Partially Naked Self-Examination Music Blog, Week 18

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…Almost done polishing the turd that is this old demo. Here’s a Pink Floyd-y song of mine called “To Valerie,” written for a girl by that name in my second month or so of college (fall of ’89). I believe it was elicited when I went to knock on her dorm room and a male voice said “Go away!” so I went and recorded a demo of this by myself and delivered the tape to her room then and there, presumably with the guy (who was presumably her older boyfriend from before she started school, whom she would soon break up with, not that that helped my chances) still in there making out with her. Just pathetic.

Though this is one of the most stylistically derivative things I’ve ever written (if you’re familiar with late 70s Pink Floyd, you’ll get it), it was one of the longest lasting tunes in the MayTricks set list, one they even played a bit (I think) after my departure from Ann Arbor for grad school in Texas (the band changed its name to “Fingers,” got another bass player, and played for another year before they got sick of each other; strangely, I was acting as glue between these strange personalities). Yes, it’s dark, and desperate, and doesn’t have much of a beat to it, and so is really not appropriate for bar/party/dance situations. I still periodically think about making the lyrics less embarrassing, smoothing out the drum part and reintroducing it into the set.

I never particularly liked this demo version because of the general out-of-tuneness between the guitars and in the vocal, some rhythmic problems (which I’ve improved somewhat for this remix), and mostly because our fill-in rhythm guitarist of the day changed my main guitar part (the one that starts off the song) to what you hear here; the part on “So Chewy” is what it’s supposed to sound like. Still, the lead guitar and keys make it a more thorough Pink Floyd rip-off than our later version, which is the spirit of the tune, after all. The weird vocal effect throughout is caused by my singing while we were doing the instruments getting picked up by the drum mics, so you’re essentially hearing me double-tracked throughout. The giant vocal reverb washes that emerge a couple times during the song (e.g. going into the guitar solo) were on the 1991 version, not something I added now.

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  1. Avatar of Mark Linsenmayer

    Mark Linsenmayer

    May 3, 2010

    Thinking about this song has made me reflect further on the pathetic circumstances surrounding it and wonder if I shouldn’t start writing a series of short stories based on my failed youthful romantic exploits. I’ve dredged from my memory twelve highlights of this particular episode for your amusement (not necessarily in chronological order):

    1. This woman lived my dorm, on the same floor as me, around a few corners. I had seen her cuteness out and about and got up the courage to just go to her room and introduce myself, as this was a rare social situation in which you could actually do such things (much like a cubicle farm). When I told her where I lived, she said something to the effect of “I was hoping you weren’t one of the people who saw me changing clothes from across the court yard and thought he should come over for a closer look.”

    2. We had one “date” wherein we walked around in the arboretum, deep in the personal/philosophical discourse that came so easily at that age. It was all fairly romantic until she revealed she had a boyfriend. However, this kind of barrier never stopped me before…

    3. We had another good conversation soon after that walking around the sunny campus, but I had to interrupt our discussion to go into a class. She said she’d wait out on the diag (a big field between buildings where people hang out, which also at the time featured shanties protesting South African Apartheid) until I was through. Well, when I came out, I didn’t see her and went home, but she was in fact waiting for me there and annoyed that I never showed again. Strike on me.

    4. We had another productive walk trailing behind some group of her friends. This walk ended at a restaurant, and the others all sat in such a way that the only two remaining seats were at opposite ends of the table. Now, instead of manning up and pulling up another chair so I could sit next to her, I meekly sat far away in the empty seat. She gave me a confused look and I just shrugged, spending the rest of the meal talking to no one. Strike me.

    5. Then, I think, came the incident related in my post above. Her only reaction to the song was “yeah, it sounds like Pink Floyd,” and I tried to stammer out that “To Valerie” wasn’t just a label I’d put on the tape to deliver to her but was in fact the name of the song itself. No response.

    6. I believe that I then felt the need to send her a note through inter-campus mail saying something like “I’m around if you end up being free,” but I did it in a post-ironic (i.e. stupid) way that involved mailing a packet of taco bell hot sauce, done both for the sake of a pun or something which is too hideous for me to remember exactly (“hot stuff?” — Jesus!) and because I had a healthy scientific curiosity about whether said packet would make it. She remarked to me later (awkwardly) that it’s probably not a good idea to mail such things, as they explode, leaving the envelope sticky. Many more strikes for me.

    7. I was caught on tape by another guy in the dorm around this time drunkenly complaining about the situation, saying something like “and you can’t just go up to the chick and say ‘hello there, I would be most pleased to meet your clitoris.’” I don’t know if this ever got back to her, but would not be surprised.

    8. Somewhere in there she finally broke up with her long-distance boyfriend. We had lunch together and she said something like “Dang! This just had to happen right after I got back on the pill!” Rather than giving her a lascivious wink or something at that, I kind of stammered and embarrassed her. Lost opportunity there.

    9. On Halloween, with me dressed as a hobo or something at a dorm function, she said she “just wanted to be friends,” leaving me crushed, wandering the streets in a hobo costume.

    10. Despite this, I recall going home over Thanksgiving and telling someone that I’d met “the love of my life,” or maybe it was “the third love of my life” referring to similar unrequited crap that had happened earlier. Totally clueless.

    11. Some months later, after winter break, I chatted with her and she invited me (I think) to come out to see a play with her. I didn’t know until I showed up that it would be with maybe three other guys and her, at least two of which I believe also wanted to be going out with her, so I guess this was an attempt to channel these suitors into a common pool where they could be dealt with as a “friendly” group.

    12. Maybe two years later, I ran into her because she had a class right before me in the same room. She didn’t immediately recognize me, and when she did, she professed ignorance of whether I was someone she knew from high school or college. Despite the fact that I had at that point just gotten out of a bad relationship and was extra pathetic, I don’t THINK I carried through on a momentarily conceived plan to write her…

    So, the lesson I get out of this is: Mark in early college years = creepy dork. For an overdose of me immediately post-college in an even more exaggerated fit of unrequited idiocy, you can read my book: http://marklint.com/tripe/.

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