Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dance Critters

Bernie Heveron: upright bass
Colorblind James: vibes
G. Elwyn Meixner: tenor banjo
Jimmy Mac: drums
Phil Marshall: electric guitar

This is actually two songs welded together. The first is, obviously, Dance Critters. The second was to be a spoken word piece called Dance Hall Storm. Chuck never came up with music for it instead opting to sandwich it into Dance Critters. The lyrics dovetail nicely and, along with Rodeo Night, a wonderfully intricate and beautiful spoken word piece the band never got around to recording, it showcases Chuck's wit and originality in blending Western mythology with his own brand of beatnik jazz.

Of interest is the dog bark that can be heard right around the 1:20 mark during the chorus. Also, the final verse originally was "When YOU say 'yeah' I'M gonna scream!" which Chuck lifted adoringly from one of the many instances when James Brown uttered that phrase. Trouble was, Chuck never liked to scream. So he inverted the whole thing by say "when I say 'yes', you're gonna shout!" What little voice I have to this day was carved out over the years during that part of the song.

This was also the song Fundamental/Red Rhino chose to release as a 12" dance mix. I kid you not. There is fundamentally little difference between the 'dance mix' and what is heard on the cd. What prompted such an outlandish move on their part is beyond me. The obvious choice for a remix (in my left-of-center brain) would have been Considering A Move To Memphis. And as the witty mash-up of MIA's Bucky Done Gun and Memphis from a few years back demonstrates, it has more dance track potential than Dance Critters.

On its own, Dance Critters is a pretty innocuous ditty. It's the strange imagery Chuck conjurs up in Dance Hall Storm that gives an otherwise fairly lightweight song its magic and depth.

Dance Critters
© Chuck Cuminale

I been watering my horse
Since way before noon
I hope that beast
Gets satisfied soon

I’m a mean old hombre
From a border town
Woke up the sheriff
And gunned him down

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!

I been eating sand
And cactus pie
I’m telling you a feller
Gets mighty dry

My six gun’s loaded
And pointed down
Best keep your feet up
Off the ground

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!

(Dance Hall Storm)
It was a town full of violent men and bad women. Nobody had a heart of gold. Justice was unheard of and mercy, rarer still. In a corner of the barroom some musicians played rowdy dance-hall jive. The piano was shaped like a coffin. The banjo was made from two pie-tins and bailing wire. I said “Hey, I’ve got one like that at home.” Even through all the noise I could hear her spurs jangling down the street. Like alter bells they sounded, and I struck my breast three times. She’d been gone awhile, since I don’t remember when. “I spent a year in Echo Canyon” she said, “just me and my tambourine.” The music stopped…
…and then it started again.
And that is when the dance-hall storm began.

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!

Me and old Andre
The Indian guide
We got three stuffed kittens
And a buffalo hide

Head ‘em up!
Move ‘em out!
When I say dance
You’re gonna shout

Dance critters!
When I say dance
Dance critters!
Dance critters!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fledgling Circus


Colorblind James: acoustic guitar and vocals
Bernie Heveron: upright bass
Jimmy Mac: drums
Phil Marshall: electric guitar

Yet another of the post-G. Elwyn recordings. While G. Elwyn's departure was sad, many fans found the change exhilarating. As a four-piece, we agreed to concentrate on Chuck's songs exclusively. While this brought the band into a much sharper focus, that exclusivity eventually led to Bernie's leaving and, years later, Ken and me signing off.

Fledgling Circus is a great example of Chuck turning his usual song approach on its head. The key to circus rock is this: tragi-comic lyrics over an insanely upbeat and extremely fast polka-beat. Having written well over 100 fast two-beats, here comes this ultra-slow, Dylanesque tale of a guy who may or may not have had something to do with the untimely deaths of a number of circus performers.

In the narrator's tangle with the 'strong man', he beats him so severely that the man commits suicide. How completely crushing and demoralizing for a circus srong man to be pummeled. How could he show his face again?

