Two songs today! If you’ve been following along, you can feel the action rising, and today we get to some big stuff!
Anna and Alex arrive at The Cutting Edge, a downtown venue that hosts the edgiest of alt-artists (think The Painted Bride, or The Bushwick Starr). They’ve come to see Miles Rushmore, who’s gotten quite a build-up in the previous scenes. We know that Cybil is a rabid fan of Rushmore’s, that the “suits” courting Alex are keenly interested in Miles, that he was Alex’s college roommate, and that there’s something in their shared past that gives Alex the heebie-jeebies. Now we meet the man himself, played by Forrest McClendon. Need I say more? He is charismatic, electrifying, inventive, manipulative, brazen – his presence casts a spell on everyone at The Edge. His “number” or “act” is one part stand-up, one part rap, one part spoken word, one part electronic gimmickry. The dude is out there, and he thrills the crowd. If you have a minute to read the full text of his act (not complete on the recording), you’ll get an idea of the crazy shit that Steve and I dreamed up for Forrest to do; he did it all full out, with expression.
Fun fact: my grandson is named Miles. His father, my son, is named Alex. Discuss.
It’s Day 4 of the Your Turn Challenge, and the prompt is, “Teach us something you do well.” I think both of today’s songs are well-done; I can point with pride to the craft in both. I created the 7/4 vamp for Smash N Grab on my Macintosh using Performer and a Korg 05-W sound module. (How’s that for quaint?) The Cutting Edge song was in the show starting with the first (1993) version, and I remain fond of its snarky attitude. The opening riff sounds especially nasty when played on a DX-7, and that’s why I included a BONUS track (yes! Omigod, 3 tracks today!) of D’Arcy, Gary and me singing the song as the opening number of a cabaret show we did. (See the attached postcard.) That version is longer, and the section beginning “Look sharp!” has a real Steely Dan aroma to it, but eventually I replaced it with the section starting, “That punk who ate the razors…” I have a good rewrite for the lyric about the “anti-war cantata” that refers to Rent – “That knockoff of Puccini with the synthesized score.” These tracks teach, I hope, the importance of details, which is something I do well.
In his collection “Finishing The Hat,” Steve Sondheim declares this as one of three principles “to be written in stone:”
GOD IS IN THE DETAILS.
That quote deserves a post of its own; luckily, I wrote it already.
BONUS: The cabaret version.
Park your Beemer in the alley,
Walk along a dead-end street.
Step across the winos
And the broken glass beneath your feet
Tip the hip but surly doorman
At the gate he’s standing guard
Welcome to the farthest outpost
Of the avant-garde!
The Cutting Edge is the place to be.
They dare to show what we’re there to see.
Where the sidewalk ends,
Come and join your friends,
See tomorrow’s trends today!
A meeting spot for the young and hip.
A nightly bash on a sinking ship,
Where there’s always plenty of cognoscenti
To pose the night away.
The cutting edge is a crazy scene
The wits are sharp as a guillotine
Want to burn a flag?
Want to dress in drag?
Hey, if that’s your bag, that’s okay!
Do you detect a distinctive smell?
Unless I’m wrong, it’s the clientele.
Here, nobody cares if you put on airs.
As a matter of fact, that’s how all of them act!
Get there no matter what!
Pray that the door’s not shut!
Just watch you don’t get cut at The Cutting Edge!
That punk who ate the razors was incredibly dull.
How about that Buddhist monk who played the drums on his skull?
And the queen who shouted Shakespeare as he swung from a noose…?
What a shame they had to cut him loose!
That kooky new Kabuki play about Son of Sam,
That lady who did rather nasty things with a yam,
And that anti-war cantata with the synthesized score.
(Variously, some contentious, some unsure.)
What a bore!
Do you think?
I’m not sure…
Give us more, give us more, give us more!
[Inside “The Cutting Edge,” Miles Rushmore, a sexy, striking man of color, is in the middle of his act. The crowd applauds and whistles.]
Smash and grab
Got a reason to slash and burn
Make or break
I been achin’ to take my turn
All along I been keepin’ score,
Sittin’ in back
Ready for an art attack?
