I did not intend to write another new, episode-specific song right after the last one, but once I started thinking about it, it rather kicked off in my head.
The only relation to Ayn Rand is that she’s, in my opinion, “of the existentialism moment,” meaning that like the existentialists that were her contemporaries, she’s concerned with the fact that we’re all going to die, and for her this means we need to evaluate every choice we make in a sort of economic fashion: is this really the most valuable thing to do with my time. Also, she’s flamboyant and largely full of crap. So I got to thinking about all this “bucket list” talk floating around our culture (and appropriated by feel-good advertisements) and wrote a simple, goofy, repetitive song asking the listener, “Have you ever done this? Have you ever done that? These are things that you HAVE to do,” and including lots of mundane and nonsensical and otherwise out-of-place things in the list to make fun of the whole idea that a singer should be offering such prescriptions.
I was planning on singing the whole thing in a high, Prince-type falsetto, but then started thinking about female singers I knew that could do it instead. Back in 1994 I conceived of a whole chanteuse recording project where I would write goofy songs for some woman to sing and wrote several with names like “The Siz of Luv” and “Lust!” but never actually recorded any of them. So this was a revival of that idea, but the difference is that now I’m on friendly occasional emailing terms with Lucy Lawless, so I asked her to sing the song, she said yes, and I recorded a little video demo to send to her and started the recording.
Before I got very far into the recording, I had somewhat of a change of heart after my wife was pretty dismissive of the lyrics, and I began to feel that the music was actually good and deserved better than a parody song. So, knowing of course that I would now be partaking of the very thing I was ready to make fun of (that’s the “partially examined” thing rearing its head again), I did some soul searching and belched out a whole new, more nuanced melody with honest lyrics dealing with the constant knowledge that the person I love, not to mention I, will be checking out at some point, which is very weird. It now being no longer the song that I had pictured Lucy belting out to delightfully absurd affect, I asked if she would still be up for singing a backup vocal part, which she graciously did.
There was about half a day where I had both versions written and musicians remotely already working on the recordings where I simply surveyed them to see whether they liked the serious or funny version better. I got about an even split in responses, though the funniest was when a friend of mine just said, “you know which one to use… the awesome one!” And I honestly thought he meant the one I had by then already picked (the serious one) when he didn’t mean that. So even though I think the final version (“Things WE Should Do”) is much better than the old one (“Things YOU Should Do”), I went ahead and did a mix of the silly one too, and took the opportunity to add some crazy effects to some of the instruments, futz around with the levels to make it more mechanical, and I even added back a couple of instrumental parts that I’d rejected along the way. So I’ve posted high-bitrate mp3s of both versions, and you’re welcome to chew on whichever you want, though either way, you will die.
Besides Lucy (who, incidentally, will be performing in the musical “Chicago” at the Hollywood Bowl next month), thanks to Eric Schumann, my new Madison keyboardist (who also put down e-drums); Steve Petrinko, my old Ann Arbor drummer; and Dave Roof, who was my guitarist in the first iteration of The MayTricks all the way back on ’91 but which I hadn’t played with since. I played acoustic guitar, bass, and a bit of electric, and used my editing magic to screw around with everyone else’s parts as per normal, thus depriving them of free will.