(Favorite Records) PINKERTON by WEEZER

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Weezer burst on to the rock scene in 1994. “The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly” were fine pieces of music, but it wasn’t until “Say It Ain’t So” hit that I really took notice.  Even then, I was broke most of the time and never allowed myself to purchase a copy of the record. Shame on you, Glenn.  Hey, I did buy Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven and Soundgarden’s Superunknown. I had some modern/non-hair metal taste!

Anyway, that was the time of the great 90s pop-punk explosion. Kurt Cobain had killed himself and the grunge world hated being rock stars….enter Green Day, Offspring, Rancid and a billion others. While I was two years removed from my mad love of hair metal (which I still love and feel not an ounce of shame for singing along to songs by bands like Winger or Warrant), I sort of slid through grunge and wound up with these punk bands.

Enter 1995

I was a year removed from having spinal fusion surgery (thanks to my no good scoliosis) and was finally free of ever having to wear a back brace ever again! FREEDOM!  Green Day was my new favorite band and even though I loved Dookie, I freaking loved Insomniac. But that album was very quickly joined by more amazingness: …And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid (still an all-time fav), (What’s the Story) Morning Glory by some Brit-pop brats named Oasis (another fav), and No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom (man, Gwen Stefani has strayed so far away…). But there was a gem that I find myself going back to even now more than any of them.

 

El Scorcho!

There was a new Weezer song on the radio. It was poppy, but it sounded gritty, it was goofy, but the lyrics, man, the lyrics! “I wish I could get my head out of the sand, cuz I think we’d make a good team, and you would keep my fingernails clean…but that’s just a stupid dream that I won’t realize, cuz I can’t even look in your eyes without shakin’ and I ain’t fakin’, I’ll bring home the turkey if you bring home the bacon….”  (If this were a book, I’d not be allowed to use that many actual lyrics-believe me, I’ve tried)

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This record is maybe the most honest, open, vulnerable, self-deprecating, amazing mix of catchy, goofy, dirty, shameful, heartbreak and awesomeness..maybe ever.

How many band’s have the kind of success that Weezer did, and then after finishing their first big tours, have their singer take a break to go to college…at Harvard? One minute you’re a big rock star, the next you’re dropped into a world where most of the young adults don’t know or care who you are out there… I think I read that Rivers Cuomo (their singer) was home-schooled or something, too. Or grew up on a commune?  Something out of the ordinary. Anyways, he’s this already sort of awkward guy who is now surrounded by all kinds of girls…

I feel like Pinkerton is like us getting to read his freaking journal. It’s Rivers’ diary. And it’s open for all to see. And we see EVERYTHING.

“Tired of Sex” (Oh why can’t be making love…come true?) Who writes that? “Getchoo”  (This beginning to hurt. This is beginning to get seriousuh-huh.) Two great dark-sided, dirty gems right out the gate!

And then, Bring on the pine(ing)!

“No Other One” (My girl’s a liar, but I’ll stand beside her. Shes all I got and I don’t want to be alone) I went through a five-year relationship with this sort of story.  It’s funny what you’ll put up with when you don’t think you’re worth anything.  Plenty of us do it.

“Why Bother”  (Maybe we could even get together, maybe you can break my heart next summer! Why bother it’s gonna hurt me, it’s gonna kill when you desert me…) I’ve had that mindset most of my life! When I got into girls, this was me all the time! Especially starting in 1995!

“Across the Sea” Let’s just stop right here. This song is something most songwriters wish they could do as well as Cuomo does here. How vulnerable can you be in a lyric?  Gaslight Anthem had a song called “Too Much Blood” It’s about cutting yourself open and letting it all bleed out on the page.  “Across the Sea” came about from a letter Cuomo received from a Japanese fan: “When I got the letter, I fell in love with her. It was such a great letter. I was very lonely at the time, but at the same time I was very depressed that I would never meet her.”–(thanks to Wikipedia for that quote) He encapsulates that feeling, those emotions so perfectly well in this tune it just…it feels so real.  that’s because it is.  (They don’t make stationery like this where I’m from so fragile, so defined, so I sniff and I lick your envelope and fall to little pieces every time, I wonder what clothes you wear to school, I wonder how you decorate your room, I wonder how you touch yourself and curse myself for being across the sea…)

“The Good Life” was one of the singles and it’s a great, fun tune. (shakin’ booty, making’ sweet love all night long…it’s time I got back to the good life) The other single, “El Scorcho” made me fall in love with the band. (See my love for this tune above)

“Pink Triangle” is another jaw-drop for me as a teen. The song about a guy who falls in love (in his mind) with the girl of his dreams, only to discover…da-da-dahhhh- she’s a lesbian.  (I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian, I thought I had found the one) and my favorite whiney but perfect piney line (everyone’s a little queer, can’t she be a little straight).  Again, who writes lyrics this fucking honest????

