Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bootblogging #2: Three elegies for local musicians

I'll say farewell to 2008 with some local examples of the ultimate farewell: the elegy. All of these elegies, I am especially sad to say, remember local musicians who died by their own hand.

Two are by Mark Stephens. His "Prayer for Max Potts" tried to "bury in the words of a song" a local jazz pianist. "Cobalt Waltz" remembers the drummer for Johnny Magnet, Lori Blue.

"The Girl Who Played the Saw" was Chris Johnson's farewell song to Hunter Brumfield III (who plays bass, if I am not mistaken, on The Highway Matrons' recording of "Cobalt Waltz"). This song has a little local controversy attached to it that I should go over.

Lindy, who was dating Hunter, played musical saw on this recording in a rushed session before she moved to Russia. When she had more time to listen to the song, she objected to it, thinking it suggests that she was the motive for Hunter's suicide. In fact, Hunter struggled against bipolar disorder and was fighting the urge to kill himself for a very long time.

I can see Lindy's point. The song does say, "All he did was love a girl who played the saw." That phrase "all he did" could be construed as saying that was the only reason he killed himself - that loving Lindy (who isn't named in the lyrics) and losing her was "all he did" to arrive at the conclusion that life wasn't worth living.

As I explained at the time, I don't think the song implies that. I think the lyrics are meant to be more evocative than conclusive - the song is not offering an argument for why Hunter (who isn't named either) killed himself. It's a fable about suicide, and like all fables, it oversimplifies the facts and leaves much up to the imagination of the listener.

Lindy reads this blog from time to time, so if I hear from her and she wants me to remove this song, I will, just as Chris Johnson and I took the song out of circulation upon her original objections. But I hope she hears it now as a beautiful fable about a terrible thing, the "old folk song" of suicide.

Free mp3s

"Prayer for Max Potts"
(Mark Stephens)
Recorded by Fred's Variety Group
From the album Bells & Buzzers
(Beautiful vocal by Sunyatta Marshall.
Beautifully recorded by Liam Christy.)

"Cobalt Waltz"
(Mark Stephens)
Recorded by The Highway Matrons
From the Pajama Party Rooster Lollipop sampler

Unreleased, at Lindy's request

Previously bootblogged here:

This is the second in a series of posts where I bootleg the songs of my friends. The series will focus on unreleased recordings. Though Bells & Buzzers and Pajama Party were both released, I doubt they are very widely available, and both of the bands that released them are defunct. I am trusting my friends will be proud to see me sharing their work, but if anyone hollers at me, I'll remove their music right away. Also, note I don't accept any advertising on my blog, so I'm giving this stuff away, which was always my preferred method of distributing music.


The image is Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57 by Robert Motherwell.


sunyatta said...

Actually- Max Potts didn't commit suicide. He was brutally murdered.

Dana Smith said...

"cobalt waltz" puts me right back at Frederick's Music Lounge watching those beautiful musicians perform...

Confluence City said...

I was going by the last thing I was told. I am on a board at Wash U with a cousin of Max's. She said despite the brutality of his death it was ruled a suicide.