#37 I Need Better Friends-Cracker

09 I Need Better Friends

In sum this song is like the germ of a mid life crisis that hadn’t happened yet. A general feeling of malaise about ones life. Wishing that you could go back in time. Not to completely start over, but to do more than change a few minor details. Like who you decided to go into business with, who you decided to marry, where you decided to live, what you do for a career. And mid-life crisis aren’t all about sports cars and younger girlfriends with boob jobs.

For instance in my germ of a midlife crisis: Item one was I would not have been a musician. I would have just become a writer or continued as a mathematician.

Or any kind of scientist. I would have very much enjoyed hanging around in labs. Late at night. Beakers, my ipod on shuffle. Books on tapes. Corduroy blazer and the school tie.

Failing that as far as Cracker or Camper Van Beethoven goes I would have very much enjoyed being the Brian Wilson guy in the band. Write the songs and record them. Even tour but never actually go to any of the shows. Get some cheesy glad handing guy that will sit at the bar drinking with the fans until every last one of them is gone. I tell the guys in Cracker this all the time. They should just get that guy and leave me out of the whole public persona thing. (They are often very distressed i can’t be more of a traditional lead singer)

No the band, management record label and whoever else around us thinks that there is a solutions for problems like this. And it’s always this: be someone you are not.

What i love about the touring and the live show is not what the Lowest Common Denominator of the audience enjoys. So no we will never be hugely popular. There will always be way too many people that don’t get us/me. We will have to tour around the country in a van and trailer for the rest of our lives. No tour busses. Directly as a result of my inability to do the “rock” persona. Fuck it. Yes tattoo it on my forehead. I- the bum-lost. I accept it. It’s a fair tradeoff.

I love giving the audience a good natured ribbing. Last night I had a great time with the Arcata crowd. And no one seemed to mind. (But how many places like Arcata/Eureka re there?)I also like talking about obscure things, like the the origination of obscure berries and the circus animal smell of the Tule Elk. But I understand most of America doesn’t understand this. You are supposed to say the alteranative rock/indie rock/americana equivalent of ” are you ready to rock!”. The more “tastemaker” the audience the more you have to adhere to this protocol. Often I launch into an important story about the difference between the mustaches of Canadian custom officers and US custom officers one of our “fans” yells ”shut up and play your guitar”. I mean do you talk to your family that way? A variation on this occurs every night. Next time you’re at a Cracker or Camper Van Beethoven show and i start to tell a story that most of you will find interesting, watch how many times some fucking drunk dumbass interrupts or talks to me like that.

My English aunt Wendy told me presciently in 1986:

“That’s a dangerous business you got there”

“Excuse me? You mean rock and roll business?

“NO, using irony in America”

It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s not that I’m not social. I have a very supportive group of friends with which i’m very close. But it’s a small tight knit group. I’m just not interested in having lots of acquaintances. I don’t mind talking to strangers. I walked all around Arcata today, talking to people in Northtown books, in the French cafe, and at the hardware store where I went to get a reverse threaded nut and bolt to fix a design flaw in my laptop stand.

And I was drinking jasmine tea
When the goon squad came for me
It was all my drunken friends
they kicked down my front door again

I just never signed up to hang out in bars for hours after the show. That’s what this stanza means. And why would anyone expect I would do this? You think Mick jagger does that? Shit you think Will Oldham does that? You think the guy in Deer Tick does that? (Actually he probably does if you buy him drinks.) John Doe is the consumate professional and he is always out the backdoor and gone. Bret Michaels charges $200 dollars to get into his meet and greet. I never understood why certain CVB and Cracker fans expect me to do more than what i’ve already done:

spend 200 days on the road a year for 25 years and record twice as many albums and songs as The Beatles.

I don’t want to talk after the show. I understand if you want me to sign some stuff, but i’m too tired to talk. Also usually i look like shit after the show so i hate having my picture taken. Unless you are a kid or it’s your birthday. No pictures. From now on. I’m checking IDs. I’ve been in this place since 3 or 4 in the afternoon, you got there at 9;30pm. I’m sweaty as shit from playing 3 hours. I’m tired of untagging shitty photos on facebook.

