28 October 2007

There’s Fire in L.A. it burns at your feet, I try to keep moving…

All things considered I’m sure you’ll understand me using my own lyrics as today’s title. You see, they’re the only lines that come to mind. I know, I know, this is a blog I write to talk about and review other people’s music, not my own, though it’s not as if my friends have written reviews if my latest, NUMB, on itunes (not for lack of me asking, though should I really have to ask?). So I figure, since “Fire In L.A.” fits what’s going on this week here in La La Land, I might as well talk about it, even though it’s from an earlier CD of mine called Amanda’s Floor.

I wrote the song one day in the mid 90’s after walking around Harvard Square with my best friend Fritz and my girlfriend, Kristin. He was describing his time living in Los Angeles and the reasons he was thinking about moving back to New York. He actually said to me “I left so I could come back….” and so began the first lines of the song….

“I left so I could come back, it hits you when you’re not looking, there’s Fire In L.A., it burns at your feet, I try to keep moving. But there aint no bricks to build a life, no woman to be my wife, there’s no place like home. Tears evaporate before they hit my cheek, I can’t look anymore, despair on the streets, it’s just like home, but I can’t take the heat, cause there aint no bricks to build a life, no woman to be my wife, there’s no place like home ….”

I’m quite proud of this song. To be honest, it’s one of the few songs I’ve written entirely about someone else and their experiences. At the time I hadn’t even been to Los Angeles and I certainly wasn’t looking for a wife, well, neither was Fritz, but it made for a good line.

The day I was inspired to write this song was a very awesome, beautiful day. Fritz, who had gone to Brandeis and was no stranger to Harvard Square, had come up to Boston to say hello and meet Kristin on one of his few trips back east during his tenure in L.A.. It was a cool Fall day and we spent it walking around talking about life and where we were all going. Of course we discussed the pros and cons about Life In LA and when he was potentially making the move back home. As the three of talked and he got to know Kristin he was quite open about his feelings and his desires for the future.

I remember the moment I started to write the song. It was after lunch, liquid and food filled – I believe we ate at the late great Wurst House – and after a very long stroll we headed back to the car for the short ride back to Porter Square where Kristin and I were living. I was a few steps ahead of them as we neared the car which was parked on the corner of Harvard Square that leads to Central Square and Fritz’s words and feelings started to fill my brain. I knew I had something and I couldn’t wait to write it down. I damn near stayed silent for several minutes as I repeated the opening lines to myself a dozen times so I wouldn’t forget them.

Kristin drove us all home, I ran into the house and excused myself leaving her and Fritz to bond while I feverishly wrote down what I was afraid I’d forget. Not too long after getting those first lines down on paper I was pretty much done writing the lyrics. The music would come later, easily, and all in all I had a song that for the first time had nothing to do with me, or was some kind of silly love song. I was, and am, very proud of the song to this day. I believe it was a turning point for me in my journey to be a more complete writer…and of course I couldn’t have done it were it not for Fritz, his tales of woe, and our wonderful day in Harvard Square. If you’d like to check the song out I’ve posted it on myspace – you can even download it: www.myspace.com/laraschuler

So about those fires in L.A.; I’m sure you’d have to be living in a cave somewhere in the U.S. not to know that this region has been slammed with what will amount to a pretty nasty, and expensive fire season, culminating in one of the worst ‘disasters’ (I use quotes because some of these fires were set by arsonists and thusly while it’s horrible there’s something less disastrous when it isn’t nature causing the melee) in recent California history. Thankfully I don’t live anywhere too close to the fires. Living here in West Hollywood which is a neighbourhood couched between Hollywood and Beverly Hills, the nearest fire is about ten/fifteen miles away and a HUGE hill/mountain keeps us from even seeing the fires. Needless to say I haven’t felt the affect the way others who were evacuated or had to reroute themselves did.

Not to say we haven’t felt it…the air quality has been downright horrible because the winds were blowing so strong fro much of the week (80 plus miles an hour at times) that the smoke made it’s way here, and how. The sunset looked more vibrant than ever, and my eyes and lungs feeling crappy are proof of that. Not that I’m complaining, because I’m not one of the thousands who have lost their homes. But even here we are not immune to it’s effects. The window’s have been kept closed, I’ve spent very little time outside and I worry about Phineas and how he might feel with his little kitty lungs (he spent most of the week under the bed where I’m sure the air quality was better). Basically, this is how I picture the 70’s to have looked and smelled here. ICKY.

All that being said – we are very lucky. Though I will say I’m deeply saddened at the thought that two of my favourite places in Southern California, Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs, just may have been decimated. I’ve spent a lot of time up there and I feel very sad for the folks who lost their homes and livelihoods. There are a lot of nice people who live in that area, and it’s a truly beautiful place to spend time.

