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Audio Refugees • View topic - Curse of the Wayward Youth

Curse of the Wayward Youth

The old AudioRefugee Review Forum - where we kept the fire burning for a few years while we were building the Audiopolis Review System and website.

Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby steban » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:08 am

Here is one of my earliest PC Cubasis VST songs, I love the soundfonts, big string sounds if not a little noisy, but that was likely just my setup at the time. I'm using a Creative Labs desktop mic.

I don't know what to call this music. It's a brass/string quartet avante garde classical thing with lots of chords. Actually it is song 2 in my mini rock opera. I suppose a lot of us have tried or considered writing some thematic/dramatic epic work. I had 5 songs. Hud's going to Broadway, I can relate.

I've cleaned it up a little, seems a little clearer than on the original CD to me. It is so loud I am cracking in places, but it is almost in control for the lofi that it is.

Just thought I'd put it up, it never made GB even though it has always been a personal favorite of mine. This is one of those out of the mist songs. I'd be interested as always to hear your reactions on any and all levels.

Curse of the Wayward Youth 128.mp3
(4.27 MiB) Downloaded 221 times


Johnny Can't Drive

by Steve Bancroft

I. Johnny Can't Drive

Johnny can’t drive no more
He can’t even go to the store
He’s riding the bus to school
He feels like an awful fool
He had to quit the job he had
A side effect of being bad
Once he was a football star
Now they’re gonna repossess his car

Oh Johnny, why did you do it?
It was bad for you, and you knew it
Now society’s not gonna take it
If it's a bad habit, then they’re gonna break it
He thought that he would go so far
But he was caught with cigarettes in his car


Now Johnny’s got a fast food job
And he’s working his way through college
But he wanted popularity
So he joined my fraternity
Then they caught him with a beer on his way to class
It was his final lesson – they expelled his ass
Now Johnny’s got a fast food job
In the interruption of pursuit of knowledge

No he didn’t give up, and he didn’t give in
Working all the while as hard as one can
He had heart, he was smart, hoped society'd forgive
These minor indiscretions and let him oneday live
But he'd known his destiny was not to be the football star
Ever since they found a pack of Camels in his car

He thought he’d be respected once he had his degree
Now he’s been rejected by society

(3:58)

II. Curse of the Wayward Youth

Perhaps it is a hint of truth
That is the curse of the wayward youth
Why first so many act rebelliously
When they grow weary err so jealously
To trade statements made by hair and tattoos
For suits and ties and job interviews

To say I oversimplify
And thus delude more to defy
Without concern for what is good
For what is best left understood
By wiser men who've come before
Who know the prize behind each door
Who fear the falling near the brink
The inherent danger if you think

I agree with them, such danger is there
But there is danger everywhere
And wonder why the wise before
Could not find peace
Would opt for war

So what is a man without a mind?
What is art if one is blind?
Are we civilized or domesticated?
Has being good been overrated?
Are you too skinny?
Are you too fat?
How much is too many?
How thin too flat?
Our world is shaped by each decision
And it's from trial and error we reach precision

I only share a simple story
Which doesn't end with fame or glory
To be the hero, to be the star
But to be no more than who you are

(4:47)

III. Job Interview

It's really a pleasure you could come here today
Can I call you Johnny? Do you have a resume?
I apologize you had to wait, but you were applicant number 28
So let's get started, I'm running late
You did turn in the cup, I just want to be sure
They often mess up, what I have to endure!
There's much we can cover, I'll explain the procedure
It saves time, it's the way I prefer to begin
They'll call me the minute the results come in

So first we'll want to see if your piss turned bright blue
And if that turns out negative a hair follicle will do
And to catch the sneakiest we have a lie detector test
But that is not enough, no, you won't be finished yet!
After that I'll access where you've surfed the internet
I hope you've never searched the web for, you know, pornography
And it only to takes a minute to check your credit history

You might think we ask too much for such a lowly job
But you would be mistaken, your rights we do not rob
Privacy is just a privilege, it's not even in the Constitution!
But we clearly have the right to know, it's called freedom of information
That's why everywhere you'll get it on every application
So if you get this far, you'll need a physical. We'll pay!
It all will be so much simpler when we can check your DNA.

Now this is good! It says here you were once a football star
But tell me all about the time you had cigarettes in your car
You admit then you're a smoker, so you're a health insurance risk
Yes, every detail's pertinent, is there anything we missed?