Also since when have people demanded the same kind of access to a muscian that they get to the Animals in a Petting Zoo. . This newish phenomenon is getting steadily worse as our fans age. Younger people do not do this.This last week:

I was punched in the shoulder, like i would punch my cousins when i was a teenager, hard enough to leave a fucking bruise (Crested Butte).

“Handcuffed” which is when some one usually drunk shakes your hand but then won’t let it go often moving up your arms to clasp your wrist(Seattle and Vancouver).

Patted on the head like a dog (Portland)

Had my glasses taken off my face and tried on (Eugene)

Physically pushed into a corner, and blocked from leaving so that some “fan” could talk to me in private about something really important, and of course the best time to do this is after a show when you are so drunk you can’t even talk(Glacier).

Dude no one is supposed to tolerate this shit.

So in my song that’s the first thing. I’m re-evaluating this. I was seriously thinking of just releasing Greenland and say that’s it, The assholes at the show are right. I’m not a true rock and roller cause…

I need to just shut up and play my guitar.

Learn to drive around in a van 200 days a year talking about Keith Richards guitar licks and Led Zeppelin bootlegs from the Fillmore.

Let rock consume my every hour of my waking.

Develop a wish to die in a hotel room on the road as one of my bandmates professes he would prefer to die.

So get off the stage? That’s what i was planning to do after greenland. But later i said. Fuck that. I enjoy playing and i enjoy the shows. Why should i let the Lowest Common Denominator dictate what i do with my life. So i suffer through the bullshit so i can get a hearty laugh from the audience in portland when we describe our love hate/relationship with Eugene. Or we tell the Vancouver audience about our fantasy about the ferry boat sinking while on the way to Victoria BC. Or just play atranscendental version of All Her Favorite Fruit, or Gimme One More Chance.


So the first part of that germ of a mid-life crisis I rejected, came to an uneasy compromise, or am still struggling with. The jury is still out. Yikes! The second part is less complicated. It also ultimately has a happier ending.

Around the time I wrote this song, I drove down the coast of California with my longtime friend Velena Vego. We also had worked together for a long time. And a long time ago we had been romantically involved. Later as friends she had run my label and also acted as a informal advisor for years. At the time she had just taken over managing Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. We were having a great time working together again, and traveling around.

I started playing the what if game in my head. What if we had gone out? gotten married? What if I was with someone who was in the business? Not a civilian?

It took a few years but eventually Velena and I ended up together. Now we’re like the Indie rock Sharon and Ozzy.

Although we were actually driving down the Central Coast of California. I have a bias towards the Lost Coast so I sing

From Point Arena to Stinson Beach

From Arcata to Bodega Bay.

It’s a much better setting for a “what if” romance. It’s certainly the location i would use if it were a movie.

I Need Better Friends.


[Fm] I was[E] drifting down the[A] coast[A/Asus4]
[Fm] With the[E] girl I loved the[A] most[A/Asus4]
But it’s[D] not[D9] what[Asus4] you might[A] [E] think
It’s a[D] long and[D9] tragic[Asus4] histor-[A]-y[E]

When will this shit[Fm] end
I need better[A] friends
[D] But for now it’s[A] fine[A/Asus4]

And I was smoking lots of weed
Trying to forget what you meant to me
Hanging out with folks just half my age
Buying analogue synthesizers
sometimes reissues of those vintage synths

[C#] [D] [A]
[C#] [D] [A]
[C#] [D] [A]
[E (bass E-D-C-B)]

And I was drifting down the coast
With the girl I love the most
From point arena to stinson beach
From Arcata to bodega bay

When will this shit end
I need better friends
But for now it’s fine


And I was drinking jasmine tea
When the goon squad came for me
It was all my drunken friends
they kicked down my front door again

I need better friends
But for now it’s fine