You're So Vain
I was catching up some reading over at Kissing Suzy Kolber where they had a mock draft on their pet peeves. Peeve #21 discusses Carly Simon's song, "You're So Vain," which reminded me of this story from my past.
I attended Iowa State University for five and a half years. Looking back, I realize how educated I became during this time, not only by going to class, but also learning about the world in other ways. It's baffling to me that even though I began playing the guitar at the age of 10, (an acoustic one, at that) I still was oblivious to "folk rock." I did have a Mel Bay book of 155 Folk Songs Everyone Loves to Play or something like that. So maybe I thought that was folk music in its entirity. People playing "Jimmy Crack Corn" or something.
Until this one time in Germany, we were walking downtown and outside the McDonald's was this little guy, an American, but not a G.I, playing an acoustic guitar and singing. He had his case open to collect money. He looked to be like an American Indian (sorry, not PC here - help me out with what the correct term is) with kind of a Jackson Browne style of haircut. He was playing, "My, My, Hey, Hey" - a Neil Young song, although I didn't know the name, but the song stuck with me until I got to college.
So as I was saying, I went to school at ISU for a while, and during my Freshman year, they had an all ages night or else I was there illegally, at Under Where? This guy, Larry Myer, was playing. I told him I had really never seen a guy playing acoustic guitar and singing, except for one time in Germany, and I described the song to him. He knew what it was, of course.
I saw Larry a few times during that first year, and I asked him if he was making a CD. He said that he was, but he was taking his time with it, since once it was recorded, you could never go back and change it, so he wanted to get it perfect. I didn't really agree with that philosophy then, and I definitely don't agree with it now. Like every album is gonna be a masterpiece. Can you say, "Hello, Axl..."
So years go by, and I'm in various bands during my time at ISU. Larry had a standing gig just about every Friday afternoon at People's Bar and Grill. What a prime gig. Nothing like starting a show at 3 in the afternoon and the bar is already packed. Still, no release from Larry.
During my last year, I was in Total Passover. We recorded and released Eat My Moneymaker (Andy wasn't a Black Crowes fan). On this CD was a song called, "Hello, Larry." It was about the TV show of the same name. The show was a spinoff of "Diff'rent Strokes." Everyone you talk to knows about "Facts of Life," but no one remembers this show, even though it ran for two seasons. Larry was Phillip Drummond's friend, and was a psychology radio talk show host in Portland, Oregon. Here are some of the lyrics:
McLean Stephenson, McLean Stephenson,
Man, what a name
He quit MASH, went on Liar's Club
Made some chump change
Portland, Oregon, Portland, Oregon
He ruled the mic
Balding thespian, old-school master,
Man, what's not to like?
And he talks to people all day for a living (yes he does)
Hello, Larry, Hello, Larry
So it's pretty obvious what its about, even if you don't know the actual TV show. The kicker here is, someone told Larry that we had the song called "Hello, Larry" and for some reason, he thought the song was about him.
We caught wind of this before a show at Dugan's Deli, and Andy was beside himself. "Why would I write a song about that guy?" And it's true. Andy wrote a lot of songs about people, but it was mostly the freaks on the streets of Ames who didn't know who we were. But there's no way Andy was going to give time to Larry Myer.
So here we are, during the chorus of "Hello, Larry", doing what we do, which is wave with our picking hands while the other hand holds the note on the guitar/bass. Larry's in the back of the room with this freaked out look on his face. After that show, Andy would intro the song saying, "This song is about a guy named Larry, and he's so vain, he probably thinks this song is about him."
In later years, I went to a wedding reception in Minneapolis. The couple hosting the reception had Larry play. It took him like 7 years, but he finally released that fucking CD. It wasn't that great, either. I mean, it was fine if you like Larry Myer's music, but it wasn't like this masterpiece that needed 7 years to make. You could have made the same album in a weekend. So Larry's at the reception, and he recognizes me. He's got that same freaked-out look on his face. He comes over to me and says, "Hey man, were you in Total Passover?"
I know what's coming. "Yes, as a matter of fact, Larry, I was."
"Man, you guys had a song called 'Hello, Larry.' Man, that song used to freak me out!"
I just laughed.