The lion tamer is eaten by a hungry lion. Apparently the singer was responsible for feeding the beast. With the tragic deaths of the trapeze family, the narrator even laments that it was "all so sad and unnecessary". Why? Because he'd forgotten to mend the nets!

The narrator never sounds honestly malicious and even a little bewildered that fingers may be pointing at him. He's a shlubb with responsibilities and his failure to meet those responsibilities causes 'accidents' to happen. This is real tragic/comedy stuff.

There's an existential streak that runs through Chuck's best material. Existential in terms of Sartre or Camus? I think Chuck would deny it emphatically writing them off as pompous intellectuals. Then again, I could be wrong.

Some points of interest: Chuck was sitting on a drummer's throne while strumming his big Guild acoustic. Listen closely and you can hear his seat squeeking!

On our first European tour, we were accompanied by a young English band called Yeah, Jazz! Kev, the band's lead singer and songwriter, was completely mad about Fledgling Circus. He asked Chuck to show him the chords. After that, any time he had to just sit around and play guitar, he was heard playing the chords to Fledgling Circus.

Fledgling Circus
Words and music © Chuck Cuminale

Woah, cum’on and fight my battles
Woah, cum’on and plead my case
Woah, cum’on, do something to show me
I’m not alone in this place

Fortune has not smiled upon me
It’s not even bothered to learn my name
Should never have joined this Fledgling Circus
When it fell they singled me for blame

One night I picked a fight with the strong man
I beat him within an inch of his life
He borrowed a rope from a tight rope walker
When home and hung himself that night

Next it was the lion tamer
Lost his head in the lion’s jaws
They say that beast was extra hungry
Coz I’d last fed him three days before

An entire famous trapeze family
Last week all plunged to their deaths
It was all so sad and unnecessary
Coz I’d forgot to mend the nets


I got a date with the woman with two heads
She’s the only left who’ll talk to me
At dinner she makes good conversation
One head talks while the other one eats

Woah, cum’on and fight my battles
Woah, cum’on and plead my case
Woah, cum’on, do something to show me
I’m not alone in this place

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Considering A Move To Memphis


Colorblind James: Vibes and vocals
Bernie Heveron: Upright bass
G. Elwyn Meixner: Banjo and Telecaster
Jimmy Mac: Drums
Phil Marshall: Modulus Graphite Blacknife

Well, here it is: the big one. The one that got that got things going for us. The one Chuck instinctively knew would get attention.

Considering a Move to Memphis was written in San Francisco before the 'hiatus' when the line-up include Dave Fischer, Scott Young and Kevin McDevitt. When Chuck first introduced the piece to the band, I think we were all a bit shocked. Dave downright hated it. The rest of us to one degree or another figured he must be kidding around. He wanted us to play this riff over and over with no change up except every so often the riff would stop and we would chant "I'm Considering, I'm Considering..." completely out of time. Right...I thought he was mad.

But actually, it was a logical follow-up to Solid! Behind The Times: another persistent riff underscoring trippy nonsense lyrics and a spoken word interlude. While the song did nothing to change the band's non-reputation in a 1983 peroxide-blond San Francisco, I think it did to a certain degree steer the band towards its inevitable 'vacation'. Dave was becoming frustrated with the amount of rehearsing we would do, working loveingly on all the details of the songs, only to have them trashed by Kevin and me. Casting aside any sense of subtlety and nuance, he and I favored pounding drums and a cranked Les Paul in a joint display of youthful machismo. Couple those frustrations with no audience to speak of, a landmark change in Chuck's songwriting and Dave announced his departure.

Needless to say, the song didn't really find its voice until Rochester. And unlike S.F., Rochester audiences seemed to love it right off the bat. The song really benefited from the lighter approach we were all giving it. Although I still would often (and to the end of my days in the band) be too loud for Chuck, I'd begun to play considerably quieter. I'd also begun to favor the clean single coil sounds of my Blacknife Strat style guitar over my big throaty Les Paul.

