Songs You May Have Missed #580


Robbie Fulks: “Fountains of Wayne Hotline” (2005)

In a homage to power poppers Fountains of Wayne/elaborate inside musician joke, musical chameleon Robbie Fulks sends up FOW’s formulaic tendencies while creating a track that mimics their style perfectly.

Let’s go to iTunes customer reviewer “Denise” for a fuller explanation:

According to Yep Roc Records website, Robbie Fulks “Fountains of Wayne Hotline” began as a travel game Fulks and his bandmates would play while touring. FOW’s ‘Welcome Interstate Managers’ had just come out and according to Fulks “I guess it was the band’s super-competency and amazing consistency that made me imagine them as operators of a crisis hotline for songwriters. In our game one of us would place an emergency call for counseling, and a member of a large bureaucratic labyrinth, usually harried and gruff, would offer a solution based on time-honored Fountains of Wayne techniques.” So what started out as boredom relief, ended up being written into a song, which the band began playing at some shows. It proved popular, but fearing the novelty would end up haunting them, Fulks retired it. The Yep Roc site quotes Fulks saying “Soon all kinds of people were asking for copies, such as — in a particularly vehement request–a team of able-bodied lawyers representing the real-life Fountains of Wayne. But it has all ended well, with the band liking the song, us still never having to perform it live, and this MP3 that is now available for your listening pleasure.” According to Yep Roc, FOW’s Adam Schlesinger says, “If Robbie Fulks wants to ride someone’s coattails, he ought to pick someone more famous than us. We, for example, cover Britney Spears songs to get attention. But hey, we’re still flattered. In fact, we might hire him to write our next album for us.”

The full lyrics follow:

I hung a shingle
Country Music for Hire
No fans, no singles
10 years later I’m tired

Now I’ve racked my brain
And I’ve looked all around
But I can’t find a way
to freshen my sound

And now who do you call
when you’re down to one musical dime?
Fountains of Wayne Hotline

(phone ringback)
— Fountains of Wayne Hotline. Gerald speaking. How can I help you?

· Oh, yeah. Thanks. Uh, hello. Um, yeah, I’m a country singer in, uh, a small Midwestern town. And uh, I’m here in the studio today. Uh, let me explain. We’re working on a track. And uh we juhs, dih- dih- dih- just did a verse. It was kind of broken down. And at this point I’m not sure where to take it. Where to go from here…

— Sir, sir. Calm down. We can help you. We can help you. What you need to do now is employ the “radical dynamic shift”

· The, the radical… yes, uh, wha-, what do you mean by that?

— You know. Full band entry, fortissimo, while maintaining consistent apparent volume on the vocal track.

· Oh. Oh! Yeah, yeah! That’s a great idea! Hey, thanks a lot! Thanks for your time!

— My pleasure. We’re always here.

It’s such a drag
to face another filthy stage
Beating these 3 chords
into early middle age

I’d be better off with
7 at hand
An analog synth and an
angry young band

Then I could turn my muddy water
into sweet Mexican wine
Fountains of Wayne Hotline

— Slightly distorted melodic solo!
— Check!

(phone ringback)
—Hotline. Department of Bridges and Infrastructure. Grant speaking.

· Oh yeah, hi there. I called a little while ago. I talked to a gentleman. I believe his name was Gerald. And, um, he…

— Sir, we’ve got about seven Geralds here. You’re talking to me now.

· Yeah, of course, yeah. The point is I’m in the middle of the song, we’re about 3 minutes in, and I’m not sure where to take it from here. We’ve done a couple verses and its just kind of, um hit a, hit a wall.

— Yeah. Yeah, well, Tell me about your textural variations and harmonic palette that you have going so far.

· Oh of course. Well, um. Two 16-bar verses, the first one broken down, followed by a radical dynamic shift.

— Oh, THAT Gerald.

A slightly distorted melodic guitar solo. And chordally, let’s see, a 1, a 5, a 4, with and without a sub-dominant 7, a 2, 2 minor, and briefly a 9th compound over the tonic.

— Uh, well that 9th, is that telegraphed or is that just gratuitous coloration?

· Um, a bit of both, actually.

