Tag Archives: performance

A Song Worth Singing

“People only want to hear
the few songs that they know.”
That’s what some will tell you
drives live bands and radio:
the lowest common factor
in the drunkest, toughest crowd
who only care to listen
if it’s familiar and loud.

“People have no interest in
songs they’ve not heard before.
The same old sound is what’s been found
to get ’em past the door.
There no use playing anything
that they don’t want to hear,
because your job is not much more
than selling lots of beer.”

But hey, they’ve got a jukebox over there
that works much cheaper, and won’t really care…

If the song is worth the singing, if the words mean something strong
If the second time you hear it you might want to sing along
If the people that you’re playing for aren’t worth that something more,
Then please tell me, what am I still writing for?

“People only come to see
an entertaining show;
so that’s what we provide them,
then we pack up and we go.
Yeah, we’ll play what we want to,
someday, when our name’s in lights;
but until then, we’ll give ’em what
they think they want tonight.”

But hey, the jukebox can play all the hits;
live music’s got to have much more to it …

If the song is worth the singing, if the words mean something strong
If the second time you hear it you might want to sing along
If the people that you’re working for aren’t worth that something more,
Then please tell me, what are you still playing for?

20 MAR 2006

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Something I Can Feel

This bar’s got a jukebox; for a quarter, you can hear the latest big-time songs;
there’s no need to book live entertainment if all you want is just to sing along.
Yes, I’ll take requests, but not too many; don’t be hurt if your favorite’s not on queue.
I know a lot of numbers, but to tell the honest truth, there’s only certain kinds of songs I’ll do.

It’s gotta be true to who I say I am;
if it’s gonna make anyone listen or give two fifths of a damn;
It’s gotta be straight and speak from the place I know;
if it’s gonna be worth the money that it costs to see the show;
It’s gotta be more than some old line that builds up crowd appeal;
It’s gotta be saying something I can feel.

There’s not much reason for seeing live music if all you want to hear is someone else.
You’re better off just cranking up the jukebox; it sounds much better than I can myself.
Sometimes it’s those old songs not in rotation that touch you, when the band begins to play;
it creates something that’s real, not imitation, and it offers so much more than some DJ.

And if you don’t know what you’re asking
when you ask me to perform
like a chicken on a barbwire stage
who’ll dance when it gets warm,
then it doesn’t really matter what I’m singing anyway.
You just sit back there and listen; I’ll decide what songs to play…

It’s gotta be true to who I say I am;
if it’s gonna make anyone listen or give two fifths of a damn;
It’s gotta be straight and speak from the place I know;
if it’s gonna be worth the money that it costs to see the show;
It’s gotta be more than some old line that builds up crowd appeal;
It’s gotta be saying something I can feel.

‘Cause if it don’t mean nothing to me
then what am I singing for?
There are better ways to get by
than a percent of the door …

It’s gotta be true to who I say I am;
if it’s gonna make anyone listen or give two fifths of a damn;
It’s gotta be straight and speak from the place I know;
if it’s gonna be worth the money that it costs to see the show;
It won’t ever be really good, if it’s not something real.
It’s gotta be saying something I can feel.

19 MAR 2006

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Come Out to the Cherokee

Sometimes, it’s the craziest little line that starts off a whole chain of thinkin’. This one, of course, is not based in reality whatsoever; but it does beg the question … when IS that Jeff Rachall website going to be updated?

You think that I’m lying when I say I’m in a band;
this going out all weekend, you say you don’t understand.
And furthermore, you’ve searched the ‘Net but never found a trace
that proves beyond a doubt that I’m not lying to your face.

It’s not another woman, or some poker game I’m in;
it’s not long nights of drinking, contemplating ways to sin.
I know that country music’s not your favorite cup of tea;
but for our sake, so you’ll believe, please do this thing for me:

They won’t put my picture up on the group’s new website,
so I can’t prove I’m in the band if you’re not there tonight;
Come out to the Cherokee, where I said we’d be ’til two;
then you’ll know my word is good and I’ve not been untrue.

You think that I’m lying about playing songs all night,
and worry that I’m straying as soon as I get out of sight.
I’ve tried hard to convince you that my word on this is true;
but there’s only one way I know to prove myself to you:

They won’t put my picture up on the brand new website,
so I can’t prove I’m in the band if you’re not there tonight;
Come out to the Cherokee, where I said we’d be ’til two;
then you’ll know my word is good and I’ve not been untrue.

17 MAR 2006

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My once sweet voice

My once sweet voice, so innocent
and full of strength and power
is now reduced to rasp and hum,
its range half what it was.

It rumbles, where it once so glibly
glissed; the pure head tone
has sunk into my heavy chest
and breaks where it once slid.

Disuse, abuse and pure neglect
have left my instrument
(once proud and fearless,
capable of stratospheric feats)

dented and dusty, ill-repaired,
and painfully withdrawn.
It’s clear unless I brush it off,
and soon, it will be gone.

