Partially Naked Self-Examination Music Blog: “Things We Should Do”

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Listen to “Things We Should Do” and “Things You Should Do.”

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.

-Mark Linsenmayer

Comments

  1. qapla

    June 27, 2013

    “concerned with the fact that we’re all going to die”

    “this “bucket list” talk floating around our culture” is not really anything new
    “memento mori” (Latin ‘remember that you will die’) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memento_mori

    (c. 1671) Philippe de Champaigne’s “Vanitas”
    three essentials: Life, Death, and Time

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:StillLifeWithASkull.jpg

    I don’t know about down loading from this site but you can press play on the player and listen
    Eternal Return
    FF: The Philosophy of Nietzsche – Joseph Brisendine

    http://www.nuttymp3.com/mp3/1620147

    Sam Harris – Death and the Present Moment

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTxTCz4Ums

    This is surely one of those “stupid existentialist songs out there urging you to make the most out of life.”
    But it’s pretty good in a way.
    Tim McGraw – Live Like You Were Dying

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiOcW_YR1G8

    much respect Mark

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      June 27, 2013

      Thanks. There’s of course nothing wrong or new about contemplating death in this way–it’s undoubtedly healthy not to mention realistic, and can help you enjoy your relationships and things by taking an active view in the face of death instead of being paralyzed.

      What’s creepy to me is commercialization. No longer are ads transparently carnival barker-esque, but they try to be “sincere,” like those moving speeches by Don Draper in Mad Men. So it’s not just associating products with “fun, fun, fun” (which only works in advertising on kids), but doing a slice of life, don’t you love your kids dance. Even outside of the explicitly commercial realm, it’s still dealing with a personal matter using a crowd mentality… oh, what would Kierkegaard say??!!

      • Michael

        June 27, 2013

        Well, welcome to emotional capitalism, according to some about the 3rd phase, but that started a long time ago, we’re probably in the hyper-state of things, like in so many other realms…

        Eva Illouz:

        “Emotional capitalism is a culture in which emotional and economic discourses and practices mutually shape each other, thus producing what I view as a broad, weeping movement in which affect is made an essential aspect of economic behavior and in which emotional life—especially that of the middle classes—follows the logic of economic relations and exchange. … In fact … market-based cultural repertoires shape and inform interpersonal and emotional relationships, while interpersonal relationships are at the epicenter or economic relationships. More exactly, market repertoires become intertwined with the language of psychology and, combined together, offer new techniques and meanings to forge new forms of sociability.”

        And (sorry): Zizek:

        “You must have noticed this how–to put it in very simple terms, there were three big stages of publicity. The original one is–let’s call it, naively utilitarian publicity. You are solicited to
        buy something because you need it and because of its quality. It’s like you need a Land
        Rover. Okay, publicity says it’s the best car, it’s the strongest, greatest space; it
        doesn’t spend a lot of gasoline, whatever. Then, we get this more consumerist publicity
        which is keeping up with the Jones’ status symbol. There they refer to what status we
        give to you owning a Land Rover. It’s not–you don’t by because you really need it, you buy
        to signal your social status. But that’s not all, I claim today precisely after 68,
        we have different mode of publicity which is neither utilitarian, these are good qualities,
        nor symbolic status but this typical “me” generation. They refer to your–the–to yourself,
        to your potentials. The idea is buy Land Rover and you will realize your potentials, you
        will feel free, you will feel authentic and so on. It’s–as we all know, the experience.”

        • qapla

          June 28, 2013

          “There they refer to what status we give to you owning a Land Rover. It’s not–you don’t by because you really need it, you buy to signal your social status. But that’s not all, I claim today precisely after 68, we have different mode of publicity which is neither utilitarian, these are good qualities, nor symbolic status but this typical “me” generation. They refer to your–the–to yourself, to your potentials. The idea is buy Land Rover and you will realize your potentials, you will feel free, you will feel authentic and so on. It’s–as we all know, the experience.”

          Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness – Epicurus on Happiness

          at about 09:38 on

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L3dLWwmDDw

          much respect

  2. dmf

    June 27, 2013

    sent this link along to the Studio360 radio show who knows may be your own moment of fame in the making…

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