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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

fifi History 8: Bonus Tracks

NOTE: Citing my notoriously faulty memory and my tendency toward “mendacious untruth” (not my words), various fifi alumni and supporters have graciously added corrections and additions where necessary throughout this series. If there are no corrections in the article below, that must indicate that my recollections are without error.

Eyesight Failing, fifi Sits Bereft and Alone
Amongst the Detritus of a Lifetime Squandered

mlt_reunion

“Through here is the living room; as you can see, we scraped off the textured ceiling and re-painted,” my wife, Robin, was chirping to our guests, proudly showing off our new home. “In here is the bedroom… oops! Guess I should have put these things away before you came over!” As the guided tour wound its way through every room in the house, I paced in the kitchen, teeth clenched. “And down this stairway – watch your head! – is the basement… Jason did a lot of work down here; installing lights and outlets… now it’s so pleasant; not creepy at all…” she trilled annoyingly, and our guests obediently voiced their agreement:

“You’re right!”

“It’s just like a little warm cave down here, isn’t it?”

“Nope, not creepy at all.”

I tracked their progress through the basement by the sounds filtering up through the kitchen floor:

“Oh, these are nice and sturdy…”

“Did you get this shelving at Home Depot?”

“Not many spiders this year…”

They had reached my workbench. I took a breath and held it, counting the seconds, awaiting the inevitable.

“Oh. My. GOD.” came the exclamation from belowdecks, and I released my breath in a defeated sigh. “Beth, come over here! You have GOT to see this…”

Sad to say, I’ve become a curmudgeon in my dotage. And, before you ask: No, I’m not sure what the actual definition of “dotage” is, but in this case I’m referring specifically to my early 40’s.

My wife loves to invite crowds of people over for “game night” or a “soup-tasting party” or just to “hang out,” yakking away about the “cycle of oppression” or the Springfield Historical Commission (“I like to call them the HySTERical Commission!”) or (more frequently) Mark Wahlberg’s pectoral muscles until the wee hours of the morning. If she had her druthers, these freeloaders would just fall asleep in front of the karaoke machine, mid-Freebird, so that we could all have pancakes together the next morning.

Not me. I start getting antsy when guests loiter beyond a reasonable time limit – say, 30 minutes, tops. And I get doubly antsy when those guests start poking around in the “private” areas of my home, by which I mean anything beyond the foyer. I’m telling you: once you allow these Nosy Nellies into your sanctum sanctorum, they feel entitled to start asking questions about your personal belongings.

Questions like:

“If you’re an atheist, why do you have all this Catholic artwork around? Looks like someone’s a little confused!”

or:

“Did you actually read this book by Christopher Hitchens? I found it deeply offensive.”

or:

“Is this some of that sick cartoon pornography I heard about on NPR?”

Those are just hypothetical questions, to give you a general idea. Returning to the guided tour in the basement:

“Yeah, Jason’s a pretty, uh, organized guy,” Robin was offering, somewhat weakly, against a general backdrop of snickering.

“Organized? Try anal-retentive!” came the reply, to unrestrained guffaws. “Or psycho!” another guest chimed in. They continued in that vein for a few minutes, the laughter increasing and my diagnosis worsening with each rejoinder.

Look, I’m the first to admit that I may be a bit… excessive when it comes to organizing. Yes, all of my DVDs are arranged alphabetically by director, then alphabetically by title. Yes, my books are sorted by size and color. And yes, my basement is filled with plastic bins and organizers, all neatly labeled, each containing a narrowly-defined subset of tools or hardware.

I have one bin labeled “Door Hardware,” one labeled “Electrical Faceplates ETC,” another labeled “Audio Connectors,” and so forth. I’m guessing it was the bin labeled “All Manner of TAPE” that sparked the hilarious commentary in the basement.

Yes, I’m organized. Guilty as charged! Yes, I like the flat head screws to be in a different drawer than the pan head screws. Yes, I have a special bin for “String” even though it only contains one half-used roll of fishing line. What of it? My friend – a licensed therapist, mind you – assures me that this does not make me “mentally ill” or – even if it does – at least my mental illness makes it easier to find the string when I need it, so where’s the harm?

