Transcribing Love, Salvation, the Fear of Death by Sixpence None The Richer

Today's transcription is a song that I began transcribing a couple years ago, but I never took the time to sit down and finish until today: "Love, Salvation, the Fear of Death" by Sixpence None The Richer. This song does a great job of showcasing J.J. Plasencio on the bass (and I'll say more about him in a moment), and Matt Slocum's amazing skills with myriad, layered guitar parts. I briefly mentioned Matt Slocum a few years ago in my Transcribing Girlfriend in a Coma by The Smiths blog when I was discussing Johnny Marr, and the two of them fall into something of the same category for me. As always, I'll have some notes to share after the following video.

Here are my notes about this transcription:

  • J.J. Plasencio's intro on the bass does a great job of setting the tone for the piece with a fast tempo and high energy, and it took some experimentation in Guitar Pro to get the effects to sound like the dotted eighth note delays that guitarists have been using for years.
    • If you're sitting down to work on this piece and you're trying dial in Plasencio's sound, all I can say is that a lot of experimentation with a delay pedal will go a long way. For what it's worth, my early skills with delays date back to David Gilmour's and Alex Lifeson's guitar work in the late 1970s and Eddie Van Halen and The Edge in the 1980s, and the skills in question were how to use the delay to create complex melodies that sound like more than one instrument.
    • I saw a live video of Sixpence None the Richer playing this song with Plasencio on bass several years ago (see https://youtu.be/ihwk5ndxhmA), in which Plasencio played his parts on a 6-string bass. However, the song is quite playable on a 4-string bass in Drop-D tuning, which is an instrument that the majority of bassists will have handy, so that's the direction that I chose to go with for this transcription. That being said, if you have a 6-six string bass, some of the parts can take advantage of the high C string and you might not need to jump around the fretboard as much. (Note that in the live video from 1:20 to 1:35, the physical pain that Plasencio is clearly suffering is not imagined; it's a challenging bass part if you're playing with fingers on your right hand, which is why I use a pick.)
  • There are a lot of sonic textures going on within Matt Slocum's guitar parts, and I spent a good deal of time listening and re-listening to this song while trying to dig out every little nuance that I could. That being said, I know that the three guitar parts that I ultimately arranged for this transcription may not be perfect, but they're more than good enough for a cover band to sound like 99% of the original.

As I have always said in the past, this is a free transcription. So if you're upset that I left something out, or you don't think something is correct, then it sucks to be you.

NOTE: See https://youtu.be/iOiR8IFcKi4 for the official video for this song.

My Army Recruiter Never Lied To Me

Army recruiters have forged a dishonest reputation for their actions when they're trying to get potential recruits to sign up, and I will admit that sometimes that reputation is completely justified. Whether they're duplicitous recruiters who are trying to nudge indecisive candidates over the finish line when these potential recruits are trying to decide whether military life is right for them, or if they're overeager recruiters who are simply trying to fulfill their recruiting quotas, it is nevertheless true that some recruiters have no problems bending the truth when it comes to their recruiting tactics.

army-recruiters

However, that wasn't my experience when I signed up, so I thought I'd share my story.


To be honest, I hadn't thought about joining the military at first, but my younger brother was joining the Marines, and one day he asked me to drive him across town so he could meet with his recruiter. At the time, the recruiters for all four primary branches of service - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines  - shared a single facility with separate offices. While my brother walked into the Marine recruiter's office, I walked down the hall to the Army recruiter's office - mostly to bide my time - and thus began a process that was to change my life forever.

The first step when joining the military is - obviously - meeting and working with a recruiter. As I mentioned earlier, Army recruiters have a bad reputation for dishonesty - which in many recruits’ situations is totally justified. For example, it was blatantly obvious that some of the recruiters in the Tucson office were lying through their teeth whenever they spoke to me. However, that wasn’t the case for the specific recruiter with whom I worked. My recruiter was always straightforward with me, and I’ll explain why he was being so honest in a moment.

