I Love You So Bad It Hurts (live)

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I got two girls
One’s in heaven and one’s below
One I love with all my heart
And one I do not know

Townes Van Sandt

I didn’t know it as I was writing this song but it turns out to be about two women, with the verses alternating between thoughts of each of them. There’s something that fascinates me about the painful parts of love because even when it hurts, it feels so much better than anything else. Although Vinnie’s lead on this song feels pretty good too.

 

I love you so bad it hurts
with a kind of pain that I don’t mind at all
I love you so bad it hurts

I love you so much I don’t
have anything left for anyone else
I love you so much I don’t

I love you so much I can’t
drink enough so I can forget
the way your love burns like a lit cigarette
but I love you so much I’ll never regret
That I love you so much I can’t

I’ve loved you so long I can’t see
all the way back to the morning before
my love came knocking around at your door
and I might as well admit that I’m yours
I’ve loved you so long I can’t see

Time is Running Out…

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Did you ever get the feeling that time is running out? For your country? Your planet? Your patience?

Time is certainly running out for your chance to get tickets to Mr. Mike’s Mostly Musical Mashup.

Hope to see you this Sunday, the 22nd, at 7:00 PM.

 Get your tickets here.

Although I will be digging back in time for some of the songs we’ll be performing on Sunday, this is no trip down memory lane. The show will be a mix of older songs and ones I’ve written over the last few years, songs that speak to the passions and problems – personal and political, psychological and social – of today. I am excited to share them with you.

A couple of centuries ago Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls” and it feels like we are in those times again. One of the best things we can do in trying times like these is to gather together and share our concerns, our dreams, our laughter, our love, and our music. I hope you can share some with me on September 22.

Love,
Mike

P.S. Here is one of my recent songs, about time running out, that I will be performing at the show: Butterfingers.

 

Coming Full Circle in NYC

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Thirty five years ago, I moved to New York City, into a friend’s apartment at 4 Saint Mark’s Place. On September 22, I will be performing a show at the Kraine Theater, four blocks away from that first apartment. I’ll be playing songs that I wrote during the years I lived in Greenwich Village, songs I wrote when I lived on the Upper West Side, and ones written in my current home in the Bronx.

Get your tickets here.

The city has changed a lot since my first days here, hanging out in clubs like the Ritz, the Limelight, Danceteria, and CBGBs, finding new experiences that seeped into my songs. In music I found the power of melody and poetry to inspire and soothe and reveal and heal. I would love to share some of these experiences with you in the city that always will be home to me.

Here is a recording from the mid-nineties, by an early incarnation of Late Model Humans, of one of the songs I’ll be performing: New York City.

I’m Not Afraid (LIVE)

I

Fear is the challenge
to overcome or to succumb
and either way your work’s not done
Once you think you’ve got it licked
you’ve only learned half of the trick
Just because you lose, or win,
doesn’t mean a goddamn thing
the next time that the fear begins

II

They say the fear of public speaking is the greater than the fear of death, which makes some sense to me since we all know from a tender age that we will die but there is nothing to say that we will speak in public. That is one bullet we can dodge. And the devil you know is always more palatable than the strange one.

By my blurry count, I have taken to the stage between 40 and 50 times and, like everything in life, each could be the last but so far this is just the latest. I wrote this song about fear a few months ago and performed it last week at Mary O’s on Avenue A between 2nd & 3rd. If you’re in the neighborhood drop in for a meal or a drink but don’t tell Mary I sent you. She wouldn’t know me from a hole in the wall.

III

Slit Skirts

townshend

Aging gracefully is one of the great challenges in the life of a rock’n’roller. Many artists have pissed away their maturity chasing the tail of their youth. Just as many have gone to an early grave without having to confront the challenge. Then there are the few who tackle it head-on.

Pete Townshend was a great help to me when I was a teenager. He found words for thoughts I was too inarticulate to express. His band’s Quadrophenia was blaring in the background of my first kiss. And as he got older he found words to express the bittersweet nature of aging.

 Slit Skirts, from Townshend’s 1982 album All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes takes on the subject with his usual musical bravado and some unusually literary lyrics.

Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts…

I was just thirty-four years old and I was still wandering in a haze
I was wondering why everyone I met seemed like they were
Lost in a maze
I don’t know why I thought I should have some kind of
Divine right to the blues
It’s sympathy not tears people need when they’re the
Front page sad news.
.
The incense burned away and the stench began to rise
And lovers now estranged avoided catching each others’ eyes
And girls who lost their children cursed the men who fit the coil
And men not fit for marriage took their refuge in the oil
No one respects the flame quite like the fool who’s badly burned
From all this you’d imagine that there must be something learned
.
Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts.
Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
Have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
Romance, romance, why aren’t we thinking up romance?
Why can’t we drink it up true heart romance
Just need a brief new romance
.
Let me tell you some more about myself,
you know I’m sitting at home just now.
The big events of the day are passed
and the late TV shows have come around.
I’m number one in the home team, but I still feel unfulfilled.
A silent voice in her broken heart complaining that I’m unskilled.
And I know that when she thinks of me, she thinks of me as him,
But, unlike me, she don’t work off her frustration in the gym.
Recriminations fester and the past can never change
A woman’s expectations run from both ends of the range
Once she walked with untamed lovers’ face between her legs
Now he’s cooled and stifled and it’s she who has to beg
.
Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
And I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts
Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
We have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
Romance, romance, why aren’t we thinking up romance?
Why can’t we drink it up true heart romance
Just need a brief new romance