While I make no assertions that I became a student of African guitar styles, I was honestly influenced by some of the more bell like tones and chording I had been soaking in from LPs like the Sounds Of Soweto and Nairobi Guitars. My approach to 'Memphis' was a direct result of that influence. Jimmy Mac was also a much more subtle drummer than Kevin and the song became lighter, bouncier and the riff popped more than pummeled. Bernie Heveron's upright bass added a cool jazz edge to the song while G. Elwyn's guitar and banjo kept the song rooted in pure Americana.

And of course, there's Chuck's vibes without which the song would never have come into existence. Chuck first acquired a set of bells in S.F. which got the ball rolling for him. He then purchased a said of Mussers from Tower Of Power's own David Garibaldi.

Considering A Move To Memphis was another of the the songs recorded at Marcus Glodell Studios and while the performance was flawed in many ways, it again benefited from the polish the engineer gave it. As the vocals were overdubbed, one of the first problems we encountered was in the amount of time we left in the 'hole' where the chanting would occur. Again, mind you, this recording was fast and on the fly. While there are obviously many ways to get around it, I believe we just stopped playing, waited, and then resumed. I can't remember if Chuck chanted to himself or if Jimmy counted us back in, but instead of allowing for a scratch chant track, we left a big pause of silence. When the chant was later overdubbed, the band seems to kick in at different times, more often while the chant is still in progress.

In the second set of solos, Jimmy Mac lost his place and ended up leaving twelve bars open for G. Elwyn's overdubbed banjo and only four bars for himself. G. Elwyn filled in the space very well and the overall effect is not that of a mistake but of a loose, improvisational excursion, which is difficult to suggest when overdubbing is part of the game.

The mistake that freaked us out most of all didn't occur during the recording. Chuck and I drove up to Toronto to pick up our 1000 copies of the LP. We drove back in a thunderstorm the likes of which I'd never experienced. It really looked the dark skies were opening up and revealing swatches of the universe no one should ever be allowed to see. When we finally got home, we lugged the boxes into Chuck's living room, cracked one open, took out a record and put it on. All was well and good until we got to Considering A Move. The song started and immediately Chuck and I looked at each other in horror. It seemed the opening downbeat was missing. Another LP was opened and was missing there too.

We thought we were the proud owners of 1000 copies of a ruined record. While the missing downbeat is on both the original Earring and Fundamental/Red Rhino LPs, it mysteriously reappeared on the CD version. Actually I remember Chuck being quite happy to learn that in the mastering for the CD, the downbeat would be saved.

But that, along with the performance problems, begs the question: what is a mistake? What is a flaw? It was the LP that John Peel played and it was Considering A Move To Memphis that made his 1987 Festive Fifty list. The song sounds like nothing before it or since. It's funny, poignant and catchy as hell. And for those who were or perhaps still are inclined to criticize it as completely annoying, I direct you to the closing line: "It's OK to disturb me, that's what I came here for." I think the folks who gravitated to what is arguably Chuck's masterpiece, understood that on a deep level.

It's the song that didn't change a damn thing, yet it's there for those of us who will always embrace the hope that change for the better, especially in pop music, will occur one day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Gravel Road


Colorblind James: Acoustic guitar
Jimmy Mac: Drums
Bernie Heveron: Upright Bass
Phil Marshall: Electric Guitar

This is one I'd love to go back and remix. I think it's a really lively, bare bones recording of a classic Chuck Cuminale uptempo twelve-bar blues. It was clearly recorded after G. Elwyn had departed the band. Given the line up of drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, it's the closest thing in the catalog to the Beatles '65 LP, one of my favorite U.S. Beatles albums.

Given the classic form of the song, I believe what it holds over most other examples is that it has such a strong melody. This more readily connects it to the 12-bar excursions of Hank Williams Sr. than Chuck Berry (believe me, I am not taking away anything from Mr. Berry!)

I'm pretty sure I was in the control room and probably going direct into the board. My sound is thin and toneless, like my guitar was strung with rubber bands. Too bad, 'cause I love everything I'm doing on the song. The chunky rhythm fills, the Chuck Berry riffing on the solo, all typify the loose approach I'd developed with Chuck's songs. Over the years, I'd worked on jumping into a song without trying to second-guess too much.

