Calling All Angels

It began with a celebration, and ended with a nightmare.

I prepared my taxes today, and discovered that it was a banner year for Benjamin Wagner Deluxe, LLC. I nearly broke even. For that reason, and on account of the good fortune that I received a mysterious direct deposit of $117.67, I decided to celebrate. Sushi and beer in front of the TV!

The celebration, though, was short lived. I had pledged myself to finishing “The Desert Star EP.” One song into mixing, I realized (surprise!) that I’d bitten off more, perhaps, than I can chew.

I’ve never recorded, produced, and mixed a record all by myself. Sure, I’ve been increasingly instrumental (bad pun) in my recordings. Kevin and collaborated on “Almost Home” and “Love & Other Indoor Games.” Most of the ideas for parts and sounds were mine, but the execution was largely his and others. “Heartland” was even more my own work, but Lon Locker really came in and spruced it up quite a bit. But for this one, I’m all alone on the high wire. And it’s looking like a long way down.

It’s tough going with no one here with me. It’s tough to know what you’re hearing after a while. Not only that, but it’s tough to judge a performance, or an idea. After a while, it all sounds the same. And none of it sounds like the stuff coming out of Ocean Way or The Hit Factory.

Of course, the four people who have pre-ordered my new five-song CD (thank you Tricia, Dawn, Chase, and Mary) will probably dig it regardless (not because they’re easy to please, but because I think they’re fellow travellers on this ride — wherever it takes us, they’re game).

No, believe it or not, the pressure has more to do with legacy. I mean, future generations will only remember The Beatles and Bob Dylan. I wouldn’t even make the top fifty thousand (I’m not that deluded). It’s not like this little project, of all things, will garner any attention from, say, Rolling Stone. And I think I’m over the whole record deal pipe dream. So why the hell am I talking about legacy?

Well, for one thing, I guess I do consider how my songs stand up to other recordings, from Bob Dylan to Darden Smith. I’d like my kids and their kids to have something, to be able to say, “Listen, it’s grandpa.” I certainly want my songs and my records to get better, not worse. And of course, I have no control where my songs go. At the minimum, people will click through iTunes and either say, “This sucks” or “Good stuff.” I’ll take the latter.

I mixed “California Stars,” then moved onto “Angels In The Atmosphere.” That’s when I realized I still had to put down a new lead vocal, plus backup vocals. So I looked over the other three songs. “Carmelita” is ready to mix, but “Rainmaker” still needs a new guitar and vocal, and “Flirting With Disaster,” well, don’t even go there.

After taking about two dozen passes at the “Angels” vocal, I went to bed.

Next thing I know, I’m walking on stage. The band is already playing. The audience (there’s an audience!) is rarin’ to go. But I have no guitar. This dude — I don’t know him, but I think he was The Devil, or at the minimum The Trickster — has borrowed it. And he keeps being evasive, handing me any guitar but mine every time I ask, with increasing anger, “Where’s my guitar!?!” Then I’m outside in an open field, then the ocean, then the woods, and everywhere it’s nighttime, and it’s raining. And I’m running. Worse, I’m being chased.

I wake up at 4:01, super freaked out, massive headache. I stretch my neck a while, take some deep breaths, and pop a few Advil. Then I bite the bullet, throw off the covers, get out of bed and, well… here I am.

My alarm just went off.

It’s 6:01 now, cloudy, 51°. I’m going outside — over a field, past the lake, through the woods — to run with an angel. I’m sure I can run it off. I’m sure I’ll get my guitar back. I’ll finish this record. And it’ll be fine.

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