Indiscreet Where You Live

by vonHummer

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about

In my vast back catalog of loner rock, 2006's "Indiscreet Where You Live" is the loneriest. Or at least the epicenter of my lonerhood. There's a backstory here that could stretch for paragraphs in every direction. Where to begin?

The roots of IWYL, stretch clear back to 1995, when, out of desperation and lack of musical equipment—long since pawned—I used a '78 Yamaha twelve string accoustic as both drum and bass, and my beloved Eko '68 hollow body to form the bare bones arrangement of two 6 song concept albums I was recording on a 4 track Tascam cassette microstudio.

The first album was called "20 Golden Greats," and it was an EP of original cover tunes. "Original cover tunes" was my answer to the fear that no one wanted to hear my originals, so I'd take a cover tune—one I was particularly sick of, say Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are"—and re-write the melody completely, to see if I could make a new song that was enjoyable. It's hard to say how successful that idea could be. In terms of feedback, all I'd heard at the time was, "I like the tunes, but the cover lyrics aren't as good as your full original songs," which I rejected out of hand and self-hatred. Instead, I figured the concept was flawed due to cognizant dissonance: in hearing the old familiar lyrics of the hit, one's head still played the original melody and time signature atop the new melody and time signature I'd written. Not pleasant.

The second album, "Indiscreet Where You Live,"—a play on "On the Street Where You Live" from "My Fair Lady," for you youngsters—was six original tunes. I think I imagined self-releasing both EPs at the same time, or shopping them both for a record deal or whatever it was I imagined doing in that pre-internet stone age.

After the recording was done, I was astonished to find these 12 songs to be the most original work I'd ever created. In terms of playing and arranging, just stunning. My voice, though...? Not good, but whatever. In those days, I just hadn't figured out how to sing rightly. But all in all, I was very proud of the project. A first dawning of artistic self-acceptance for me.

Life moved on, and I shelved it all, which is standard MO for me.

Fast-forward to 2005. "The vonHummer Hour"—in reruns since 2004—had built me a sizable cult following in Portland and I felt it was high time to release an album of new material and see if anyone would buy it. (As usual, I was asking the wrong question. The right question was, "Would I ever actually sell it?" Answer: "No." But I digress.)

In early summer of 2005, I shaped together a collection of 25 new-to-partly-used songs, very rough demos—just to establish the tunes—which I called "The Comstock Lode"—thinking that I would cull the new album from amongst their richness. And I meant to, I really did. But for some odd reason, I felt like I had an orphan left behind me, crying for recognition...The "Indiscreet" tapes.

I thought, "Wait...Before I move into the brave new era of new songs, let me clear the past of a grave wrong. To heal myself of the fatal habit of always producing and never releasing, I shall re-master the old tapes of 'IWYL' and '20 Golden Greats,' but with my new fabulous vocals. It'll be quick and easy..."

For that kind of remastering, however, I knew I'd need something closer to an actual studio, something far beyond the Tascam 420 that I'd upgraded to (still a cassette 4 track.)

Luckily, (for me, anyhow) at about that time I'd made the acquaintance of a fan with just such a setup in his basement: Steve Poole. He offered to let me upload the old instrumentals and record the new vocals and to mix it all. Still believing myself that I actually would take this cow to market, I think I even offered him a cut of the profits.

There was the small matter of the "original covers" that made up half of the album—the "20 Golden Greats" half. Rather than wrangle with copyright issues of derivative works and such, I scrapped the cover lyrics and wrote new lyrics for those tunes. Felt a little strange at first—not using the original unoriginal lyrics in lieu of original unoriginal lyrics—but I persevered and in a few weeks it was done.

Realizing I would have to tour behind this album, and that I hadn't played any of these songs in ten years, I set about the triviality of re-learning them. This would be a big problem, however.

The arrangements recorded were for a three piece, but in present day, I was a one piece. By the time I had it all down, I realized that, live, the songs would sound nothing like the album. It didn't feel right to me to promote an album by playing live that I couldn't rightly reproduce. And worse: I liked my new solo arrangements better than the originals.

