Monday, August 06, 2007

Vox Day and Me (Part 2)

In hindsight, I'm amazed by just how many times I narrowly dodged a bullet without realizing it, or brushed my fingers across the One Ring without recognizing and grabbing it, or sometimes did both at the same time. The earliest such incident happened to me when I was about twelve years old and a very promising young classical piano student, and involved Liberace, and is a story best saved for another day.

Given my natural state of obliviousness, then, my sojourn in Los Angeles went about as well as might be expected. I've already told my story about Prince's demo tape. Here's another from the same bin. After I'd been pounding the pavement and pounding on doors for a couple of months and getting nowhere, a not-unkindly record company A&R man took pity on me. He pulled me into his office one day, listened to my demo tape for about thirty seconds, and then loaded another tape onto his stereo and said, "Here, listen to this. We just cut an album with this guy. He's gonna be HUGE." He hit play.

While we were listening to the track, the A&R guy explained the secret to me. "What you're doing is very creative, kid, very out there. But a successful song isn't like that. The perfect hit single is one that sounds familiar the very first time you hear it, like you've already heard it a dozen times before and you know it by heart. It's a song that makes you want to turn on the radio, just so you can hear it again." The track finished. He hit the stop button and said, "Well, what do you think?"

Young fool that I was, I answered. "You're kidding, right? It's a two-chord drone that just goes on and on and never changes. The song has about eight lines of lyrics, and half of them are 'baby baby baby.' This is a big hit single?"

"The elevators are that way," he said, pointing. "Go home and listen to Top 40 radio eight hours a day for the next six months, and then call me if you ever learn how to write a hit single."

So I picked up my tape, and I left. And about eight more weeks after that, flat broke, burned-out, and totally discouraged, I called my parents collect, to beg for money to pay for a ticket back to Wisconsin.

And it has taken me the better part of thirty years, but I no longer feel the urge to gag and spit whenever I turn on KQRS and happen to hear Eddie Money singing, "Baby Hold On."

To be continued...