Michael Nesmith: Releasing the Boone

Saw this from Michael Nesmith and had to pass it along:

Releasing the Boone.

When I was growing up in Texas the wide spread music was Country. It was up through the crack in that sidewalk that the branch of Rock and Roll grew and where I first became aware of it. It was different in different parts of the country, different sidewalks – but it was the same tree that was growing.

In Texas I had the usual Elvis and Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins, but I also had Fats, and Chuck, and Little Richard actually showing up and playing live. First job I had was at a record store and they would come by on promotion tours and stand in the store and sing along to their records. Everyone but Elvis. He never did an in-store where I worked.
The live music scene at that time pinned the RnR meter. 

East Dallas had a “music” club and friend and I would hang out there and see the most wonderful and amazing blues and early Rock singers. I have a story for each one, but the guy that did it for me live was Bo Diddley. Holy smokes! He is why I did “Can’t judge a book” in the first Monkees tour as my solo selection.

To the north was Denton and North Texas State College and a great music department. It is now legendry but at the time no one knew how good it was. Pat Boone went to school there, I think. He made some records around this time.

One evening I was listening to Fats sing “Ain’t That a Shame” on the car radio and having my world rearranged in the process, when the girl I was with said, with great disdain, “Who is this?”

“Fats Domino, out of New Orleans,” I said.

“This is awful,” she said. “He is ruining that song. Not singing it like it is supposed to be.” 

That was a show stopper for me. I was dumbstruck.

“Have you heard Pat Boone?” she asked. “This is his song and he made a much better record.” 

Two things crossed my mind. First, had she lost hers? And second, I probably would not be spending any more time with her. (Too bad for me. She was beautiful — as are all 16 year olds — and I really liked her.) But she had gone where I could not follow. She also had her facts wrong.

Years passed and I thought and thought about that exchange with a soft touch of sorrow at having lost her, and then when I started writing and singing and producing music I became aware of the phenomenon that had separated us.

The first version of the song she heard was Pat Boone’s and that registered as the standard for her. Fats version was an abomination of that. Fats happened to be my first hearing of the song and Pat Boone’s was obviously and miraculously wrong to me. In a way, we were both trapped in our first impressions, and were so egotistical as kids that we could not let go of the standard that first impression had set.

I called it Booneing; hanging on to the first iteration because it’s the first – not because it’s the best. This, as it happened, began my own existential journey of asking myself what is ”best”; what is the “standard” – all the way till now – what is “real”.

Being aware of Booneing has helped in the studio and with my writing in ways I can’t even count. It is not a novel or unique notion. Every artist I know has to deal with Booneing – and learn to quickly release the Boone — to start rewriting and polishing nanoseconds after the first revelation of the idea for any work.

It is hard work at first – releasing the Boone — but it gets easier. It’s where the deep value rests, this refining and uncovering and emergence. The revelation of something that is already there coming into view as we surrender to it, as we move away from the first blinding light of our own egos reflected in the surface of the first look, is the effulgent light of the real thing taking over and leading the way.

Releasing the Boone is not to be confused with “noodling” but that’s another post.

After I released the Boone for “Ain’t That a Shame” I not only did not lose the magic of Fats, but I gained the wonder and joy of Cheap Trick’s version.

I put July Life is Long v.2.5 up at Videoranch. 

www.videoranch.com/downloads. so you can buy a copy if you want.

If you just want to listen you can hear it on Soundcloud.

Release the Boone.


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