My thoughts are with all who have been affected by these fires. Though to be honest, I’m not rooting for the arsonists or the idiot construction workers who were working with a spark producing machine in high winds; those people can basically rot in hell for all I care. But the rest, I hope, are well taken care of in a way that will hopefully be good for all involved – or at least better than the victims of Katrina were (lets not drop the ball this time fellas). Maybe with all the money coming here to help these victims there will be less money to fund the war and will thusly force the powers that be to bring some troops home. We can only hope. Maybe something ‘good’ will come out of all this after all.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday….CHEERS!!

PS. GO RED SOX……3-0…..lets melt those Rockies!!

21 October 2007

The winner takes it all, the looser takes a fall...

Paying to talk to Dice K: 51 Million Dollars
Signing Dice K: 52 Million Dollars
Paying J.D. Drew to NOT hit all season and saving it all for the Playoffs:
70 Million Dollars over 5 years
Winning the Amercian League Championship after being down 3 games to 1: PRICELESS!!!!


Thanks for tuning in...Until next Sunday...CHEERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

14 October 2007

Now that you’ve found it it’s gone now that you feel it you don’t…

I’ll never get over the 1995 release The Bends. I know this. I accept it. I think it’s a brilliant album with one of my all time favourite songs ever – “High and Dry”. “….Drying up in conversation you will be the one who can not talk. All your insides fall to pieces, you just sit there wishing you could still make love…” The song gripped me the first time I heard it too many years ago on a Boston area radio station (probably WXRV) and it’s never let go of me. BUT that doesn’t mean I’m not open to new Radiohead material. It just means that The Bends is hard to top in my book.

It is with open arms and an open ear or two that I listen to their newest release, In Rainbows. I have to say I’m not in love with the first two tracks “15 Steps” and “Bodysnatchers” . I’m not sure why but I think I’m missing some melodic point. These two songs lack for me the thing I like most about Radiohead – their ability to create a mood and an atmosphere that few can ever achieve. Not that I’m against trying new sounds – but the reason I go back to them is for that rainy Sunday morning October feel. When I listen to them it’s as if I’m back on Willow Avenue in Porter Square wrapped up in a blanket reading my latest greatest favourite book.

Once the song “Nude” gets playing (today’s title quote - see video below)) – assuming you listen in order – which I always do the first few times so I can really understand what the artist is saying since order is so well thought out – I feel the guys from Oxfordshire are up to their old tricks. THIS is the stuff I like. THIS is the reason I go back to them. In Rainbows does not disappoint the long-time listener. The whole CD is rife with intelligent lyrics, Thom Yorke’s ethereal, sometimes sad voice, and if you stick it out until the last song, “Videotape” will leave you feeling as if you are in the studio with these guys witnessing the recording of the next great soundtrack for an English-made film. It’s the parting shot, the London Bridge is in the background and our heroine has just tossed her wedding ring into the River Thames.

In the interest of full disclosure I did not pay for In Rainbows. Abby paid for it – 5 pounds 45 I believe and she shared it with me as we often do. What Radiohead is doing – allowing their fans to choose the price they want to pay for the download – I think is very cool. The record industry is in a sad state of affairs these days and part of it I believe is that the few remaining places to actually BUY a CD charge too much for a piece of plastic that essentially costs under a dollar to mass produce (or with marketing/packaging etc maybe costs under $5.00 total) . No wonder no one wants to pay $18.99 for a new release.

Radiohead has been around a long time. They don’t really need the cash at this point – how many mansions does a guy need, afterall? But what they are doing is about freedom. Freedom from a record label, freedom from financial expectations, freedom to do whatever the hell they want, how they want and the freedom to know that their fans will follow. And pay. Many have paid from what I’ve seen. It’s the honour system they are relying on. They understand that for every person that pays a healthy rate there will be someone who pays less, or nothing and that’s ok with them. The point is to get their music out there – not make people feel that they’ve been raped by the band or the guys in suits who need to pay their child support off of a band’s successful CD. Good for them.

As for music sharing – well – that’s been around a LONG time – probably since our parents were kids and the ability to tape vinyl became mainstream. I’m all for it – to a point. However, sites like limewire go too far. Or the people on it do. There is a woman in Minnesota who just this week was ordered to pay $222,000 to six record companies for illegal music sharing. If you ask me she got what she deserved, or not enough.

I know I know – I may get some hate comments about this but I don’t care. You know – share a few songs here and there, or a CD now and again – but to give away over 1700 songs I think takes ‘sharing’ to a whole other level. She doesn’t own the music – the ARTIST owns the music. If an artist wants to give away their music – I think that’s awesome….and if the people who got the song for free give it away – great! But to take such egregious liberties with music you did not write, record, or otherwise have anything to do with making borders on some kind of moral thievery. Share and share alike but exercise some kind of restraint. Give a thought to the artist who slaved over writing a song, paid for studio time, and or otherwise whored themselves out to a record company to get their music made. You have a career that pays your bills – so do these folks. Think about it. Don’t over share.

Ok – time to get off this horse….y’all know how I feel and I hope to keep feeling it. Time to go watch some football and relax.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Sunday…CHEERS!!

