Situation, Claude Pate on a Silvertone played thru the amplifier in the case


Here it is the end of October already and I haven't written about this month's video, which is of me covering Situation, a song I wrote and recorded with Mike Kelly and John Hahn in our band Claude Pate back in 1986. I'm playing the little Silvertone 1448 I bought at Major MInor Music in Ames, Ia back in the day, and using the amplifier that came with the instrument as part of the case.

About the song

Situation was a song that came about just as the Replacements Let it Be album began generating a lot of attention among the music nerds we hung out with (Craig, Carl, et al). Coincidence? Hardly! I will confess now at this distance that the song is clearly VERY derivative of I will Dare. No accident. I couldn't get that song out of my head. It still is pretty much my idea of guitar pop perfection. And when I started playing the three chords that form the meat of Situation, I knew where it was coming from, and just decided I didn't care. I had read interviews with Westerburg where he said many of his early songs were Tom Petty tunes that he simply changed the words to, so I felt I had some license to rip him off a little. I also had faith that however derivative the chords and melody might be, the song itself, as played by Claude Pate, would take on a life of its own. I really think that the version on the EP that you see above (and can still purchase from PRAVDA, by the way) had its own thing going. Mike had a great knack for concocting simple infectious bass lines, and this song is yet another example of him knocking it out of the park. And John Hahn's drum work on this song is just astounding. I didn't appreciate it back then, because I needed a metronome to lean on just so I could play and sing at the same time, but Jon's playing is so wonderfully over the top that it would make Keith Moon blush, which is exactly what I wanted, but didn't realize I'd gotten. Ahh the stupidity of youth.

The lyrics are pretty simple and straightforward, a statement of my 20 something angst at the time. This angst boiled down to the following expression of my Situation 1) I can't succeed at anything, so why try? (particularly in the romance department) 2) Everything seemed to have been done before, and certainly been re-recycled better by somebody else. Hence you get the lines, "when do I arrive on time, twenty minutes late" and "yesterday's obsession, tomorrow it's brand new fashion, repeated history", and because I never could resist piling on the ironic confession "if the world stops turning, do we keep on circling? Never Let it Be". So yes, even at the time, I was telling everyone that I knew who I was ripping off, and that I didn't have a new idea with this song..

About the guitar

Situation was originally recorded using my Les Paul and played at obscene volume levels.It also had the Jon Hahn drum solos, which I've replaced with some guitar noodling for this solo version. I decided to cover Situation using the Silvertone guitar thru its tiny, tinny amp not because I thought it would lend some thoughtful intimacy ( BTW, I think it does), but because I thought that it might trigger some people to go back and listen to the song Silvertone that I posted some months ago (it hasn't, despite my shameless plea at the end of the video...What? You haven't seen my shameless plea? Arrrgh!!!). I think Silvertone is a good song, and that it deserves more listens than it is getting. If you have read this far (Hi Greg!) you are likely very predisposed to being sympathetic to my entreaties, so do me a favor and go back and listen to Silvertone. Read the lyrics. I think they aren't too bad, and I think most of the readers of this blog will resonate with the midwest nostalgia. Or not. In any case, the song actually contains a good bit about the guitar, so rather than type some more about it, I suggest you go listen to the song, and then read my Silvertone blog post. Okay, I'm just being cranky now. Thanks for watching and reading!!!

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