Monday, June 30, 2014

School for the Dead is no longer School for the Dead

Well friends, it's official. We've changed our name to Gentle Hen. The old name was just no good. Forget it.

What does this mean about the Living Rockumentary? I'm not sure. It's clearly not been much of thing as of late. Twitter and Facebook and Microwave Ovens have kind of rendered it a bit useless.

I don't know.

I don't know. Really, I don't.

We're making a new album and it'll be under the name Gentle Hen. We've already played a few shows as Gentle Hen. It's who we are now.

Nothing about us has changed besides the name. We're still us. You're still you.

Visit us over at
Join us at
Follow us at

We'll be there. This Rockumentary? I don't know.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New recordings

Recently a colleague of mine and I recorded a few songs (Henning engineering) we worked out in duet form for performances at assorted school events. He sings lead and I contribute harmonies plus guitar (or ukulele) on our covers of Beach Boys, Beatles and Ritchie Valens songs. The last track in the group is a song I wrote last summer and sing lead on called "The Other Side."

Wednesday, April 02, 2014



Rusty Waters (nee Brooks): lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
Dexter Prescott (Alfonse Dumfries): lead guitar, vocals
Henry Harold LaBouche: electric bass guitar, harpsichord, vocals
Brian Free (nee Todd): drums, vocals

The Scenario was a 1960s American rock ‘n’ roll group that recorded four albums and several singles between 1965 and 1968, after which a few of the members floundered with ill-conceived solo enterprises before fading into obscurity.

Like most bands of the day, their early singles were raw affairs, touching on garage rock and r&b. Rusty Waters came on as a slightly lustier Mick Jagger on these 45s, the best of which include “Pleadin’ Heart” and their mod anthem, complete with harp feedback, “I’m Not Sure.” An early B-side worth seeking out, “Shakespearespeak” finds the band incorporating harpsichord and hammered dulcimer, both played by classically-trained LaBouche, into their otherwise primitive wail.

Their debut album, “Hear It Is: The Scenario” collects early singles, token r&b covers (“Mercy Mercy,” “Hitch Hike,” etc.) and the first indications of sharpening compositional skills. While Waters sang most leads and was the de facto front man, the band took a democratic approach to songwriting, despite some members being more accomplished in this area than others. Nonetheless, the group could deliver the goods, filling their second album, “Intercontinental Breakfast” with gems like “Sidecar Sally” featuring Waters at his strutting best, the pensive “Glum-Go-Round,” the nursery-rhyme-like “Mermaids ‘n’ Marmalade” as well as LaBouche’s deft updating of Beethoven on the pretty-yet-peppy “Fur Lease.” Even the minor writers in the group, Prescott and Free, held up their end on the sophomore effort, sweetening “Breakfast” with standout tracks like “The Evil Me” and “Smile, Smile, Smile,” respectively.

When the Summer of Love hit, The Scenario were riding high with their psychedelic trophy, “Dr. Tangle.” That #1 single (in Luxembourg) was the centerpiece of their ’67 release, the double album, “Candcane Junglegym,” which featured the group on the cover decked out in candy-striped suits frolicking on a similarly striped jungle gym flanked by a gaggle of go-go girls in red and white swimsuits. Nonetheless, the music contained within marked the band in their prime, ambitious and confident and just teetering on self-indulgence. “Dr. Tangle” was catchy singalong psychedelia, “Gatilaja” a successful attempt at Eastern-flavored raga-rock, “Besideways” a blueprint for some San Francisco-esque experimentation and “Mary Magpie” would’ve made McCartney proud. The album is not without its faults: “Brian Vs. The Banjo” parts 1, 2, and 3 along with “Banjo For Sale, Name Your Price” (one installment per side of the ongoing saga) is inessential piffle at best. In addition, the production throughout the album can be dated and/or heavy-handed, especially when the songs aren’t up to snuff. Cases in point: the heavily-phased vocals on “Picorocos Locos” (aka “Crazy Fish”) or the lengthy flanged wah-wah guitar freakout jam coda of “Sula Hama Manestra (Exodus).”

However, as Waters tumbled into heavy drug use and Prescott busied himself with outside projects related to his newfound spiritual endeavors, the band wound up with a dearth of good material for what would be their final LP. “Guards of the Ancients,” released in the spring of 1968, is not entirely without merits: drummer Free turns in a solid vocal on the melodic “Let It Love,” for instance, but the good vibes are resoundingly destroyed by Side Two’s one-two punch of Waters’ interminable, flat lust-funk jam “Midsummer Night’s Cream” followed by Prescott’s long-winded eleven-minute spoken-word opus, “So Saith The Lord.”