A new realization had dawned on me: I was a better player and arranger now. And in the light of this new dawn I took a look around at the contents of my head to see that, whenever I sat down to record a song, that I typically envisioned full arrangements: strings I should add, or Harlem choirs in the background. But I never did recognize my own particular beauty of just my voice and my guitar. I mean I didn't recognize it like some people don't recognize the existence of Bigfoot or UFOs or the that the Moon landings were faked.

Dropping the original Indiscreet session—and Steve and all his hard work on it for which I still feel massively guilty today—like a cold potato, I instead self-recorded the new arrangements of those old new songs (confusing, no?) live in the studio, no overdubs.
I can't tell you how special it was for me. Like falling in love. At last I was able to hear what was beautiful in the music I make. Roundabout then—late Fall of 2005, I was still living with Ann Hammer,—with whom I'd co-produced the tv series—but the year before she'd bought a house in Portland's Cully neighborhood. I spent a couple of weeks recording in the low-ceiling upstairs which had become my defacto studio space, recording, just me and her cat, Pete, who watched intently. (That same little blue cat seen on the tv show, here and there, and heard here and there in the backgrounds of a few of the songs.) This was the first album I on which I used the new Hofner copy bass. I mic'ed the strings for one side and plugged in for the other side.

Finished and mixed, I was greatly enthused. At last I had an album I could promote with no qualms. This time, I was gonna take my product to market and nothing would stop me. I scheduled a record release party in February of 2006 at a record store in Vancouver, Real Deal Records. Things were looking up.

Then I got a call from L.A. The ex. Our son had been kicked out of L.A. school system and he was coming up to live with me now. And that was "game over" for the promotion of "Indiscreet Where You Live." I didn't know it at the time, but it was. Full-time parenting—or at least as close as I could ever get to it—threw a massive monkey wrench into my artistic ambitions from which I'm only now, in 2010, recovering.

I remember getting my first radio interview ever, while trying to promote IWYL. Local show. He called me as I sat in the middle school office where I was trying to get Little vonHummer Jr., II. registered. I think that was Ezra "Ace" Careff, and he asked me, "So what's this album about?" I said, "It's about 37 minutes." That was the best I could come up with, waiting on the Principal.

I think I made about 200 copies of that CD and all but two are gone now. Most were sold. Many given away. It's a favorite album of mine, but as it never was featured on the tv series, I think it hasn't gotten it's full due. I do hear from fans that love "Indiscreet Where You Live" from time to time, though. This was the work where I finally reached a genuine appreciation of what I do, where I felt like I was finally "in the neighborhood."

I guess I should add a bit about the cover art. That's me, knee deep in the murky pond at Laurelhurst Park in Portland. Ann Hammer took the photos. It was a recreation of an album cover we'd done for my first Portland-era solo album, "That Which Does Not Smash" in 2000. The hat in the water was kind of an in-joke. On a blustery day in 1999 in Wilsonville, my Pendleton had blown off my head into a pond I was walking by. There it floated among the ducks and lilies, my hat, and, judging the water to be only a foot or so deep, I stepped offshore to get it. To my dismay, the water was waist deep. Not gradually waist-deep, but suddenly waist-deep. And cold.

credits

released February 25, 2006

Bass, vocals, engineering, mixing, songwritering: vonHummer. No overdubs, honest. Meows: Pete the cat. Photos: Ann Hammer. Cover design: Clark Kent.

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vonHummer Portland, Oregon

vonHummer is a Portland music/cable access legend whose career spanned from Fall of 2001 to Fall of 2011, during which he recorded a hundred or so songs for use in his absurdist show (and feature film) and played only a handful of concerts. Currently retired, his work shines on for the ages. Or will he someday return...? ... more