The military has a list of available jobs, called Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), which have designations like 11B, 19D, 12B. Before I met with a recruiter, I already knew about the 98G "Signal Intelligence Voice Interceptor" MOS from my stepfather, who had done that job for several years and enjoyed it. In a nutshell, being a 98G meant going to the military's language school for several months, then being sent somewhere (hopefully) exotic where you monitored people who spoke the language you just learned. That line of work sounded exciting to me, and when I walked through the door of the Army recruitment office, that was the only job that I wanted. I told my recruiter that I wanted to be a 98G, and I wanted to learn Russian. My recruiter said that he didn't know about selecting a specific language, and he couldn't guarantee any MOS until I took the "ASVAB Test," which I will explain.

The second hurdle for potential recruits when joining the military is taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which is a comprehensive test that measures all sorts of things and helps determine what you'll be able or allowed to do, and sometime within the next few days I headed to downtown Tucson to take this test. I had graduated high school a little over a year before, and I hadn't managed to forget anything over the ensuing months. With that in mind, I didn't find the ASVAB particularly difficult, and when one of the recruiters was giving everyone their scores after the test had ended, I was informed that I had scored a 98%, and the recruiter was stunned.

When I drove back to the Army recruiter's office, I was promptly informed that I could have any job I wanted, so the 98G MOS was mine for the taking – at least in theory. My recruiter informed me that there were two additional obstacles in my path: a thorough physical examination, and something called the "DLAB" (which I'll explain in a moment).

At the time of my enlistment, all physical exams for the state of Arizona were conducted at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Phoenix, which was the main entry point for military recruits in the state. My recruiter arranged for me to travel by bus to the MEPS in Phoenix, and the Army put me up in a hotel on the night before my physical. On the following day I passed my physical for the most part, with a nagging medical issue that I needed to resolve before I could report for duty: I was horribly underweight. I had been an anorexic teenager, and I still weighed anywhere between 100 to 105 pounds on any given day. The Army made it clear that I needed to gain a few pounds before I could join.

The next item of the day was specific for the 98G MOS: I had to pass the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) before I could become a military linguist. By way of explanation, the DLAB is an exceedingly difficult and very confusing test, wherein potential recruits are taught a series of artificial languages and submitted to a plethora of linguistic logic questions. The DLAB helps to determine – in theory – how adept potential recruits might be at learning languages. (Believe it or not, I learned some interesting things about languages during the DLAB that helped me later when I attended language school.) Nevertheless, my head was swimming by the time I was done with the DLAB. I thought that there was no way I could have passed that test, yet by no small miracle I did.

Having put both the medical physical and the DLAB behind me, it was time to meet with the recruiters at the Phoenix MEPS. They quickly outlined what my career would look like: Basic Training, Language School, Advanced Individual Training (AIT), then a tour of duty somewhere for my remaining time in service. Because the duration of my academic training would be almost two years, I would be required to sign away four years of my life. However, due to the high demand for my MOS, I had my choice between $32,000 for college when I left the military, or an $8,000 bonus upon completion of my training coupled with $10,000 for college.

The second deal that I was offered sounded good to me, and the recruiters had me fill out a "Dream Sheet" with my list of preferred language choices; I chose Russian, German, and French. However, the recruiters said that they couldn't guarantee that I would get any of my language choices, and I would have to take my chances if I joined. There was one potential pitfall to all this: if I failed out of any of my schools, I would belong to the Army for the duration of my four years, wherein I would have to do whatever job they chose for me.

I said that I needed to go home and discuss everything with my wife, at which point the MEPS recruiters dropped their sales tactics and shifted to outright mocking, with responses such as: "What??? You need your wife's permission to join???" Those guys were schmucks, but I stood my ground, and they eventually pointed me to the door. They made no offer to help me get home, they simply said, "The bus station is a couple blocks away down such-and-such street. Goodbye." To be honest, those jerks were so awful that it was almost a deal breaker for me. But then again, by that point I wanted to join, so I was kind of at their mercy, and I think they knew that.

And, of course, I did join.

When I arrived home and discussed everything that I had learned with my wife, we decided that my enlisting in the Army was really our best option for that season of our lives. I met with my recruiter in Tucson, and I signed up for the Army's "delayed entry" program, which allows recruits to formally join the military to lock in their MOS and the contract that they were offered, and then to report sometime later for duty (which could be up to a year). That being said, my "delay" was only a couple weeks.