Gravel Road is also the only song I recorded on my 1941 Gibson ES-100 before I traded it. Beautiful guitar, it just wasn't right for any of the goose-neck riffing I was doing. After one show during which I was playing pretty loud (not uncommon for awhile there), the whole guitar began to vibrate and the binding started to peel away. There was something about treating an old guitar thay way that just didn't sit right with me. It eventually led to my getting a '59 Gibson ES-175 however,'s all good, as they say.

The song itself is of such a high standard: three simple verses tell the story of a young girl who is struck down and killed by an aging motorist who'd thought he'd struck a mailbox post. The story, sadly, is true and describes a female friend of Chuck's when they were both in early adolescence. According to Chuck, the death of this girl was a critically defining moment for him. She turns up in other songs, most notably Purple & Gold (recorded but never released) although Gravel Road is a more literal casting, especially the 2nd verse, of the terrible accident.

For having stated on an earlier post that Chuck rarely wrote about actual people or events, with this song and Why'd The Boy, the first album contained two stories about friends he'd lost. As life and death are clearly themes that run through a good percentage of Chuck's songs, he might very well argue that the girl in Gravel Road is somewhere to be found in most of them.

Gravel Road
Words & music © Chuck Cuminale

I went down to Gravel Road
I went to have my fortune told
The fortune teller robbed me blind
Now I can’t get her out of my mind
I don’t know where I’ve been since then
I’ll never go down Gravel Road again

Gonna visit the place, gonna stand in the spot
Where her young life was blotted out
Some old codger, white as a ghost,
Thought he’d hit a mailbox post
I don’t know where I’ve been since then
I’ll never go down Gravel Road again

I went to sleep with a smile on my face
But I woke up in a different place
I never did scream, I never did shout
But I gave up trying to figure it out
I don’t know where I’ve been since then
I’ll never go down Gravel Road again

Monday, July 7, 2008

Walkin' My Camel Home


Bernie Heveron: Upright bass
Colorblind James: Vibes, vocals
Phillip Marshall: Guitar
James McAvaney: Drums
G. Elwyn Meixner: Guitar

I've got to start off by saying that Walkin' My Camel Home has to be one of the most underrated and overlooked gems in Chuck Cuminale's songbook. While this was always a lot of fun to play, more importantly it really represents the best qualities of the early Rochester line-up.

The instrumental section has G. Elwyn and me talking back and forth with little pseudo-Middle Eastern riffs. It also features great lines from Bernie's upright, tight punchy drumming from Jimmy Mac, and of course Chuck's vibes which cap off each section with a long sustained final note hanging like a star above a midnight desert.

Being one of the few non-two beat songs in Chuck's catalog, up to that point, he really pushed Jimmy Mac to find a rhythm pattern that complemented the main riff, rather than merely keeping time. Also, while many of Chuck's riffs were based around the mixolydian scale (my apologies to Chuck: he would hate that I'm using high falutin' terms like that), WMCH's riff is based around a minor pentatonic scale.

Chuck didn't care much for music theory or any displays on a musician's part to show how much musical 'knowledge' he had. While he occasionaly played 9th chords on his guitar, he didn't show much interest in harmonic embellishments to basic major and minor chords. In typical fashion, after getting worked up about something and hearing me strum a C Major 7 chord, he declared emphatically "That chord is a lie!" It's sole purpose was to make people feel a certain emotion that didn't really exist.

Chuck's harmonic world included major and minor chords, dominant 7th chords, the occasional diminished chord (they seemed to pop up in old jug band songs or Bessie Smith blues numbers) and the ubiquitous major 6th barre-chord. But stating that he had a limited palette of harmonic colors is not a put down. What he may have lacked in harmonic sophistication, he more than made up for in imagination. His story telling continued to develop and expand and the role his musicians played in supplying other colors and other voices was extremely important.