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Track Name: In the Neighborhood
"In the Neighborhood"
(vonHummer)
You think that we don't exactly agree,
your mob has never been "family" to me,
Made no impression, yes, and it's all good:
I'm in the neighborhood,
I'm in the neighborhood, I'm in the neighborhood,
If loving thy neighbor is right and good,
I'm in the neighborhood...
You seem perplexed, I'm no boy next door,
Not in your foxhole, but I'm down with your war,
Not one of your Merry Men, but we share Sherwood,
I'm in the neighborhood,
I'm in the neighborhood, I'm in the neighborhood,
If loving thy neighbor is right and good,
I'm in the neighborhood...
Blocks away you've got no reputation,
Life is sweet but indiscreet where you live,
No one there to swear they know your life story,
of that I'm positive,
Streets away, hell I'm a Prince not a pauper,
Proper Maximus, a happenin' dude,
Love at first sight needs no intro:
I'm in the neighborhood...
I see my words don't register yet,
but I'm Prime Minister of Hard-to-forget,
When you and your boyfriend get unglued,
I'm in the neighborhood,
I'm in the neighborhood, I'm in the neighborhood,
If loving thy neighbor is right and good,
I'm in the neighborhood...
Track Name: Alone Too Long
"Alone Too Long"
(vonHummer)
I think I been alone too long, too long, too long,
and I think I been alone too long...
Think I been alone too long,
from time to time I get that shipwrecked feeling,
Think I been alone too long,
brought on by something strange I've said or done,
On my own everywhere I go,
Always show without a date or friend,
Shuck and jive I gotta stay alive,
Mr. Independent Great Pretender,
end each day the way it started out:
only me and my growing doubt,
seems so sad now and wrong, and
I think I been alone too long, too long, too long,
and I think I been alone too long...
Think I been alone too long
and my facade is giving out, about to crumble,
Think I been alone too long,
I still think "I" by default, and never "we,"
Speak too loud or I mostly mumble,
Stream of consciousness conversations,
Context convoluted in a jumble, Innuendoes flying overhead,
You do what again and where you from?
Are they speaking to me here below
like Great Gatsby from the great beyond?
Do I know anybody here? They keep asking lord I must look like a
party crasher, Well everybody here I thought I knew
musta looked around a got a clue,
when I went to hang my jacket up, I been ditched by acquaintences,
Lonely bi-planes of desperation
in each social situation shoot down my King Kong, and I think I been alone too long, too long, too long,
and I think I been alone too long...
Track Name: Cat Lover
"Cat Lover"
(vonHummer)
I can be stretched out lazy lay to waste a sofa waste the day,
Or I can crawl all over you push myself into your play,
Fill your afternoon with laughter going crazy while you drag a string,
Sorta svelte, sorta Sphinx, Can my claws draw upon you?
Kinda clown, kinda king, getting under your feet,
Kinda cry, sorta sing for affection and supper,
Beautiful but bad, no account cat lover...
I gotta curl upon and cover up the book that you're trying to read,
I gotta paw you and pad you find your softest spot and knead,
Use your plants like a playground then panic at the slightest thing,
Sorta svelte, sorta Sphinx, Can my claws draw upon you?
Kinda clown, kinda king, getting under your feet,
Kinda cry, sorta sing for affection and supper,
Beautiful but bad, no account cat lover...
Do I care if you're there at all? You can never be certain,
Won't be walked, can't be called, but I'm there when you're hurtin',
No uncertainty what pleases or displeases me,
Territorial by nature no other,
Wide awake, I can see in the dark,
Fast asleep, eyes shut tight in a sunbeam,
On the prowl, What will I uncover?
Slapstick, box of shit,
No account cat lover...No account cat lover...
Bird watching window walker, No account cat lover,
Crash-master symphony conductor, No account cat lover,
Paper bag Pagliacci, No account cat lover,
Purring most contentedly...
Track Name: Blonde Bombshelter
"Blonde Bombshelter"
(vonHummer)
See that woman? She used to be a blonde bombshell,
Now she's a blonde bombshelter, What the hell happened?
Who cares? When you're water runs dry, don't ask the well,
Was life a megaton too heavy?
Was it too thin, her shell?
Who cares? She's a blonde bombshelter,
but she used to be a blonde bombshell...
See that woman? She had a lilting siren song,
Now her siren wails an early warning at all missiles,
