Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (1998)


 

 

Artwork by Felice Vincellette

Click the image to download a printable copy

of the artwork (1.8 MB ZIP)

Real Good Friend

Dumb

Island Love

I Need a Bag

Away

1812

Basketball Retiree

A Few Moments with Mike and Adrian

 

 

On August 15, 1998, at a Mike Keneally show at Mama Kinís in Boston, I met Scott Lurowist. The story of this album really has to start there, I think. I got heavily into Mike Keneallyís music around late 1995, and started attending as many shows as I could. A few years later I founded the alt.music.mike-keneally Usenet group, so others who shared my obsession could get together and chat and plan to meet at the shows. This is how I met Scott. Scott and I met in person for the first time at that Boston show, and struck up a friendship that revolved primarily around our mutual interest in recording. He had a 24-track ADAT studio in his apartment, collecting dust; I had a collection of songs doing likewise. Even though it was a four-hour drive to get from my apartment to his, it struck me as worthwhile, and so, over the course of two weekends in 1998, we recorded Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.

 

We planned on bringing a few friends in to help out as "guest musicians," little realizing at first that we already had a guest musician: Scottís refrigerator, which was about fifteen feet away from the microphone in the living room. If you listen to this with headphones, and you hear an odd ambient noise you canít identify, thatís the fridge. The beginning of "Island Love" is an excellent example. The fridge is so prominent in places, we gave it credit in the liner notes. Eventually we figured out that we should unplug it before we started rolling tape.

 

For some reason I decided I didnít want this to be a Ron Spiegelhalter album (I wouldnít become Ron Moses until I got married in 2003). Since a few other guys were going to be playing on it, I decided to release it under the band name Disguising Godiva, which was also the name of one of my earlier albums. That name would stick around for one album, one aborted album, and one live performance before I went back to being me.

 

The albumís title refers to the fact that none of these tracks are remotely perfect, but theyíre close enough.  

 


 

Real Good Friend  

written by Ron Moses

0:56 ē right-click to download: mp3 (996 kB)  FLAC (4.1 MB)

 

I wrote this one evening at work. I was cleaning up after a night in the kitchen of the Italian restaurant where I was a line cook for a few years, and the whole thing just fell into my head. I considered adding another verse, fleshing out the story, etc., but ultimately I realized it was perfect just like this. It refers to absolutely nothing in my real life. But it does serve the purpose of letting the listener know right away what kind of album this is going to be.

 

 

I just got laid

I wasnít really sure if I was gonna like it but I did

It seemed kinda weird

Gettiní all naked with a girl but I take it thatís a part of it

 

And sheís a real good friend

Now sheís a lover

Weíre not in love but I love her like a brother

But me and my brother never did with one another what she and I did

 

I just got laid

I wasnít really sure if I was gonna like it but I did

 

 

Ron Moses ē vocal, classical guitar

 


 

Dumb  

written by Ron Moses

4:17 ē right-click to download: mp3 (4.6 MB)  FLAC (21.1 MB)

 

People just donít get the drums on this track. I donít know how many people have told me this should feature more natural-sounding drums, maybe a brush kit. No no no. This song should not be pretty. The guitars are pretty, but theyíre reigned in by the harsh, tightly controlled drum track. With no bass line to support them, and the ominous vocal hanging over them, all the guitars have to keep them alive in this inhospitable environment is each other. The instrumental break provides all the relief from that environment Iím willing to allow. But it would sound so much nicer with more natural sounding percussion. Exactly. If I feel strongly about any aspect of any song Iíve ever recorded, itís that. The drums are the whole point, people; they are the focal point of the entire metaphor. If you find this song soothing, Iíve failed.

 

P. J. MŁller plays the keyboards on this track, and he almost left the project over it. See, I had really clear ideas of how I wanted the "flute" solo to sound. I even had certain passages in mind. But instead I started by letting him do whatever he wanted, hoping heíd intuit something along the lines of what I wanted. Several takes later it became clear that this tactic wasnít working out at all. So over the course of the session, I kept directing him more and more until I was actually handing him notes to play. For a creative guy like P. J., this can be irritating, to say the least. Iíve heard of a similar thing in the film world; they talk about a director "giving line readings." Actors value a director who helps them find the part, but once the director crosses that line into "say the line like this," many actors find that insulting. So Iím told. And I guess thatís what happened here. In retrospect, if I had solid ideas in mind, rather than giving P. J. free reign and taking it back from him bit by bit I should have just given him sheet music to begin with and said, "Hereís the part, fill in these spots with anything you like." Thatís where we ended up eventually anyway, and we could have gotten there with much less aggravation. Live and learn.