I don't recall ever playing this song in Europe although I'm sure we must have. Somewhere along the line it just seemed to get dropped from the repertoire. Perhaps for that reason, it will remain for me a kind of peak in his post-SF, pre-UK period.

Recorded at Saxon Studios, it's also one of the few Colorblind James Experience recordings that features a fade ending.

Walkin' My Camel Home
Words and music Chuck Cuminale

The sheik's men they snuck up behind me
And stole the air I planned to breath
It left me reelin' 'round light-headed
I knew that it was time to leave
But I felt much better out in the moonlight
Walkin' my camel home

Last time I came out here at night
Well, let's just say it was a big mistake
I got drunk and I knocked a tent down
I almost smothered in my own heartache
But it gave me something to think about while
Walkin' my camel home

Well, I got responsibilities
Lotta things I'm supposed to do
But for me the hardest part
Is to make it look like that's not true
That's how come I wear these shades while
Walkin' my camel home

Well, I was sittin' in my favorite chair
Staring at my favorite floor
When the doorbell rang I said "I'll get it"
40 thieves were at the door
Well, it's true I've made some strange connections
Walkin' my camel home

Sunday, July 6, 2008

First Day Of Spring (words & music Bernie Heveron)


Bernie Heveron: Upright bass and vocals
Colorblind James: Guitar, bg vocals
Phillip Marshall: Lead Guitar, bg vocals
James McAvaney: Drums
G. Elwyn Meixner: Lead Guitar, bg vocals

Recorded at Marcus Glodell Studios

This is the only song to make it onto an album that wasn't written by Chuck. Written by Bernie Heveron, this song was extremely popular over in Britain and the band often heard shouted requests for it from the audience. As Bernie had left the band shortly following the release of the first record, Chuck felt no responsibility to play it and simply apologized to the crowd stating "Y'know? The guy who wrote that isn't with the band anymore so we just don't do it!" Sometimes people accepted that, sometimes we were booed for avoiding an obvious favorite.

And I have to admit it is catchy. Everyone referred to it as "She's a Witch", the more obvious title. I remember walking into a rehearsal while Bernie and Jimmy were working out the opening riff. The recording is powerful and it really jumps out of the speakers. It also benefits from having been one of the three album tracks recorded at Marcus Glodell Studios.

The Marcus Glodell session happened probably some time in '86 with the band simply looking for a demo to shop around for gigs. Bernie was friends with the guys who worked their and they agreed to record 3 songs for something like $100 dollars or so. What I remember is the session's engineer being not overly friendly to any of us and conversing only in whispers with either Bernie or the studio hands.

On "First Day of Spring", you can hear right before the fade my high E string breaking. I was playing an ultra-hip Modulus Graphite Blacknife strat-copy with a tremelo bar. Of course the thing went completely out of tune and I began whammy-ing all the out of tune strings. My recollection is that I asked Dwight if we could overdub my guitar and he responded with "Bernie, I thought you explained the agreement to them." Needless to say, it was left as is. Furthermore, the fade was necessary as the quarter-inch reel ran out while we were still playing. Top shelf stuff, that.

But for whatever our engineer lacked in warmth and personality, he certainly made up for it with the sparkling sheen he gave the songs.

As it stands now, I'm glad we didn't redo it. The spontaneity is fine with me. C'mon, how many times to you get to hear someone break a string on a cd?

The first guitar solo is me coming in right after the second chorus. Following that is G. Elwyn playing a blue Tele with a really clean sound and tune to drop-D. At the time, I was really wanting to stand out as more of a rock player against Elwyn's shiny twang. Today, to my ears, G. Elwyn's solo sounds a lot hipper than mine.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Different Bob


Bernie Heveron: Upright bass
Colorblind James: Vibes, vocals
Phillip Marshall: Guitar
James McAvaney: Drums
G. Elwyn Meixner: Guitar

A supreme example of what Chuck referred to as "fake jazz". Fake, I guess, because regardless of how well or poorly the listener may think it swings, none of us were experienced jazz players. The first set of solos is Chuck on vibes and G. Elwyn on guitar. The second is Bernie on bass followed by me. G. Elwyn again played his blue Tele while I played my white '75 Les Paul. I'd also used that guitar on "Why'd The Boy..."