“Falling for You” is probably my least favorite (but still good) song on the record….but it leads to my favorite vocal on the album with the final track, “Butterfly”. I do not know the story behind the song, but every time…I mean, every time Rivers’ sing that chorus, “I’m sorry for what I did, I did what my body told me to I didn’t mean to do you harm, Every time I pin down one I think I want it slips away….” I FEEL it.  It just comes across like the most truthful, heartfelt apology I’ve ever heard in a song.

I’ve always wished Rivers would have gone back to school and let himself fall in and out of love again and again…but that’s not how life works. Pinkerton is special. It’s special because it’s a time capsule (for the most part) of a shy guy’s time following stardom and yet he still feels awkward and insecure around women. It’s a snapshot. It’s perfect.

I’ve been listening to it and singing at the top of my lungs all week.

On a side note…..

My wife and I talked the other day about a friend of ours that admitted to thinking for as long as he could recall, that any relationship with a person of the opposite sex is a possibility for a relationship with a person that could be “the one”.  As my wife is telling me this, spewing it at me, shocked at the way our friend thought, I felt the shame and awkwardness of Pinkerton. I know our friend has entered into every conversation with available women like this….the fact is, I also shyly, awkwardly entered into conversations with “available” women that same exact way. I was suddenly uncomfortable and ashamed. I wanted to change the fucking subject ASAP!  You know what? It’s not that strange. I think Rivers also went into interactions with this mentality as evidenced by the lyrics of Pinkerton.

And you know what I figured out? Yes, it is awful. It’s sad for the girls and women us guys had talked to with these assumptive and dreamy possibilities in our minds, but it’s also mind-blindingly crazy to think of the amount of pressure we (the dumb boys) placed upon something as simple as a “hello” or smile, or low and behold a full conversation on anything with us pathetic fools.

What the hell? WHo wired us guys this way? I thought about it and imagined how many cool friends I might have made throughout the years had I approached women the way I do now. I’m happily married (14 years) and talk to all people the same way. THere’s NO pressure,There’s no expectations or romantic possibilities. I am interested in connecting with regular everyday people. Guys!  Younger dudes, we need to stop thinking every person of the opposite sex we approach or are at the same part/in the same bar/ working with are our perfect mate. WHY are we putting such insane pressure on ourselves? Why are we putting so much secret pressure on them? No wonder women are afraid to smile at some of us.

Okay, that said, do I think that alters my feelings for Pinkerton? No, maybe it adds layers and questions to a musical, lyrical, personal journal of an album that is a piece of musical gold, but that only ADDS to its specialness.

Pinkerton is a rarity in the world. A time capsule of a man and his friends and the way he and his shadow skulked through a world that was a rollercoaster of highs and lows and fantasy and reality. Of having your head above the clouds in one month and then becoming the reclusive, shy guy you were before almost overnight.

To think that this record was a semi-failure when it came out is a damn shame.BUT it has since become the most beloved Weezer record, right alongside and rightfully so, the debut album. (Dude, yes, sorry I was late to the party. “My Name is Jonas”, “No One Else.”, “The World has Turned, (the singles) and “In the (fucking) Garage” are classics that all of us late 80s and early 90s kids can relate to….

Anyways, I love this album and I’m not alone. If you don’t know it, look it up, order it, download it, stream it….check it out.

Oh, and if you didn’t know, the new mass market paperback and hardcover editions of my werewolf novel, BLOOD AND RAIN, are OUT NOW!

Grab a copy here: http://mybook.to/BloodandRain

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Writing Advice: What Happens Next?

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So, You Wanna be a Writer?

Well, What Happens Next?

In my time in this writing world, I’ve come to learn that a lot of readers and reviewers have a simmering desire burning deep within. They have a longing to create something bigger. And you know what? It’s not surprising. And it’s not silly. It’s natural. Those of us in the game started out in exactly the same place. Reading is what brings us to this place.

I would consider myself in the category of those that have no right to be an author. My problem is, I don’t give a fuck what I’m supposed to do. I just go for it.

Why do I feel like I had no right? Let’s go back to my start. In my early grade school years, I was in the high reading classes and groups. I loved it. I thought books were awesome. I cried, I smiled, I felt fear…mind you, these were all kid books. In my teens, I discovered Guns N’ Roses and wouldn’t read anything but metal magazines for the next five years or so. I no longer cared about school. Then, my parents got divorced and I really didn’t give a shit about school. At 16, I decided I didn’t want to be with either of my parents. My older brother took me in. After staying a freshman for multiple years, I dropped out of high school.

It was around this time that a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s The Dark Half. Ahhh, my first adventure into adult horror fiction. It truly was amazing. I immediately wanted more, but at the time, I was kind of drifting in real life. I moved from my brother’s to my friends, back in with my mom, to back in with my friends, to my own place, to back in with friends…I had no home. Reading wasn’t a high priority when you were constantly drifting.

Eventually, I met a girl and moved in with her. That started a four year stretch of semi-stability. And I started buying books! Stephen King’s Everything’s Eventual and Dreamcatcher, and then the first four books of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series. I loved all of these.