 

Oddly enough, I don't remember very much about writing this track. But if I was writing it again, Iíd probably take out the obscenities and the awkward Zappa reference. Overall itís quite good, though. The line about "When everybody thinks youíre weak / People interrupt you when you try to speak" is dedicated to Frank Lopez. Hi Frank!

 

This track was originally recorded (in part) for the aborted Dark album. I hope to be able to share those tracks with you soon.

 

 

When everybody thinks youíre dumb

They donít really care where you come from

Youíre nothing but an idiot bastard son

When everybody thinks youíre dumb

 

When everybody thinks youíre queer

Thereís nothing you can say that they wanna hear

Youíre nothing but a fucking back-door buccaneer

When everybody thinks youíre queer

 

It can be hard to remember youíre okay

It doesnít matter what everybody thinks anyway

 

When everybody thinks youíre weak

People interrupt you when you try to speak

Youíre nothing but a powerless, sniveling geek

When everybody thinks youíre weak

 

It can be hard to remember youíre okay

It doesnít matter what everybody thinks anyway

 

When everybody thinks youíre dumb

You tend to get treated like a no one

A lot of people do it and I happen to be one

When everybody thinks youíre dumb

When they think youíre dumb

When they think youíre dumb

 

 

P. J. MŁller ē keyboards

Ron Moses ē vocals, classical and acoustic guitars, drum programming

 


 

Island Love  

written by Ron Moses

6:14 ē right-click to download: mp3 (6.3 MB)  FLAC (27.2 MB)

 

Additional background on the origins of this track (and an earlier recording of it) can be found here. It's interesting reading.

 

This version is much better than the ...yeah, whatever... version for two reasons: P. J. MŁller and Mike Horne. Mike was in a band with P. J. called Schrodingerís Cat (a quick Google search suggests the band may no longer exist), and both were good friends with Scott. Wanting to do something different with the harmonies, Scott asked Mike to come in and lay down the second vocal, and he did a really lovely job, as you can hear. As I recall, he found it more challenging than you might expect. For one thing, a few of the harmonies are not the obvious thirds a backing vocalist would often anticipate, so a bit more rehearsal time was required. His second area of difficulty was in trying to match up to my lead vocal. Mikeís a far more accurate singer than I am ó heís like trained and stuff ó so he had to force himself to sing a bit flat in order to make the harmonies work. Whatever he did, it sounds great.

 

The piano was, in part, my way of making up for the hell I put P. J. through on "Dumb." Hereís the chords, P. J., do whatever you think is right. Iím pretty sure thatís all the direction I gave him, and he really did wonders with it. His contribution adds an incredible warmth to the piece.

 

The lead vocal, which is probably a bit above average for me, was recorded behind my back. I was doing a run-through just for practice, and when I was done, Scott told me that was the one. He hadnít bothered to tell me he was running tape. Good strategy Ė I think my performance is a lot more relaxed for it.

 

 

Maybe if I had the time

Maybe if I had the peace of mind

Maybe Iíd let myself fall for you

Maybe Iíd let my true heart shine through

 

Summer is fading so fast

A piece of my life that I thought would last

Flying Ďcross the sky like a dove

Run from the pain and you lose the love

 

Island love

Not love at all

Only a pillow to cushion your fall

Island love

Not love at all

Or maybe it is after all

 

Wonder how it would have been

How deep a hole would my heart be in

Weigh the returns for the cost

Itís better, they say, to have loved and lost

Summer is fading so fast

Wake up tomorrow and blame the past

Settle for nothing or lose it all

Trade in my fear for a crystal ball

 

Island love

Not love at all

Only a pillow to cushion your fall

Island love

Not love at all

Or maybe it is after all

 

I have spent too much time thinking Ďbout this

So many chances that I may have missed

Promise myself it wonít happen again

Using both feet the next time I jump into that island love

 

Sifting the memories through

Memories of someone I hardly knew

Why lie to anyone else?

