Last night, I saw Men at Work. No, this isn’t a journal entry from 1983. Yesterday evening, I attended my first concert since the pandemic began, right here in Santa Barbara, at the Lobero Theatre. (To clarify, the Lobero Theatre is where the concert took place, not where the pandemic began.) Tapping my toe to a group I enjoyed as a teenager was a festive way to spend the eve before Christmas Eve. Not all the musicians onstage were from the original, Melbourne-born band. In fact, only one: lead singer Colin Hay. Not all the musicians were even men! In fact, the “woman at work,” who played saxophone, flute, and keyboard, may have stolen the show.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to see a handful of my favorite musical artists, including Freedy Johnston, Marshall Crenshaw, and Michael Nesmith, at that selfsame theater. Perhaps the most unique act I witnessed there, however, was a one-man Hamlet, in which balloons were used to represent the various characters. (They were popped with a long pin when they died.)
Speaking of Michael Nesmith, the famous country-rocker died two weeks ago today, on December 10, 2021. Mike had been my favorite member of the Monkees, along with Davy, Micky, and Peter. Since his passing, I have been working on improvements to a song I wrote and recorded with him in mind. I am planning to add acoustic guitar (which I am currently practicing) and to redo the vocals (which no amount of practicing will help). I hope to be done by the first anniversary of Nez’s death, if not nine or ten months sooner.
A few days ago, I also completed the lyrics and melody for a new song. But when it comes to translating what’s in my head into a production that can be shared, I feel quite daunted. Last night, as Men at Work filled the Lobero with glorious sound, I tried to distill out each musician’s contribution. I listened for the plunk of the bass, for the higher-pitched tones of the lead guitar. What was each accomplishing? How did the drummer know when to add those flourishes that make the heart flutter? Why was the timing of that rousing sax solo so effective?
Sadly, I think I learned very little. There was just too much going on at once. All I know is that I want to spend the rest of my days writing piano solos for three hands.
Stay tuned for new and improved tunes in ’22!