365 Day Song Challenge: Day 90 – “Don’t Come Around Here No More”

Day 90: A song you like to sing to babies.

“Don’t Come Around Here No More”
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Don't Come Around Here No MoreTruth be told, I don’t actually sing to babies. In fact, I avoid babies like the plague. I simply don’t understand people’s affinity for them.

“They’re so cute!” people say. I can buy that. If you find amorphous blobs that drool all over you cute. (I personally think all babies pretty much look alike. I guess that makes me infantist.)

“They smell so good!” people say. I must have different olfactory sensors than other people (or a different definition of “good”), because babies just smell like spit-up formula to me. Which does not smell good; it just smells like bad milk with a hint of bile. And that’s the lesser of the two evils, because just as often, they smell like poop.

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“Doesn’t it make you want to have one?” people ask. Oh sure. In the way that seeing someone else’s festering boil makes me want one of my very own, too.

“It’s different when it’s your own,” people say. Yes. Yes it is, because I’d actually have to keep it for at least 18 years. And feed it, bathe it, pay its way… The list of bad things goes on. As it is now, I can simply hand the child back to you when I’ve had enough.

“What if your parents had thought like that?” people ask. Then I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t know the difference anyway.

Now, I know some people will take offense to all that, (while others will agree whole-heartedly) but please note, I didn’t say you shouldn’t have babies, or like their stink… er… smell, or think they’re cute. I’m just saying that’s how I feel. If everyone felt like I did, the human race would cease to exist. Maybe. But that’s a discussion for another day (and maybe even another blog.)

So, how about that song? Well, given my aversion of people of the short-and-coordinationally-challenged variety, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” seemed like a reasonable, if tongue-in-cheek, option for today’s post. It comes from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ 1985 album Southern Accents, which also spawned the singles “Rebels” and “Make It Better (Forget About Me).”

I think this album is underrated. Its singles were not massive hits (but did get lots of traction on rock stations), but even outside of the singles, songs like “Spike” and the title track are very good as well. And the live version of “Spike” (found on The Live Anthology) with its additional narrative is just great (it quickly jumped on the favorites list when I got The Live Anthology). While it’s a quality album, apparently the recording process was rife with stress (Tom Petty broke his own hand slamming it into a wall) and marred by rampant drug use, making it less of a favorite among the band, but luckily as listeners we don’t have to worry about all that baggage.

Hmm… stress and baggage. Sounds like someone wanting to travel with an infant. And by “travel,” I mean “leave the house for more than five minutes.” Yeah, sign me up for that…

Hey! Don’t come around here no more.

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 38 – “Learning To Fly”

Day 38. A song that you sing really well

“Learning To Fly” – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

As you may have gathered, I like music. And not just listening, but playing and writing as well. I’ve gotten away from the playing and writing part over the years, but once I start making my millions from this blog, I’ll get back to it.

I took organ lessons as a kid and was pretty good. Somewhere along the line in college I bought a guitar (which was described by someone as “the best of the cheesiest”) and taught myself the basics. My friend Kris did the same thing, and somewhere along the line we started writing songs. I got myself a 4-track recorder, and we recorded a whole bunch of things over breaks and summers for a couple of years.

In addition, I like to sing, but the result have been mixed. In yesterday’s post I alluded to the fact that you’ve got to know your range. Few people have a huge one. I’ve never had a voice lesson, so I couldn’t tell you what my range is. From what little I know about voice types, I’d guess I’m a baritone. But it’s just that, a guess.

So anyway, when we were hanging out, Kris and I listened to a lot of music in addition to playing and recording. Tom Petty is among my favorite artists, with or without The Heartbreakers. And we listened to a lot of his/their stuff.

One day we got it into our head that we wanted to record a rendition of “Learning To Fly.” Now, I once heard that “Learning To Fly” was recorded with 16 acoustic guitar tracks to get just the right sound. Note that I didn’t say “16 tracks.” I said 16 acoustic guitar tracks. That’s to say nothing of the electric guitar and other instruments layered on there. When Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame) produces something, he doesn’t screw around. So to think we were going to get any kind of similar sound with my Tasco 4-track (replete with intermittent buzz) was sheer lunacy. But we tried, anyway.

I went to lay down the vocals, and the first time I did, I decided to do my best Tom Petty impersonation. Kris and Pete were across the room, and apparently my vocals (they couldn’t hear the backing tracks) were hilarious (especially the “but I ain’t got wings” part). So hilarious, in fact, that I had to stop recording because they were laughing so hard you could hear it. (Upon playback, it was pretty amusing.)

Once they picked themselves off the floor and settled down, I had another go, this time just in my regular voice. And when we listened back, I thought I did well. It was pretty respectable. That’s my litmus test: respectable. I figure if people will listen to Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, I’m doing pretty good with “respectable.” Granted, they’re all amazing songwriters and that’s how they can get away with bad singing, but I’m going to ignore that part for the purposes of my thesis. We’ll get along just fine if you do, too.

Now, I’m aware that the challenge for today was “A song that you sing really well,” but I’ve never had someone walk up to me and say “you sang that really well!” so I’ve made a judgement call. (Regular readers will not be surprised to read that I think I still have that tape somewhere, but the recorder is long gone, so there’s really no way for me to play it back and reassess.)

At the end of the day, chances are I will never be a professional singer. This saddens me a bit because I always though that it would be cool to perform publicly. And maybe I will at some point, but it would more likely be as an instrumentalist rather than as a singer. There are people who can do a much better job than I can with much less effort.

However, if you’d like to prove me wrong, I’d be happy to take your money. I’m available for parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. Contact my manager for rates.