“Never Talk Back” Video

Here it is, the video I was working on a few weeks ago. Some parts remind me of A Hard Day’s Night. Others remind me of Twin Peaks: The Return. There’s actually a pretty strong woodsmen vibe throughout…

Big thanks to everyone involved in shooting and editing this project!


Billy Joel Was Right!

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 12.14.15 PM.pngI’m not sure how old I was when I heard Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer” for the first time, but I distinctly remember taking note of the part where he sings that it took him years to write his latest song and that although they were the best years of his life, the song ran too long, so they cut the running time down to three minutes and five seconds. At the time, my instinct was to call BS on the idea that it took the guy “years” to write a three-minute pop song, but I was probably only about ten or eleven years old at the time, so what did I know? Not much, it turns out.

My latest recording, “Never Talk Back,” actually took me almost a quarter of a century to write and record. I probably wrote the earliest version somewhere around 1996, tried recording it a few different ways on my Tascam Porta 03 multitrack cassette recorder and then decided to go to graduate school for English. Though I’d play the song on my acoustic guitar once in a while, it mainly lay dormant in the back of my mind for the next decade or so until I started getting back into playing and recording music again.

But even then, I kept experimenting with different ways of arranging and recording the song — different styles, different keys, different melodies — without ever hitting on a version that I liked. Back when I was recording under the Android Invasion name some time ago, I think I may have put out a jazzy instrumental version of the song called “Hotrod,” but I’d have to look into that. I also played a hip-hop-flavored electronic version in a show with my robot friends at Old Haverford Friends Meeting House a couple of years back. And I tried to record a Burt Bacharach-esque version on Thank You for Holding last year, but it just wasn’t working.

This time around, I tried to keep the song as simple as possible. I started with a basic piano riff (that I eventually dropped) and asked my friend Tim Simmons to play drums along with the piano part that I’d written. Then I added a bass and two guitar parts, and that was pretty much it for the backing track, though I did also edit the song down from something like six-and-a-half minutes to just over four, so props to Billy Joel for calling that aspect of the song-writing process, too.

It took me a little while to get a vocal take that I liked, and I decided to sing the song in a fairly low register so I could avoid having to tweak the track to make it sound like I can hit high notes. Also, I’ve been playing out a little more lately, and I realized that it’s a whole lot easier on my voice to sing like Leonard Cohen than John Lennon or even Tom Petty. Not that I ever sounded like either of them, but you get the picture.

All of this is to say that Billy Joel was not bullshitting me when I was ten or eleven years old — that a song can, in fact, take many years to write, and that sometimes it’s in the best interest of a song to cut it down to three-oh-five (or, in my case, four-oh-one). But I’m still kind of mad at him for writing a song about Bethlehem, PA, and calling it “Allentown.” Now that, my friends, is BS.


New Song: Never Talk Back

Never Talk Back Cover 3-01

So the mistake I made the last time around was asking you to listen to an entire album. What was I thinking? That it was 1972? Ridiculous! You’re a busy person. I’m a busy person. Busy-ish, anyway. And, really, who among us has forty-some odd minutes to listen to a bunch of songs loosely arranged around the idea that a customer-service robot has learned to play the flute? Not me, and certainly not you. That’s why I’m only asking you to listen to one song this time around. It’s four minutes long, and I guarantee that there are no robots in this one! Just a prostitute who gets killed when she doesn’t earn any money. In other words, it’s wholesome fun for the entire family!

By now, you’re probably wondering, “How can I get my hands on a copy of this song?” Well, the sad fact is that you can’t because, as I hinted earlier, it’s not 1972 anymore. It isn’t even 1992 or even 2012. It’s 2018, and though some artists are still putting songs out on CD and Vinyl (and, yes, even on cassette!), I’m not one of them, so there’s no physical recording of this track that you can actually get your hands on. The best you can do is download or stream it from you favorite music service.

And maybe you just got through that last paragraph and thought, “Wow, that poor schmuck is extremely literal-minded! I obviously didn’t mean that I actually wanted to wrap my hands around the song! Maybe there’s something I can do to help him out.” If that — or something even remotely like it — is the case, here’s how you can help:

  • Buy the song on iTunes. Buy it as a gift for other people on iTunes. Tell people you know to buy the song on iTunes. Tell people you don’t know to buy the song on iTunes. Go on social media and write things like, “Wow! Have you heard ‘Never Talk Back’ by Zapatero? I can’t believe it’s only ninety-nine cents (or at most $1.29) on iTunes! That song’s worth at least $1.75!”
  • Play the song on Spotify. If you’re on Spotify, find the song and put it on constant repeat, then hide your music player in a closet for a month or so. Artists make about $0.006 per play on Spotify, so if you play it 100 times in a row, I’ll make sixty cents! And don’t think for a second that I’ll let all that money go to my head or change the way I record music. I’ll keep making low-fidelity tracks in my basement even if I make a whole six dollars on this song. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a sellout!
  • Go to ReverbNation and play the song there. And while you’re at it, share a link to the song via social media or embed it in a blog post. If enough people do that, I might even break the top ten for recording artists in Havertown, PA. And you know what they say about cracking the Havertown market!
  • If you have a music blog and you’re so inclined, write a review of the song. Or ask me for an interview. I’ll answer any questions you have like “What?,” “Why?,” and “What’s up with that creepy baby?”

Of course, there are probably other things you can do to help me out and I’m just not thinking of them at the moment. But if you think of any, please let me know, and I’ll add them to the list!

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the song!