You Just Can’t Leave It Alone

Of all the many and wondrous events that took place at New York’s legendary McGovern’s Bar (and there are countless such events) the one that never fails to amaze is our memory of the night The Beatles debuted a new song, Free As A Bird as a finale to part one of their Anthology Specials.

The guys in Native were at the bar, raptly watching it with all the other patrons who’d gathered around the TV, while Mat Hutt and Steve Greenberg (a.k.a. Steve McGovern) frantically tried to keep up with calls for libation from the teeming horde. Standing in that horde was one Dan Hovey who, along with his sterling band, The Haunted Lobsters, was on the bill for that night’s entertainment.Dan Hovey

No band in their right mind wants to compete with the Beatles, so it was not thought unusual that the Lobsters were delaying their set until the show was over. Cue the extraordinary video that accompanied Paul, George, Ringo, and John Lennon’s distant, haunting vocals, and the inevitable subsequent razzing Dan & the band got — “Yeah, go ahead, guys! Follow that!

We now come to the part that I hold in amazement — Dan and The Lobsters calmly went on stage, picked up their instruments, and proceeded to play Free As A Bird perfectly from start to finish, a song the whole world had only just heard for the first time. Leaving everyone in the place incredulous and dumbstruck, they went on to perform their set.

The onus was on Native now, as people around the bar turned to us with: “Yeah, go ahead, guys! Follow that!”

We were always in awe of Dan and his buckets of talent. So, when the day came that he presented us with a song, we were more than blown away, we worked harder than ever to do it justice.

Haunted LobstersCan’t Leave It Alone became a setlist tentpole for us. When all else was going wrong, we could reliably pull it out of our bag of tricks and set things right again. It’s such a great melody, and the little turns of phrase throughout are the hallmark of a truly gifted writer of those pesky word-things. In one tune, Dan upped the ante, and we were better for it.

Dan now lives in the D.C. area. His website is danhovey.com. We’ve tried to contact him through it, but the mail folder appears to be not functioning. So, here’s our way of saying thank you, Dan. You are a better man than we. Your guitar prowess is unassailable. Your songcraft is inspiring. And, The Haunted Lobsters live on in the firmament of our collective amazement. Rock on!!!

Can’t Leave It Alone

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Just Want To Love You

Love has confounded, confused, and consternated the world’s greatest poets down through the ages. Ancient cave drawings depict hunters bringing food to their little honey back at the grotto. The earliest artifacts known to mankind are fertility totems such as the Venus of Willendorf . From Shakespeare’s earliest sonnets to Taylor Swift’s latest flame-outs, love’s mystifying ways are laboured over with analytical acuity surpassing any other subject, no matter its popularity — sorry, Pro Football and Women’s Shoes.

Venus of Willendorf

Venus of Willendorf by Matthias Kabel

Love is the focal-point of every moment in our waking lives, whether we are aware of it or not. The poets knew, of course, for love has played muse to countless and uncounted lyrical flights of fancy, and not-so-fancy. Even so, it is the most elusive of subjects, evading the grasp of so many would-be giants of literature. It is simultaneously secular and sacred. It’s evident in a child’s first gaze, and it’s invariably cited in the eulogy after that child has grown, lived a full life, and passed from this mortal coil.

The extent of our love defines us. Which brings me around to the subject of today’s featured song.

Michael Jaimes wrote Native’s purest ode to the venerable subject of love somewhere around 1995. Just Want To Love You was first performed on a demo recorded at the infamous Marmfington Farm Studio in that year, and my chief memory of the occasion was how simple, stark, and direct it was in dealing with this most universal and pervasive of subjects. It became a tentpole in our setlists from that day forward. It even migrated into the repertory of later bands in which Mike played, like Spacebar.

Native had many songs that dealt with love, but it was always in the context of circumstances arising from the emotion, the detritus of love, if you will. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for a lyricist to write of love in such roundabout ways, indeed in rock music it’s the more likely route. After all, the definition of corny is found in love songs, and no self-respecting rock star wants to ever be on the same planet as corny.

But, Mike just dealt with it head-on. I found it very brave. He says what he will do, and will not do in love. And in that simple act, he defines his own very essence, for how we love is who we are.

Just Want To Love You

I Think, Therefore…

Frank Hightower, the character in the song, I Think, Therefore… from the new Native mini-album December Roses, is a man who has done what most of us only dream of doing — he’s completely run away from reality and gone to live in a hole in the ground. He’s hunkered, bunkered, cut-off, and removed. His cynicism has peaked, and his answer to that cynicism is to hide away.

But, cynicism is oft-times merely a result of misreading the message of events.

When something bad happens to us we want to blame something, point fingers, shout, look defiant. We swathe ourselves in piety, wallowing in the luxurious agony of being so greatly misunderstood. We seek sanctuary, solitude, aloneness. We seek a lonely mountaintop on which, there and only there, can we reflect, assimilate, attain the higher fruits of existence, find true meaning, reach Godhead.

But, rather than a mountaintop, we settle for a hole. Not even a cellar, but a cold, dirty place in which to drill down into the furthest recesses of our darkest side.

Fortunately, we are creatures that like comfort, and before long we emerge from the gravelly depths. Sometimes renewed, sometimes regressed, and sometimes enlightened.

Frank Hightower is not exactly the emergent hermit triumphant at the precise moment in his life this song occupies. Far from it.

The hole he’s dug himself into has reached that most paradoxical of happy places — rock bottom.

He’s starting to ponder whether maybe, he might just have misread events.

He’s considering the question of his own thought processes, his powers of judgement, his criteria. Is he, or is he not the ultimate arbiter of what fate bestows?

I Think, Therefore…

December Roses (Blue)

“December Roses” is a song that went through a long gestation period before the final version was reached, and even then it waited over ten years to reach the public with the release of the simply fabulous December Roses mini-LP two weeks ago.

Originally intended to be part of a quite long and ambitious medley, the song now exists as a quite concise three-minute exercise in everything Native does well, whilst also treading very new ground.

I remember very well the occasion of recording the original demo of the song, shortly after finalizing the Exhale On Spring Street album. In a fit of nostalgia, Mike Jaimes & I had set up the old analog tape machines we had lying around, one at his house & the other at Marmfington Farm Studio. This enabled Mike to work at home & allowed me to do follow-up work at the Farm. The plan didn’t last long however, as the device at Mike’s place broke immediately after our first endeavor with this set-up. That singular piece was the December Roses demo.

In that first attempt, my ambitious structure for the song ran close to eight minutes long, and incorporated a short section entitled Thunderstruck. (The demo is still in our vault, and I intend to put it out in a future Nativology post.)

The band thought the whole thing a bit, shall we say, lugubrious and not unjustifiably so. It featured a long verse section before getting to what was for all intents and purposes two back-to-back choruses – plus the aforementioned secondary song in the place of what normally would have been a bridge of no more than eight bars.

The first thing cut was the verse, which admittedly was very autobiographical on my part. The next section that got axed was the lyric to Thunderstruck which was quite good, but had the sad distinction of sharing a title with a famous AC/DC song. So long, Thunderstruck!

What was left was the two choruses, the first of which became the verse, while the now-wordless chords to Thunderstruck remained as a bridge.

This is what we recorded in 2001.

Now, jump-cut to 2004, wherein Mike & I have revived the project. Not much was done to the track with the exception of adding some background voices (myself & guest star Lizzie Loves). At the mixing stage, engineer extraordinaire Craig Randall and I noticed that there was a very good acoustic version of the song laying there under the electric version. In a fit of genius, we made a mix of the under-mix. That became what we now have —

December Roses (Blue)