One of my favorite songs on the new album is Great Big Beautiful World, a bossa nova inspired mellow ballad that I really like playing. I like playing it so much I want to teach people how to do it!
This is the jazz/electric guitar version, which is the featured instrument on the recording. I also made a tutorial for an acoustic guitar version, which is a little simpler and has more open chords that sound good on acoustic. That’s below.
One of my favorite songs on The Opposite of Afterglow, the new album from The Green L.E.D.s project, is the bossa nova infused ballad Great Big Beautiful World. It’s probably the one I’m the most proud of too. I really like the chord progression and I think the melody weaves through it and ties it together nicely.
I’m also really happy with the lyrics. Not only do they match the feel of the music, they express something I’ve been feeling a lot the last several years—a peaceful awe of being in the moment infused with a dose of melancholy from being aware of the absolute shit-show we humans make of this place.
Anyway, enough of me talking about it, lemme play it:
Learn how to play the song here!
Back in the day whenever I would post a clip of me playing something, someone would inevitably comment “tabs,” demanding guitar tabs for whatever I played. Since I like this song so much and would be beyond flattered and thrilled if anyone else wanted to play it, I made not 1 but 2 guitar tutorials for it! The first tutorial is for the jazz guitar version I play here, the second is an acoustic guitar version that uses more open chords and is a little simpler. (It’s the acoustic guitar part layered in the background of the studio recording). Check ’em out and play along!
I’m not a drag act but I’m really annoyed with all of the anger, vitriol, and threats that have been hurled at them lately so I wrote this song.
On the upside, a Federal judge struck down a Tennessee law banning drag shows, and hopefully the moral panickers will come to their senses soon and worry about things that are actually dangerous in the real world, not just their fevered imaginations.
Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy the tune. Music, lyrics, and arrangement by me; hair & makeup by snapchat and TikTok filters.
Car maker, industrialist, and noted anti-semite Henry Ford hated the jazz music that was popular in the late teens and twenties. And like most things he hated he figured jazz’s popularity was due to a Jewish conspiracy. Ford’s paper, The Dearborn Independent, printed weekly anti-Jewish essays for 91 straight weeks. Those essays were popular in Germany in the 1930s which is not a ringing endorsement of one’s values.
Two of those essays centered on jazz music and how it was immoral, corrupting “moron music” that was being forced on American by Jewish song trusts out to make money and ruin the country from within.
So to make fun of Ford for this insane belief—and to remind everyone what a jerk he was about it—I wrote him a 1920s-style jazz song. Enjoy!
Since the release of The American Songbook: Redacted studio album back in October I’ve been working on videos for the songs, with the goal of eventually putting them together with introductions and wraparound material from the live show for a complete visual album. In the meantime I thought, ”wouldn’t it be great if there were a place where all the released videos were nicely organized so people could easily enjoy them?”
So I did that! It’s right here! I’ll add to this post as new videos come out. Enjoy!
Beep! Beep! Outta the Way!
Henry Ford, the car guy, was so revered that he offered his opinions on subjects outside of the auto industry. To that end, he bought the Dearborn Independent to disseminate his views, including his hatred of the new popular music “jazz” that the kids were listening and dancing to. And like everything Henry Ford hated, he blamed it on Jewish people.
So, to make fun of him for his dislike of jazz, and to remind everyone what a dick he was about it, I wrote him this jazz song. Enjoy!
Plug Your Ears and Sing!
Stephen Foster was one of America’s first songwriting superstars, and a lot of his songs were written for the minstrel shows of the 1850s, since they were the predominant form of popular entertainment in the 19th Century. We don’t learn much about that history, or the history of racism in the U.S., and with several states enacting laws banning the teaching of divisive concepts, we’re ensuring that the next generation will learn even less.
So that’s what I wrote my Foster-style song about: people being so uncomfortable with history they’d rather it not be taught at all. Some people would prefer you just Plug Your Ears and Sing!