Double tracking the lead vocals, a technique Chuck discovered from Peter Miller, was a given back then. Considering the loose open feel of the track, it sounds pretty weird to me on "A Different Bob". Chuck was always self-conscious about his voice and explored any options to disguise what he perceived as its flaws. I always wish he had been more secure with it. It wasn't until the last CD, "Call Of The Wild" that Chuck threw in the towel. Most of the vocals on that record are unadorned scratch vocals.

When Chuck penned this song back in San Francisco, he sensed it would be popular: the 'joke' was easy to get. I remember Chuck had originally written a fourth verse, something about the narrator sitting alone in his apartment and staring at a candle. I believe a ghostly voice calls out for Bob and when he answers, once again, he hears "I mean a Different Bob". He scrapped it early on feeling, correctly in my opinion, that three verses told the story perfectly.

He was correct about its popularity, being one of the songs John Peel featured regularly on the BBC1 in '87 and '88.

A Different Bob
Words and music © Chuck Cuminale

My baby was taking in her sleep
She said “Bob”
I said “What”
She said “Bob”
I said “I’m Bob”
And she said “No,
I mean a different Bob”

And so I asked her the next day
I said “Jane”
She said “What”
I said “Who’s Bob?”
She said “You’re Bob”
I said “No.
I mean a different Bob”

My baby was run over by a truck
It was a Dodge
As she lay dying
She called for Bob
I touched her hand and said “I’m here”
She said “No.
I mean a different Bob”

My baby was talking in her sleep

The German Girls


Bernie Heveron: Upright Bass and bg vocals
Colorblind James: Guitar and bg vocals
Phillip Marshall: Lead Guitar and bg vocals
Jimmy McAvaney: Drums
G. Elwyn Meixner: Guitar

What a strange way to follow "Why'd The Boy..."! The German Girls has always been one of my favorite of Chuck's ultra-fast two-beats. This recording is so ragged and lo-fi and an immediate departure from the more sophisticated (I use that word cautiously) opener. The German girls were three (sometimes four) exchange students in Oswego who would come out and see the White Caps play. The way Chuck told it, they in fact approached him and introduced themselves saying "We're the German girls!" All Chuck needed was some phrase like that to kick start a song.

The German Girls is the first of many songs on the album recorded at Dave Anderson's Saxon Studio featuring the early Rochester, NY line-up. While the song had always been sung by G. Elwyn Meixner in the clubs, he ended up leaving the band sometime during the album's production. Chuck went into the studio and overdubbed his own vocal for the song.

I've always felt the guitar lead was pretty clever and fun to play. The opening figure is a couple of pull-offs from a 5th position E7 chord onto open strings. While it sounds really tricky, it's actually fairly easy to do.

As I recall, the refrain began life as "We didn't come for fun, we didn't come for romance. Handed us a ticket so we taught 'em how to dance." Chuck decided somewhere along the line that it sounded a tad too presumptuous and changed it to "so we thought we'd take a chance".

The German Girls
Words and music © Chuck Cuminale

First thing she said is we’re the German girls
We are three and sometimes four
We have traveled half way ‘round the world
And now we’re knocking on your door

They didn’t come for fun
Didn’t come for romance
They handed us a ticket so we thought we’d take a chance

Dorothy was the taller girl with long brown hair
Sissy wore wire rimmed glasses, sometimes braids
Helga, she was shorter and her hair was black
The other girl, I never knew her name

They didn’t come for fun
Didn’t come for romance
Handed us a ticket so we thought we’d take a chance

Coast to coast what they liked the most was…
East and West what they liked the best was…

First thing she said is we’re the German girls

Friday, July 4, 2008

Why'd The Boy Throw The Clock Out The Window?


