More often than not we start with the music, or at least an idea for the music. But this one began with the words, written at an office desk one afternoon when one of us Dolls was supposed to be working. The first verse explains how to get from the northside of Williamsburg to the house where the subject of the song, who is very real, used to live. The second verse zeroes in on the precise destination. This song is its own Google map. But the Queen of Queens has since moved, which is a good thing, because her old place is probably gonna get all touristy now.
You’ve been a very, very naughty financial institution.
Happy new year. The world is one year older. We are one year older. Body parts, like international economies, are slowly failing. Imperceptibly at first, but ever more perceptibly as our lives move from verse to bridge to chorus to solo (and back). And so we dance. And we call on all lost or absentee lovers to join us.
A holiday extra. Today’s entry isn’t a new song and it isn’t part of the Difficult Neverending Second Album. “December” comes from Sticky, our short simple first album, and we offer it here as a free holiday download. It’s a hopeful song written on a particularly sad day several years ago. This may seem silly now, but it made us incredibly happy on that day to realize that “drumming,” “strumming” and “humming” all rhyme. You discover some truly amazing things when you write songs.
The sleigh bells were jingled by ex-Dolls drummer Gabriel Rhodes. Evan Silverman played the upright bass, and Mark Bacino harmonized with Cheri and Pam on the ba-ba parts. Here’s to old friends and new beginnings.
Sometimes inspiration is hanging on the wall right in front of where you’ve been standing for years. There’s a poster in our rehearsal space of a Dennis Hopper photograph of a couple sitting in a booth at a diner. She’s got fabulous brunette hair and a cigarette. He’s tattooed and shirtless. They are the models for the first verse of “You Don’t Comb Your Hair Anymore.” We dropped the tattoo and added the custom chopper that we assume is waiting for them outside. It’s obvious from the photo that both of them comb their hair quite often, so it’s safe to say that the “you” we’re addressing in the song’s chorus isn’t either one of them. They’re just a poster, after all, a poster that came to life for us for one crucial moment.
One other note about “You Don’t Comb Your Hair Anymore”: It marks the first appearance by the T-Dolls horn section, the awesome Rob Christiansen on trombone and the amazing Chris McBurney on trumpet. Chris is of course better known as our drummer, and Rob once drummed for us, too, because Chris was on the road masquerading as Ringo Starr that day. Make of that what you will. Also, we’re not sure if Chris combs his hair anymore, for whatever that’s worth.
Two songs this week, both written in the past half year for soundtracks, both received enthusiastically, both unused in the end. But we walked away with two new songs, so all’s good. They’re not quite standard T-Dolls material — we weren’t thinking at all about our album-in-progress when we recorded them — but they’re still very much us. We’re stretching!
We submitted “Keep It Dark” to a director who doesn’t like to define her work too explicitly; she likes audiences to create their own meanings. In that spirit, let’s just say the song is about some people who don’t want to tell you some things, and some people who don’t want to know some things.
“All This Madness Could Be Ours” was for a friend’s still-in-production sci-fi web series, and it seemed kind of
cliched obvious that we should make a slow, spooky ballad with an electronic beat. The lyrics were an attempt to convey the series’ theme and setting without actually using anything from the series; we wanted it to sound like a song the filmmakers would have randomly found rather than one written to order. (And, yes, the “parking cars” reference in the final chorus is an allusion to the most beautiful song ever written about things in space, Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.”)
This one had its genesis in an epithet that someone we don’t know wrote about someone else we don’t know in an email to our friend and former bandmate Michael Taylor. The epithet was “cockmasters.” Altered to “masters of cock,” it became the phrase of the week around Michael’s house, which we’ve been using as a West Coast base recently. (What, you say you don’t have your own West Coast base? That’s too bad, what with winter coming and all.) The song pretty much wrote itself, which we wish happened more often. That’s our friend and former bandmate Michael Taylor screaming maniacally in the final chorus by the way — his first appearance on a Trouble Dolls track in a very long time.
Spider Sabich was a ski racer in the 1960s and ’70s. He was OK, nothing special, in the Olympics, but made a name for himself slaloming side by side with the likes of Billy Kidd and Jean-Claude Killy on the pro circuit. He was a free spirit and a playboy, and with his good looks and charisma, he had a lot to do with popularizing skiing in the U.S. This song isn’t about him, though. It’s about the woman who killed him, singer/actress Claudine Longet. She served 30 days in jail for what she claimed, somewhat unbelievably, was an accidental shooting. Then she married her lawyer. Her real punishment was karmic: She has never performed again, and she remains largely a recluse to this day. That’s 35 years of darkness, and counting.
One more thing about this one: We have a fetish for songs about real people, especially songs whose title is that person’s name and nothing more. A strange fetish, we know, but what fetish isn’t? Here’s a Spotify playlist we made of some of our faves. And here’s another.
We’re back from the short sabbatical we never told you about. Sorry, and hi again. We’re relaunching with a song that’s basically about writing a song. It comes from our sessions with Bart Schoudel and Ron Haney of the Churchills. The arpeggios that serve as the main riff were a happy accident. They were meant to be added color behind two other guitars, but we killed both of those guitars in the mix. Sometimes less is more. But sometimes more is more, too, like the piano line in the second chorus that Ron suggested after we thought we were done. That’s what producers are for, it turns out.
We’re going back to our roots for a special show this Sunday, Oct 2, at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ – the punk-rock capital of the Jersey shore. Where we got our start. No, we weren’t ever actually punk-rock, but they kept inviting us back anyway, because that’s how punk-rock they were.
We’re opening for Sorrows, a great power-pop band featuring our beloved ex-drummer, Joey Cola.
And we’ll be featuring special guest Rob Christiansen in place of our current beloved drummer Chris McBurney, who’s now on the road impersonating Ringo Starr. No lie. You’d do it too if you could.
Sunday, October 2
The Brighton Bar
121 Brighton Ave, Long Branch, NJ 07740
8:30pm The Trouble Dolls
10:30pm The Orion Experience