Each issue, we ask a different artist who we feel has good, insightful taste in music for their feedback on 10 or so songs we choose for them. It’s a generally straightforward, two-page feature that we feel people enjoy reading. We asked longtime MAGNET fave Joseph Arthur to do one for issue #143, and below is what he sent in. It’s a really good piece, but in order to make it fit into our print format, we had to do quite a bit of editing on it before we ran it. Needless to say, Mr. Arthur liked his original version better than our edited version, which ran on the site earlier today. (Check it out here.) So we told him we’d run this original piece online, as well as the very cool piece of art he supplied with it. Consider this The Joseph Arthur Director’s Cut. Enjoy.
Brian Eno’s tin foil hat or how I tried and failed to write a piece for Magnet by Joseph Arthur
My manager said “hey I need that piece for Magnet by monday. ” we were having our Friday wrap up conversation, you know the one, where you are both looking at the weekend and so everything is a little lighter. Life doesn’t seem impossible at all. This was no Tuesday. It was Friday. But you have to be careful in Friday’s because that free and easy feeling can lead you to say yes to something you perhaps should say no too. In other words your ass may write a check that your dreams can’t cash? How does that phrase go? I’m pretty sure that’s not it and I’m gonna pretend it’s 1979 and so there’s no google. I’m gonna go with God on this one.
I said to my manager
In that overly confident and quick to get off the phone way. ” what is it ?”
“Oh I sent you the email”
“Oh cool ” I went on “Ill knock it out, as long as I don’t have to write a Shakespearean play I can’t imagine having a problem with what ever it is”
We were loose it was Friday
” well actually even if it was a Shakespearean play I could probably do that” my Friday over confidence had gotten its grips on me to near pathology at that point. You know the feeling. Monday seems like a million years away. Almost like it will never be monday again.
Here’s what an outbreak of the disease looks like. You go into a kind of zone in which if anyone asks you to anything at that time which will be do monday you will without even understanding why just automatically say yes.
So sure you are that monday is practically years away. But here’s the thing. It’s not. It never is. So we set up an organization called OCFA
The only requirement is a desire to stop making proclamations on Friday afternoons about things you’ll need to deal with monday morning.
But I missed my meetings. I said yes to a monday obligation right in the zone of the Friday eternities
The Friday eternities are what we aim to be sober from. The Friday eternities are similar to what alcohol would be in AA. I e “the feeling that Friday will never ever end and if it does it will just be Saturday forever. And if god forbid that ended well then Sunday is just fine for eternity. But when monday does come and you come too with all the fog of your grand proclamations of achievement. The activity around your head like a cartoon mix up with keystone cops a mouse in a suit and a dandelion tree that two orphans are trying to light ablaze with a wet pack of Ohio blue tips.
It was monday morning the guilt shame and remorse for knowing I had relapsed with a bad case of the Friday eternities
And remembered the good natured and affable conversation with my manager and how I had boldly said yes to lengthy writing assignment sight unseen and it was do today!
The voices flooded in “why did you say yes!?”
The toxic shame like an expert archer on high peek taking aim to the center of my skull as I opened the email of what I had said yes too.
And here’s what came up
This piece will run online and in the actual print publication. Can you work on this, this week?
Here’s a sample of what they would like you to write about.. The intro should be about Redemption’s Son 15th. After that, it’s your thoughts on these 10 or 15 tracks:
(Note – Magnet picked all of these tracks)
Here’s 15. We only need 10, but we can run the rest online if he wants to do all of them. They are alphabetical, but he can do in any order he wants.
The Afghan Whigs “Gentleman”
The Band “The Weight”
The Black Keys “Tighten Up”
Coldplay “Viva La Vida”
Bob Dylan “As Time Goes By”
Brian Eno “Needles In The Camel’s Eye”
Genesis “Back In N.Y.C.”
George Harrison “Isn’t It A Pity”
Diana Krall “Glad Rag Doll”
The National “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Liz Phair “Never Said”
Lou Reed “Romeo Had Juliette”
The Rolling Stones “Rocks Off”
Suzanne Vega “Tom’s Diner”
Well at least I can do any order I want.
My palms got sweaty. My heart raced. A lifetime flashed before me. I got a case of the hiccups and peed my pants a little. I looked over the list
Oh no.. please don’t say it’s one of these things where I gotta say how much I like this or that. Oh no!
I mean I like The Weight as much as the next guy but how am I gonna come up with a paragraph on it?
My head started scrambling.
All I could think about is what it must have been like to hang with Martin Scorsese and Robby Robertson when they famously lived in a blacked out party house together where they were always gaked up. And how that’s when Marty made Raging Bull and shit like that. That I could try and write a paragraph about but how am I gonna say something about The Weight?
” I remember that time I sparked up a doobie and it was full moon and it was our summer of love and there was like all these butterflies in the parking lot and we had just dropped acid and it was coming on and we were out in your t windowed corvette. You had the radio on and the dj on the classic rock station we alway listened too said and now this one from Robbie Robertson and The Band. And then that song. That song that’s like everybody’s favorite song at one point or another. Transcends race. Transcends time. A great song has a spirit in it. This one is so identifiable. And profound that it almost feels wrong to speak on it. But it does make me want to take acid and drive around in a vette with tbird windows.
Normally I might call Greg in a time like this. He’s always got a good take on things. Funny and dark and then we just wind up talking about girls we are both in love with on Instagram. (True Hollywood confessions.
What would I write about Greg? I’ve said it all. We’ve laughed we’ve cried.