— Oh, OK. Well let’s hit the bridge, I’ll tell you what you do. No new chords introduced. Get a split bar of 4 in there, and push the one. And then we’ll slather the holy hell out of the thing with a semi-ironic Beach Boys vocal pad. And then an asymmetrical back end. There’s your bridge.

· Uh huh.

— Yep.

· Isn’t that kind of a lot of information to put in the…

— Sir, I’ve been on this hotline for 15 years you’re gonna have to trust me on this one.

· OK, OK. Thank you very much. I’ll give it a try. Thank you.

— You got it, chief.

Oh, yeah
Now we’re getting big and full
Oh, yeah
Try a wider interval

Just like this? Oh yeah!
More like: Oh yeah!!
Check me out: Oooooooo, yeah!!

I feel invincible and all dialed-in
kinda Long Island with some West Coast sin

So let’s cut to the coda
Any old gimmick is fine
Fountains of Wayne Hotline

Video of the Week: Robbie Fulks–Bluebirds are Singing for Me

Video of the Week: Robbie Fulks–Cigarette State

Songs You May Have Missed #343


Robbie Fulks: “That Bangle Girl” (2000)

Everything about Robbie Fulks seems to be both earnest and a put-on at the same time. The title of this album, for example–it’s not a greatest hits compilation, nor is he likely to ever have one. It’s just another record of solidly crafted, slickly performed and lyrically pointed country-billy.

And “That Bangle Girl” neatly straddles straight homage and send-up too. He’s clearly a fan of the Littlest Bangle, while bragging that he even “sat through her movie”.

Fulks more recently made an album of all Michael Jackson covers, which is: a) a ridiculous thing for a rockabilly singer to do, and b) really, really good.

See also:

See also:

The World is Full of Pretty Girls (And Pretty Girls Are Full of Themselves Too)

Robbie Fulks does a moderately amazing Jerry Reed impersonation on a song Jerry would have been proud to have written.


Songs You May Have Missed #28


Robbie Fulks: “Tears Only Run One Way” (1996)

When asked “Do you like country music?” I almost always answer no, because I assume the question means “Do you like flag-waving, beer-chugging, chew-spittin’ anthems to ‘bein’ country’?” “No” is a simple answer for people who seem to like things simple. But it’s a little more complicated than that of course. So I’ll explain further, because I assume if you make a habit of reading what’s written here you won’t mind the longer answer.

I like: Rockabilly, Old Time Country & Western (with the “western”, please), the “Countrypolitan” sounds of the Glen Campbell/Charlie Rich 1970’s, the “new Bakersfield sound” Dwight Yoakam first proffered in the 80’s, the smooth country/adult contemporary sound of Restless Heart, the voice of Patty Loveless, the acerbic wit of Lyle Lovett (first three albums especially), the songwriting genius of k.d. lang and Steve Earle, the put-on hillbilly shtick of Southern Culture On The Skids, Country Rock, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash (when he wasn’t pandering to twenty-somethings to stay “relevant”), Rosanne Cash, any great songwriting that happens to be country music, Elvis Costello’s country album, Neil Young’s pseudo-country albums, the Jayhawks, the sound of lap steel, and Robbie Fulks.

Notice nowhere did I mention Taylor Swift–not because I have anything against her. She just isn’t singing to me. But at least she isn’t making a living writing songs about how “country” she is. The two types of music I disdain most are country that’s about “being country” and rock that’s about “rockin'”.

Aaanyway, I was going to tell you that Robbie Fulks is kind of a hillbilly with a subversive sense of humor. He writes songs like “She Took a Lot of Pills (and Died)” and “Papa Was Steel-Headed Man” and he did an entire album of Michael Jackson covers–pop versions, not country. He’s done an acoustic cover of Cher’s “Believe” and written a song about his infatuation with Susanna Hoffs. So mainstream country he’s not. And that’s good.

Nor is he trying to impress by being “authentically” anything. If he can make a song sound prettier by polishing it up with a little vocal reverb or harmony, he will. He sings like a hillbilly, and he sings about hillbilly stuff (sometimes) but mainly he’s just a songwriter with a hot band backing him (his live record smokes) who just follows his gut from album to album, putting his songs across whatever way seems good at the time.

See also:

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