October Surprise

by vonHummer

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about

I don't have a lot to write about this album. (Not that that will stop me from doing so anyway.)

In the Fall of 2004, I'd booked a live gig—the first to be done since "The vonHummer Hour" had stopped producing new episodes, at the end of 2003. In making the tv series, my hope was to build a following for my music through tv, rather than playing live. To my mind, I thought producing a tv show for two years would be less work. Funny, huh? Shows you how much I love playing out. At least then, anyhow. I've since come to enjoy it immensely. And when I get somebody to lug my stuff for me and set it up and break it down, I'll be in heaven with live gigs. But I digress.

So this gig in October of 2004—I forget the date, exactly—would be a test of my premise, that tv alone could build a following for music. I let the show run for a year or two,I figured, then get a gig, put up some posters, take out an ad, and there should be a bunch of people wanting to see me.

I knew already from the traffic on the website that there was a lot of interest. Lots of comments on the message board (remember those?) and the downloads of mp3's was pretty good. I was able to get a top-ten downloads list going so I knew what my "hits" were. All that remained was to get a gig somewhere and see what happened.

I finally did get off my ass, and booked a show at the last place I played live—before the tv show had aired—at The Mad Hatter Lounge. I had some fancy ideas of what I wanted to do in the show: to build a cage of programmed flashing xmas lights around myself, and give away a free CD of "unplugged" versions of my most popular songs.

Turned out I didn't have enough time—or space—to erect the light cage, so I settled for just hanging the strands of lights behind me, flashing programmatically. But I did get the free CD done, which in my mind I called, "October Surprise," named after the scarecrow phrase that makes the news every September before a big election.

I think I was thinking then that seeing me play live would be a disappointment because my live sound would be so much less full than the multi-tracked songs heard on the tv show. To compensate for that, I thought if everybody took home a CD of re-arranged, sparse tunes, and played them over and over, they might get used to the difference in sound and come back to see me at the next show. (I was SO self-loathing then. That people might actually enjoy the difference was beyond belief to me.)

Recording this took a few days, as I'd been rehearsing the songs already. To vary the sounds from song to song, I used different guitars, and usually a different guitar than I used on the original. This was still my era of recording on cassette tape with the trusty Tascam 424 MK2 I'd been using since 1998. I don't think I did the voice and guitar at the same time. I think I went back and added the vocals after the guitar was laid down.

I recorded seven songs for "October Surprise," but while the studio was still rigged up, I also took the time to record demos of new songs ("Sometime Soon" and "Mansion on the Moon") and to get a decent version of songs that I only had video recordings of ("Coversong," "Coversong Too," and "Insufficient Funds.") These I've included as bonus tracks. "October Surprise" is really the collection they belong in.

The cover photo was taken by frequent vH photographer Jason Kaplan, at the very show that these CDs were given away at, at the Mad Hatter, in mid October of 2004. I didn't play well that night. I hate to say that, but I didn't. At that point, I'd almost never played live and I was horribly nervous. I blew chords and lyrics, and sweated profusely, as I usually do.

But I packed the place, and that was more than enough for me. It had to be. I tried not to think about the effect of everyone showing up for a lousy performance. Instead, I hoped the mistakes I made, only I was aware of.

Almost every free CD went, and I made about 67 of them. I think the sweetest part of that evening was during the load out. About five or six teenagers were waiting at the back door to meet me. They were big fans and begged the manager to just let them sit on the staircase going down to the bar to listen to the show. They helped me load stuff. And the next time I played live, they roadied for me.

Well I really felt like the big time at that point, let me tell you. And the next show, in February of 2005 at Cafe Nola was my biggest ever. I figured things would build and build, success-wise, and I'd be a major something or other quite soon, but...

Maybe you can only get a lobster just so far out from under his rock?

credits

released October 16, 2004

vonHummer: vocals, guitars, basses, shaker pick.

