Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thoughts of You Get In My Eyes

When the band Semisonic was still Pleasure, I saw them play a cover of "Erotic City" at Shank Hall with drummer Jacob Schlichter playing drums with one hand and doing the dee-do-dodo on a tiny keyboard with the other.

This would have been...1995. Yes, 95. Way before they got hooked up with the likes of Paul Fox, who produced the big smash break-out and eventual one-hit-wonder single "Closing Time" on The Great Divide (which, okay, has a couple of worthwhile tracks), or Nick Launay, who recorded PiL and Killing Joke (and INXS' The Swing!) as well as the album from which the maxi-single that this cover appears on (whew).

Erotic City by Semisonic on Grooveshark

The live performance has pretty much nothing in common with this slick recording by Mr. "I mixed The Suburbs." 

It was raw, but, mostly, it worked because it was a surprise and out of character. And, live, John Munson sang the "if we cannot make babies/we can **** until the dawn" in that sweet falsetto that he usually wrapped around a metaphor about a tree in the dark woods of northern Minnesota.

Plus, after the show Jacob (checked me out and) said he liked my coat, which of course he did, it was the (first) vintage black Persian lambswool coat I had acquired in those years, the one I found in New York. Bought it in April, lugged it back, wore it five months later.

I say all of this with love because I feel like Pleasure (Semisonic) was never recorded and presented the way that they actually were. The industry makeover really smothered their actual, excruciatingly good musical abilities and smarts. They were made to sound like Marcy Playground and Smash Mouth had a baby that went to Harvard, not like the charming, spare trio that killed it and made me stand there with my mouth gaping and probably spill beer on my Persian lambswool coat balled up at my feet one winter night at Shank Hall. I'll take the version of "F.N.T." on the the demo cassette I bought at the Shank Hall Pleasure show over the not-as-fascinating new thing that Paul Fox glossed up for Semisonic a couple of years later. Paul Fox did also produce some of my favoritest music ever--but then I never heard the Oranges and Lemons demos first, did I?

Althought the name change was precipitated by the existence of another group--a 70s-80s funk band--named Pleasure, I suppose Dan Wilson also steered the output in a more soapy direction. My heart is hung up on rock band Pleasure over "all-in-studio 'make-out music for the millennium' project."

(Though I gotta say that the cover of "Midnight at the Oasis" by the first Pleasure is giving me the chair dances right now. Do they make music like this in Portland nowadays? How would we even know?)

Of course, you can read all about it in Jacob's book, So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful Of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life. I'll loan it to you, if you want. You know I have a copy.

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