Soon after their breakup, Waters released a hapless solo album, “Israel Royale,” an unappetizing mélange of Yiddish melodies and Tom Jones-like crooning, then delved into a junkie nightmare existence that lasted until the early 80s. Currently, a clean Waters runs a nightclub in Houston, Texas called “Karaoke Kafe” and his jukebox is said to contain one of the few hard-to-find original copies of the first Scenario single, “Cryin’ Shame” b/w “All Day Long.” Labouche turned mainly to production, overseeing the careers of chanteuse Maudie Lynne and the family vocal group, The Shermans. He released one solo album in 1975, “Axe of God,” full of fussy art rock pomp and circumstance but short on substance. Prescott drifted into obscurity, forsaking popular music for religion but a bootleg album of his home demos of folksy spiritual material still floats around among collectors. A handful of the songs are occasionally catchy in their own right but time has most definitely not been kind to Prescott’s leathery voice. Meanwhile, Free eventually settled in Los Angeles, becoming a popular late-night deejay spinning cult favorites from the early days of rock and roll to the present. He is superstitious about his former band and will only play one track by The Scenario per show, upon request, on Tuesdays only, and insists that interns physically handle the actual records. Reportedly, Free will also leave the room during broadcast. In addition, the final album in its entirety is strictly forbidden, and Free steadfastly refuses to sign copies of anything Scenario-related.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A new song

I feel like I'm whispering in an empty room but I am twitterless, sans facebook, etc. However, in case a reader still lurks within these dusty passageways, I would like to share the result of an experience yesterday.
I don't write songs just to write songs anymore but occasionally there will be a reason for doing so in one of my classes, or at least the opportunity will be there to write along with students and it is a joy to reconnect with the muse.
One of my classes is currently reading the Alison Bechdel graphic memoir "Fun Home" (and lest you get the wrong idea: while that is quite an eye-raising selection for a high school curriculum, know that the previous text read was the deathless "Wuthering Heights." My bio does not lie: everything from Tchaikovsky to Fugazi, Cervantes to Cisneros, etc.) Anyway, one of the assignments is a vocab project where students are asked to choose from a list of 30 vocab words found in the text and to create a project that incorporates those ten words in a way that conveys understanding. The objective is to crawl inside the words so that they can fit into the scope of whatever your narrative or artwork communicates. The project has to be presented as well. So you don't just write a song lyric; you also would have to write music and perform it for the class. Other options include creating a comic strip that tells a story, making a short film, etc. For instance, one kid who has completed his project wrote a comedy sketch between a father and son where the dad is helping the son study. Meanwhile, one student, who is incredibly talented when it comes to singing and playing guitar, has had difficulty getting started, rejecting the notion that a song she would compose should ever contain words like "assiduous." Of course this only inspires me more to continue encouraging her to open her mind to the possibilities. So this found me taking her objection and writing a song that ironically expresses disdain for the assignment while also fully embraces it. Ten minutes to plow through the lyrics and another five to fashion some jazzy chords to complement the words. Sometimes the muse just jumps in the driver's seat and whisks one away. Here it is:

When I write songs, it has to come from the heart
I must truly feel every word I incorporate
I don’t just blithely drop big words in the lyrics
That is an idea I completely repudiate

Such a thing offends my sense of aesthetics
I am indignant that this be forced upon me
I demur at the idea that these big words
Be sprinkled throughout my song so pervasively

It’s implausible that this could ever help me learn
What a trite idea to teach vocab this way
No matter how meticulous or assiduous am I in this task
The meaning's ambiguous no matter what I say

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Tribute and also Another Tribute

Look at this. We're playing in a Lou Reed tribute show this week.  Next week, we're playing in an XTC tribute show.

We like both those bands lots so it works out.

Thursday - January 9, 2013
Lou Reed Tribute Show
The Iron Horse Music Hall - Northampton, MA
with: Lo Fine, Goldwater the Second, Rusty Belle, Daniel Hales and the Frost Heaves, Rocky Roberts and Friends, Skeg, Lucas, and Dana Kendall, Mark Mulcahy, Fancy Trash, Lonesome Brothers, Luke Cavagnac, Winterpills, The Fawns, and School for the Dead.
7:00 - Get Tickets

Saturday - January 18, 2013
XTC Tribute Show
The Elevens - Northampton, MA
with: Ken Maiuri, School for the Dead, Brian T Marchese, Steve Koziol, ALOTTLE, Rick Murnane , Colorway, John Crand , The Dire Honeys, Luke Cavagnac, Jack Simons, Philip Price, Jeff Steblea, Mark Alan Miller, Alyssa Marchese , Matt Silberstein and maybe a surprise guest or two!
9:00 - Tickets at door

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Another Vine

This one is called "When a Teacher and Student Accidentally Switch i-pods."

(It might be hard to tell if you haven't been to our school's fitness center but those are anti-bacterial wipes on the wall).