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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: Before the Traffic Backs Up
"Before the Traffic Backs Up"
(vonHummer)
Honeychild, let’s run wild, let’s go out and drive our cars before the traffic backs up, Honeychild, let’s run wild, let’s go out and drive our cars before the traffic backs up,
We gotta leave this world behind, We gotta leave this world behind, We gotta leave this world behind before the traffic backs up…
Honeychild, flash that smile, we’ll pass each other on the right before the traffic backs up, Honeychild, flash that smile, we’ll pass each other on the right before the traffic backs up,
We gotta leave this world behind, We gotta leave this world behind, We gotta leave this world behind before the traffic backs up…
There’s something bittersweet warm in the belly of my spill-proof travel cup…Oh say can you see in the rearview mirror, it’s the Joneses, they can’t keep up…
Honeychild, we’ve got style and gas and cash and time to burn before the traffic backs up, Honeychild, we’ve got style and gas and cash and time to burn before the traffic backs up,
We gotta leave this world behind, We gotta leave this world behind, We gotta leave this world behind before the traffic backs up…
Honeychild, I’m filled with disgust: everybody had the same idea as us! And now the traffic’s backed up...
Track Name: Like Junior High
"Like Junior High"
(vonHummer)
Finally wrote you the ultimate love note, gonna slip it in the pocket of your pea coat, loved you all year, it’s time to let you know, cafeteria theory says it’s so…
In the girls room, you are a smoker, which makes me an impractical joker, you’re so hot, you walk by and I’m all “whoa!”
Way cooler than me, maybe, but who knows…
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you,
See you roaming the hallways cos you always have a pass, can’t sit nearby you no more cos you crack me up in class, there’s sparkle in your eyes like streetlight on broken glass, you could stop an assembly with your laugh…
Someone said that you got detention for telling truth too ugly to mention, I’m so into you I’d risk suspension just to play hooky all day with you…
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you,
Finally wrote you the ultimate love note, gonna slip it in the pocket of your pea coat, loved you all year, it’s time to let you know, cafeteria theory says it’s so,
Still thinking about you in Social Studies after Math, you’re still the topic sentence in my perfect paragraph, though you left my love note for the janitorial staff on the floor by your locker torn in half…
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
You’re all high school, but I love you like junior high,
I love you like junior high...
Track Name: That Which Does Not Smash
"That Which Does Not Smash"
(vonHummer)
May your eyes glow like neon apostrophes, may your teeth flash like knives, may your voice blast like a siren for catastrophes when your moment arrives, but if you find out that’s not what you’re about, you can come back and I’ll share my corned beef hash,
Though there is no hope for and nothing of value in that which does not smash…
May your hair wave like a flag in a hurricane, may your song be white gold, may your life be refined like a harvest of sugar cane, may your cool not turn cold, I’ll be around if you tire of the fountains of youth and the mountains of soft, hot cash
Though there is no hope for and nothing of value in that which does not smash…
Some live out a legend, all the rest of us pass on like unfounded rumors, some rise up to master the beast with a billion eyes known as the Great White Consumer…
May a farm boy paste your face on his bedroom wall, may you get the best seat, may those of importance not screen your calls, may you sweat not the heat, I’m still your friend even if you should end up face down in the backlot with yesterday’s trash
Though there is no hope for and nothing of value in that which does not smash…
Track Name: Mystery Light
"Mystery Light"
(vonHummer)
Have you seen the Mystery lLight? The kind that put your home town on the map? when the Owl has flown and the Kestrel comes home, know it alls meet and greet the unknown, honor show: remove your baseball cap now,

Tell me have you seen the mystery light floating out above the Sand and Cactus? get on your bike, chase it if you like, Rattlesnake and Scorpion won’t bite the true believer, so you better not practice,
I myself saw it once as a child, thought I saw it once again when you smiled, come on, Midnight, i’m waiting on your Mystery Light…

