RL294 - Steeley Dan Fogelberg

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The problem: No regerts [sic], referring to having tattoos in general and the tattoo ”No regerts!” especially.

The show title refers to playing the guitar in a very complicated way like Dan Fogelberg.

They start the show singing. John has been awake for 8 minutes before starting to record the show.

Recording this show is Merlin’s public step into the public sphere every week. He got pants, he got some coffee, he got pepperoni. John only has coffee.

John has been watching the videos that Merlin sent him with the guys playing the Rock song ”Made in Heaven”. Merlin’s taste has always influenced John quite a bit. John gives Merlin the razz, the business about some thing, the power-popping stuff, but Merlin got eclectic taste. He has taught John a couple of guitar licks over time that John still plays to this day, but those are pretty much all that Merlin plays on his guitar.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Merlin buying a new guitar (RL294)

Merlin has ordered a guitar that is supposed to arrive the day after they recorded this episode. His current acoustic guitar is a used Yamaha that he purchased for $200 in 1988. The last grown-man guitar he bought was an Epiphone that he probably got in 1997. Merlin also has a ukulele-sized 6-string guitar that he likes a lot. Just having it around is the best $200 you ever spent. Anybody can pick it up any time and it is not as looming in the room as a full man-sized acoustic guitar.

Merlin has been hovering over two guitars that were way out of his price range, so he bought a different one. He was thinking about a J-45 because a lot of people he knows play that guitar and he likes the sound, but no way is he going to spend that much money on a guitar. He is not Evan Dando! The other one that is way too nice is the J-200. Now Merlin ordered one called the Seagull Artist Mosaic. He has a lot of projects going on over the summer and one of those projects is to play guitar a lot more, a project that John supports 100%. It is with no purpose for public consumption and Merlin wants to do a lot fewer things for public consumption. He wants to play Frisbee with his daughter more.

John is never somebody who is going to say a bad word about someone else’s guitar. One time his cousin said that John’s piano sounded sick, but John told him to take his story and hit the bricks. It is like making fun of somebody’s face. What are you going to do about it? Amazon Prime me another piano? John’s cousin probably didn’t think before he spoke in that instance, but his family is all full of assholes.

What John has found about Merlin’s current guitar, the Yamaha, is that he has to expend a little more effort playing it, and if Merlin had a guitar that worked and danced with him a little bit more, he would enjoy playing it more. When Merlin got his current guitar he was in college and he was very happy to spend $200 on it, but he doesn't know how old that guitar was back then when he got it. Playing in front of people by himself with an acoustic guitar worked out great because everything below the 5th fret was fine, which is mostly what Merlin was playing.

He was playing a lot of open chords and jingly jangly up the neck kind of things. He was not doing any Brian May on the 11th fret and you could drive a Tesla into those strings around the 12th fret. If the neck is a little bit bowed, it will be harder to play up the neck, but it actually sounds pretty good when you play your root chords, because it gives it a lot of jingle-jangle. Your strings are able to sing out more and they are not running against the frets, but they are just out there ringing in the wind. It also makes you strong like a bull.

Seagull guitars are made by Canadihoovians these days. There are several brands of great acoustic guitars made in Canadia [sic]. Back in the old days you would be ”Canada? What the hell? Is it made of maple syrup?", but the nice thing about it is that if you hit the wrong note, it apologizes for you. Canada also makes good men’s suits. Seagull is a Canadian company founded by a guy named Godin who started making Godin guitars back in the 1980s. Merlin looked around and read a bit about it and thought that the Seagull was in his wheelhouse.

The headstock is a little bit fruity and pointy and makes it look pinheaded. A Gibson headstock on the other hand has a nice big hypocephalic head on it. The Seagull is more tapered which supposedly helps it to stay in tune better. Usually you get the keys sticking outward, like a fat parallelogram, but on this one the strings go straight into the tuner without a twist, which is what Merlin wants. Playing his little licks on his guitar-ukulele is kind of hard with man-fingers on those tightly grouped strings and Merlin likes the fact that the Seagull has a slightly wider neck and he will be able to do a big ringy G.

They say that if you have a new acoustic guitar you should have somebody set it up for you. It is going to come from the factory in pretty good condition, but maybe it requires a little bit of a truss rod adjustment, but it may play great out of the box. It is season to taste. They might want to dress the frets a little, which means that the edges of the frets that stick out on the top and bottom of the neck can be a little sharp, which won’t feel nice on your fingers. Merlin is going to try riding raw for a while and see how it goes.

John's guitar skills (RL294)

John is frustrated by the infinite amount of learning he still has to do on the guitar. He invented a couple of shapes that are played by other people, but not very often. Other Indie rockers are doing all these chords, but John can't figure out how in the hell they do them by just looking at the shape they are playing. Certain chords are kind of up the neck. (John got his guitar while they were recording the episode and they continued talking about some of John’s techniques).

