Painting Tasters Done Good

Ever since Timely Persuasion came out back in 2008 I’ve always wanted to do some sort of tie-in soundtrack type thing featuring covers of the Local Boy songs, but various attempts to get a project like that off the ground always stalled for one reason or another.  Until now…

Lounge Act by Ken Gordon

Back in the summer of 2009 I heard a cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by a band called the Painting Tasters (aka Ken Gordon) on an indie hodgepodge episode of Coverville.  It was a great version in a Local Boy-esque kind of way, but my interest was really piqued when Brian Ibbott said there were also covers of “Drain You” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the band’s website.

I especially dug those covers and the way they were billed as “how I imagine Dylan or Tom Petty would play it,” so I sent Ken Gordon an email. We chatted back and forth about Nirvana and cover songs for a few days, he generously offered to take a stab at “Lounge Act” from TP, and eventually the conversation tapered off as we both got busy with real life.  I had more or less forgotten about the whole thing until he found me on Facebook in late December 2010 with a link to a huge cache of “Nirvana Country” covers he’d been working on!

Ken has put together a great batch of songs, somewhat reminiscent of the “Local Boy Does Nirvana” set I’ve envisioned previously but with different songs and so much better since he’s actually recorded them with his own unique spin and voice while still staying true to Kurt’s original lyrics.  The things he does with some of the heavier songs really blow me away.

Check out the full set along with some non-Nirvana songs on Ken Gordon’s Facebook, and get a bonus preview below of his rendition of Tourette’s — my favorite of the bunch since it’s almost unrecognizable going in and probably should have made my Local Boy short list:

Tourette’s by Ken Gordon

Thanks, Ken!

Mike Doughty’s Hand(writing)

Had a couple of recent questions about the font on the setlists in the paperback, which caused me to realize I never blogged about the origin of that in any detail. Could have sworn I did, but a quick scan of the archives proves otherwise. Here we go:

Once upon a time a designer named Chank Diesel put together something called the Rockstar Font Project. He basically took handwriting samples from musicians and turned them into fonts.  Participants included Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing, Kelley Deal from the Breeders, Steven Drozd from the Flaming Lips, Mark Sandman from Morphine, and Everlast from House of Pain.

Being a big Soul Coughing fan I downloaded the Mike Doughty “Wichita” font shortly after it came out, messed around with it for 10 minutes, and then forgot all about it since I didn’t really have a practical use for it. (Origin story in Chank’s own words is available at

Mike Doughty's Handwriting, Ghostwriting for Local Boy

Mike Doughty’s Handwriting, Ghostwriting for Local Boy

Flashforward a decade. While working on the remastered layout of Timely Persuasion with Bryan Davidson we hit upon this idea of doing the Local Boy setlists in a handwriting font.  Originally we tried the Apple “Marker Felt” font, but it felt sort of cheesy and overplayed.  I suddenly remembered Wichita, and miraculously managed to copy it over each time I switched computers over the years.

I emailed Mr. Diesel regarding permissions and he was super cool about it, as was Mr. Doughty when I let him know of his inspiration.  And there you have it.

While we’re on the subject of Mike Doughty, check out his amazing new album Sad Man Happy Man.  I know this sounds odd coming on the heels of my Benji Hughes post, but this is another of those rare, expectation-defying albums I just can’t get enough of.  Beats out Dark Night of the Soul for my album of the year crown, and when the newness clears might even give Skittish a run for its money on the “best album ever” front.

Another Man’s DG

While walking the dog I had a random thought: Why did I use “Local Boy Done Good” instead of “Local Boy Done Gone” in TP?

This question came out of nowhere. There was no internal debate over the name of Local Boy or his album during the writing phase. I honestly don’t remember any distinct inspiration. It had a nice rhythm, the LBDG letters looked and sounded good together, and that was that. But now that this new “Done Gone” thing had entered my head I couldn’t shake it, leading to this chain of revisionist history…

  • One of the songs the narrator taught Local Boy in the past could have been “Another Man’s Done Gone” from the Billy Bragg & Wilco collaboration Mermaid Avenue.
  • The “DG” in the LBDG album found in the record store would link back to that reference.
  • In the Local Boy recap chapter, LB could be wrapped up in the mild controversy between Woody Guthrie’s estate and Bob Dylan over the rights to Woody’s leftover lyrics, leaving the narrator in a bit of hot water for “borrowing” a song that he considered to be “from the future” which had actually been written but unreleased in the past.
  • And best of all, it would set up an awesome title for a career spanning box set: Local Boy Done Gone Called It Quits Live At The Coverville Barnstormer.