Genius In Our Midst: Bragg


“We’re actually recharging our batteries: me from the audience and their response, and the audience from me and my songs and ideas. We’re recharging our batteries so we can go back out there and fight the good fight, get our own little space wherever we are. I’ll do my bit, and you’ll do your bit, and ultimately we hope to bring that to a time when we can bring about real change.”
 Billy Bragg

I don’t remember how I first heard about Billy Bragg but I’m sure the first album I heard was Workers’ Playtime. He’s made many other great albums but that one is still my favorite. You never get over your first love. I don’t anyway.
Billy Bragg’s music embodies a strange combination of familiarity and originality. The sentiments in his writing and passion in his singing are familiar to anyone who listens to Phil Ochs or Bob Dylan but there is a raw edge to his sound that owes more to The Clash or Ramones than to any folkie. It sometimes sounds like he broke his pick but, because his message is too important to stop, he plows ahead with broken shards. His voice is as gritty as his playing – untrained, insistent, and undeniable.
He also has his own way with words.
The temptation
To take the precious things we have apart
To see how they work
Must be resisted for they never fit together again
It’s a temptation he does not resist when it comes to words. He likes to take them apart and rearrange them.
Take the M from me
And the Y from you
Out of FAmILy and it all falls through

I’m not any good at pottery
So let’s lose a T and just shift back the E
And I’ll find a way to make my poetry

It isn’t easy to beat your head against walls of human suffering and apathy without falling victim to cynicism. Somehow, Billy Bragg found a vaccine for cynicism and is traveling the world giving out inoculations with his guitar.
I was lucky enough to get my shot a few weeks ago at an event commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s death. Here’s Billy performing Guthrie’s “Slipknot,” a song about lynching which he introduced with a story of its continuing relevance, reflected in the protest of NFL players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in a gesture that has become a flashpoint in our country’s ongoing state of denial about racial injustice.

It would be an injustice to Billy if I only show him singing a cover, so here’s one of his own. Now that our “sexual politics have left me all of a muddle,” his song Sexuality is depressingly-relevant©. Co-written with Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr and co-starring Kristy MacColl, it is one of his most pop songs but still expresses his progressive values. As we learn further every day, the personal is political.


I’ve had relations with girls from many nations
I’ve made passes at women of all classes
And just because you’re gay I won’t turn you away
If you stick around I’m sure that we can find some common ground

Sexuality
Strong and warm and wild and free
Sexuality
Your laws do not apply to me

A nuclear submarine sinks off the coast of Sweden
Headlines give me headaches when I read them
I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade
He said some things are really left best unspoken
But I prefer it all to be out in the open

Sexuality
Strong and warm and wild and free
Sexuality
Your laws do not apply to me
Sexuality
Don’t threaten me with misery
Sexuality
I demand equality

I’m sure that everybody knows how much my body hates me
It lets me down most every time and makes me rash and hasty
I feel a total jerk before your naked body of work

I’m getting weighed down with all this information
Safe sex doesn’t mean no sex it just means use your imagination
Stop playing with yourselves in hard currency hotels
I look like Robert De Niro, I drive a Mitsubishi Zero

Sexuality
Strong and warm and wild and free
Sexuality
Your laws do not apply to me
Sexuality
Come eat and drink and sleep with me
Sexuality
We can be what we want to be

The Price I Pay

 


Billy Bragg is a songwriter who follows in the footsteps of giants like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Phil Ochs. Many of his songs dive into the guts of the working class, the poor, and the victims of capitalism, racism, and war. 
 
This isn’t one of those songs. He’s also a genius at writing songs about love and the intricacies of romantic relationships. 
 
My favorite of his albums is a collection called Workers Playtime, from 1988. Under the album title are the prescient words, “Capitalism is killing music.”
 
Love is a wonderful thing – the most wonderful thing – but it exacts a terrible price if you surrender to it completely, which is the only way to do it if you want to do it right. When your love finds an unequal weight on the other side of the see-saw you can spend a lot of time with your ass in the dirt. And that’s the price I pay for loving you the way that I do. 




My friend said 
She could see no way ahead
And I was probably better off without you
She said to face up to the fact 
That you weren’t coming back
And she could make me happy like you used to
But I’m sorry to say 
I turned her away
Knowing everything she said was true
And that’s the price I pay for loving you the way that I do
There’s something inside 
That hurts my foolish pride
To visit the places we used to go together
Not a day goes by 
That I don’t sit and wonder why
Your feelings for me didn’t last forever
Girl I love you so much 
That sometimes it’s such
I’d walk a mile with a stone in my shoe
And that’s the price I pay for loving you the way that I do
So keep that phone out of my way 
For the things I must say
Are empty if you don’t believe they’re true
And that’s the price I pay for loving you the way that I do