Friday, December 12, 2003

Number #1

The cats sing!
Poo joo poo joo mew
A fow la fow reboo
Tara kara kasyy
We love you!

***Excerpt from "Theme from 'Mystical Cat Wonderland'"

On this very day back in 1982, I charted my first #1 song in Luxembourg. The song, “Theme from ‘Mystical Cat Wonderland’” was the result of a 71-hour jam session with my original band (Coop on harpsichord, Fang on tambourine, Little Shirley on bassoon and Homeless Pete on the banjo). The original version of the song clocked in at just under 38 minutes. It remains one of the very few songs I’ve allowed to be released in which I personally don’t play every single instrument. It just would have been impossible to duplicate the lightning in a bottle we caught during that fateful autumn weekend in Homeless Pete’s hollowed out Victorian in the outskirts of San Luis Obispo. Those three days represent the seventh, eighth and ninth most enjoyable days of my life. The sixth best day of my life was the day I met Jimmy Carter at an Arby’s in Wilmington, North Carolina. Normally, meeting an American President would warrant a higher ranking, but all President Carter wanted to talk about was peanuts and Jesus.

Anyway, when I was putting together the epic, octuple-sided “Mystical Cat Wonderland” album, I knew I had a hit that screamed out “Play me on the radio, now!” And so I took to the difficult task of editing down “The Theme” so it could be played on radio. Unfortunately, what was good for Springtime Jones was not good for the band. Fang vehemently disapproved of taking even one millisecond off the song. “The infidels don’t deserve to listen to anything less than the full song. If their attention span is too short for it, then they should choke on their own vomit,” he said. I told him that only the radio-edit would be shortened, but Fang, stubborn as usual, refused to give in.

“If the song is changed in any way, I’m out. I will not allow some coked-up, French looking radio douche in Minot, North Dakota have veto power over our art.” With that, Fang picked up his trademark two tambourines and stormed out. I went back to my many tape recorders and continued my editing. I finished the radio-edit a month later and sent it out. I didn’t have the heart to tell Fang what I had done. I didn’t have to. While hunting miscellaneous rodents, coincidentally, in Minot, North Dakota, Fang turned on the radio and heard “The Theme”. Fang proceeded to have a full-blown conniption fit and ended up going on a rampage through the small, plains town.

Fang’s first target was WHYT, the radio station that had played the song. He entered the building and began beating people with his trademark two tambourines, one in each hand. He was an unstoppable windmill of rage, slamming everyone in sight with his fists of musical fury. One of the secretaries who hid in a closet said that after Fang had rendered everyone in the building unconscious, he began to overturn file cabinets. He would then take the papers from the cabinets and eat them. After eating the papers, he would rip at the wall, tearing out whole pieces until the foundation beams were visible.

After eating and beating his way through the station, Fang’s voyage of rage continued into the town itself. Fang had stolen a listing of advertisers from the radio station and began vandalizing them one by one. All told, Fang hit seventeen different business establishments before disappearing into the fields surrounding Minot. The police finally found Fang three weeks later in the outfield bleachers of Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis. He had apparently created a small shelter in the abandoned stadium and was in the process of writing a rather lengthy manifesto. Said manifesto is currently in the possession of the FBI, who still to this day are trying to make sense of it.

This weekend, I will be traveling back to San Luis Obispo to play a live show at Homeless Pete’s hollowed out Victorian to commemorate the 21st anniversary of my first #1. Fang won’t be there. After his arrest in Minnesota, Fang was tried, and received a seven-year sentence for his part in the destruction of Minot, North Dakota. During his stay, Fang was able to record his one and only solo album “Symbolism is Stupid”. The tambourine-only album was a big hit in Yemen, but never quite caught on anywhere else. After he served his sentence out, Fang was immediately abducted by Federal Marshalls and placed in a maximum-security, Federal psychiatric ward under 100% surveillance. Fang’s manifesto apparently scared a lot of powerful people in Washington.

Juan will be playing in Fang’s place, which isn’t bad. I’ve just never performed “Theme from ‘Mystical Cat Wonderland’” without Fang before, so I’m a little nervous. I’m sure Fang won’t mind. I’ll be playing the whole thing, every millisecond. I’ve even gotten Radio du Luxembourg to play the unedited album version in Fang’s honor.

I often look back and wonder if I should have listened to Fang. If I had only listened to him, he wouldn’t be holed up 300 meters below the surface of the earth in an undisclosed location. I often wonder how the whirlwind Madagascar Tour of 1996 would be different, or if he could have come up with a proper ending to my as-yet-unpublished mystery cook book. Of course if I hadn’t let Fang go, Juan wouldn’t be playing with me. Strange is the way of life. Maybe, someday, when the FBI realizes that Fang’s manifesto is just his random observations on squirrels, he’ll be released and I’ll be able to put together the ultimate band, with two tambourine players, creating music that would make Gaia herself smile. One can dream, I guess.

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