Dave Fischer: Bass
Kevin McDevitt: Drums
Scott Young: Trombone
Peter Strauss: Alto Sax & Clarinet
My Sin: Keyboards
Phillip Marshall: Lead Guitar
Colorblind James: Guitar, Vibraphone, Vocal

Recorded at Peter Miller Studios sometime in 1983 or '84, this song represented a crystallization of many ideas and concepts Chuck had been hammering out during the band's San Francisco days. First off, while Chuck's patented 2-beat style is still very much present, the song features a prominent and propelling riff. Chuck became enamored with coming up with riffs for his songs, the first in my memory being a cool two-beat ditty called "Go Away, Marie". Basically, whenever there was no vocal, a riff of some kind filled in the space.

Secondly, Chuck had always wanted his songs to feature clarinet and trombone. At the time this song was recorded, the band had pretty much split up. When he assembled the musicians who were to record, he added Peter Strauss on alto and clarinet. Scott Young, who had been with the band before the split, was back on trombone.

The only other "non-member" to be added was a ghostly young keyboard player who called himself My Sin. At the end of each verse, the music shifts from a riff on D to one on a G major chord. The riff was comprised of three descending chromatic notes. For some reason My Sin was incapable of not connecting the two descents with an additional ascending chromatic tone. While Chuck was rarely willing to compromise on his ideas, I believe he finally gave up trying to get Mr. Sin to play it correctly. So it was to exist forever with the extra note.

The original concept for the riff-laden bridge was to have a laugh track running through it. Chuck mentioned the laugh that is often featured at the entrance of a carnival funhouse. Something creepy and unsettling. None of us being very up on the fledgling field of sampling, he eventually scrapped the idea in place of having me fill in the blanks with guitar riffs. I came up with the riffs and Chuck had the horns play them along with me. What I'd forgotten is that the second bridge features bass, drums and alto answering each riff respectively. In later years, both bridges were played the same way.

Dave Fischer came up with the outstanding bass line that underscores the verse lyrics. I recall him being really proud when he introduced it, feeling that he had really captured Chuck's jerky stop-n-start sense.

I worked on that lead for a long time prior to recording and it really typifies what I was into during that period. I liked featuring the same flatted scale degree that the main riff contained. Then, there's a little fleet fingered flash just before the stop. Unfortunately, the rhythm tracks were recorded without the solo and we were not using a click track. We 'felt' the pause before the G chord but in fact, our timing was off. When I filled in the hole during overdubbing, I had to slow the solo down to accommodate it. Hence, Peter Miller added tons of delay to the solo to sort of smooth over the timing. In later years, as I began to lose interest in displays of dexterity, I pretty much started to play Chuck Berry-styled riffs for the solo.

What is most important to me about this track is that it features the late great Kevin McDevitt on the drums. Kevin had played with Chuck since 1978 and he was instrumental in discovering the two-beat rhythm Chuck loved so much. This is the only recording featuring Kevin that exists on any Colorblind James cd. At some point, I would like to see the seven tracks the four-piece band recorded at Peter's that yielded the Talk To Me/Kojak Chair single.

While Chuck often avoided writing songs about specific people or events, this one addresses the suicide death of a friend of his. The title of course comes from the old riddle, the answer to which is "to see time fly". In the song, Chuck's own answer to the question is never clearly stated. He did offer me this response though, when the song was still in its infancy: Why'd the boy throw the clock out the window? To stop time.

Why’d The Boy Throw The Clock Out The Window?
Words & Music © Chuck Cuminale

A fog rose up from hell that day
By the river you could hear the lost souls screaming
I wish they wouldn’t carry on that way
Why’d the boy throw the clock out the window?

It was something we could never mention
But I knew I would have come through soon
But you can’t pay debts with good intentions
Why’d the boy throw the clock out the window?

We watched him as his faith was shattered
We watched as his confidence disappeared
And he turned his back on all that mattered
Why’d the boy throw the clock out the window?

Of course we cried when we heard the news
And we cried as the ice truck pulled away
With nothing to gain so much to lose
Why’d the boy throw the clock out the window?