And thus it was that on a clear day in the Spring of 1986, my recruiter drove my wife and me to the local MEPS for me to report for active duty. The time was still early, so my recruiter took us to a diner near the MEPS where he bought breakfast for the three of us. While we were eating, I asked my recruiter why he had always been honest with me, and he replied, "I knew that you were going to join from the moment you walked through the door, and I knew that if I didn't shoot straight with you, you'd probably change your mind."

He was right, too. I wanted the job, and I'm sure that he could sense that. However, I had also been a military brat for most of my young life, and I could spot recruiter BS a mile away. If I had thought that I was being deceived, I would have walked out the door and never returned. So my recruiter played it straight with me, and as a result of his honesty I was in Basic Training less than a month after I first entered his office.

In the years that followed, however, I had my life turned upside by incompetent clerks and jerks who incessantly ruined my life by failing to do their jobs correctly, thereby resulting in me being sent to the wrong unit because someone couldn't read my orders correctly, or being underpaid because someone couldn't do basic math, or temporarily losing my security clearance because someone didn't feel like filing the right paperwork at the right time, or having my family members suffer countless hardships as a result of my desire to serve, etc. The ocean of imbeciles whose myriad ineptitudes wreaked havoc on my life again and again will forever hold a place of scorn and contempt that wells up from the depths of my soul whenever I am asked about my time in uniform.

But my recruiter? To this day I have nothing but respect for the guy who helped me join. I'd love to shake his hand and say "thanks."

It's Memorial Day - Thank a Veteran

An anonymous person posted a suggestion to social media that everyone should "Thank a Veteran this Memorial Day." I thought that proposal sounded like a good idea, so to all my former uniformed brethren - I say with a grateful heart, "Thank you for your service."

However, no sooner had the anonymous person posted their statement of gratitude, another well-meaning person responded with the following meme:

memorial-day-remember-the-fallen

Giving benefit of the doubt, I believe the second poster's intentions were good, and I agree that wishing someone a "Happy Memorial Day" is culturally insensitive. Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor the sacrifices of our nation’s men and women who have fallen in combat. There is nothing that is "happy" about this annual observance, and as such the phrase "Happy Memorial Day" is at best an oxymoron, and at worst it is an insult to those who have lost loved ones during their time in service.

However, while I agree that we should NEVER utter the words "Happy Memorial Day" because they dishonor the meaning of that holiday, we can ALWAYS thank our veterans - whether it's Memorial Day, or Veteran's Day, or Independence Day, or Mother's Day, or Christmas Day, or a Tuesday, or a Friday, or any day that ends in "day."

In one fashion or another, every veteran has sacrificed, which is amply expressed by the following adage: "All gave some, but some gave all."

we-owe-them-all


POSTSCRIPT:

For more information about Memorial Day, see The Tangled Roots of Memorial Day and Why It's Celebrated on the NY Times website.

The Union Street Orchestra at the Moore Theater in Seattle

Ten years ago my son's band, The Union Street Orchestra (TUSO), played a gig at the historic Moore Theater in Seattle as part of the theater's More Music @ The Moore program.

more-music-at-the-moore

It was a fantastic evening of entertainment, with lots of great, local artists from the Seattle area on the bill. Here's a video of TUSO during a dress rehearsal that took place a couple of days before the final show, which is - unfortunately - the best video that I have of this gig.

As a parting thought, here's a photo of my son belting out the lyrics to "Fooled Again" from the final performance.

Saying Goodbye to Gordon Lightfoot

I just heard that the Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot passed away yesterday, and before I continue, I should mention that Rick Beato live streamed a great retrospective about Lightfoot at Gordon Lightfoot 1938-2023 R.I.P. Having said that, I am sure few people who were born after 1980 have ever heard of Lightfoot, which is because his type of songwriting has long-since passed from popularity. By way of explanation, way back in the 1970s, there was a style of songwriting that was more of storytelling, and several artists - like modern-day troubadours - made this genre very popular. Here are a few artists to illustrate what I mean:

I recognize that this singer/songwriter style is no longer in vogue, nor has been for several decades. Listening to songs from that time period illustrates how much the styles of instrumentation and production have not aged gracefully through the years.