but if you'd rather duck and cover, she's where you belong,
Was life a megaton too heavy?
Was it too thin, her shell?
Who cares? She's a blonde bombshelter,
but she used to be a blonde bombshell...
Now she's a blonde bombshelter,
a pretty girl like a melody like "Helter Skelter,"
I'll say this for her, she knew when to say "later,"
unlike many a blonde bomshell
that wound up a blonde bomb crater...
See that woman with the civil defense, facing fallout?
She's smiling so sweetly, but she's not gonna budge
til enough time has passed
or she hears an "All Clear" called out,
Was life a megaton too heavy?
Was it too thin, her shell?
Who cares? She's a blonde bombshelter,
but she used to be a blonde bombshell...
Track Name: Desperanto
"Desperanto"
Big man, so lonely, and nobody understands,
Big plans, him only, and no one to back his hand,
help him, lord, he's a beggar not a chooser,
listen to him he's talking like a loser, He's
Speaking Desperanto,
the can-do cant of the goner,
He's speaking Desperanto,
the universal language of the loner...
Skinny girl, so phony, and everyone understands,
Best friends and money,
not here, in Switzerland,
Help her, lord, she's a beggar not a chooser,
Listen to her, She's talking like a loser, She's
Speaking Desperanto,
the can-do cant of the goner,
She's speaking Desperanto,
the universal language of the loner...
All too seldom someone comes along,
speaks to them what they've spoken,
Foolish empty hearts, pushed in shopping carts,
warranteed, but broken, They join no club that wants them as a member,
folding like a wrinkled Miss September,
No man's an island, but may be a submarine,
Here I am, denying I'm under my own quarantine,
Help me, lord, I'm a beggar not a chooser,
Listen to me I'm talking like a loner,
I'm speaking Desperanto,
bon mots of bungle and boner,
Speaking Desperanto,
the universal language of the loner...
Track Name: Freedom from the Fever
"Freedom from the Fever"
(vonHummer)
What I want, what I'm after
is freedom from the fever,
where I won't ask and I won't answer,
Give me freedom from the fever...
Hot as the devil in the back of my mind,
Back of my mind creeping up all the time,
Telling me "left," telling me "right,"
til I'm lost in the desert, no oasis in sight,
No ice cold compress will suffice anymore,
the sweat's pouring off me bead by bead,
cos it's freedom from the fever I need,
What I want, what I'm after
is freedom from the fever,
where I won't ask and I won't answer,
Give me freedom from the fever...
Put your hand to my forehead you can tell I'm not well,
If you can't stand the heat better get out of Hell,
Chatter to the left, chatter to the right,
Mayhem in both hemispheres day and night,
No ice cold shower,
no aspirin, no stiff drink
can help the heedless take heed,
cos it's freedom from the fever I need,
What I want, what I'm after
is freedom from the fever,
where I won't ask and I won't answer,
Give me freedom from the fever...
Track Name: Still Small Voice
"Still Small Voice"
(vonHummer)
Speak up, God, damn it,
What, to you I'm deaf?
I'm listening now, Folding hands,
Holding my breath,
Your still, small voice has the answer I bet,
so pipe up already, I'm listening,
Aint heard nothing yet,
That still, small voice is still a still, small voice,
too small to be heard can't you shout out
a choice word or two?
You're the director, Wrote the play, too,
Say something, anything, Stage whisper, Cue me, would you?
God, you've blindfolded us all here below,
Got a piñata there somewhere?
Why not let us know?
Scrap all the scriptures, they read like charades,
Take us aside if you care so much, Tell us straight,
That still, small voice is still a still, small voice,
too small to be heard can't you shout out
a choice word or two?
You're the director, Wrote the play, too,
Say something, anything, Stage whisper, Cue me, would you?
You've burned your bushes,
Burn, Daddy, burn one for me,
You hold the cards we're dealt,
Must you hold them close so we can't see?
Speak up, God, damn it,
What, to you I'm deaf?
I'm listening now, Folding hands,
Holding my breath,
Your still, small voice has the answer I bet,
so pipe up already, I'm listening,
Aint heard nothing yet...
Track Name: Dead Presidents
"Dead Presidents"
(vonHummer)
It's necromocracy, they rule the land, Dead Presidents,
Greasing the squeaky wheel supply and demand, Dead Presidents,
They hold umbrellas on your rainiest day,
Marshall enough of them and have it your way,
Gather ye Dead Presidents while ye may,
Oh, oh, oh, Dead Presidents...
No good at speeches, but they certainly talk, Dead Presidents,