Tell me have you seen the Mystery Light playing tag with Moth and Bat on the Mesa? are your cameras set? Blank film is all that you get, No explanation, consternation, and yet, I’ve grown accustomed to my place here:
Marking time after Sundown, beer here in hand, facing doubt, and waiting on your Mystery Light,
Have you seen the Mystery Light? Tell me have you seen the Mystery Light? Have you seen the Mystery Light? Tell me have you seen the Mystery Light? Mystery Light...
Track Name: Tell the Gang on the Corner Not to Be Ignorant
"Tell the Gang on the Corner Not to Be Ignorant"
(vonHummer)
Tell the gang not to let The Man™ give them anything that can’t be taken away…that can’t be taken away…oh, by a good night’s sleeping…
Tell the gang not to move along when The Man™ says abandon ship with no lifeboats to be seen…with no lifeboats to be seen…oh, in his keeping…
Tell the gang on the corner not to be ignorant…
Tell the gang not to let The Man™ sell them big ideas of helping them help themselves…helping them help themselves…oh, to his boots by licking…
Tell the gang not to let The Man™ tell them peace in our time takes trust and understanding…takes trust and understanding…oh, and not a good ass kicking…
Tell the gang on the corner not to be ignorant…
Tell the gang sometimes The Man™ is a woman, tell the gang sometimes The Man™ is a film, tell the gang sometimes The Man™ will sing songs about forsaking The Man™ so you feel like you have but you never will,
Tell the gang to give up all hope, tell the gang to take an honest look at their corner before it explodes, tell the gang that the corner’s a crossroads...
Tell the gang not to let The Man™ give them anything that can’t be taken away…that can’t be taken away…oh, by a good night’s sleeping…
Track Name: The Night
"The Night"
(vonHummer)
The night chicago died, they drove ol’ dixie down and the lights went out in georgia, and I heard my mama cry, and all the people were singin’: brother what a night to fight a backwoods southern lawyer, na-na-na, na-na, na-na-naaaa….
virgil kane, candletop, land of the dollar bill, al capone, cheatin’ wife, tore up the tracks again, he said hey, just eighteen, and to tell you the truth I been with her myself…
The night chicago died, they drove ol’ dixie down and the lights went out in georgia, and I heard my mama cry, and all the people were singin’: brother what a night to fight a backwoods southern lawyer, na-na-na, na-na, na-na-naaaa….

Tracks too small, clock upon the wall, there goes the robert e. lee, little sis’ choppin’ wood, shouting in the streets, flag ‘em down, mama’s face don’t care if the georgia patrol’s no good…
The night chicago died, they drove ol’ dixie down and the lights went out in georgia, and I heard my mama cry, and all the people were singin’: brother what a night to fight a backwoods southern lawyer, na-na-na, na-na, na-na-naaaa….

