In the summer of 2000 I had just finished graduate school. I was anointed a Master of Music, a fully trained composer. However I found out in the pleasant but over-saturated job market of Amherst, MA that this plus $4.50 would buy me a Starbucks Latte.
A friend and fellow ex-composer-turned-day-jobber Peter Richards got me a job at the small tech startup he was programming for in downtown Amherst. Poor Peter had graduated college in 92 or 93 and had until then experienced bad luck shooting for startup riches at several promising IT companies. This was his final shot at it, so he said.My official title was “URLer”. The job entailed me and a fleet of 15 other loser Masters and PhD students navigating the web to compile a directory of links to companies’ press releases and financial news pages. This would supposedly allow the software that the company was developing to provide a portal to view all current financial news on any fortune 1000 company. As Peter put it: every one of these companies had already posted the news to PR wire the following day. The idea was stupid, conceived by an idiot with a PhD in computer science and no head for business.
So how does Frank Zappa’s classic instrumental rock song Peaches en Regalia come into this story?
The night after a party not unlike the one I wrote about yesterday, I was totally hung over and started work around 10am. I had woken up ok – just a little headache. Peter had lent me a few of his Zappa CDs, which I listened to while URLing through the web.
Frank was a new experience for me. Hot Rats was the first album I listened to that day, and it was a revelation. Peaches en Regalia struck me as the most awesome song on the album. It had such a wonderful, whimsical swing to it. It also wasn’t too complex. Frank Zappa of the late 60s wasn’t yet the opaque experimentalist of the Pierre Boulez/Perfect Stranger years. He was obviously a thoughtful and skilled young composer, but his palette in Peaches en Regalia consisted of traditional classical and pop instruments, conventional but fully-functional harmonic progression, and straight-ahead jazz/rock groove. These elements put together made for a “progressive” sound compared to The Who or The Stones, but from a broader musicological perspective there was nothing experimental going on here.
Unfortunately, on my 5th or 6th play through Peaches en Regalia I began to get the sweats.
My stomache started gurgling.
My URLing turned into momentary, false-start dry hurling.
The morning coffee, last night’s booze and Frank’s captivating sound had set off a chain reaction in my body that forced me to slam my headphones down on the keyboard (startling my fellow somber URLers) and race for the boys’ room.
I let out a blast of brown not seen in a dingy startup office since Michael Eisner learned he would lose $800 of Disney’s money on Go.com’s failure.
I still love this little song, but my feeling toward it is now a bit tainted from that experience, and from the depressing environment that I first heard it in. Still, you’ll enjoy it: