Spaceship Days

Spaceship Days

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Particulars of Inspiration: Hanging From The Satellites

The first time is never easy.

 Ours was a long time ago, in a town not too far away.  Grunge was still king. Prince had unrepentantly changed his name to a tattoo, and the Beastie Boys had recently told the world to Check Your Head.

 Spaceship Days wasn't even a glimmer in our alcohol soaked imaginations, and the birth of grey was still months away. We were actually on our third or fourth band name by then. This one was less embarrassing than those that had preceded it, but only just; we stuck with it anyway, because we'd been putting the word out about the Big Debut Show and it just wouldn't do to confuse people by changing our name (again) at the last minute. All the cool bands picked an name and stuck with it, no matter how bad it was.

  We had been a band for about a month. In that time, we'd already cut our first demo, and had spend the following weeks leading up to the Big Debut Show strutting around like peacocks with our cassette tape feathers stuck up in the air. It wasn't that the recording was especially good (it wasn't) but we were the only people we knew who'd ever even had the brass to try and make one and that meant something.  That belief in ourselves carried us along way, and picked up quite a bit of the slack we needed for our skills to catch up.

 Still, beneath it all we were only four young men:  Matt, Chuck, Greg, and Aaron. Just a breath out of our teens and  sitting on the floor of an empty room,  we were anxiously waiting to stand in front of everyone we knew and put on our first live performance.

 The Big Debut Show was at Aaron's place. He was the drummer so it just made good sense. It was easier for myself and Greg to transport our gear, which included the little 50 W Gorilla Amp that Matt would be using for his vocals.  Sure, all the cool bands had PA systems, but we hadn't quite discovered that yet. Our stage was the back porch, which was great with us. The small-ish concrete slab faced a courtyard of sorts, and where our delusions lived that space was going to be jam packed with adoring fans.

 Earlier that afternoon Matt had used a sharpie to decorate a semi soiled bed sheet with a picture, and a poem called The Uncoiling. We hung it from Aaron's bedroom window so it could dangle above us as we rocked out because, you know--all the cool bands had a banner. The fact that it was a good ten feet above our heads made no never mind.

 I personally remember feeling like I was going to throw up, and then maybe have an accident which no doubt would have led to throwing up again.  Throughout all this gastrointestinal distress I held on tight to my 'I'm not scared' face. It wouldn't due to upset my band mates, who were all clinging to their 'unimpressed by this building terror' faces too. Mostly.

 Right before it was time to go on, and I had assured myself for the seventh time that my bass strap was not going to spontaneously snap off leaving me guitar-less and mortified, someone started giggling.  To this day I still can't remember who, or why but after a moment we all were.


  It turned out to be just what we needed. Through the aching ribs and sore from smiling cheeks I suddenly had the sense that no matter what happened everything was going to be fine.  We weren't going to melt, or spontaneously combust--we were only going to play some songs for some people. Just as we'd always dreamed.

  The four of us will always be connected by that night. It was tense, awkward, amazing, and a more than a little bit frightening in turns but we wouldn't change a thing.

  "Hanging From the Satellites"  is a tribute to that evening. It coils and slides through the anxiety and exhilaration we felt in the long, long minutes before we began, and hints at the calm out of body surreality of the performance itself.

  At the end of our first number, while we were listening to what (in our minds at least) was thunderous applause, we  weren't really surprised when the police arrived to shut us down. That sort of thing happened fairly regularly at the swim team parties we frequented in those days. The Big Debut Show was over quickly, but we all were somewhat thankful for the save. Better to leave them wanting more. Just like all the cool bands.

We only had three more songs anyway.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Particulars of Inspiration : "Big World Pop Star"

Sometimes, songs just happen.

A hook hits you while you’re in the shower, or stuck in traffic, or halfway through the check out line at Target. It’s insistent and awesome. You run home to your instrument of choice, hit RECORD and wait with that sort of mellow, self-satisfied glee that we musical types get while the tune practically writes itself.

Unfortunately, most songs are far more likely to be born old good old-fashioned heartache.

"Big World Pop Star" is one of that kind.

Here’s the tale: It was one of those fantastic and tragically occasional intersections of luck, talent, and being the friend-of-a-friend-who-knows-somebody. The members of Spaceship Days had gone from being ‘those guys on the swim team’ to a solid alterna- rock outfit and were finally going to get the opportunity to prove it.

The venue was a massive one. The projected turnout was epic. The headliner that will never be named (who’s moniker contains the letters m e r) was arguably the most successful band of the era. Enough friends, family, and early concert arrivals stood massed before the side stage to make to make it one of Spaceship Days’ most memorable performances as a band.