Returning to Gordon Lightfoot, he had a unique style of storytelling that I believe set him apart from his peers. He will often be remembered for his story-based songs like Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, though I'd like to suggest that he should be better remembered for songs like If You Could Read My Mind, which is a love song from Lightfoot to his wife as he tries to put his emotions into words as their marriage crumbles. Rick Beato recorded an excellent analysis of If You Could Read My Mind three years ago, in which he delves into the sheer musical brilliance that underpinned the arrangement. Lightfoot's use of 7th, 9th, and 11th chords - both on the vocals and instrumentation - added to the overall melancholy of the piece. Sadly, I cannot recall a recent musical offering with so many rich musical textures and lyrics within a single song.

Of course, I realize that all art is subjective; I like Renoir and my wife likes Van Gogh, while my oldest daughter likes Jackson Pollack and I think his artwork looks like something a four-year-old would do. Nevertheless, when it comes to music, people can fret and fume and think that I sound like some old guy who is pining for the past, but these days I often think that just about anyone with a rhyming dictionary could put together what passes for song lyrics. The singer/storyteller has faded into the sunset, much like the protagonists in the songs they once wrote.


POSTSCRIPT:

Another honorable mention in the singer/songwriter/storyteller genre that I'd like to make is Michael Martin Murphey, who wrote 1975 hit Wildfire. That song has an odd personal association for me, because that song was still popular around the time that I was getting ready to graduate from high school in the early 1980s. I often played guitar with a drummer who had already graduated; he had auditioned to play the drums for Murphey, who needed a guitarist for some shows. My friend had suggested my name, but I passed on the audition/gig since I didn't think that my dad would have let me ditch parts of my senior year to go on tour. (My dad later said that he wouldn't have cared.)


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written that I later discovered had never been set to "public."

When in Rome

Let me tell you a funny story that I heard about the train station in Rome:

Once upon a time, there were two travelers in the Roma Termini who were on their way back from a long day in Pompeii, and they were changing from the cross-country trains to the metro. They had passed through that same station earlier that day, and one of the travelers noticed that the path they took through the station seemed unnecessarily long. However, he also noticed that there was another path they could take through the station, which seemed as though it would reduce their walking distance by hundreds of meters. When this first traveler suggested that they take a different route through the station, the second traveler said she didn't want to take the risk that an alternate path might take them too far out of their way. The first traveler said that he was 99% sure that his suggested route was shorter, but he couldn't guarantee his suggestion with 100% certainty, so the second traveler wouldn't yield.

Unbeknownst to the first traveler, the second traveler had an ulterior motive for her unwavering skepticism: they had been traveling all day in the hot sun, and she needed to use the little traveler's room, so she didn't want to waste a bunch of time wandering through a train station if the first traveler was mistaken. However, the second traveler didn't say that she needed to use the little traveler's room, so the second traveler seemed to the first traveler like she was being overly difficult for no discernible reason, while the first traveler probably seemed to the second traveler like he was being an insensitive schmuck.

With a not-so-subtle tone of exasperation, the second traveler told the first traveler something like, "You can do whatever you want, but I'm going to follow the route that we used earlier." The first traveler took the second traveler's statement as a challenge, so he left to pursue his shorter path through the station - which worked out exactly as he had expected - and because he was also more than a little exasperated with the second traveler, he boarded the metro without the second traveler.

The first traveler pouted all the way back to his hotel, where he arrived around a half hour before the second traveler. However, the reason why the second traveler arrived later wasn't because she needed to use the little traveler's room; she boarded a different metro car because she had the first traveler's metro pass, and she spent that half hour unsuccessfully searching the metro station in a desperate attempt to find the first traveler, which delayed her departure. However, unbeknownst to the second traveler, the first traveler had put aside his sulking long enough to buy a one-way ticket on the metro to get back to their hotel.

The moral of this little tale? Don't be so secretive when you need something, and don't act like an insensitive schmuck when your traveling companion doesn't agree with you.

Nothing in that story has anything to do with my wife's and my recent journey to Rome, of course. We always made it safely back to our hotel. Perhaps we arrived together. Perhaps we didn't. Perhaps one of us arrived a half-hour after the other, but that doesn't mean anything, does it?