I remember Gentleman came out and I had it on cd and listened to it on my cd walk man. There were beneficial limitations back then. You know how sometimes you lock a certain memory with a certain album. That album always reminds me of a flight I took because I discovered on a flight and listened to it the whole trip. That was the good thing about not having endless options. Made you focus on one thing. I focused on Greg’s voice and lyrics. I was just starting to write songs at that point so I listened with intention all the time then. I was still forming my own musical identity. If I had to put my feeling about what Greg does in a quip designed for bathroom fodder. It would be this. He’s original. And he’s rock n roll. So. Nuff said.
Ps. Those two things are rarer than diamonds who are also a girls best friend. Plus he’s from Ohio. Which I notice quite a few folks in this list are
Suddenly in my writing assignment I feel like I’m going deep in. Like Magnet has me searching for my inner captain Kurtz “never get out of the boat. Absolutely god damn right! Never get out of the boat. Read this next part in Martin Sheens voice like apocalypse now. “Who put this list together, where did they get their intel. For years this Joseph Arthur was the model soldier of rock and then one day he wrote a song about how there was no song. was no rock. There was no man. There’s was no song. He just blew a gasket. He’s not coming back. I think he’s waiting for me deep in that jungle he’s waiting for me to come make sure there will never be another monday again. Or another case of the Friday eternities. ”
I could tell Magnet was leading me straight into my very own apocalypse now. In which I am both Kurtz and (side note what is the Martin Sheen characters name? Remember this is a period piece so google is not an option) anyway the Martin Sheen character. Side note to the side note. Which song on this list Magnet gave me would be Charlie sheens favorite? That’s a fun article. I could write an article on that.
Anyway I wanted to get out of the boat even tho the voices kept repeating. Never get out of the boat absolutely goddam right. Never get out of the boat.
I texted my manager
I was breaking out all over the place with a case of the PMDM’s
It went like this.
“Hey Keith happy monday. Gimme a shout on that magnet thing. It’s a real pain to write about songs. Can you imagine writing a paragraph about a Coldplay song? Or even about one you like? Think of the adage talking about music is like dancing about architecture. Don’t want to leave you out in the lurch and if you think it’s an important thing to do I will dig deep but doing it will be well… just imagine having to write a paragraph about the band song ‘the weight’ I mean.
Where do you even begin? I remember the first time I heard “the weight’ it was a real good song. The band are amazing. See what I mean? ”
He didn’t and still hasn’t responded. Cheap joke on Coldplay. I don’t actually feel that way. Everyone knows Chris can make melody his bitch in ways that are unique to him and let’s face it endlessly appealing. Besides no ones ever gonna be cooler than The Replacements anyway so who really cares?
It’s the kind of joke you make on a defeated monday
A day when the PMDMs are really getting the better of you. I guess the price of ubiquitous fame and fortune is that you become a punching bag for people in moments like these. I’d take that trade. Haha.
Coldplay should use this on their next ad campaign
“Coldplay! a band that’s easy to slag on a monday
But impossible not to fink are ace on a Friday! ”
the band most people hate on monday but oddly love the fuck out of on Saturday night.
Hell that should be the name of their next record. You’re welcome Chris.
My manager never got back to me so I decided to take a few bong hits and go skateboard. I ride my longboard along the promenade in brooklyn over looking the whole of manhattan. From Redhook to dumbo and back again. It’s like heaven in the spring. Always helps me get ideas. So I rip the bong a few times and then grab my phone and my board and my keys. I notice a news alert on my phone. There was a story about certain unnamed news agencies were getting paid laundered money from china to pay off some Russian ambassador who played pranks on the line Chief Justice and gold handed prophet son and sergeant of mexico. The piece went on to say mind control directives were placed in specifically three songs. (And here’s what got my attention). They were Tighten up by the black keys. Rupture by blondie) and isn’t it a pity by george Harrison. I felt a shiver run up my spine. Wait a minute!? What the hell is going on here?! I Dug out the songlist from magnet and just as I had thought. Those three songs were all on my list. I suddenly started connecting dots. Things weren’t what they seemed. Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddam right. But that was a joke. I had been out of the boat for a long time. I’m not sure there was even a boat at all. For some reason I had the KISS song black diamond in my head. But not their own version. The version that’s on Let It Be by The Replacements. Neither of those bands were even on the list. Which yes I was free to alphabetize but I couldn’t just talk about anyband I want all Willie nilly. There had to be some measure of control in this piece. I looked long and hard at myself in that jungle when another Replacements Song came thru my mind. Unsatisfied. But they aren’t on your list so why won’t this song leave me be?
“Look me in the eye and tell me that I’m satisfied are you satisfied.” Or however it goes. What’s with Minneapolis and the best songwriters in history? Dylan and Westerberg
Dylan’s on the list but Westerbergs not hmm. Pieces are adding up. Things people said. Fragments I had forgotten about. I started picking up things in the street and putting together a cap made out of tin foil. But JUST then a song started blaring as if the tin foil hat had been a finely adjusted radio antenna to only one song and it was screaming now as if it was coming from manhattan itself. Like the buildings were all signing it to me all at once. And it was “needles in the camels eye.”
I love weird rock songs by English geniuses. And this is one of the best. Why is the city singing this one. He’s on the list. I guess it triggered something. Now the Empire State Building is swaying back and forth to the beat. I’m frazzled at this point the way a fighter is who is two rounds beat already but just won’t stay down.
I gotta get out of this.
Need to write my manager and tell him I just can’t think of a creative way to write this piece. “Tell them I said sorry Keith”