You’ll go down in a flash –
Wake you up
Then I’m going to shake you down
Take my word
(I’m) getting ready to take this town
Got the evidence in black and white
Treat me right
Sick of your trash
Now I’m putting up a fight
Better pay me in cash –
Grab and smash!
Miles is on the mike
Miles is poised to strike
And who had best be sweatin’,
Frettin’ how the hammer’s ’bout to fall?
The mike’s a weapon, like a knife.
It’s sharp enough to take your life.
I slash the silence with violence
And cut through all the crap:
Did you take my homeland?
Did you take my freedom?
Did you take my music?
Well though you may have tried
You couldn’t take my pride
And I’ve still got a voice to scream
The truth that you denied
I’m on you like a sniper
Alone and unafraid
Your ass is dust
The viper must be paid!
[Miles picks a nervous looking man out. He puts an arm around him.. He approaches gently at first, then builds into a near rage.]
Let’s get to know each other. Shall we?
[Miles sticks his microphone in the face of a man at the first table.]
(speaking into the proffered mike.) I’m Bill Wil –
(cutting him off) No names! Names are facades. Wallpaper. Thin veneer. Why are you sweating?
I’m, it’s my first time here –
Ah! A virgin. Rushmore will be gentle. I want to get to your infrastructure.
[Miles plays a note or two after each verb.]
What do you produce… create… build… sell… steal…?
(nervously, into the mike.) I’m a doctor… doctor.
(Embraces the Doctor, who cringes.) Comrade! (turning to the crowd, he indicates himself and the Doctor.) Brothers in larceny! (Bugs Bunny.) What’s up, Doc? Doctor, doctor shouldn’t you be out fighting those spineless, commie HMO bastards who want to take away your yachts and your Leear Jets?
[Miles hits a key and plays the sound of a cash register. The crowd reacts with great approval.]
Wait. Before you answer, doctor/doctor, better tell us what our bill for this consultation is so far?
[Miles leaves the doctor hanging as the others snicker. Miles plays several notes.]
Check this out…
[Miles puts his sax to his lips, and we hear the sampled sound of the Doctor saying “doctor-doctor.” He plays the phrase at different pitches and distorts it.]
(Imitating doctor speaking indignantly.) “Nurse, call the police. I think this negro person has just…taken my voice! ”
I set a bad example
A black man on the make
And this is just a sample
Of what i’m gonna take:
Gonna take your car…
[SFX: sampled sound of car door slamming, engine roaring. All sampled sounds repeat rhythmically in loops that build up in layers as the song continues.]
Gonna take your house…
[SFX: sampled sound of broken glass, burglar alarm.]
Gonna take your woman….
[SFX: sampled sound of woman moaning orgasmically.]
Gonna take your money!
[SFX: sampled sound of cash register.]
(scats) Money, money, money…
[Miles starts playing the sax wildly. He dances around playing off key but trying to make the horn sing “money, money, money.” The horn mingles music with the looping sampled sounds. He dances over to Alex’s table and, without appearing to recognize or acknowledge Alex, pulls Anna from her seat. Playing hot sounds with one hand he spins Anna around with the other. She takes his lead, then breaks away and performs an uninhibited sultry dance. Miles leads the audience in appreciative applause for Anna. Anna quickly crosses back to her table. He plays a few more notes and dances to a woman in the rear.]
Now the really big question. How much money is life worth?
[He suddenly pulls out a large handgun and fires it in the air. He goes from table to table with a sack, demanding wallets and purses. He tosses his booty into the sack. At first table:]
[At second table. He waves the gun menacingly, takes two wallets and dances to next table.]
[He waves the gun menacingly, takes a pocketbook and dances to next table.]
Cough up your purse or ride the hearse.
[When the woman hands it over, he throws it into the sack and dances around twirling the sack wildly.]
Hmmph. And they say it’s tough for a man of color to make money in this country. Hell, with the right attitude you can get or take whatever you want.
(final scream) Smash and grab!