Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Someone once told me they heard a Nina Simone record playing from far away and thought it was me singing until they got closer.  I’ve also been told I sound like Burl Ives (who, incidentally, I saw perform at NC State when I was 12).  Perhaps I could have a second career as a dual Nina-Simone-from-a-distance/Burl Ives tribute artist.

I played the Christopher Street subway station yesterday here in NYC, and sang Nina’s signature “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” about 6 times.  By the end of the night I was sounding really good on it.

The night started slow, maybe because I was rusty, or maybe because I forgot to bring an extra “seed” dollar to put in my guitar case to encourage people to give (a busking basic I learned long ago playing in the Boston subways with Brian Funck).

But things got rolling and peaked with the appearance of an long-time fan and his mom, en route to see a Broadway show.  They asked for “Lion Song,” and then a hymn, and filmed me (or took my picture) on an iPad .  After that, a guy came up to me and said he would give me $5.00 to “sing something nice” for his girlfriend.  Out came “Lion Song” again.  The couple started dancing, swaying to the music and swaying to whatever was in the bottle they swigged liberally from.  Then the young woman sat down on the subway platform with her legs protruding into the area the train enters when it roars screeching into the station.  Several people sidled up to her and advised her that this was not a good idea.  Her boyfriend agreed, and they all started trying to convince and cajole her to move, which she did, finally.

Here’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone, slow and smoky, recorded in 1964.  It was supposed by many to have a civil rights subtext.

The Animals’ version, recorded a year later, was manic in comparison, with a dual guitar/organ riff.  Here they are on Ed Sullivan (synch is off).  The girls are screaming Beatlemania-style.  Maybe it was something Ed brought out in them?

And lastly by Elvis Costello.  I like the way he delivers the word “sinful.”

I’m Making a Record

I saw my second member of “The Slipnuts” on the subway the other day. If I see a third I will have achieved a Slipnut trifecta (that’s a phrase I just made up, which you can feel free to use. You’re welcome). I frequently run across various writers and cast members from “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” in New York, and for me, a former obsessive viewer of the show, hearing Andy Blitz‘s laconic observations on the L train is like watching Mike Schmidt fielding pop flies. Why Mike Schimdt? Because he had an awesome moustache and because he played for the Phillies and I happen to be in Philadelphia this very moment making a record.

When I joined the Columbia House record club as a teenager they sent me giant packages of LP’s that I bought with my own money, which I played on the first stereo I bought with my own money, having recently upgraded from a Donald Duck record player with Donald Duck on it (I suppose a Donald Duck record player *without* Donald Duck on it would be an ontological paradox and a gyp.)

Thanks to the wonders of mail-order (and despite the evils of negative option billing) I was, monthly, treated to the delights of whatever my older sister and her friends happened to be listening to, which was mostly monumentally awesome British rock from the 60s and 70s. Back then, albums (and their covers, thanks largely to Storm Thorgerson of the British design group Hipgnosis) were something you could lie down on the floor and immerse yourself in for hours.

Now albums are on the way out and so are CDs, and the internets are full of kids lol’ing at various European governments’ futile efforts to shut down “the Pirate Bay” and other torrent sites, and these kids can’t for the life of them figure out why anyone would pay for a CD. Some of them haven’t bought a CD in their life and never will.

And I wish they’d get off my lawn. Oh wait, I don’t have a lawn.

Anyway, I’m recording at Miner Street Studios with a fellow named Brian McTear. Personnel will include Josh Stamper and Patrick Berkery, on bass and drums, respectively. Josh and Patrick comprise the rhythm section of Danielson, the Northeast corridor’s best and only Indie-Christian-nurse-uniform-wearing folk/pop collective. (edit: last night Josh, perhaps fearful of being known for wearing a nurse’s uniform on stage, informed me that what they wear are “service uniforms.”)

We had our first rehearsal last week and it went really well. Right now Patrick is getting drum sounds.

I hope to keep you updated on the project here. As things progress, I hope you’ll keep in touch and spread the word about what we’re up to. If we’ve lost touch over the years, I’d love to re-connect with you (especially if you live in Philly and want to buy me dinner).

You can find out more goings-on at Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and