The Ballad of Lou Pearlman
Fraudsters and con artists are as ingrained in U.S. history as robber barons, pioneers, inventors, and innovators. In a country that celebrates outside-the-box thinkers, sometimes people think outside the box of what’s legal. They’re the flipside of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet (more about Henry Ford soon).
So when it came time to pick an American fraudster to profile in The American Songbook: Redacted (let’s do AS:R from here on out) I had plenty to choose from. Madoff? Boring. Ponzi? Fascinating! But there was one guy who did something with the money he conned that no one else did. He gave us boybands!
Behold, The Ballad of Lou Pearlman!
Corporations Are People Too!
I wanted to make sure there was at least one really peppy, uplifting number in AS:R so I took inspiration from some of the sunshine pop of the 60s and 70s, songs like Age of Aquarius, Up With People, Kids are People Too! Subject-wise I wanted to tackle a concept that has long fascinated and aggravated me: corporate personhood.
With the help of my good friend Dan Pavelich, who did the amazing illustrations and character design, I came up with this bubbly, overly-optimistic tune Corporations Are People Too!
The Invisible Hand
In addition to history I wanted to examine some fundamental myths we have as a culture, and one of the big ones for us is that the free market will create the best of all possible worlds. From Reagan to tech-bro libertarians there is an unquestioned (and unprovable) belief that letting everyone pursue their own self interest will result in an efficient and just distribution of resources.
This concept is summed up in Scottish philosopher Adam Smith’s metaphor of “the invisible hand.” As in: the market will be guided as if by an invisible hand to the best possible outcomes.
To me “the invisible hand” sounds less like a metaphor for capitalism and more like a villainous organization in a James Bond movie, so I decided to write a James Bond-style movie theme on the subject. I’m incredibly proud of the arrangement I did for the song on the album and absolutely blown away by the visuals my friends Peggy & Steve put together for the video.
Cue voiceover by Don LaFontaine: “In a world where events are controlled by an unseeable force, one man… must fight… to make fun of it all…”
The Invisible Hand
The Great Disappointment of 1844
The end of the world, specifically people interpreting the Book of Revelation to try to predict it, is an idea deeply embedded in the American psyche, and I don’t think we truly appreciate how much it informs a lot of people’s worldview. Growing up my dad watched a lot of evangelical Christian shows and read a lot of books like The Late Great Planet Earth, that tied current events to various Bible prophesies.
Everyone who’s ever predicted the end of the world has one thing in common: they’ve all been wrong. Including the time in 1844 when so many people were convinced the world was going to end within the year that when it didn’t it was called The Great Disappointment.
And since “Great Disappointment” makes a great title for an emo song, not to mention that waiting for a Second Coming has the angsty teen vibes of waiting for your parents to pick you up a the movies, I wrote an emo song about it.
The Great Disappointment of 1844
The People That Were Already Here
Another concept that looms large in the American personality is the Frontier Myth, the idea that America is an open land of opportunity where rugged individuals will succeed if they are strong and have the grit. While that’s a lovely idea it completely overlooks the fact that there were tons of people already living in the American west so it wasn’t exactly wide open, available land.
Stories and songs about cowboys and western adventurers were hugely popular in America, from the river towns of the Midwest to the cities back east. So to examine this myth, and to bump it up against the reality of western expansion, I wrote a western song. I even played a lap steel!
The video came out on a bank holiday in mid-October, now known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the background picture is one I actually took down in Marfa, Texas!
Please enjoy The People That Were Already Here
In the 80s & 90s there was a moral panic in which accusations of ritual satanic abuse got so out of hand people were convicted of crimes on no evidence and entire communities turned against each other. It got thrown into overdrive by a debunked memoir called Michelle Remembers, and fueled by sensationalist coverage everywhere from Geraldo to 60 minutes.
Soon people were looking for the devil everywhere, including in heavy metal music, which makes heavy metal the perfect genre with which to satirize this ridiculousness.