Spent enough time lying to myself

 

Summer grows back in the end

Thereís always the chance that weíll meet again

And if we do, then weíll see

Maybe sheíll even remember me

 

Island love

Not love at all

Only a pillow to cushion your fall

Island love

Not love at all

Or maybe it is after all

 

 

P. J. MŁller ē keyboards

Mike Horne ē harmony vocal

Ron Moses ē lead vocal, classical guitar

 


 

I Need a Bag  

written by Ron Moses

5:00 ē right-click to download: mp3 (3.7 MB)  FLAC (17.1 MB)

 

An earlier recording of this track can be found here. I didn't have much to say about it there, and I have less to say about it here. It is what it is, I guess, but people seem to like it.

 

This is the "dirge" version. My attempts at tempo control backfire.

 

 

I need a bag

Iíd forgotten how much stuff I have

And none of itís worth anything

But I know that I canít live without any of it

So I need a bag

 

Got a hat that I wear when it rains on my head

Got a sandwich I made from some mustard and bread

Got an old broken lock and a key to unlock it

But I canít keep it all in my pocket

So I need a bag

Iíd forgotten how much stuff I have

And none of itís worth anything

But I know that I canít live without any of it

So I need a bag

 

Got a book that I read while the sky is still light

Got a candle I burn when it darkens at night

Got a two-day supply and a seventeen-weeker

But I canít keep it all in my sneaker

So I need a bag

Iíd forgotten how much stuff I have

And none of itís worth anything

But I know that I canít live without any of it

So I need a bag

 

Got a new yellow shirt and an old hand-me-down

Got a bike I can ride if my car should break down

Got a thing that I found, I forget what you call it

But I canít keep it all in my wallet

So I need a bag

Iíd forgotten how much stuff I have

And none of itís worth anything

But I know that I canít live without any of it

So I need a bag

 

Got a name, got a voice

Got a will, got a way

Got a rock, got a stick, got a rag

And I need a bag

 

 

Ron Moses ē lead vocal, classical guitar

 


 

Away  

written by Ron Moses

4:14 ē right-click to download: mp3 (4.4 MB)  FLAC (18.8 MB)

 

I am of the opinion, and it is an opinion shared by no one else as far as I know, that this is the best song Iíve ever written, if not necessarily the best recording Iíve ever made. I feel I accomplished exactly what I set out to do.

 

I created a pretty effective melody here, I think. And I set a nifty little trap for the listener Ė the opening chord roots, E and B, strolling back and forth, lull the listener into anticipating that pattern. So when I go to the oddball Csus2 chord in the verse instead of the expected B, it surprises the ear in a pleasant but slightly off-putting way. This is then reinforced by the chromatic movement of the following chords. But of course it resolves back to E quite comfortably. The odd movement of the bridge ó F > C > B > F# > G > (F) ó presents the same kind of effect. Pretty, but unsettled. And Iím very proud of the resolution back to the E > B stroll. (Technically, that B is an E7sus4/B but you get my meaning.)

 

Lyrically, it was a real step forward in that I used the words to hint at meaning rather than beat the listener over the head with prose. Looking back through my earlier lyrics, youíll find a lot of specifics, with little left for the listener to supply in terms of interpretation. This lyric could really apply to anything, any sense of loss or frustration. It was liberating not to have to get across a list of bullet points for a change. Iím just really happy with it, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

 

 

Look around

All that weíve known is gone away

All but the silence

Been too long

We could have thrown it all away

Miles divide us

 

I should know

Iíve been there before

Far away

We should be gone

Some have said

There is no difference

I should know

 

Take your time

Why would we ever run away

Crawling takes longer

Every day

So many words you give away

Couldnít be wronger

 

I should know

Iíve been there before

Far away

We should be gone

Some have said

There is no difference

I should know

 

And somehow

I could see the point of being sane

And I could see the power in your routine

And I could see the blindness

In the kindness

In your eyes

In your eyes

 

Look around

All that weíve known is gone away

All but the silence

Been too long

We could have thrown it all away

Miles divide us

 

I should know

Iíve been there before

Far away

We should be gone

Some have said

There is no difference

I should know

 

 

P. J. MŁller ē keyboards

Mike Horne ē harmony vocal

Ron Moses ē lead vocal, classical guitar, bass

 


 

1812  

written by Ron Moses

3:22 ē right-click to download: mp3 (4.1 MB)  FLAC (18.1 MB)

 

This is one of the three "number" songs I wrote during my second summer on Block Island in 1993, the others being "Zero" and "Seven," all three of which were recorded for the aborted Dark album in 1994. I think this is probably one of my best songs. My time on Block Island was very good for me, musically and otherwise. Apart from being an inspiring place to write, I had a lot of encouragement. The people around me seemed to be genuinely impressed with what I was doing, and that really helps. Iíve always had the support of long-time friends, of course, and thatís been important to me. But itís different when a complete stranger tells you youíre really good. When kudos are offered by people uncompromised by the desire to spare your feelings, it lends a different weight to their criticism.

