Song of the Week: Pirate

Pirate might be my personal favorite song on Cereal Killers. Even the fact that Tommy Vinton just told me, “The two cymbal hits I do before the choruses and the cymbal swirls in the beginning of the song were inspired by Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee” cannot diminish my affection for it.

The bit about everyone being crazy was based on all the people I met on our first couple of tours. I had a habit of befriending female fans in different cities and going on long nighttime walks with them. Perhaps because I (almost) never made a pass at them, or perhaps because we were usually drunk, or maybe because of both they would share all kinds of details about their lives, which were invariably fucked up. It was uncanny: everybody I met, no matter how normal they acted in the daytime, seemed to be nuts.

And that seemed worth celebrating.

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Pirate has all the elements that should make for an amazing live song: power chords, stops, “whoah oh oh!” bits that everyone can shout along drunkenly. But I don’t think we ever played it more than twice on stage for some reason. Maybe it was too complicated, as Tommy kinds of hints at with his recollection of writing it:

“The four of us were very unique in our own ways, which made for interesting songwriting. When the four of us were in a room trying to come up with cool riffs and ideas, it would usually result in a song that took crazy rights and lefts, ups and downs, short stops, you name it. Usually the song would then be dissected by either us or a producer to make it more cohesive, or dare I say ‘listener friendly.’ Pirate was one of those songs that never went through that process. The song starts weird, has different tempos, takes those crazy unexpected turns, but worked just the way it was originally written. The lyrics and singing, along with underlying music and rhythms just seemed to work. And I’m glad we didn’t fuck with the original arrangement. Song still stands strong today”

Sandy has this to say:  “For me, on a very short list of songs we didn’t play ENOUGH live — perfectly captures that rootless, post-college head space and one of our more fun vocal arrangements. I remember trying to do the post-chorus bass bit with a fancy (rented) fretless bass, as I always wanted to use one, but it just didn’t work out. Probably the last time I attempted to play/write with one. Don’t worry, it only had four strings.”

Song of the Week: Long Haired Guys From England

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This week’s Cereal Killers’ selection, like pretty much all our songs, is based on a true story. Or series of stories, as the phenomenon described in the tune happened to us repeatedly.

The title and the first line were Jay’s. I remember him singing me his original couplet and punchline as we walked across Kraft Avenue in Bronxville to rehearse or record at The Loft: “All the girls in the music biz/are high class whores with a business whiz/but they only wanna fuck/long haired guys from England.” I don’t think we ever debated the second line — I’m pretty sure I just said the title was great but that line had to go. While I’m not particularly proud of what replaced it, I do find it endearing that possessing a credit card once seemed like a sure sign of adulthood to us.

When I asked Jay if he minded my sharing that original lyric with the world, he said only this: “Why would I object to the sharing of artistic genius?” But there was a smiley face emoticon at the end of his email.

Sandy reminded me of something I’d forgotten: that we wound up touring with several long-haired guys from England after the song was written but before it was released, leading to some misconceptions about its intended target. I’ll let him explain:

“Even though the song existed long before we crossed paths with The Wonder Stuff, no band better embodied its true meaning. In the few shows we did together before they dumped us from their bill, they would even introduce themselves as ‘the long haired c***ts from England.’ Some say that song had a lot to do with their ‘firing’ us, but we prefer to think it’s just because they were tired of being out-rocked each night.”

UPDATE: Continuing his tradition of sending in his rememberances AFTER I’ve published that week’s song, Tommy just emailed me this:

“Our producer Paul Fox had this great idea for us to get drunk, bring in strippers and attempt to perform “Long Haired Guys From England”, which he thought would capture the true essence of the song. Who were we to disagree? We did what our producer told us to do. As the tape rolled, we were having the time of our lives and really believed we were recording an awesome rendition of the song. The next day we listened back. What we thought was our recording masterpiece sounded like….shit. Being kinda pissed that we didn’t nail LHGFE in our fun stupor, I remember arming ourselves with our instruments and banging this song out in one or two takes. The only way this song was meant to be recorded! A basic straight ahead rocker that to this day never fails to charge us up, or the crowd. “