07 October 2007

I believe right now if I could I would swallow you whole, I would leave only bones and teeth, we could see what was underneath and we would free then

If your first impression of Suzanne Vega was the hit song, “Luka”, from her sophomore album, Solitude Standing, than I highly suggest you check out her freshman release, Suzanne Vega. I believe it is one of the best releases of the last twenty years, well, twenty two to be exact. It’s hard to believe that the music that changed my life is that ‘old’ well – sort of ‘old’- I guess it’s all perspective since you still hear The Beatles on the radio. So – what is ‘old’? I’m not sure but this week I wanted to share with you what I believe to be some of the greatest lines ever written. A few of the lines that follow are words I have lived by since I first got my hands on the CD and some are just cool lines I’ve rediscovered whilst writing this blog this morning. Either way, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and I hope you check out the CD, or, have a long-overdue 1000th listening….

“It’s a one time thing, it just happens a lot” – track 1 – “Cracking”

“You stand with your hand in your pocket and lean against a wall, You will be Bogart and I will be Becall” – track 2 – “Freeze Tag”

“Even if I am in love with you all this to say what’s it to you?…And I tried so hard to resist when you held me in your handsome fist and reminded me of the night we kissed and why I should be leaving, Marlene watches from the wall, her mocking smile says it all as she records the rise and fall of every man who’s been here…” – track 3 – “Marlene On The Wall”

“Today I am a small blue thing…” – track 4 – “Small Blue Thing”

“There’s a sound, across the alley of cold metal touching skin and you can see if you look in her window that she has gone and cut her hair again, in straight lines…” – track 5 – “Straight Lines”

“I believe right now if I could…” – track 6 – “Undertow”

“We talk and talk and tell the truth, there are no shadows here…” – track 7 – “Some Journey”

“And he said ‘I want to live as an honest man, to get all I deserve and to give all I can and to love a young woman who I don’t understand, your highness, your ways are very strange’” – track 8 – “The Queen and The Soldier”

“And if you wonder what I am doing as I am heading for the sink, I am spitting out all the bitterness along with half of my last drink, I am thinking of your woman who is crying in the hall, it’s like drinking gasoline to quench a thirst, until there’s nothing there left at all” – track 9 – “Knight Moves”

“I am just walking through the smoke, finding out if this is it, because I’ve got this feeling that things are going grey, and I’d like to hear a straight line to help me find my way” – track 10 “Neighborhood Girls”

I can’t remember specifically when I last saw my dear friend Sabrina. It may have been our last night of work at our local Chinese restaurant, Mr. Lee’s. It was there, every Wednesday night, that she gushed as she flirted with David Letterman when he picked up his weekly take-out order. I can’t be sure, but I do know that I have missed our friendship all these years; her witty, intelligent banter and her doe-eyed blonde cynical view on the world. Back then I wasn’t sure why were friends - we seemed an unlikely pair. She had big, fluffy hair and was as preppy as you can get. Me – I was the musician with my black clothes and my artistic bent playing my guitar every chance I got.

Now as I reflect on that time I get it. I understand why we were friends. It was her witty, intelligent banter and her doe-eyed blonde cynical view on the world. It makes sense now as I recall how my stomach ached so hard from laughing at her world - from - a - bubble observations. How did we, two kids from a very uptight, Republican, old money town, escape with our humour and creativity intact? I have no idea. But I think it was because of friends (and neighbours) like her. I think no matter what age you are you find those that you relate to – you may not always know why – and you stick together. You muddle through, you lean, you stand up strong.

Sabrina found me yesterday. I checked my email (something I don’t always do on a Saturday because of all the time I spend on the computer during the week) and through the wonders of the internet and all of the networking sites out there she was right there in my inbox. It was wild. It was cool. It was shocking. There are a lot of people from my small home town that I remember but I’m never sure if they remember me – or would even care. She was one of those people.

When I reflect on our friendship why I ever doubted whether she would even think of me I’m not sure. I think it’s because I’ve been spurned when I’ve reached out to people from the past so I basically stopped doing it awhile ago. I’m very easy to find on the internet and if someone wants to find me they can so I leave it at that knowing if someone wants to find me I’ll be all too happy to be in touch with them.

I always wondered what happened to Sabrina, and I always wondered why we lost touch. I have no answers to that but when I looked at her networking page on Facebook (where she found me and my two other friends because I’m new to the site) I was pleasantly shocked to see that listed as her favourite quote was “I believe right now if I could I would swallow you whole…” It happens to be one of my favourite quotes of all time. Funny. Odd. Very cool. Yeah – we were meant to be friends way back when and I’m thinking we are meant to be friends again. Maybe when you find those people the ties never break – they may weaken because you loose touch – but I don’t think they ever break. Clearly.

By the way, did I mention we used to be neighbours (again) here in Los Angeles? Yep. She lived a few blocks away and I never knew it until this morning. She’s in Amsterdam these days, but thanks to the internet I’m guessing she’ll still feel like a neighbour. Now – if it were only Wednesday night at a Chinese restaurant the circle might be even more complete. Thanks for finding me, Sabrina, I’m awfully glad you did!

Thanks for tuning in...Until next Sunday…CHEERS!!