(Confused?  Refresh your memory on the adventures of Local Boy in Chapters 15 through 17 of Timely Persuasion either online, in paperback, or on the Amazon Kindle.)

What happened happened, and all things considered I’m fine with the Local Boy Done Good album title.  But what might have been if I fully explored the above thread?  I leave you with this:

So when you think of me, if and when you do
Just say, “Well, another man’s done gone”

Local Boy’s Second Set

For awhile now I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to integrate some of Local Boy’s songs into these blog posts.  Amazon links, Apple iMixes, and journals were used in the past.  Recently I discovered a new service called 8tracks that seemed worth a try, especially considering that Local Boy’s first album came out in the 8 Track format…

You can listen to a mix featuring original and cover versions from Local Boy’s second performance here:


Evolution of Local Boy Covers

I mentioned in the commentary for Chapter 15 that the short set of covers Local Boy first plays for the narrator underwent a number of iterations.  Thought it would be fun to explore those old versions here.

In the very first draft (circa 2003), the songs were:

I’ll Follow the Sun
We Can Work It Out
In My Life
I Walk the Line

Two of the final five are already present (“We Can Work It Out” & “Everyday”).  As for the others:

I’ll Follow The Sun
Included because it’s acoustic and simple, but dropped since the narrator previously referred to it while finding his way around town.

In My Life
Chosen for the time travel imagery the song evokes, and possibly also because Johnny Cash covered it.  Dropped for the same reasons and to not have multiple Beatles songs.

I Walk The Line
Honestly I don’t recall why I picked this, which probably explains why I dropped it.  Probably classified Cash as one of the “rock and roll forefathers” that the narrator’s Dad influenced him with in his younger years.

The next iteration:

Homeward Bound
People Are Strange
We Can Work It Out
Sugar, Sugar
All Along The Watchtower

The set expands to six and now contains four of the final five.  Also of note is a comment I found scribbled in the margin of a previous draft:

“Nick Drake?  Rod Stewart?  Homeward Bound?”

Only one of those notes (temporarily) made it in, but the influence was felt.  Remember this for later…

Notes on the discarded songs:

Homeward Bound
An obvious choice to connect the dots between the Dad calling Paul Simon “one of the greats” in a previous chapter.  Would have loved to have kept this one, but it didn’t fit the final theme of the cover set.

Sugar, Sugar
The Billboard Single of the Year for 1969, and coincidentally just wrapping up four weeks at #1 on the charts the day our hero arrives in ’69.  Made sense that Local Boy would be covering something that was really big at the time, and when I did the pop chart research it felt like a perfect choice.  Dropped for the same reason as “Homeward Bound,” I think that this cover probably popped up on a few of Local Boy’s tours from time to time and might even be on the LBBS live album.

And now for the final version in the actual book:

People Are Strange
We Can Work It Out
Piece of My Heart
All Along the Watchtower

Remember that Nick Drake note?  Seems it subconsciously put dead musicians in my head, which set things up for the final theme of this set of covers.

People Are Strange
Chapter 16 originally started off with the death of Jim Morrison, but was later changed to Jimi Hendrix when I rewrote it to include the narrator predicting the other members of the 27 club to Local Boy.  Can you say foreshadowing?

We Can Work It Out
Included from the very beginning, I kept it to dovetail with the “Paul Is Dead” reference earlier in the book.  Incidentally, Paul was 27 in 1969.  I also liked how having Local Boy do this song famously in 1969/70 might have stolen the thunder from Stevie Wonder’s 1971 cover, furthering the unexplored impact of stolen songs.

Also included from the first draft, this should have/could have put the theme in my head from the start.  Just a great classic song and one that showcases the simple LB style I envisioned.  The lyrics also evoke time & love, making it a good fit.

Piece of My Heart
Like Coverville‘s Brian Ibbott, I’m also fascinated by gender swapping covers and had to include Local Boy doing Janis in his repertoire.