Open-mouthed smile

The Joys [sic] of Aging

I often tell people that I could have cut an arm off in my childhood and a new one would have grown back without so much as a scratch.

These days I cut myself shaving and think, "Wow - that's gonna leave a mark..."

Winking smile

More 511th Stories: Frustration and Flame Throwers Do Not Mix

A couple years ago I wrote about my memories of border duty on a cold winter's day, and earlier today I was thinking about a story that was related to those experiences. During my first trips to the former East German border during the winter months of the late 1980s, I'd drive my wife's and my vehicle on post when I got an alert call at zero-dark-thirty, and our car would remain in the parking lot at the 511th MI Company until I returned to garrison. However, being stranded in a tiny German village without a vehicle was less than ideal for a mother with two small children, so for a while my wife and I would wake up our daughters and pack them into the car, then the four of us would drive to the 511th, whereupon I would head off to the border while my wife drove home and put the girls back to bed.

This type of early hours lifestyle was hard on my wife and the kids, so as time progressed, my spouse and some of the other wives from either our church or the 511th worked out a plan to shuttle any stranded spouses on post to pick up their abandoned vehicles. When husbands returned to garrison, they'd call their wives to pick them up, and the couples/families would head home together.

I remember getting a "Lariat Advance" call on a dark, winter morning, and my wife rose to start her day as I was about to walk out the door. I said that I'd drive to post like we'd been doing in previous deployments, and my wife said that she'd arrange with someone to pick up our car in a day or two. I was on the border for a couple weeks, and when I returned to the 511th, I called my spouse to come fetch me. However, she said that the roads had been covered in snow for the duration of my absence and she'd never been able to pick up the car, so it was somewhere in the 511th MI CO's parking lot.

Of course, I was the one who had parked the car, so you'd think that I'd remember where I left it, but I didn't, and every car in the parking lot was buried under six to twelve inches of snow. After a half hour of searching, I finally located our vehicle, but then I was greeted by another rude discovery: the snow had melted at some point, and the resultant water had frozen into an inch of ice that was hiding underneath the snow. This meant that the car's windows and doors - and more importantly the locks - were frozen solid.

By this time it was evening, and darkness had already descended on the 511th. What I probably should have done was ask someone if I could crash in an empty bed in the barracks for the night, but I was tired from two weeks in the field, and I was cold, and I was hungry. All I wanted from life at that moment was a warm shower, a hot meal, and to sleep in my own bed. The only obstacle that was preventing me from achieving those reasonable requests was a frozen car door lock, which I was determined to fix.

I headed into the barracks and explained my predicament to a couple friends, and together we hatched a few schemes to try and rectify my situation. At first we chiseled the ice away from the lock, only to discover that ice had fully penetrated the lock's gears, so at the most basic level I couldn't put a key into the lock. I headed back to the barracks and grabbed a mop bucket from a maintenance closet, which I filled with hot water from someone's room in the barracks, then I hauled the bucket out to the parking lot and poured the hot water down the door. This didn't work, but I repeated the action several times hoping that each successive attempt would free up the gears a little more, but the lock refused to yield.

I should explain that the longer I stood in the cold trying to open the stupid car door, I grew angrier at my spouse for not having followed our plan to pick up the car sooner. However, if she had followed through, our car probably would have been sitting in our driveway with an inch of ice and six to twelve inches of snow piled on top of it, and my wife would have had to explain why there was no way for her to come get me.

I remembered a technique that I used to use when I was a teenager to kill spiders: you can use a can of Lysol spray and a lighter to create a low-tech flame thrower. I headed back to the maintenance closet in the barracks and grabbed a can of Lysol, then I borrowed a friend's lighter and headed outside to try out my latest scheme. As expected, the combination of Lysol and lighter made a perfect flame thrower, and I aimed the resultant flames at the frozen lock on the driver's-side door with the intention of finally melting away the ice. This didn't work, so I circled around to the passenger-side door and repeated my approach.

