Detholz! demo – “Tammy”

Greetings, Blog-ites! Welcome to the first official posting of the Detholz! Mp3 blog!Today’s posting, “Tammy,” (click link to download free mp3) is a song about the recently departed Tammy Faye Messner (aka Bakker), whose death last weekend affected me more deeply than I thought it would.

The newest Detholz! record uses a motif of betrayal as a backdrop for most of the songs. And what figure in recent pop history better illustrates the mechanics of betrayal than Tammy Faye?

She’d been on both sides of the equation:

1. BAD TAMMY

With her husband, Jim Bakker, she co-hosted the “Jim and Tammy Show” on PTL, an organization that bilked its faithful out of millions of dollars, primarily through phony sales of timeshares at their spectacular Christian theme park, “Heritage U.S.A.” At the time, rumors of their gaudy, lavish lifestyle were staples in the tabloids: heat-controlled doghouses, golden bathroom fixtures, Rolls Royce’s, PLUS they once had PTL buy over $100 worth of cinnamon rolls to have in their hotel room simply so they could enjoy the smell. What a concept.

I love the quote about them on Jim Bakker’s Wikipedia page (a quick & great read):

“[The Bakkers] epitomized the excesses of the 1980s; the greed, the love of glitz, and the shamelessness; which in their case was so pure as to almost amount to a kind of innocence.” – Frances Fitzgerald, The New Yorker, 1987

Someone whose “greed and love of glitz” became a divine birthright, whose excesses were indulged without question as “gifts from God”… These are ideas I tried to incorporate into this song: Faith betrayed by greed and conversely, greed betrayed by faith!

2. GOOD TAMMY

Post-PTL, and after she was betrayed by Jim with Jessica Hahn, she rediscovered the forgiveness she’d experienced in the faith of her youth. She made it her business to forgive and build bridges. Even during the extravagance of the PTL years in the 80’s, she managed to become the first fundamentalist broadcaster to dialogue with the gay community. Since it was the early 80’s and AIDS was viewed as a largely “gay disease,” she would regularly welcome gay AIDS activists onto her show, flying directly in the face of the religious culture in which she thrived.

On her ridiculous stint on “The Surreal Life,” she managed to become a positive mother figure in the lives of the people in the cast. She publicly forgave Jim Bakker on a number of occasions– they reconciled their friendship and remained on good terms until the end. She eventually even publicly forgave blustery ol’ Jerry Falwell for stealing her TV network in the wake of the Jessica Hahn scandal (though that one took the longest).

Whatever one may think of her freakishness, Tammy Faye was a vibrant, charismatic person that inspired millions of people. To think that someone who refused even to go into SURGERY without her makeup on could reach so many people is… staggering.

So, in this song, I refer to her as “God’s puppet,” which is both a literal and figurative image. (!) This verse refers to the idealism and zeal of her early career as compared to her gaudy days at PTL:

“I heard a singing voice
Behind a puppet, not by choice
Before the two tattoos
Before the King of the Jews”

The “two tattoos” refers to her eyebrows, which were eventually tattooed onto her forehead. And, the line that closes the song:

“As all God’s puppets know
This world is not our home”

Though it’s easy to dismiss her as a garish religious cartoon, I think “there was more THERE there,” as the saying goes….hers is a great redemption story. Who in America doesn’t love a great redemption story?

Speaking for myself, I felt a catch in my throat when I read she’d died. Rest in peace, Tammy Faye.

[If you’re interested, I would highly recommend the excellent 1999 documentary, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (narrated, appropriately by RuPaul) which delves extensively into Tammy Faye’s life post-PTL, and was a large part of the inspiration behind this song.]

***

Musically, this song continues current Detholz! experimentation with repetitive rhythmic patterns. I wanted to write a “Hall & Oates” drum part. So many of their #1 hits have drum patterns that don’t change at all (cf. “Private Eyes,” or more obviously, “Maneater”). Harmonically, I love how the chord changes weave in and out of phase with the regular, boring 4/4 pulse from the drums. There’s tension, but you never stop bobbing your head…

Of late I’ve also been subscribing to the idea that the LESS notes in a chorus melody, the better. I suppose I could be accused of relying too much on the accompaniment to carry the form, but if one limits the amount of notes in a chorus, it lends a song a more anthemic quality (cf. the 5-note chorus of “We Will Rock You” by Queen ; the 4-note chorus of “Hey Yah” by Outkast, or any chorus by Minor Threat). Historically, Detholz! melodies have been over-complicated and I’m desperately trying to avoid that on the next record.

In the wake of Tammy Faye’s passing, I feel like she deserves a song where two eternal rows of cheerleaders in extra-long skirts and thick brown hose could kick up their heels in time while she parades into the Pearly Gates carrying a plate of piping hot cinnamon rolls. I hope I’ve done her justice.

What do YOU think?

Thanks for reading, America! Tune in next Wednesday for the second installment of the Detholz! Mp3 Blog…

Collect them all!