23 JUN 2005

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I Don’t Do Slam

Now when I say I don’t do slam
it doesn’t mean
that I don’t dig
the meth-euphoric drenal high
that comes when words escape at Mach
and you roll like the Candy Man with those
sweet treats to clear the sleeping ears
of all those deadbeat debutantes
who crowd like mike like it was manna
say they’re gonna, makes you wanna
holler damn the poet man
street preacher speaking tongues in rhyme
but that ain’t slam, sam.

When I say I don’t do slam
it doesn’t mean that I can’t jellyroll
mainline strings of silken soothings
talk loud without saying nothing
run below the feedback radar
at the edge
of sound distortion
keep it real compared to something
shut down shambles mumble rumbling.

When I say I don’t do slam
it ain’t because I’m old and gray
and rhymes don’t flow don’t grow
testosterone and angst OD
some chosen chump to channel
all the crap you couldn’t stand to shout
I’m not the one to rock your pulpit
spin your world yourself
my axis
doesn’t equate power with volume
strokes its own ego quite nicely
whispers sermons to a choir
that knows just why
I don’t do slam.

16 MAY 2005

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I want to play live music again

One of the experiences in my life that has been the most exhilirating is playing music before an audience. It doesn’t matter how big the audience is, really.

I started out playing live music with my family on holidays. From the time I was 8 or 9, at Christmas and other family gatherings, my grandmother, uncle, father, cousins and brothers and sisters would gather around my grandmother (who played the organ), singing and playing a myriad of instruments, playing carols, old songs, and novelty numbers (like Shaving Cream, Sweet Violets, For I Had But 50 Cents, etc.).

My siblings and I all learned three instruments each growing up: piano, a string instrument (mine was violin), and a band instrument (mine was clarinet). I played from the time I was in second grade, adding to that list guitar, bass (electric and upright), saxophone, trumpet, accordian, lap steel (my father’s instrument) and various and sundry percussion. I even took drum lessons for a while. I also sang in choir from my seventh grade year on. So there was a lot of live performance: talent shows, band concerts, recitals, contests, etc.

In high school I formed a band with a couple of friends. We didn’t play any gigs, as I recall, but we practiced a LOT, often with small audiences of friends.

Then after high school I played in professional bands, all over Los Angeles from the Central to Madame Wongs, street scene festivals, and so on.

Then I went to Berklee. And played the subways, mostly. LOL. Made more money on the Blue Line than I ever made playing the Troubadour, I can tell you.

Moved to Memphis, started playing solo acoustic gigs. I played the Java Cabana coffeehouse every Sunday for 8 months and also did a gig at the Antenna Club as an Elvis impersonator. After Memphis, I moved to Seattle and played in a country-folk band. Played the Northwest Folk Festival, played in back rooms at bluegrass festivals, etc.

When I relocated to Ohio, I played in a classic rock cover band that did a couple of gigs, including a Harley Davidson club party.

Then I moved to New Orleans. And you would think that being in that city filled with music I’d still be playing. But as often happens, life gets in the way. I’m older now, and hanging out in bars is less healthy. And I’m set in my ways.

But playing live music is always a wonderful experience. Even if it’s just two people sitting in a living room and jamming. So if the opportunity arises, I’ll do it in a heartbeat. Just no touring, or thinking of getting a record deal. LOL.

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After a Line in Rumi

Between the acts on the great stage
the green room swells with life;
like ocean waves the movement never stops.

Each spent performer, bathed in sweat,
absorbed into their entourage,
glows with the energy of the crowd.

Around the curtain’s edge, those next
to play are bathed in the footlights;
their skins mirrored white phosphorus.

All are intoxicated with a sense of time
on the heady brew of ideas and wild talk;
each creates their own constellation.

It seems to me an India:
a festival begun ten thousand years
ago, with millions in the band.*

I came here as a stranger, long ago;
although I know the hour I arrived,
I could not say which door I used.

With jugglers, clowns, actors and saints
I’ve sung and played and swooned;
the stage is shared with all who care to dance.

Outside the street is dark; no lights
run down the path that leads away.
The door is open; no one stands in wait.

I do not know the ticket price,
nor if I walked or came by car.
It does not matter, either way.

The lights are dimmed, another song
from silence rises into form;
I know the words as if they were mine.

When will it end? I cannot say;
each claims their after-party rights,
as if this show will ever end.

I’ll sing as long as I’m allowed,
and stay until its done;
there are fruits and wine enough.

And once I’m filled and all sung out
whoever brought me to this place
will have to take me home
.

17 DEC 2004

* Bhagavan Das, in his biography, describes India upon his arrival in the early 60’s as “a big outdoor festival that had been going on for 10,000 years, with 10 million people in the band.”

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