However, much to my horror, something entirely unexpected happened: the tiny plastic washer that was nestled between the lock and the car door caught fire; to be honest, I'd never noticed that plastic washer before. Adding insult to injury, even though I had immediately ceased my flame thrower activity, the fire from the burning plastic washer had already traveled inside the door, whereupon it quickly melted every bit of plastic that held the door handle in place, and the handle fell to the snow-covered ground with a discouraging and disgusting "clunk."

I stood motionless for a moment, then I'm sure that I uttered something profane as I realized what I had just done. To put things in perspective, the time was fast approaching 10pm, and I was still cold, tired, and hungry. My car was still encased in a cocoon of ice and snow - and I had just destroyed one of the two car door locks that were necessary for opening the vehicle. Once again, what I should have done was find somewhere to sleep in the barracks for the night, but I was determined to open the remaining @#$% car door, so I returned to the driver's side of the vehicle with my flame thrower, though I was careful only to heat the door and not the lock on this attempt.

My actions eventually achieved the desired effect, and I was finally able to open the driver's-side door. However, I had to let the car sit and idle with the heater and defogger running at full blast for several minutes in order to melt away enough ice and snow for me to see well enough to make the long drive home to our tiny German village. I was still unjustly irritated with my spouse upon my arrival at our apartment, but after a warm shower and a hot meal and a night in my own bed, I realized that my wife would have been just as stranded as I had been the night before, but with less options to rectify the situation.

That being said, she probably wouldn't have caught one of our car's door handles on fire, either.

An Evening with Rachel and Eric

Nearly 35 years ago, I was driving home from Sickels Army Airfield where I worked when I was stationed in Fulda, Germany. I was listening to AFN radio, which was broadcasting from Frankfurt some 60 miles away. I was headed into the nearby forests and mountains, where I always lost radio reception during my long commute, when an amazing piece of music that I had never heard before came over the radio. The guitar wizardry was amazing, and I pulled off the road to make sure that I would hear the piece in its entirety before losing my radio signal.

As the piece came to a close, I was yelling at the unknown radio announcer, "PLEASE TELL ME WHO THAT WAS!!!" The deejays on AFN were seldom forthcoming with artist or song names, but on this occasion the broadcaster must have heard my desperate, distant pleas and shared the requisite info: the song I heard was "Cliffs of Dover" from Eric Johnson (whom I had never heard of, either). At my first opportunity, I bought the album featuring "Cliffs of Dover," and I've been a fan of Eric Johnson ever since.

Flash forward 30 years, and my middlest daughter, Rachel, bought tickets for the two of us to see Eric Johnson during his scheduled 2020 tour. Unfortunately, everyone knows what happened in 2020... and as a result, the concert was postponed, then postponed again, and possibly postponed yet again as the COVID19 pandemic wreaked havoc on society. That being said, this evening - after several years' wait - Rachel and I were finally able to catch up with Eric Johnson, who absolutely killed it on guitar tonight in Tucson's Rialto Theater.

My Last Day in the Army, Part 2

I recently posted a blog titled "My Last Day in the Army," in which I described my misadventures during my trip to Fort Huachuca on my last day of active duty military service to pick up my final paycheck. However, there is one minor detail that I omitted from my narrative.

In the transition office, where soldiers pick up their final paychecks and take care of dozens of other mundane tasks that must be completed before they exit the military, someone had posted Saxon White Kessinger's semi-famous poem Indispensable Man on the wall. In case you're unfamiliar with it, this is what it says:

Sometime when you're feeling important;
Sometime when your ego's in bloom;
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You're the best qualified in the room:

Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions,
And see how they humble your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that's remaining,
Is a measure of how much you'll be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you'll find that in no time,
It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example,
Is to do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There's no indispensable man.1

In other words, despite many soldiers' years of patriotism, loyalty, diligent work and personal sacrifice, someone in the transition office decided to make it his or her personal mission to let every soldier who passed through the transition office know that they would not be missed, and nothing that they accomplished during their time in service meant anything.

Pardon my language, but the nameless person who posted that poem was an asshole.2


Footnotes:

  1. Saxon White Kessinger, "Indispensable Man," in The Nutmegger Poetry Club (1959). (Note that the author originally published this poem under the name Saxon Uberuaga.)
  2. I'm ex-military, and I still believe that occasionally there is no substitute for foul language.