They come and soothe you, They leave you in shock, Dead Presidents,
They take extremists and get 'em to bend,
Take men of science and make 'em pretend,
Gee, Dead Presidents, you're just the living end,
Oh, oh, oh, Dead Presidents...
For unlike us, they know no decadence,
They are occupants, we are residents,
Oh say can you pray for Dead Presidents?
Where do they come from and where do they go?
March and parade 'em or don't let em show,
Look over your shoulder and say hello
and goodbye to the dead...
Love and sex with them gets really intense, Dead Presidents,
They can adopt your life like foster parents, Dead Presidents,
Chase 'em or hate 'em or leave 'em behind,
still they're consulting in the back of your mind,
Give us this day our Dead Presidents' daily grind,
Oh, oh, oh, Dead Presidents...
Track Name: True
"True"
(vonHummer)
Frankly speaking, in many ways,
in my opinion, I'd have to say you know I do love you,
Look deep into my shifting eyes
as off the record I realize my love is true for you, it's true,
How lucky you are in a world full of liars and cheats
to have someone like me!
How lucky you are, and though you may think me
brutally honest, this is how I must be it's true, it's true...
All this nonsense about affairs is vicious hearsay
aimed at the man who says he cares for you,
Now my attorney will tell you you've a man who's faithful,
no one can prove I've strayed in fact from you, it's true,
How lucky you are in a world full of liars and cheats
to have someone like me!
How lucky you are, and though you may think me
brutally honest, this is how I must be it's true, it's true...
Who are you gonna believe: me, or your own eyes?
Who are you gonna believe: me or your own eyes
to tell you what's true? So true! How lucky you are it's true!
Now you must trust me, Ah, can't you see?
She's your best friend and she would not be
caught in bed by you with me,
Then I'll admit it, Ah, let me see,
I was drunk and stoned I don't remember and probably
it was not me caught red-handed by you,
How lucky you are in a world full of liars and cheats
to have someone like me!
How lucky you are, and though you may think me
brutally honest, this is how I must be it's true, it's true...
Track Name: Sweet Revolving Door
"Sweet Revolving Door"
(vonHummer)
Here I stand at last where I stood before,
pushing hard and fast: sweet revolving door,
Take a spin around again,
Take a spin around again,
Take a spin around again:
my sweet revolving door,
Tell me oh tell me oh tell me oh tell me, God,
What do I what do I what do I what do I do?
I got no I got no I got nowhere to run,
Neither do neither do neither do neither do you,
Take a spin around again,
Take a spin around again,
Take a spin around again:
my sweet revolving door,
Family and family and family and family and friends,
Money and money and money and money and love,
Wisdom and wisdom and wisdom and ingnorance
trapped in the trapped in the trapped in the circle shove,Take a spin around again,
Take a spin around again,
Take a spin around again:
my sweet revolving door,
Here I stand at last, where I stood before,
pushing hard and fast: sweet revolving door...
Track Name: House on the Median Strip
"House on the Median Strip"
(vonHummer)
Real estate agents said it was "compact but cute,"
With built in bunkbeds stand up living room and a moped garage to boot,
Somebody said build up equity then you can add a limb to your family tree,
If we both work and her parents co-sign, we can afford,
Bless this house, oh Lord,
House on the median strip,
House on the median strip,
Acres of papers to settle, examine and sign
til we could eat that first breakfast on our new sun deck, one a time,
Everyone said build up equity, then you can add a limb to your family tree,
Housewarming party guests: bring only gifts slim and tall,
So they can fit, that's all,
House on the median strip,
House on the median strip,
Don't, don't call them windows they're sun slits,
Got ladders, not stairs,
One bathroom like on a Greyhound, but not as spacious,
Nights: doppler shift diesels and high beams,
and days: flash-by faces,
Consider the lilies of the field,
four lanes of highway, not a care...
Princes own palaces, White Houses house presidents at our expense,
House on the median strip, better than nothing, beats paying rent,
We always said build up equity, now we can add a limb to our family tree,
Said to our son, "Son, someday all of this will be yours.
All three skinny floors,"
House on the median strip,
House on the median strip...