During all this time, I played in punk rock bands and wrote about fifty songs. It was like I was writing these mini-stories. At some point, I picked up King’s On Writing. There’s an exercise or an assignment in that book where he gives you the gist of a story and sets you off to write a short story of your own with the basic components or characters of the idea. And I, like many others, did.

When I was alone and my girlfriend was at work, I started trying to scribble short stories of my own. I had zero intention of anyone ever seeing these, I was just having fun.

I’ll zoom ahead here.

Those short stories were in about 2003 or 2004. Shortly after that, I got married and divorced and started playing in more bands and moving around again.

Fast forward to 2011. I’m remarried and have two beautiful daughters. My last band broke up and my work closed down. So, I’m sitting around, and I have all these notebooks full of song lyrics (I never throw any of these out, even though most of them stink). In a number of these old notebooks, I find my early attempts at short stories. In an attempt to do something creative and productive, I decide to try typing up a few of these stories onto my computer (a machine I also never had before). There was one story about a werewolf attacking a man on the side of the road that stood out. I typed it up, cleaned it up, and actually liked it. I shared it with a few friends that liked horror books on Facebook. They loved it. Then, they asked the magic question: what happens next?

I ended up answering that question for the next three and a half months. When I was done, I had written the first draft to my first novel. That book would eventually end up turning into Blood and Rain. 

But I remember thinking when I finished, I’m an author. That didn’t mean I was any good, but I had done something huge–I’d written a book.

Here’s where my writing advice comes in…finally.

I was a high school dropout. My grammar was garbage, and is still something I continue to work on, and my understanding of writing rules was 9th grade level. At the time, I didn’t think college was an option, so I went to Barnes & Noble and started buying books on how to write, on proper grammar and writing rules. And I let the dream in a little more…I bought a book on how to get your book published.

I believed this werewolf book was worthy of my time and effort. I thought it had heart and excitement and, beneath its writer’s ugly presentation, offered a pretty good story.

It was still three years before I sold Blood and Rain (to the now-defunct Samhain Publishing), and another year before it was published, but it happened. And if it can happen for me, it can happen for anybody with the will and desire to go after it.

My tips for you, the aspiring writer with no right to be a writer:

1. READ  You must love reading. You must love stories. You must keep reading and writing and reading and reading and reading….

2. HAVE FUN You have to let yourself enjoy the slow and steady process of writing a story, whether it’s a short story, a novella, or a full-blown novel. No one is going to see this but you. No one will judge you. Just write. Don’t worry about detail and research, just write. Have fun. Get that initial idea to slowly come to life. You can worry about how it looks and the details later. The most important thing is to have fun going for it.

3. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? This is still the question that runs through my head on a near-daily basis. Thank you Facebook friends! When you get stumped, when writer’s block comes after you (and it will), just fallback to this question. And guess what? Wrong answers are completely acceptable. The main thing is to keep writing. At this point you will need to listen to your guts. You can always go back and change things or delete entire chapters. Don’t be afraid to do that.

4. TRUST YOUR GUT If you’re writing and writing and your story is getting bigger and bigger, you’ll eventually begin to know these characters you are creating. If you get stuck and ask the question What Happens Next? And you answer with something that isn’t quite right, you may get a tingling spidey-sense that tells you I’m not sure about this, or this feels off. TRUST that feeling. The thing I did writing my first book was take it one word, one line, on paragraph, one chapter at a time. I would then just clean up that chapter the next day and share it with my trusted friends. It was during the 2nd day clean up that I would know if I was on the right path. Sometimes, it just wasn’t right. And I’d go back to the end of the last finished chapter and ask myself What Happens Next? Again. Don’t be afraid to delete and try again. Or if you want to stash the iffy chapter, toss it in a file and open a new one and try again. That’s what I did (did I mention that I never throw anything out?).

5. YOUR NEW TEMP JOB The last bit of advice here is for my friends that really want to complete that first large piece. If you have something in-progress and you think it might be okay to pretty good, commit. Commit to the work. Treat it like a new temp job. Make up a schedule. For me, I told myself I was going to work 3-5 days a week, 2-4 hours at a time, with no less than two days off each week from even looking at the work in progress. I usually wound up working 9pm to 1 am or 11 pm to 3 am. It’s what worked for me and my family’s schedules, but I had to commit to my new temp job in order to get where I wanted to go.

From May of 2011 to mid-August of 2011, I started and worked my ass off at this new temp position, and one hot and sweaty evening, I typed THE END.  I had fun, I answered What Happens Next again and again, I learned to trust my gut, and by committing to this new position, I finished the job. The first job. And it felt amazing. There was much work ahead of me, but I’d achieved something no one in my real life had ever done. I’d written a book. And I know YOU can, too. Just remember to keep reading!

I hope this helps some of you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me here or on Twitter @Grolfehorror

 

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Blood and Rain is being re-issued in hardcover and mass market paperback November 15th from Poltergeist Press. It is also available now in eBook from Cemetery Dance Publications.

Pre-order or pick up your copy here: Blood And Rain