Big bellied sheriff burst open wide, and my daddy stepped inside the sound of running feet, when a yankee bullet laid him in the street til the last of the hoodlum gang surrendered my brother in a make believe trial…
The night chicago died, they drove ol’ dixie down and the lights went out in georgia, and I heard my mama cry, and all the people were singin’: brother what a night to fight a backwoods southern lawyer, na-na-na, na-na, na-na-naaaa…
Track Name: New
"New"
(vonHummer)
New shoes getting old, new news getting old, new views getting old, yeah, older all the time,
New rich getting old, new bridge getting old, new bitch getting old, yeah, older all the time,
Stand still a minute let me take you in and pass you along, here we go, here we go: drunken down the road headlong,
Stand still a minute as your minute’s been made, bought, and sold, yes indeed: life is sweet, but only til the moment that the new becomes old…
New toys getting old, new noise getting old, new joys getting old, yeah, older all the time,
New Deal getting old, new feel getting old, new wheels getting old, yeah, older all the time,
Stand still a minute, tell me where I’ve seen your face once before, here we go, here we go: friends forevermore,
Stand still a minute, my mistake: you’re a stranger, I’m told,
I declare, everywhere I look to see the new I see something old…
New wife getting old, new drive getting old, new life getting old, yeah, older all the time,
New York getting old, new work getting old, young jerk getting old, yeah, older all the time
Stand still a minute there’s a breeze freeze-drying my tears, blasting off, blasting off the phantom friends passing here,
Stand still a minute as I ask you coming in from the cold:
What’s new? Dust a few cobwebs off yourself and set your new on the old...
Track Name: Insufficient Funds
"Insufficient Funds"
(vonHummer)
I'll stay, if you want me to stay and share my insufficient funds, I'll go if you want me to go and take my insufficient funds,
no there's no place for the root of evil to grow if I stay stuck and stick with what i know I know: money talks, bullshit walks, but beggars and goldiggers run from insufficient funds,
My trick: pick a card any card has insufficient funds, vanish when the waitress returns with insufficient funds,
I’m so full of love, my credit checks won’t go thru, if you think you might want me to get fiscal with you, a penny saved is a penny earned, when pennies cause me concern, it’s insufficient funds…
If ever anyone had it all, they'd be carefree like me, Mother Theresa and all the young nuns, like Atila and all the young huns, freedom's just another word for insufficient funds…
It's true, I got nothing but love and insufficient funds, Sheepish grins, jack benny jokes, and insufficent funds ,
So take all of me, (if nothing's nothing to you,) a wealth of good lovin' work wonders it's true, the poor God blessed, more or less, at least we articulate ones with insufficient funds…
No even a broken clock is right twice a day, so, broke as I am, maybe someday I'll pay? That'll be the day and twenty-one guns will thunder to salute the end of insufficient funds...
Track Name: Mansion on the Moon
"Mansion on the Moon"
(vonHummer)
If ever I can scrape the money together, pay what I owe you,
him, them, and her, I’m gonna move out,
leave everything behind me: keep it, sell it, throw it away
I won’t care, and if you remember I was ever there
and you wonder how I’m doin’,
drop me a line straight up in the air
to the Mansion on the Moon…
As soon as someone inside upstairs okays it,
gives me the nod, eh, I’ll drop my tools
and vanish in a cloud of overdraft fees:
stiff ‘em, pay em, write ‘em all off
I won’t care, and if you should notice I’m no longer there,
and you’d like to know what’s doin’,
shout in the night on a midnight clear
to the Mansion on the Moon…
Surely you’ve heard of the Mansion on the Moon?
Bequeathed by Jesus in no beatitude to the losers
and shakers of an empty horn of plenty,
delivered by Life, postage due...
Blessed are we with fuck all,
Fuck you and you and you:
I’m leaving for my Mansion on the Moon…
If ever I can ascertain my life’s purpose has finally played out,
I’ll fade away, I’ll catch the last bus (and for once I won’t miss it):
board it, ride it, feet up, okay
I won’t care, and if you should notice no bystander there
on the way from rags to ruin,
Eat, drink, and make sweet love by glare of
the Mansion on the Moon...
Track Name: Sometime Soon
"Sometime Soon"
(vonHummer)
Got no way of knowing where the wind is blowing
tumbleweed you for this past hour or two,
To have some notion of your homeward locomotion
would do, Can you steer it here, my dear,
and make it sometime soon?
Make it sometime soon, Maybe solve my mystery,
Sometime soon, Come to call, fool kiss-a-me,
Sometime soon, Que Será's okay by me,
When will be what will be we two?
Make it sometime soon, Shoot the moon, shucks,
shoot the breeze, Sometime soon, wanna be my wannabe?
Sometime soon seems to take an eternity,
Time's a-wastin' awaitin' on you...
What the hell is one more message sittin' on yer cell
gonna do to somehow summon you? I know you slip out
on your sloop whenever I'm in pursuit, Must I feign
disdain in vain to make it sometime soon?
Make it sometime soon, Maybe solve my mystery,
Sometime soon, Come to call, fool kiss-a-me,
Sometime soon, Que Será's okay by me,
When will be what will be we two?
Make it sometime soon, Shoot the moon, shucks,
shoot the breeze, Sometime soon, wanna be my wannabe?
Sometime soon seems to take an eternity,
Time's a-wastin' awaitin' on you...