Those were the first chords that no-one has taught him, but he discovered them. The song Stupid is completely made of those chords, also the theme-music of the podcast. When John discovered those, he didn’t know what to do with himself and wanted to do it all the time. Then the pinky went down one and the E-string went up one which was nothing his Indie Rock contemporaries did. They all had invented their own chords or their own inversions, but the inversions suggest different combinations because unlike a musically trained or knowledgeable person, John has no idea what these chords are and why they go together. John taught some of these songs to people who are musically knowledgeable. Paul or Storm would be able to explain why certain chords had a relationship with one another, which is the part that befuddles John.

There are some music videos of Donald Fagan on YouTube that are absolutely worth watching where he sits at the piano and describes what he is doing. The interviewer is knowledgable enough that they are having a little laugh together. He is not even saying that he did something and was amazed by the result, because he knew what the result would be already, but he is just thwarting expectation by going against what music suggested. When seeing that, John hoped he is doing that sometimes.

What people find difficult about John’s songs is where the accents are. Merlin agrees for sure! It is not complicated, but definitely unconventional. It is completely native to John. He puts the accents where they feel right and he is always surprised that this is the part that is hard for people to figure out. He always wanted to be Chord George, throwing down all those tapestries of chords.

Merlin is not comfortable saying how many hours he spends every week watching music theory videos where people are trying to explain things that he doesn’t understand, but he really enjoys it. This guy Adam Neely, who does mostly bass, spent a whole 8 minutes in one of his videos explaining one chord change in Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder: ”You can feel it all o-o-over” You don’t realize how weird that chord is, but everything else he plays as an example sounds like a Mel Bay first day of ukulele kind of chord. Merlin could watch that stuff all day long! John needs to start watching those more. It is like watching a raccoon get into a bird feeder: Merlin doesn’t understand how he did it, but he will watch it all day!

The G is Merlin’s favorite chord on an acoustic guitar (John plays the first lick Merlin’s taught him). Keith Richards said that he didn’t want Start Me Up made into a Rolling Stones song, because it sounded too much Rolling Stones. A lot of John's friends are really good guitar players and he wishes they would just teach him how to play the guitar, but they never do and always laugh because they think that John already knows how to play the guitar, but he wants to learn some tricks and some licks like they did in High School all the time.

John plays a lick that he got from Rick Garnett, one he stole from Eric Clapton. It got a little bit of Ace Frehley, too, who probably got it from Jimmy Page who never could play it right because he is Jimmy Page. People get good at guitar because they do things over and over. They don’t just play it a couple of times and say ”Good, now I have that one mastered”. John was practicing some licks because he hopes an opportunity will come along where he will be required to do something like that, when he will be at a Rock show and somebody will point at him and ask him to play a solo.

Tattoos (RL294)

So many people have tattoos now! They are 23 years old, they are on TV and they are covered with tattoos. As someone who typically finds himself in romantic entanglement with people in their early 30s, it is increasingly difficult for John to not have to confront tattoos. He does not remark on it, because it is their body. If you feel the need to compliment someone, think about if it is really about them or if it is about you. Complement people on something they have control over! You can ask them about the story behind their tattoos, and often enough they will say ”Oh, I don’t know!”, but most people who have multiple tattoos have at least one that is really meaningful to them. It is a different relationship to corporeal permanence. John always felt like his body was something not to mess around with. What if he regrets it? He would regret it instantly! Maybe he should get one that says ”No regerts!” [sic]? Maybe he should draw it on himself?

One time John was walking in New York City with his good friend Kirsten who has sometimes been his muse. He has written several songs about her and she was his best gal pal for a long time, but also his absolute best gal frenemy. She has been John’s roommate and his collaborator, and she is a real force and a real powerhouse. They were walking down the street in New York and she said that she wanted a tattoo. John replied ”What are you talking about? We are in our thirties!” but she wanted one, she was ready! John said ”This is exactly the kind of problem and the kind of scrape you are always getting us into!”

Because she is made of magic, there was a tattoo parlor right across the street and she marched towards it without even looking back with John running after her. She asked for a paper and a red pen and told John to draw a star, but his 5 or 6 attempts were not good enough, so she drew a star herself which admittedly was more charming than John’s stars. Then she wanted it on the back of her neck and John said ”Stop this! What is this madness?” but she shushed him, sat down in the chair and the guy took the star that she drew, got on his elbow-length kidleather gloves, lowered his monocle down, turned up the NOx in his mix a little bit and she got it done in red ink like the picture she drew.

All of a sudden she had this charming red star on her neck! She has red hair in a pixie-bob cut, meaning it was not where nobody was going to see it, but it was ”I’m a fucking manic pixie dream girl” before that was even a thing. Now she had a star on her neck and never referred to it again or thought about it ever again. She fucking skipped out into traffic and John was like ”What the fuck? This is not how it should be done! This should have taken you months! Where is your regerts? [sic]” 30 minutes later she was like ”You are my worst enemy and I never want to talk to you again” and John is like ”Fuck, come on!”

The other day John saw a young person with a 2-masted sailing ship on the high seas, crusting over the waves with a whaler on the bow on their thigh. What is that? It is a beautiful piece of work, but what is the personal or professional significance? John is not the target market for it!

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