Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RIP Davy Jones

Dammit. You singers have got to stop dying. D'you hear me?

Here's an article about Davy Jones ... the first one I happened to see a link for when I heard the news. What strikes me is the photos. They're all Monkees-era. Though he released an album as recently as three years ago, they don't show any current pictures.

I have nothing profound to say here. It's not like I spent a lot of time thinking about Davy Jones. But I watched The Monkees in syndication, I enjoyed his character, and another little piece of my childhood is gone.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Themes, songs, and theme songs

"I finished the Breakfast Club theme song," I wrote to my friend Don on Facebook. "No word from Carolyn yet on whether she still needs it."

"Can you send me the lyrics?" said Don.

I did. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he wrote me back.

"Not bad, but it has some problems."


"The main issue is you don't mention the TV show," he said. "You do in one line, but it is very obscure. For on opening song you need to say something about the TV show. I really like the theme of hidden treasures. Connect that to music somehow. Make it more explicit. That will work."


If you've spent too much time watching TV, as I have, you've noticed that theme songs can be placed on a continuum of themeliness. On one end you have the classic kind, written for and about the show. Note the incessant repetition of the name here:

Then you have songs that are more self-contained. Note how the word "Cheers" never appears in "Where Everybody Knows Your Name." The lyrics don't even mention a bar.

And then you have songs that weren't written for the show at all.

All other things equal, I prefer the stand-alones, the songs that are picked up as themes because they capture a show's spirit. But during that conversation with Don, I couldn't explain why.

A few days later I saw this, shared by a friend on Facebook ...

Posted by FibroTV

... and I made the connection. Theme songs featuring a show's title are promotional copy set to music. Theme songs that are at least not ostensibly about a show, but that highlight similar, um ... themes ... are validating. They say "me too."

This is what I was going for when I wrote "Your Backyard." I wanted it to validate everything the Breakfast Club does for the local music scene.

Even better, I wanted it to validate the people who seek out good local music.

Maybe the folks who run the Breakfast Club will like our approach. If so, great! Maybe they won't. That's OK too, because there's one more big advantage to writing a stand-alone theme song ...

Even if nobody else ever uses "Your Backyard," we can still play it at our own gigs!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Breakfast Club theme song

Carolyn "Trouble" Cary hosts a weekly show called the Breakfast Club. Recorded from the River's Edge Lounge in Tucson and streamed live on the Internet, its purpose is to give exposure to local artists. We got to play there last June.

Two and a half weeks ago, Carolyn sent out a general request to Tucson musicians: The Breakfast Club needed a theme song!

How could we resist? Here you go, Miz Trouble:

Your Backyard (Theme to the Breakfast Club)
Lyrics by Susan Wenger
Music by Cinder Bridge

You search the world over
To find a four-leaf clover
A little gem beyond your grasp
It's so intoxicating
To think it's out there waiting
Make you shiver make you gasp

The search goes on and on
Keeps you up 'til dawn
Out of your mind, out of your way
You survey your collection
You sense an imperfection
But what it lacks you cannot say

Oh, you want something better
And you make it hard
'cause the best hidden treasure's
Right in your backyard

You felt your body burning
An ever-present yearning
The itch you never got to scratch
Now you think all the fun
Is living on the run
Another aeroplane to catch

Oh, you want something better
And you make it hard
'cause the best hidden treasure's
Right in your backyard
Yeah you want something better
And you make it hard
'cause the best hidden treasure's
Right in your backyard

You say there's nothing for you
In this desert wasteland
I say that you've never noticed
The desert in bloom

So give it half a chance
Just a tiny glance
It's got some power, got some legs
An unexpected view
Adventure in your brew
A little trouble with your steak and eggs

Oh you want something better
And it ain't that hard
'cause the best hidden treasure's
Right in your backyard
Yeah you want something better
And it ain't that hard
'cause the best hidden treasure's
Right in your backyard

Copyright 2012 Cinder Bridge. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Plagiarizing Google

Verses 1 and 2 of my dance song were done. Only the last verse stood between me and completion. A piece of imagery came to me: a cocoon made of sound. "Cocoon of sound" wasn't going to scan correctly, though. "Cocoon" needed to go at the end of the line.

