The first time I played the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA in 2009, I was very pleased to find a full house awaiting me. Since then, the venue has moved to a bigger room holding more people, and although I played this much larger space just recently, in November 2011 on a Sunday night, it was still pretty packed, and with a very enthusiastic crowd at that. I'd just done three shows in two nights, always a worry where the human vocal chords are concerned (when the voice winds down after an hour and a half show then is forced to crank up again for another show of the same length, it is like putting the vocal chords through a meat grinder), but my voice had hung together and maybe even gained more fluidity and nuance over the course of this long weekender, a good thing indeed when you know that the venue is recording the show.
As soon as I heard the results, and that the folks at the Freight were gracious enough to let me release the recording, I knew a live "official bootleg" was in the works, hence "¡Live At The Freight & Salvage!" only available at the site and at gigs.
This alone may be of some interest to followers of the string of these grahamparker.net releases, but something else also of interest, and perhaps with a touch of serendipity attached, came along with the package.
When I released "Burning Questions" in 1992 I was - it is no secret - quite the fan of the ground breaking cartoon Ren and Stimpy. I won't go into a description of this fine work here, but suffice to say it was not something the kids should be watching, although of course they did, often due to the fact that their parents wanted to share this devilish piece of irreverence and subversion with them, despite their tender years, in order to encourage future comedic perversity and hopefully avoid breeding children hobbled by prudishness and the church-lady humor of boiled eggs. Yes, many a child’s future in the domain of goodness and light was thwarted by that rude and controversial episode "Stimpy's First Fart" (the original title) in which our poor perennially put-upon Stimpy spends an entire show searching the world for a lost fart which he believes is his child (that’s right, when children know that cats can fart too the world becomes an infinitely more humorous place).
I credited Ren and Stimpy with percussion (actually performed by me) on "Burning Questions" and somehow the show’s creator, John Kricfalusi got wind (no pun intended) of this and graciously sent me a cell from the famous "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" episode which I still have, proudly displayed in a plain wooden frame.
Not long after receiving this fabulous gift, I was playing the Troubadour in Hollywood and was approached by a fellow named Steve Loter who handed me a black and white drawing he'd done of Ren and Stimpy which depicted Ren wearing some suspiciously GP-like sunglasses and pointing his finger angrily at Stimpy in a very "Don't Ask Me Questions" pose. Steve told me that he was an illustrator for the show and judging by the accuracy of his work, there was obviously no doubt about it.
I believe that this show took place on 10/22/93 because I checked the indispensable "My Gig List" section on Johannes Dieninger’s "Struck By Lightning" website.
What the website does not note is that a young up-and-comer named Jewel was opening for me that night, solo. I recall that there was a major label bidding war going on for this girl, led by Atlantic, a label I had been on briefly in 1987 but was dropped from before I even made a record for them. The reason I was dropped was because I continued to insist to the label’s boss, a certain legendary figure named Ahmet Ertegun, that the age of bombast in the form of '80's production values whereby the sound of the snare drum, massive, glassy and out front, was about to end and that I should make a record that focused on the singer, the acoustic guitar, and the voice (albeit with a crackin' band behind it). Ahmet and his absurd German sidekick found this concept utterly unfathomable. But here they were about 6 years later in a lemming-like search for singer/songwriters wielding acoustic guitars and making simple, very non-80's sounding records.
Jewel it seemed was a perfect candidate: she did indeed wield an acoustic guitar, did a bit of yodeling as a gimmicky bonus, and was undoubtedly a mammal.
(I looked her up on the internets for this piece and, despite the fact that she has apparently sold 27 million records, found myself on various jewelry sites perusing some alarmingly outlandish handiwork that only an Italian lady from Long Island would dare grace upon her slender age-spotted wrist. Eventually I found the artiste herself and was astonished by her record sales, thinking, not for the first time, of the accuracy of my song title, "They Got It Wrong (As Usual)."
The point of my rambling is that Steve Loter, who handed me that cartoon on that night, has been in touch with me and John Howells of late and kindly offered his services as an illustrator (he now works in a Disney studio) and so when the opportunity arose, as it did with this album, we took him up on it. And what a fine piece of work it is, with no less than four panels of lovely stuff from this talented fellow. I laughed like a drain when I saw the work, each piece exquisite and unique and full of the required humor it takes to get anywhere near a GP album cover, at least ones which involve cartoon-like illustrations.
As for the songs, there’s a few on here that have only recently been added to my live solo canon, most notably “Endless Night,” “Dark Side Of The Bright Lights,” “Problem Child,” and a cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Too Much Time.” I listened to a lot of Beefheart in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s and “Clear Spot” was a real favourite, so about a year ago, feeling it was time to re-acquaint myself with some of his work, I bought a nifty two album compilation containing both “Clear Spot” and “Spotlight Kid.” I’ve often fumbled around with “Too Much Time” over the years with a view to cover it, but only recently did I find the groove and the key that worked. Here it is, portrayed on the trusty Telecaster at the Freight for your enjoyment. Like many of these covers I turn up with from time to time, this one will no doubt slip away from me and never be performed again. Glad I got it on record.