Still, my organizational efforts are sometimes thwarted, which is why this bin is necessary:

The “MISC HARDWARE” bin contains confounding items which do not fit neatly into any other bin category. These items are neither “Masonry Tools” nor “Extension Cords”… neither “Surveying Tools” nor “Gutter Hardware”… This catch-all bin is filled to overflowing with the sad accumulate of a basement workshop; scraps of heat-tempered steel or injection-molded plastic without title or lineage; friendless orphans.

Much like the songs in this collection, in fact.

Below, you will find a motley assortment of fifi (or tangentially fifi-related) songs and audio excerpts that don’t belong in any other category. A few are worthwhile, many are not, but I can’t bring myself to delete them. Who knows when I may want that barely comprehensible mono recording of the first Bludgeon practice session? Or that clip of Jah playing “Beat on the Brat” at the MLTSHS Talent Show?

And thus they find a home here, with the rest of the outcasts, in the “Bonus Tracks” bin.

Bonus Tracks: A Listening Guide

The fifi Story – If memory serves… sometime around 1994, I got an itch to do some more recording. A co-worker and I split the cost of a 4-track cassette deck, and I started working on some song ideas with Joey. I had written the lyrics for this song, and recorded the drum track (which I copied from a Neneh Cherry song, “I Ain’t Gone Under Yet”). Joey added some things, but then… I dunno. I sorta lost interest, and left the 4-track deck at my co-worker’s apartment. When I re-claimed the deck several months later, I found that my co-worker had recorded several excellent guitar tracks (thanks for that, Andy). My interest re-ignited, I finally recorded the vocals and mixed the thing, just before handing over the 4-track to a different co-worker (where are you, Brian?). Several years later, I discovered the god-like powers of iMovie and created a video for the song, which I screened at our 20th high school reunion.

KZUU – Good friend and long-time fifi supporter John Burton used to DJ at KZUU, the Washington State University radio station. On one of his red-eye shifts (when nobody would be listening), he pulled a Ricardo Montalban and fulfilled one of my secret fantasies: actually hearing a fifi song played on the radio. Bless you, sir.

Bludgeon Practice Session – Bludgeon was our first fake band, and this is the only existing recording of the only song we wrote: “Thrash on You.” For (ahem) completists only.

Various Spoken Word Snippets – These are all taken from video that Matt shot while we were recording our first few albums at Metrix Studios in Everett, WA.

Jah – When I was a freshman at MLTSHS, many of my Drama friends were seniors. For the yearly talent show, this group of guys (including my future brother-in-law) had formed a band. Their name – Jah – was supposedly an acronym for “Jamaican Animal Husbandry,” but I got the feeling this was the punchline to a joke that everyone had heard but me. A week or so before the talent show, their drummer got cold feet, and I was recruited, I assume because I was always drumming on my desk. For the purposes of this particular act, the drums were congas borrowed from the jazz club, which I ignorantly pounded with bass drum mallets, to the horror of the band teacher.

A friend of Jen’s, Anne Maurer, had an unrequited crush on one of the emcees, and recorded the show on her hand-held cassette deck for the purposes of post-show swooning. Luckily for me, Jen secured a copy of that tape for me.

Before “Johnny B. Goode” you will hear a spoken intro in a faux “European” accent (“Ladeez and Gentelmahn…”), which was intended as a reference to the opening scene of the extended video for Duran Duran’s “New Moon on Monday.” No, seriously.

At the end of “Beat on the Brat” I was so drunk on the audience’s approval that I refused to leave the stage. Even after the curtain fell and I was no longer visible, I kept returning for one more smack at those congas. Just as the clip fades out, you’ll hear a member of the football team yell out, “one more, Jason!” Needless to say, I obliged. Unexpectedly, that particular jock, who had despised and harassed me in the past, transformed into a protective semi-friend after this event. It seems like there must be a valuable lesson to learn from that story, but I couldn’t tell you what that might be.

Video

  1. The fifi Story

Audio

To download any of the songs individually, just right-click on the desired track in the playlist above and select “Save link as…”

To download the entire set in a .zip file, click here.

Lyrics

In case you’re interested (and also because Robin says she can’t understand what the hell we’re singing), the lyrics for this album can be found here.

One Comment

  1. Ho-lee Jebus! I expect my portion of the back royalties must come to a sizable amount. I prefer payment in presedential-series dollar coins, James K. Polk and Rutherford B. Hayes issues preferred.

    Thanks ever so much,
    Andy

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