, as well as The Stories of Raymond Carver (nonfiction), Saint X (poems, forthcoming), and Alphabet of the World: Selected Works by Eugenio Montejo (translations, forthcoming). He was awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize in 2007 and has received a Pushcart Prize and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. Though he used to sell wood stoves, he now teaches at Allegheny College in addition to serving alternate years as writer-in-residence at the Chautauqua Writers Institute in upstate New York. He digs the Cure and the Smiths, as well as rollerblading, which leads me to believe we could be pals, assuming I don't have to listen to any of his Grateful Dead albums.
Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "The Needle Has Landed" by Neko Case, as suggested by musician Mike Lust of Tight Phantomz.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Sweet Tooth": A story based on "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges, as suggested by musician Ted Nesseth of The Heavenly States (2/100)

Sweet Tooth



The Stooges, much like Grand Funk Railroad, are a band from Michigan. However, unlike the mighty GFR, The Stooges were abrasive and seedy. Mark Farner and Iggy Pop both performed shirtless a lot. Lots of people say Fun House is the best rock and roll album ever. Nobody says that about Grand Funk Railroad's All the Girls in the World Beware!!!. I hope nobody ever wants me to write a story about "Butt Town" by Iggy Pop.

Ted Nesseth is the guitarist and vocalist for the band The Heavenly States. He 's really good at saying the word "androgyny." I think their first album, The Heavenly States, is a perfect power-pop record. Their other albums are really good, too. Rumor has it that Ted used to play in a band that covered the entirety of Terence Trent D'Arby's Neither Fish Nor Flesh. An Aries like me, Ted is most likely prone to fiery arguments and personal discussion. His wife Genevieve is talented and adorable and always wearing cool boots. The Heavenly States are working on their fourth album right now, and while you're waiting for it to drop, you can go buy their self-titled debut, 2005's Black Comet, and 2008's Delayer to hold you over.

"The Story Of" from The Heavenly States

"Pretty Life" from Black Comet

"The Race" from Delayer

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "Crosseyed and Painless" by The Talking Heads, as suggested by writer Kirk Nessett.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Like Credits": A story based on "Four Strong Winds" by Neil Young, as suggested by writer Bill Roorbach (1/100)

Like Credits

It wasn’t quite an argument, but there was some confusion as to who was leaving who. Both of us had packed as little as possible, a suitcase each on the bed, the tops open and resting against each other. I folded two pairs of socks together into one and placed them in the corner. She went right for her black dress, the velvet one that hung lightly on her shoulders. Her girlfriends said that it turned so many heads they began calling it The Chiropractor.

I commented on what I wasn’t taking. “Alberta’s too nice for sweaters,” I said aloud, throwing in a silk shirt her mother had gotten me years ago, one I hadn’t even worn. She ignored me and filled the rest of her suitcase with shoes. I watched her fit high heels together into a handshake and stack them on top of the dress, pair after pair. So I dusted off the front of a blazer and said, “I’ll need this when my friends up there get me a job.”

We zipped up and I began digging in my pocket for some change to give her, to tell her it could be towards bus fare so she could come see me, even though it gets pretty cold up there and I don’t think there’d be much for her to do. She was gone before I could get out the money or the words. When she opened and closed the door, I looked briefly at what was left, which was everything except the clothes on our bodies and in our suitcases. I did the same as she, opening and closing the door and trying to not be the one behind the other, the one going away the least. We moved in as quick a lurching manner as possible, each of us holding a single suitcase and making the same uneven patter on the sidewalk.

It was almost morning and the moon moved downward slowly, scrolling like credits on the ride to Alberta. The bus was mostly empty. I didn’t need the space but I used it anyway, stretching out my legs and giving my suitcase its own seat. I spent the whole ride unnerved and not knowing why. It was the feeling of having a belly full of stones, but the opposite, too, like a void beneath my lungs. It started as soon as I walked out of the apartment. I knew it wasn’t because of the obvious reasons, things or people I left, the books and records and gas station attendants I would never see again. Imagining them all alongside the bus, trying to catch up and tell me one last thing, I didn’t regret being in the seat while their legs beat into static. It wasn’t until the bus finally stopped that I figured it out. It was those gusts of air back in the apartment. That open and close, open and close of the door. How long will those four strong winds swirl before they blow so cold they stop?


Neil Young is a Canadian musician who has put out over 9,000 albums. His latest album is about a car, but I haven't actually listened to it, so who knows. "Four Strong Winds" was actually written by Ian Tyson in the early 60s. Neil covered it on his 1978 album Comes A Time, which is what Harvest should have sounded like.

Bill Roorbach is a kick ass writer of both short fiction (Big Bend: Stories) and creative non-fiction (Temple Stream, Writing Life Stories, Into Woods, Summers With Juliet). I haven't read his novel (The Smallest Color), but I'm sure it too is as honest and muscular as the rest of his work. Also a musician, Bill is making a video memoir about his life in music (I Used To Play In Bands), which you should check out immediately for a humorous, apt perspective of what it meant to be a musician in the early wake of the Beatles and beyond.

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges, as suggested by musician Ted Nesseth of The Heavenly States.