It’s a subject that needs to be ridiculed because people are still throwing accusations of devils and demons today (I’m looking at you Lauren Boebert,) so I implore you no to forget the Satanic Panic
Did you know the state song of Florida, “Old Folks at Home,” was written for a minstrel show? That’s not even an April Fool’s joke, that’s the dog’s honest truth!
So for this year’s April 1st festivities, I figured why not try to get Florida to replace their outdated song with the Stephen Foster-style song “Plug Your Ears and Sing!” from my latest show and album? Even better, my song is about being so uncomfortable with the history of racism in the U.S. that people don’t want it to be taught in schools in places like… Florida! (and Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, oh there are too many to mention)
So this year instead of swapping the salt and the sugar, or putting the Rice Krispies in the Cherrios box, let’s lobby the state of Florida to get rid of the song that had people “still longin’ for the old plantation” and replace it with Plug Your Ears and Sing! It perfectly sums up what their government wants teachers to do when the subject of racism comes up so it should be a slam dunk.
You can even use the handy poster at the bottom of this page for your socials!
Either way, enjoy the song and video, I bought a cheap wig and a set of 6 fake mustaches for it!
The latest video from The American Songbook: Redacted is up!
The song is inspired by my fascination with fraudsters–from Ponzi to Theranos and everything in between. Our culture’s idolization of financial success mixed with our belief that you can always reinvent yourself and “fake it ‘til you make it” (a phrase that originated in a multi-level marketing scheme) makes the U.S. fertile ground for schemers, charlatans, and con artists.
But when it came time to choose which con-artist to sing about in my show, the deciding factor was that Lou Pearlman did something with the money that he stole that no one else did: he gave us boy bands.
Here’s my new lyric video for Corporations Are People Too! is out! It’s the peppiest, grooviest, upliftingest track from my latest album The American Songbook: Redacted, and the video is a collaboration with Dan Pavelich, a multi-talented artist and good friend.
What on Earth does Corporations Are People Too! even mean?
Remember when Mitt Romney said, “corporations are people, my friend”? He was referring to the concept of corporate personhood, which can make sense when needing an entity to sign a contract, but gets weird when the Supreme Court says their personhood entitles them to religious beliefs.
So I decided to make fun of this concept the best way I know how: a comedy song!
Inspired by the sunshine pop of the 60s and 70s, I’m really happy with the way this arrangement came together. And sticking with that era as inspiration, I asked Dan to create illustrations in the style of Hanna Barbara, Schoolhouse Rock, and a lot of the other stuff we Gen-Xers grew up with. He totally nailed the style and I couldn’t be happier with this video.
I hope you like it, and check out the other tunes on the album!
I don’t know if Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith meant for his metaphor of “The Invisible Hand” to sound as creepy as it does, but to me it sounds like a criminal organization in a James Bond movie. So when I wanted to satirize the concept of the invisible hand in my show and album The American Songbook: Redacted, I figured the best way to do it would be in the style of a James Bond title sequence!
Musically I’m really proud of the arrangement on the album, I did my best to capture the campy swagger of classic 60s/70s James Bond movies and those iconic John Barry soundtracks. My good friends Peggy O’Brien & Steven Rosenthal, both funny and talented filmmakers, offered to put together a title sequence style video for my live show, and when I saw how amazing the video turned out I knew I had to make it into a lyric video.
The Great Disappointment is a thing that actually happened, when a Bible scholar convinced thousands of people that the 2nd Coming was going to happen in 1843 or 1844. Dates came and went, and the final, for sure, no-doubt-about-it date of October 22, 1844 passed with nothing happening.
Some people lost faith, some people redoubled their faith, and some people said that something did happen that day but no one saw it. Either way, “The Great Disappointment” makes a good title for an emo rock song, so that’s what I set out to make. Another band uses the name for a song that’s not ostensibly about the historical event so I added “of 1844” to be specific and differentiate.
We all know Henry Ford as the car guy, the man who adopted the assembly line, made affordable cars, and whose company changed transportation and manufacturing, but did you know he had some strong opinions about music?