For about six minutes.

Then came the metaphorical gut kicking.

The smoke had finally cleared, the fists stopped being shaken, and the untidy language had died down, when Spaceship Days found out that the headliner had taken issue with the venue over comparative font sizes in the area newspaper advertisements, and “a few other things”. Apparently those other things were important enough to cancel the performances of the local acts and have the supporting band take the stage three hours early.

Just as the members of Spaceship Days had begun to really feel their cool quotient rise, a guy with a clipboard and a pair of Buddy Holly glasses had pulled the plug midway through the chorus of the second song. In his wake he left a snide remark, a contemptuous sniff, and a few thousand stunned and staring people wondering what the hell had just happened.

Later the singer of one of the other bands, who were the venerable rock and roll uncles in town at the time, sat down with some of the other dejected players. His crew took the whole thing quite casually, something which would have bothered the members of Spaceship Days had they had the strength to be anything other than mind numbingly sad.

“Pop stars do that sort of shi*t sometimes.” He told the band with that matter of fact shrug that sometimes accompanies nuggets of old guy wisdom. He was right of course, but we never felt quite the same way about that headliner again.

“Big World Pop Star “ is a song not only about that day, but also about all the days before it and all the days after when someone forgot what life was like before video music awards, and platinum records, and clipboard toting minions. This song is what Spaceship Days thinks about not remembering.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spaceship Days: A Band in Conflict.

   Spaceship Days have been doing a lot of shouting lately.

 There have been shaken fists, pointed fingers, rolled eyes, and unfortunately a even little bit of name calling.
  The source of this internal strife is an old one. Its a debate that has raged on since before there even was a band, since we were nothing more than speedo wearing teenagers with dreams of Olympic glory. It's been argued at a louder volume than Redskins vs. Eagles, and more often than  Temple of Doom vs. Crystal Skull. Yet, as the years wear on, we're still no closer to The Truth.

                                               Queen vs. Duran Duran

 That is the question. Which is the better band?

 Is it a fair comparison? Maybe.

Are both bands spectacular in their own way? Definitely.

Does this disagreement make as much sense as trying to build a drum kit out of Popsicle sticks and notebook paper? Probably-- but its been two decades, so we're too far gone to quit now.

Alas, Greg has never been much help in our seesaw battle. Whenever Matt or I pose the Big Question, his smug answer was always:

"Pink Floyd."

 Guitar players...

As we've presented them to each other over and over, these are The Facts:

Year Founded
Duran  1978
Queen  1971

Number of Members
Duran  5 ( or 3 depending on whom you ask)
Queen  4

Number of Albums
Duran 14* (* the next due in early 2011)
Queen 25* (*Plus one with Paul Rogers)

Top 10 Singles
Duran 14
Queen 18 (at #1)

Number of Times a Founding Member Quit the Band
Duran 7
Queen 1

Top 10 Albums
Duran 0 (but 21 songs on the Billboard Hot 100)
Queen 18 (at #1)

Number of Band Members with the Last Name Taylor
Duran 3
Queen 1

Number of Soundtracks
Duran 1 (a #1 single from the James Bond film that even Christopher Walken couldn't save)
Queen 4 (Including Highlander aka The Best Movie Ever)

Number of Cool Videos
Duran All of them
Queen 2

Number of Albums Sold
Duran  Over 100 million
Queen Over 300 million

 So those are the numbers....but are any of these things what really matter?

 Is a band ultimately only judged by the number of chart topping singles or whether or not those little decorative records the Powers That Be hand out are shiny gold or sparkling platinum?

 We think not.

 It seems that the great bands--the truly great bands-- give fans like us a little something more. They give us music that we feel, the sort of music that continues to mean something even as the years shuffle by.  They give us the songs that remind us of a pleasant afternoon that time way back when, or that wild road trip, or that whirlwind romance that left us with curled toes and face splitting grins.

 The greats give us the songs that make us feel like crying, or make us need to stomp. They give us the music that gives us the urge to dance on both of our left feet. They give us the songs that are impossible to forget.

  More often than not, these tunes aren't the "hits"; they're the track three on side two's, or the hidden B sides from extra rare imports that we die hard musos will spend insanely irresponsible amounts time and money trying to add to our collections.

  Clearly, both of these iconic groups have done these important things for each of us, and yet the quarrel goes on and on. After so long its safe to say that neither of us will ever sway the other, but that doesn't mean we won't stop trying.

 One of these bands has to be the winner.

 Who would you choose?