In the beginning... I wanted to make an album anyway cause it had been over a year, but this is also a celebration album and a keepsake friendship album since this is the last semester I'll be at The University of Southern Mississippi where I've been for quite a while. I'm Dr. Rusty W. Spell, BA, MA, PhD now. So I'm leaving stuff and I'm leaving friends, and I wanted some of them at least to be on plastic.
Most who ended up appearing had sung for me once or twice during my rare live shows, so they were pros by the time they stepped into the recording closet. And, yeah, I still record vocals in the closet. Everyone seems to like it. They can dance all they want and I won't see. They have the Itty Bitty Booklight in there with them to keep them company.
I didn't have any particular new idea I wanted to try on this album, other than to perhaps make it slightly more happy. There's only one song that's truly sad, three that are somewhat abrasive or mean, and then the other eight are either big time love songs or big time celebrations.
So I called it Sparkling Objective Correlatives because it seemed right, and because it sort of told me to, like all of my album titles. I never agonize over them. I'm lucky that way. Also, of course, everyone on the album has a degree in English, so a little T.S. Eliot made sense.
I'll talk about the songs in the order I created them, and the gals who sung them as well:
"Music Box" is the first song I've ever written from the senior citizen point of view, I think. Pia Ehrhardt sang this one. Pia asked if she could sing on an album as far back as Zooming In On Fractals, and I was happy to let her, and let her go first.
"Roxanne" makes people think of Sting when they see the title, but for me it was "Roxanne, Roxanne, I wanna be your man" and Roxanne's response to that song, those old rap songs from the 80s. I just went ahead and wrote two songs in one, a rap and response. Apparently, the rapper from "I Want You, Girl" returned from this song. I don't know why I can't rap without pitch-shifting my voice down, other than I sound stupid rapping with my own voice. Liza Marshall did this song. She did three, since she's my gal and all. She likes this one the best out of her songs.
"Oh But Why" is a good example of how I wrote songs on this album. I liked that flute warble sound and wrote the song around it. These days I start with the music, which is what most musicians seem to do, though I never did until the last album. Usually, the lyrics suggest themselves to me while I'm playing the music, and for this album I pretty much stopped making the music in the middle, wrote the lyrics, then finished the music. I just start humming a melody and the first words that pop out from the humming must be the best thing to write about, else they wouldn't come out.
This is one of two "trick" love songs, where it seems like a love song at first, then it's not. It's also one of my songs where I rip off other musicians, in this case Built To Spill. The bridge section about "every night there's this boy who appears in my dreams" is almost directly ripped from one of their songs. I changed a bit of it, but anyone who knows the song would go "Hey!" I don't feel bad, though, cause Built To Spill wrote that song "You Were Right" where they quoted a handful of existing songs, and I hear they had trouble with it, so they won't give me the same trouble.
The second verse isn't meant to suggest George Harrison, though it sounds like him what with playing sitars, knowing Ringo, and everything else that might fit George. He was recently dead when I wrote this. I almost changed the lines just cause it sounded like I was writing a song about George, even though I wasn't, but liked the lines, so kept them. And if someone thinks it's George, that's fine because I love him.
Kim Chinquee did this song. She has a clear voice that "cuts" very nicely through the music, which is good because I find that I'm a terrible mixer. I can mix the instruments together, but when I mix the vocals and music, I have a hard time getting it right, and sometimes don't. In the olden days, I took the Michael Stipe approach and just blended the vocals in with the music, and reasoned that if anyone wanted to know the lyrics, they should look at the available lyric sheet. In fact, I almost wanted people to have to read them, since I think they should get them right, not misunderstand them. But then people just got annoyed with not being able to hear, and I agreed, and so I try to mix it above the music, but I don't even think I know the correct theory of mixing. I hear songs on the radio and think, "Well, I can hear every instrument and every word. What's my problem?" Then again, I do tend to stack lots of noises.
I wrote "Hubba Hubba" for Carrie Hoffman to sing. I had written the first three when I brought Pia in, and it took me a while to figure out that I wanted Liza and Kim to do the second two. But I wrote "Hubba Hubba" with Carrie in mind, cause we talked about what kind of song she wanted to sing. She suggested it be Beck-ish, which I think this is. In addition to a small musical similarity to "Devil's Haircut," some of the lyrics are reminiscent of "Get Real Paid."
I don't know why it turned out that she got the "dirty" song, though. It's sexy-dirty, and it also has the very first curse word I've ever written in a song: ass. I have to wash my computer out with soap now. I'm a little worried that people don't know what Longitude is. It's a pill that makes your penis grow up to three inches. I wanted to pair something with Wonderbra, and I wanted it also to be a brand name, and that was the best I could come up with. I see commercials for it during The Howard Stern Show. Anyway, the point is, these characters already have big boobies and ding-dongs.
And "biz-naz" is from that song by, I think, Ludicruz (misspelled, I'm sure). It's a bad song, but it's funny when he says "get out my business, my biz-naz." Oh, and Carrie improved the song a great deal with her spur of the moment "acting" on her solo lines.
"Just for You" is the sad song. After I played it for Kristina Lucenko to sing, I said, "This song is hilarious!" and she said, "This sh*t is f*ckin' funny!" Killing self and leaving baby in house alone with your dead body, nice funny stuff. Kristina had repopularized my song "Our Hurricane" by singing it at shows, so she needed this pretty song to sing.
This song might be considered a trick love song, but it's not really. I know that if you only half listen, it sounds like a sweet love song. But this is certainly the first of the songs where characters says things that could get them in trouble with the Last Temptation of Christ picketers, what with all that saying God is wicked, etc. I left ambiguous pronouns so it's hard to know whether she's calling God or her man wicked, but I meant God. But if the picketers come at me, I'll say she meant the man. I'm not saying it anyway, she is. And I'm not even singing it.