We're a huge conglomerate, a multinational corporation
We can afford and attract the very best with our sterling reputation
Oh, those stories in the news last week are hardly worth a mention
The press has always been a wee bit prone to exaggeration

I see you went to college, but alas, you were expelled
I'll be honest with you, Johnny, you have a snowball's chance in hell
Personally I like you, but if I recommend they hire you
I would be forced to fire you, and they might fire me as well

(3:12)

It's bad business giving people breaks
Such a waste to make avoidable mistakes
Wouldn't you, in my position
Come to the same decision?

Good luck, Johnny, good luck
Thanks for coming by
Sorry I couldn't help you
I'm sure you will get by

Good luck, Johnny, good luck
I'm sure you will be fine
Sorry this didn't work out
Now maybe on your way out
You could send in 29

It was great to meet you, Johnny
Good luck and good bye

Oh Johnny, why did you do it?
It was bad for you, and you knew it
Now society’s not gonna take it
If it's a bad habit, then they’re gonna break it
He thought that he would go so far
He thought he'd be a superstar

IV. High School Reunion

The next time I saw him was at our high school reunion
He was standing at the bar
"It's been 25 years since I last saw you, Johnny
I've been wondering how the hell you are!
You were on the offense, and I was on the defense
And it was such a shame the way they took away your license
We were equally as guilty
I guess some of us were lucky
You know we'd thought you'd be the superstar."

Well, he looked me in the eye
And I could tell that he was high
He said, "You might find this just a little ironic
I ended up being an auto mechanic
Found a good wife, we have a son and a daughter
And I converted an old Cadillac so it would run on water
Now I work for myself, I do a car or two a day
It only takes an hour, and I like it that way
My lungs may be black, but my mind is still bold
And it's a comfort to know I don't have cancer of the soul."

Then he finished his beer and put out his cigarette
And he looked at me like I was someone easy to forget
Yet I understood more clearly
Than any words I might have said
"Take it easy, Johnny, the best is still ahead."
I could have told my story, but it would make one cry
Of broken dreams and dead end schemes without a reason why
Instead I lit a cigarette and drank another beer
And wished there was an easy way to exit out of here

V. Privilege vs. Right

Rights are guaranteed
But privileges bestowed
And thus we must embark upon
A long and rocky road
So is it fair to say
You reap the crop you sow
Or are you better off today
Than you were four years ago?
But these little, subtle injustices
Remain subjects for each time
And freedom in its ugliness
Will tolerate some crime
Order seems to go with Law
But often Chaos rules supreme
Like pots calling kettles black
Or fantasy a dream

Oh Johnny, why did you do it?
It was bad for you, and you knew it
Now society’s not gonna take it
If it's a bad habit, then they’re gonna break it
He thought that he would go so far
But he was caught with cigarettes in his car
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby pharquartt » Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:43 am

do you write the lyrics first and then try to "fit" the music to them, or the reverse?

lo-fi is definitely in effect here to the point of distorting the vocals badly, but still legible. darn synth drowned everything else out!

reminded me of the olde troubadours, strumming their lutes, whilst telling the tales of the realm. only electrified.
now is the infinite opposite
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby steban » Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:47 pm

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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby Krispy » Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:31 am

Blimey Stebs, this must be the most cohesive tune I've heard from you yet. Your singing is rather good, bearing quite distinctive emotion and drama, and I can actually hear a melody - not a bad one either - and it happens more than once!
I'm very relieved that the reverb is in the back room, although there's a lot of distortion on the vocals which is detracting a lot from the performance. Despite that, there are some really nicely done notes; do I hear a little vibrato through the buzz?
It really is quite avante-garde, with hints of spaghetti western, and has your usual 'lyrics shall conquer all' approach. It sounds like a King Lear soliloquy put to music. But surely there are many more words on the page than in the song? :eek:
To save time, assume I know everything
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby Steve Ison » Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:05 pm

I really enjoyed this Steban-Very interesting track with an unusual,angular chord progression..
Its like early Bowie or even a proggy Scott Walker in its grand melodrama
with that wonderful exotic whiff of bohemian europa arty pretentiousness (i like)..


Atmospheric,evocative n genuinelly strange.
Your vocal performance is really good...Crooning n confident n naturally expressive
Melodically very free over the chords you have..Its like i'm getting all the best bits from your vocal approach here (the free-spirited phrasing n natural melody) but none of the
lazy 1st take filler with clumbsily phrased bits n meandering-non-tune i often get from large sections of your tracks

I agree with KIm-Definitely one of the best things i've ever heard from you

8-) n distinctive..

I think even cj would see some value n merit in this..

