by Michael Goldberg
Monday, February 4, 2002
Reinventing Drazy Hoops
A short, short story (fiction, that is) about an obscure but important singer/songwriter.
Drazy Hoops liked to have original thoughts, and when he wrote songs, which he often did, he liked his lyrics to be bold and fresh. If he was going to use a hackneyed phrase, he better give it a new twist of some kind. "The more things change the more they stay the same," he sang to himself as he walked along Haight Street, to a tune he'd come up with the night before.
I need something to bring that one home, he thought to himself. He tried a line he'd been musing over: "My kingdom for a cheap cliché." Set to the new tune and sung in a hushed, soulful manner, the lines seemed to work just fine. He gave a panhandler, a guy with greasy brown hair who looked liked he'd been taking acid daily since the end of the '60s, a dollar.
Walking on, he sang: "The more things change the more they stay the same/ My kingdom for a cheap cliché." He smiled. He reached for a cigarette, then remembered that he'd stopped smoking.
It was just three weeks since he'd quit, but already his voice, which could sound like cracked leather on some occasions, and like a hipster cowboy at others, sounded better, not so hoarse. At least that's what his girlfriend Lisa said. His previous girlfriend was the subject of the title song of the album he was finishing up. He was gonna call the album "Bring on the Hate." The song of that name was a countrified rocker about that relationship, which had ended very badly. "Bring on the hate/ Give me your best shot/ You came too late/ To tell me what I'm not," went the final verse.
He'd met Lisa just a year ago at Café Dia in the Village. She'd been sitting at a table with a girlfriend. Drazy was at a nearby table, drinking black coffee, feeling a little sorry for himself and writing in the notebook that he carried with him in his backpack wherever he went.
He'd noticed her when she'd entered the café. She had brown hair, cut fairly short, and the bluest of eyes. And a smile that was the definition of happy that's what he thought when he first saw her, anyway. He'd written a poem about her smile as he watched her order lunch and chat with her friend. Then he'd gotten up, walked over to her and said quietly, so that only the girl and her friend could hear, "Hi, my name is Drazy Hoops. I know that's a strange name, but it is my name. I'm a songwriter, a singer and a poet, and I wrote this poem for you just now. I hope you'll accept it."
Then he handed her the piece of paper, which he'd torn out of his notebook. She must have thought he was nuts, but she took it, said thank you, and then said she'd read it in a little while. Drazy went back to his table.
After a while the girl Lisa had gotten up and come over to his table and asked if she could sit down. "That's the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said about me," she told Drazy. And that's how it started.
Drazy Hoops wasn't actually his real name. Well, it was, 'cause he'd officially had his name changed; it said Drazy Hoops on his driver's license. But it wasn't the name he was born with. He'd lifted the name off a Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band album, Trout Mask Replica, back when he was a teenager playing really weird rock 'n' roll, music that made Captain Beefheart's music sound, well, almost normal.
So Drazy Hoops had become his stage name, the name he was known by when he played in the Boston Band, Atomic Café he had some fans, after all. As time had passed, his music had changed. He'd released some solo albums after the band busted up; the music on those was kinda weird too. But now the music he made wasn't weird anymore. It was just good, at least that's what the critics who wrote about him said. Sure, it had some eccentric touches just when you thought it was heading way into singer/songwriter territory it would turn a corner and rock, in an abstract way, like crazy. Overall, though, it fit into that alterna-country bag. And then there was his voice, which was so elastic. He could make it sound all low like a private detective, then intimate like a sincere lover, or angry and crazed like that guy he'd given the dollar to.
This week Drazy was in San Francisco, sleeping on a friend's couch, working on completing the songs so he could go back to New York and finish recording the album. He'd spent over a week driving out here in his beat-up black Volkswagen Jetta, writing all along the way.
He sang the line again, louder, with even more soul: "The more things change the more they stay the same/ My kingdom for a cheap cliché."
When he reached the end of Haight Street, where it dead-ends into Golden Gate Park, he turned around and headed back to his car. He'd pretty much nailed it, he figured. He thought of Lisa's smile. Tomorrow he'd start the drive back east.
Drazy Hoops' latest album, Bring on the Hate, is available on Slow Burn Records ( www.slowburnrecords.com).