"Teddy Ruxpin" has a story (literally). I wrote my first novel in 1996 and 1997 called When Sunday Arrives. In it, the main character, Kyle Ferguson, wrote a song called "Teddy Ruxpin" which was supposed to be this big enormous hit song that everyone loved. When I wrote the novel, I was tempted to write the song, but I didn't think I could pull it off. Now, I just don't care because the novel wasn't that great after all, but also because I can write a hit song at will, and I wrote just about what I imagined his song was. Although, he sung his, so I think soon I'll do the "Kyle Ferguson Version" where I sing it myself and do slightly different instrumentation. That'll be a Rusty Spell project.
"Can you and I be friends" was what Teddy Ruxpin said when you turned him on, and the name of the company that put him out was Worlds of Wonder. So there you go.
Amy Wilkinson sang this song. I knew she could pull off the needed cuteness, but without going so cute we hate it. She, too, has a "cutting" voice. I like every voice on this album (mine is okay too, I guess). They're all different and good.
"The Snake Charmer" is my oddball song. I started writing songs for Paula to possibly sing, cause she was the only one left except Liza, but I soon realized that only I could do something this goofy. At first, the song sounds like it's sexual innuendo about a woman who can cure men of their impotence, but by the end of the song it just sounds like a literal song about a snake charmer, and finally not only that, but just someone who likes literal snakes a little too much and opposes anyone who doesn't. I don't know what it is, only that I started out with the magic woman idea. I thought it might also be a veiled reference to Viagra.
But, yeah, this is the second song that the picketers won't like, since I say the Devil (if that's who you think the serpent in Eden was) wasn't too bad after all, and that he did us all a favor. Anyways, I like how I sing the song. It's my favorite of my vocal performances on the album.
"Everything About Me" has what I consider the prettiest moment on the album, and maybe of any of my albums, the bridge with the harp glisses and the rest. I think of the music from Joe Versus the Volcano when I hear it, "Marooned Without You." I think the rest of the song is pretty too, and that Liza sang pretty.
"Whassername" was one of the big celebration songs. Originally, I had written all different lyrics to this song, but I hated them. They were something like a couple arguing about bills or something horrible like that. I knew that was wrong, and that it needed to be a celebration song, and that I wanted to actually use the word. The song is just a few inches from male pig, but I hope instead it just makes people happy and remember how it feels when they get freed of something, even if it's not necessarily a relationship. It's just a song about celebrating freedom, really... not really in the end about getting all the chicks.
When I wrote "My Jerry" I knew it would be Paula Leffmann's song. It's sort of a play, and she's sort of an actress. It's the only 3/4 time song on the album and it's got that old musical feel that I knew she could pull off. This is the second trick song, in the brand new genre of "Love songs that are only love songs because they're being forced out through threats with a gun." I'll shorten that name eventually.
I ripped off Wagner for this song. If you know Bugs Bunny, it's the one that goes "Oh, mighty warrior... something something... might I inquire to ask what's up doc?" I like ripping off classical guys; they can't do anything about it, and they're the best.
I also realized at this point that this is a proper name and brand name heavy album. Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz appear on this one (who were both in The Mask I realized later). I think it's just one of those Adam Sandler things, where people's names are the most obvious rhymes, and if you say them they're nice jokes. Only, he mostly just says them for the joke, where I hope mine actually make sense. He's funnier, though, so maybe if they don't make sense, it's even better.
"Make It Funky" was originally known as "Liza's Hit Song" while I was writing it. I knew I was near the end, so did my traditional "what songs do I need to write to finish?" list and knew I had to write a radio hit for Liza. Like I said, I can write hit songs at will, so it wasn't a problem.
I didn't rip off "Cecilia" by Simon and Garfunkle for this one. They ripped off Chopin's Opus 28-15 in D Flat Major ("Raindrop") and I did too. Then I built the song around the funky sample, which is pretty funny when you think about it.
The best part of this song, though, is Liza's harmonies. She doesn't know how to harmonize, so I just let her follow my guide vocals one at a time and it worked. She can hit notes better than I can, too, so her harmonies work better than mine. She sounds like The Rentals.
When Carrie recorded her first song, she was messing around and saying "Rusty" into the mic and said she should do a whole song where she just says my name. I said sure, but I meant for another album, a Rusty Spell solo album, but she thought I meant for this one. So when she brought it up and asked when we were going to do it, I said "When we're done with this album." And then we figured out we were having a Three's Company moment for weeks. My initial reaction was to say no, that it couldn't be on a Mnemonic Devices album, cause it's too weird and because I didn't ever want any references to myself in Mnemonic Devices songs. But then I realized I had weird songs in the past, and I furthermore realized that there are other people in the world named Rusty, so why can't he be a character as well? And so I did it.
Carrie basically went into the closet and said my name a zillion times, with me not saying anything, although I was dying of silent laughter outside. Until she said "Can I stop this now?" and I started laughing really loud and she did too, which ends up on the album. After that, I just dragged her audio around to the downbeats and did some slight repetitions and stuff like that for a few places. Then I did a quick drum track. The piano part you hear is the first take, some stuff I just made up on the spot, but it sounds good. It was the fastest song to make certainly.
So that's all the songs. Carrie did the cover art, because when I first saw her drawings, I knew it would make great cover art, even before I knew her very well. She calls them her aliens, and I call them her bee people. You can buy T-shirts of them now through her company Scruffy Designs.
This album is terribly fun to listen to, methinks. It's so bright and happy.
Copyright (c) Apr 2002 by The Mnemonic Devices and Love and Letters Music