What happened to the other bits of the operetta btw?
Keepin' it unreal
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby steban » Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:16 pm

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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby cjdenecia » Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:36 pm

you can't handle the truth.

nor do you want to ...
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby steban » Sun Apr 24, 2011 3:58 am

Thanks, cj, for reviewing my songs again. This older song is much more organized, but to say I achieved exactly what I had in mind, I don't think so. Anyway, the near future should prove interesting musically for me. The question is will any of it stick?

In a sense we all have our early songs to borrow from to form new songs, especially if nobody knows our old songs. Sometimes the old idea manifests itself anew, playing the same melody, or a variation of it, with all new instruments and mood.

Anyway, I also get song ideas like Insectivor stuck in my head, I'm not gonna eat a bug! about the marketing effort to push insect based food products in the western market.

I do think the lyrics are key to a great song. But I also do think a classy melody and avante garde approach, not overly minimalistic, is a way to go.

Anyway, I'll try to get the last three songs cleaned up. I actually submitted the words to Right Vs. Privilege to the Who's Who of American Poets Contest, and they published it in the book that year, even invited me to Washington DC to read it out loud, I believe, but I couldn't make it.

No, I'm staying in the haunted room where Gram died, so I suspect some sort of inspiration from that.

Actually, the last time I stayed in a haunted hotel was in Wales when I visited shankarji. I had written the first words to American on the A1 on a sheet of hotel stationary and had folded it up and left it on the desktop. The next day, when I unfolded the paper, the sheet had been cut in two diagonal parallel lines in the middle of the page. I have no explanation.
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby cjdenecia » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:15 am

you can't handle the truth.

nor do you want to ...
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby steban » Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:44 am

Some people answer questions, some tell stories. I guess I belong to the latter group, dude.

No, I didn't plan any of that reply out, it just seemed to answer your question at the time while allowing me to write a little story as a bonus.

Indeed this is a positive reaction from me to your review, and although I like positive feedback as much as the next person, I very much want to take it seriously and in a perspective that might make my future musical efforts more successful. Same with future video efforts, don't want to turn a blind eye.

So I have to step back and examine what it all means. First, it doesn't mean that I should revert to what I was doing in 2001, but it does mean I ought to pay more attention to the things I like to do with midi, something I have mostly neglected lately in order to try to play things more live.

When I fake a guitar lead or drums, I am painfully aware how clueless I am about the nuances and long for real guitarists and drummers who can perform the sorts of parts the song idea calls for. Hey, you see a lot of this in my recent songs- except the bad guitar etc. I play is not as bearable a model as the more precise midi on a good day. You as primarily a singer/songwriter, like myself, fully understand where I'm coming from.

These early songs were written and recorded before any song of mine had ever been reviewed blindly. Pre-GB. In such a vacuum there is a freedom and fantasy and almost an innocence, and certainly a naivete that I have largely lost by now. My hope was always that the songs that proved over time to have sticking power I would try to revitalize, either doing my parts better (most likely with good help) or finding partners who could do it better than I could ever do alone or at all.

As far as how the Johnny Can't Drive came about, it began with the two things, the ambition to create an epic rock concept album like my greatest rock heroes did, and the desire to focus it on a social issue that symbolized to me the quandary of the modern person, the tension between social responsibility and individuality. The Johnny story just fit at the time, and it seems so preposterous yet could be true, and it allowed me to go off on some tangents.

The music I must credit partly the wonderful soundfonts, so much higher quality than my earlier equipment could produce, and it was inspirational. I wanted to create songs that showed off these big new sounds in different ways. The Curse and Right vs. Privilege were both string/pad driven compositions. Johnny and Reunion were both multipart songs with big arrangements, verses, bridges, choruses, drums, designed to fit the lyrics. Job Interview was a midi drums/guitar experiment in midi metal that ended up feeling as dysfunctional as the interview and became a spoken word piece.

I am answering here for both threads, OK?

What is most welcome from your review, and everyone else's, ceej, is that my musical intuitions actually sound fairly musical at times. That's all I need to go forward and write the next song. And it will often come out not as good as it could with more help, but it might still come out acceptable.
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby Steve Ison » Mon Apr 25, 2011 3:26 pm

Keepin' it unreal
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Re: Curse of the Wayward Youth

Postby steban » Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:38 pm

I can't say I was ever aware of Scott, but I did listen to a few songs/snippets just now, and he reminds me of the guy from Vanilla Fudge as both did these grandiose covers in the day, both such big melodramatic voices. I can see how he influenced Bowie and maybe even Ray Davies.

Apparently he is still performing and recording, always nice to hear, and has gone on to be far more original and experimental. I will have to dig deeper, Steve, and I can see how you might compare Curse to him. Thanks!

I am more likely to have gotten influenced via Bowie and Davies doing Scott style stuff.
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