All Along The Watchtower
See the Jimi/Jim note above.  In my head this version sounds like LB doing a folk version of Hendrix rather than Dylan, making for a deliciously interesting translation from folky Dylan to electric Hendrix and back to folky Local Boy.

iTunes Playlist (Including all non-Beatles songs referenced)

Pretending I’m Like Kurt Cobain

I can’t believe Kurt Cobain has been dead for 14 years. Both he specifically and Nirvana in general were big influences on me growing up, and that influence clearly bled into the narrator and the book. And how about this for an illustration of time travel cause and effect in action: One could make an argument that if Jon Mack hadn’t left me with extra tickets when he decided to skip out on a Nirvana concert one fateful night in 1993 so he could go to a high school dance (“I’ll see them next time around” was his reasoning), there might not even be a Timely Persuasion at all. Talk about a butterfly effect…

I’ve not so coincidentally timed the commentaries so we’d reach the Kurt Cobain chapters this week. But before we get to those, here’s something else. For a fleeting moment early on I flirted with having the Local Boy songs only be Nirvana covers, but it never got past the idea phase. To be honest I can’t decide if it would have been better or worse. Figured today would be an appropriate day to explore what might have been with a rundown of essential Nirvana filtered through the folky acoustical lens of Local Boy. Selections and liner notes below.

LBDN: Local Boy Does Nirvana

On A Plain
I distinctly recall my excitement when this was played on Unplugged, as it was both unexpected and perfect at the same time. This was originally the Nirvana track chosen for Local Boy back when the songs skewed towards “famously covered,” but I felt it was too obvious and changed it to “Lounge Act” for the final draft.

Lounge Act
This has gone back and forth for me over the years, but I think I can finally cement in writing that it’s my favorite song on Nevermind. Thus why it ended up being the Local Boy choice in the book. I can vividly hear the Nevermind/Rubber Soul hybrid version described in my head, but I’d be doing it a disservice by attempting to articulate it further.

An underrated B-side that I was this close to using for Local Boy, but I was worried that people either wouldn’t know the song or if they did they wouldn’t believe it could be done acoustically. Almost makes me want to learn guitar to prove my vision. This is another that I can clearly hear in my head as a beauty all stripped down, though I think Kurt would be disgusted if he knew that.

Oh, The Guilt
Probably my favorite rarity and another that was under consideration for Local Boy initially, but abandoned for the same reasons described in “Curmudgeon” above.

About A Girl
A no brainer to be played in a folk rock style, but impossible to omit. The Beatlesque comparisons are spot on, and something that has always made me appreciate music criticism.

Hairspray Queen
The trippiest song in the Nirvana catalog and one that every musical loving instinct I have tells me I should hate, but I’ve dug it since the first time I played Incesticide. Has to be included in an all-Nirvana Local Boy set, detractors be damned.

Swap Meet
An overlooked Bleach song I’ve always been partial to. I hear this toned down in a bit of a Lou Reed Velvet Underground style, doing the chorus like the verses of “Temptation Inside Your Heart.”

In Bloom
There’s a part on the uncut Unplugged In New York DVD where Kurt sarcastically says “How are we supposed to play ‘In Bloom’ acoustic?” in response to a request. (Odd since he once did an acoustic “Negative Creep” at an in-store.) When I first heard that I took it as a dare and was up for the challenge. Here’s how: Play “Be Here Now” by Mason Jennings but use the lyrics to “In Bloom.” Spooky how perfectly they fit…

When I first started collecting B-Sides and rarities this was my holy grail. Never understood why it wasn’t the first B-Side, or even A-Side for that matter.

An odd choice, but I think I can articulate this one. Imagine the main riff finger-picked in a Nick Drake style, with the lyrics not much more than a slow and grainy whisper ala M. Ward. Can you hear it?

Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
In Utero being a more aggressive screamer of an album makes acoustic translations tough without going for obvious choices like “All Apologies” or “Dumb,” so I’ll take this as my surprise token eastern song.

Spank Thru
This one could totally be pulled off almost as is in a very straightforward acoustic number. A bit of a shame to downplay Kurt’s best recorded scream, though maybe Local Boy could get away with it if it was the encore.

Full Playlist at iTunes

Timely Persuasion Press Release for Cobain Anniversary