He hated the popular music of the teens and twenties, what was starting to be called jazz. He thought it was crude, vulgar, a bad influence on young people, and he blamed its popularity on a Jewish conspiracy. He blamed a lot of things on the Jews. So many, in fact, that he bought a newspaper and had them publish a weekly anti-Jewish column. It ran for 91 weeks.
Musically the old man preferred the old timey music he found wholesome so he heavily promoted square dancing and fiddle contests. Did you take square dancing in grade school gym class? Thank Henry Ford.
So I figured the best way to make fun of all of this ridiculousness would be to write Henry Ford a 1920s-style jazz song. It’s featured in my new show The American Songbook: Redacted!
To sing Madonna’s Get Into the Groove I needed to lower the vocal an octave and somehow I ended up sounding more like Peter Murphy from Bauhaus, so I decided to lean into it. Enjoy Mads the Goth!
Neil Diamond’s “Heartlight”
Neil Diamond and Burt Bacharach walk into a movie theater to see E.T. The Extraterrestrial and they walk out thinking “we gotta write a song about that!” So they did and this is that.
Watch Heartlight by Neil Diamond
Watch Take This Job And Shove It!
Take This Job And Shove It!
This classic country song, originally sung by Johnny Paycheck, is a prime example of why you should never, ever take career advice from country music! On the upside it inspired a movie of the same name, the climax of which is Robert Hays telling his boss to, you guessed it, take his job and shove it!
Back In Time
Speaking of movies, we have this classic from Back to the Future! Because you can’t go back to the future unless you first go Back in Time!
Watch Back in Time by Huey Lewis AND the News!
Watch The Trucker Classic: “Convoy!”
Still speaking of movies, this song was so popular they made a movie out of it! And the movie starred a better country music songwriter who had nothing to do with the song! Kris Kristofferson played Rubber Duck in the movie based on this CW McCall (a pseudonym for Bill Fries) song; so, that’s weird.
OK, so I guess every song in this Greatest Hits has something to do with a movie (Get Into the Groove was featured in Madonna’s screen debut Desperately Seeking Susan if you were wondering). But this one takes the purple cake because Purple Rain is the name of the song, album, AND movie! I even turned on the reverb for this one!
Closed beaches and social distancing will not keep me from getting some sun! And to celebrate I did a 60s beach pop style song about the only place I can responsibly sunbathe: the fire escape of my Brooklyn apartment. Enjoy!
Well, the beach is closed and I need some sun but when I go out I can’t avoid everyoneI wanna get some sunbeams on my face But I gotta give everybody their space So that means I can only go to one place…
I’m catching rays (rays, rays, catching rays) On the fire escape (scape, scape, fire escape) It’s been too many days (days, days, too many days) How much more can I take (take, take, what can I take?) I’m going out of my mind I need some sunshine That’s why I’m catching rays on the fire escape
I got a beer and a shot (shot, shot, a beer and a shot) And the wind in my hair (… “shut up!”) I always get a spot (spot, spot, get a spot) Cuz no one’s ever there (I’m so alone) Oh, here are no ocean sounds But it’s the best place that I’ve found To avoid people cuz it’s 12 feet off the ground
I’m catching rays (rays, rays, catching rays) On the fire escape (scape, scape, fire escape) I hope it’s just a phase (phase, phase, just a phase) It’s really not that great (it’s not that great) It’s not sexy at all And there’s a chance that I could fall When I’m catching rays on the fire escape
I can’t play any frisbee, I can’t lie in the sand I can do two whole things, I can sit or I can stand I smile at people far away as they walk by my place But I don’t know f they’re smiling back cuz they’re covering their face
I’m catching rays (rays, rays, catching rays) On the fire escape (scape, scape, fire escape) Can’t catch any waves (waves, waves, catch any waves) I’ll never get in shape (I’m getting fat) It’s not a perfect plan But at least I’ll get a tan When I’m catching rays on the fire escape I’m catching rays on the fire escape I’m tired of catching rays on the fire escape