 

As the lyrics make apparent, this is a song about life after death, or more directly, the nonexistence thereof. Iím not so committed to that idea now as I was then, but if I had to lay money on one side or the other, I think Iíd still bet this way. Not a firm belief, more of a nagging suspicion. I had wanted to write about this topic for some time, but I couldnít find the right metaphor to describe what I thought it was like after you die. I sat in Juice Ďní Java with a pad and a very large cup of coffee, struggling with one concept after another, only getting farther from my goal. When you die, is it like a vacuum? Is it like a black hole? What is it like? Well, itís not like anything, thatís the point. Ahhh Ė okay. So I was very happy with this lyrical concept and had little difficulty fleshing out the rest of it. The "ray of light/piece of string" metaphor came a few days later, and I remember being somewhat stunned by it. Thatís one of those lines you look back on later and canít believe it was you who wrote it.


I should have taken the time to program a drum track for this. I was lazy. This is the result. The Dark version was better.

 

 

In 1812, I wasnít around

Look as you might, I was nowhere to be found

And when I die, and they lay me in the ground

The lights go out and they never come back on

 

And itís not like anything

Thereís nothing to be experienced

When youíre dead and gone, itís like 1812

 

Some people worry about going to hell

Throwing all their pennies into Godís little wishing well

They donít remember that they werenít always here

And not being later is exactly what they fear

 

But itís not like anything

Thereís nothing to be experienced

When youíre dead and gone, itís like 1812

 

Life is not a ray of light, itís a piece of string

Beginning and an end to everything

You donít get the satisfaction when you finally leave

Of watching your friends and your family grieve

Unraveling the tangled webs you weave

It doesnít matter whose book you chose to believe

 

ĎCause In 1812, you werenít around

Look as I might, you were nowhere to be found

And when you die, and we lay you in the ground

The lights go out and they never come back on

 

And itís not like anything

Thereís nothing to be experienced

When youíre dead and gone, itís like 1812

When your time has come, itís like 1812

When youíre in the ground, itís like 1812

When youíre dead and gone, itís like 1812

 

 

Ron Moses ē vocal, classical and acoustic guitar, bass

 


 

Basketball Retiree  

written by Ron Moses

4:09 ē right-click to download: mp3 (4.2 MB)  FLAC (18.0 MB)

 

I think I wrote this in the communal hippie house in Durham, which would have been 1993 if I'm not mistaken. I donít have a clue where this came from, I think the title just popped into my head one day and the rest of it flowed from that. Itís a pretty decent little character sketch, I must say.

 

 

Before I was old and grizzled

I was just balding and gray

Before I was balding, I dribbled a Spalding

Boy, I could play

But outside the Garden I didnít know nothiní

Thatís how this happened to me

My home is a T-stop on Commonwealth Ave.

Iím a basketball retiree

 

I lived as extravagant as I could

On the money they gave me to play

There werenít no endorsements for second string forwards in my day

If only Iíd known how the well would dry up

The moment I blew out my knee

I wouldnít be living on donuts and 40-ounce Colts

A basketball retiree

 

Do you remember 1961?

A last-second shot and the game was won

Do you remember the way they cheered

All of those years ago?

 

Before I was old and broken

At least I was inching along

And when things got hairy, Iíd call my friend Larry

But now heís gone

I used to make money by making my free throws

Now I know nothing is free

Especially a no one who shouldíve been someone

A basketball retiree

Iím a basketball retiree

 

 

Ron Moses ē vocal, classical guitar

 


 

A Few Moments with Mike and Adrian  

written by Mike Keneally/Adrian Belew, arranged by Ron Moses

3:21 ē right-click to download: mp3 (2.7 MB)  FLAC (11.8 MB)

 

This throw-away piece starts off with my woeful attempt to play a section from Mike Keneallyís "1988 Was A Million Years Ago" from his Boil That Dust Speck album, and segues into Adrian Belewís "Tango Zebra" from Desire Caught By The Tail (which he would later rework into "Peace On Earth" for the Here album). And thatís it. I guess we needed some filler.

 

 

[instrumental]

 

 

Ron Moses ē classical guitar

 


Flash mp3 player courtesy of 1 Pixel Out