I thought of this:
I feel a strong vibration
Here in my sonical cocoon
Was "sonical" even a word? Probably didn't matter. It had the right number of syllables, and everyone would understand what I meant if I added an extra "al" to "sonic." Still, now I was curious. Real word or not? I googled it.

Hey, wait. What's that second one?
I feel a strong vibration
Here in my sonic wall cocoon
Does that count as plagiarism? Or can I call it found art?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tempo Magazine and a Cinder Bridge review

Cool: A new music publication, Tempo Magazine officially debuted today. I'm impressed with the design. The site incorporates multimedia elements in addition to the usual articles and pics.

Even cooler: They published a review of our album, Highways and Hiking Shoes. We're famous!

* * *

Update: On the review page is a place where you can rate the review from one to five stars. This lets the Tempo editors and publisher know which topics readers are interested in. I haven't voted because that feels like cheating, but I'm not above asking loyal readers to give the review five stars. Go here to read and rate!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

RIP, Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died this afternoon. Sad.

I wasn't a fan. I don't think "because I can" is always a good reason to go for the highest of high notes. Still, she had an undeniable talent. She was probably a decent human being. And 48 is way too young to die.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Paws in the Plaza 2012

Date & time: Saturday, February 11, noon to 3 p.m.
Place: Casas Adobes Plaza (southwest corner of Oracle & Ina)
Directions: Go here
Cover: Free, but the Humane Society will happily take donations

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

If you're gonna blow off rehearsal ...

... attending a free lecture given by Noam Chomsky isn't a bad excuse.

Just sayin'.


Sometimes it's scary trying new things. Like that first attempt at a bubblegum pop song I mentioned before.

Deal is, a song needs two components to be considered bubblegum:
  1. Inane lyrics

  2. Musical arrangement so catchy that you either don't notice the lyrics are stupid or you don't care
So I had to write something silly. But the music had to be good enough to both carry the silliness and make it seem on-purpose. Otherwise, listeners would just think, "Wow, that's dumb."

One line in particular nagged at me. I needed to rhyme the refrain "Dance to it." The best I could come up with was "Shake off your pants to it."

No, really. That's the line. It's not like I didn't try other rhymes. Other rhymes existed. They just weren't in keeping with the spirit of the song.

I decided to bounce it off people when I had a whole song to play for them. The way I figured it, either I'd failed miserably at this genre, or I'd succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

* * *

I finished "Dance to It" late this afternoon. As it happened, there was going to be a Singer-Songwriters meetup just a few hours later. What better place for a trial run?

They loved it. They thought "Shake off your pants to it" was hysterical. "You can't get rid of that," one person said when I mentioned my reservations. "It's like the punchline."

So I'm keeping it for now. We'll see if Ron the Drummer laughs with it or at it at our next rehearsal.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Arrangement is everything

Every now and again, someone will tell me my songs are all depressing. While this isn't precisely true, it occurs to me that in over a decade of songsmithing, I've never written bubblegum pop.

Seems like something I should try at least once, right? So I've started. Here are the first two lines:
News on the radio
Tells stories of upheaval and despair
Yeah, this is gonna be great! Further updates as events warrant.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


The band was hot. Well into their last set of the evening, they had a whole lot of people—including me—up and dancing.

Then lead singer Kristin Chandler addressed the audience. She was nervous about doing this next song, she said, because it was slow. That took her out of her comfort zone. She invited us to follow her out of her comfort zone.

The band played sweet, slow, and reflective. But after it was over, they launched into another danceable tune.

A week or so later, I finally had the chance to listen to the CD I'd obtained from the gig. Unlike their live set, most of Deja was singer-songwritery. That is, slow or mid-tempo, more contemplative, inviting listeners to pay close attention to the meaning of the lyrics.

I was a little surprised, but I shouldn't have been. I knew exactly why Kristin would feel good about recording songs she wouldn't play live.

About two-thirds of the songs I write are on the singer-songwritery side. When Ron the Drummer and I put a set list together for a Cinder Bridge show, however, we skew more toward songs that are up-tempo, or heavier, or have a prominent groove. We do it because live audiences prefer music that moves. When I'm in the audience, at least for unfamiliar music, I'm the same way. I'll happily bop along to a bar band whose stuff I'd never listen to at home.

So I get it. But it's annoying. It means a lot of my favorite songs aren't rotated in as often as I'd like.

We have GOT to put a new album out.