-Jim C. & Detholz!

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31 Responses to “Detholz! demo – “Tammy””

  1. Jonathan Says:

    First Post!

  2. sarah jane rhee Says:

    When I was growing up, I remember my mom watching Jim and Tammy on Channel 38, and I thought she looked really freaky with her makeup. Still, I also got a lump in my throat when I got the email notification from Jay Bakker’s church (Jim and Tammy’s son) about her death. I had known for some time that she was fighting cancer. I am sure that the illness wreaked havoc on her body, and I get the feeling that by the end, she made peace with it all.

    Thank you for shedding light on the latter part of Tammy’s life.

  3. detholz Says:

    Tammy Faye gave her last brave interview on Larry King a few days before she died last week (YouTube video here). I think it’s incredible.

    (WARNING TO SENSITIVE VIEWERS: The effects of cancer on her body are painfully obvious and brutal. Discretion advised!)

    Actually, between the two of them, I find Larry King to be much more freakish and sinister. He’s one of those people on TV whose bad banana breath you can smell through the screen, you know?

    Thanks for writing, Sarah — glad you’re on board. Hope you liked the song!

  4. Steam Says:

    Let her makeup never fade away 🙂

  5. BP Says:

    Thanks, Jim, for these insights into the songwriting process, both lyrically and musically. I really appreciate you ‘laying it all out there’. Keep it up, Detholz!

  6. detholz Says:

    B.P.! I’ll never forget your smiling face on the evening news with the Billy Graham Center bursting into flames behind you. Thanks for tuning in, old pal!

  7. Eriq Says:

    Well, you asked what I think…. Really, that’s an amazing explanation of song writing. Thanks! The organ sound really plays well into the overall concept. That drum beat playing a couple bars on its own at the start of any song is a little played-out though. I really like the full sound of the song once all the parts come into play though, so I started the song at a point where the organ and the drums were together and I liked it a little more. However, when all the instruments are playing together the sound is full, which really works with your effort to simplify the melodies–I love it. Good work!

  8. detholz Says:

    Yes, yes, YES!

    Eriq, thank you for “breaking the cherry” on the songwriting discussion. This is EXACTLY the kind of feedback we’re looking for. Glad you like the song. Thanks so much for listening CRITICALLY!

    You raise a point which has always eluded me, though: what sounds “played out” vs. what sounds “fresh and innovative” vs. what sounds “pretentious and over-arranged.”

    In all of my years as a music nerd, I’m not sure I’ve ever figured out the answer– not sure I ever will, either. What fans/listeners like and don’t like surprises me almost every time.

    I will confess that I consciously opted for this drum intro– cheesy as it admittedly is– for two reasons:

    1. Precisely because it IS a little cheesy, evoking images of Robert Palmer bobbing back and forth in front of scantily-clad clone women, or of Phil Collins pounding away behind a drum set with a decidedly excretory expression; and

    2. It served the anchor of the song as I built the arrangement around it. (This song began with drums, then the bass line, then the melodies, which changed slightly as the arrangement fleshed out, and finally the countermelodies.

    HOWEVER–

    Your point is well-taken. Clearly I’m indulging in a little “meta-music” with the intro– perhaps even with the entire feel of the song– which is a “risky business,” indeed.

    I’ll try listening to it the way you suggest and report back. Thanks again for the suggestion, and hope to hear from you again on this blog!

  9. Jonathan Says:

    ok, so maybe more “substantial input” as opposed to “first post” bragging rights…

    good job on the the production. sounds damn good.

    I would, though, love to hear some of the keyboard parts swapped with guitar parts to make it a little more rockin and less 80’s. especially in the beginning of the verses. I know all these songs head in that direction once the band is playing but I would like to hear more of that in the actual demos and as the song is being constructed.

    I actually really like that it starts out with the drum beat maneater immediately came to mind. I can picture you with a crooked smile What might be interesting is to have the dynamics of the drums change for different parts of the song while keeping basically the same beat/structure.

    Also on a positive note, by the time all the parts are interacting together, it’s fantastic. Keyboards and all.

    I’m not really liking the “lets hear it for tammy” chorus. I get what you are saying about simplifying the chorus, but i guess that just doesn’t appeal to me as much or maybe it’s just TOO 80’s. Maybe just too easy?

    on a side note. great idea this blog is! Very interesting to read more about what goes into the songs.

  10. detholz Says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    You’ve been a longtime listener, so you know how radically different this would sound if the band were to take it on– these songs always sound much less “synthy” and certainly much LOUDER (more “rockin’?”) when taken on by the rest of the band. Which leads to an interesting tangential point:

    Jury’s still out on whether we’ll do this one, as the rest of the band hasn’t expressed an opinion on this song one way or the other. Detholz! runs by committee: a demo is presented in reasonably complete form, then the band will vote on it. I’d say over the years I’ve got a hit rate of about 40% with them– they’re justifiably nit-picky about what they’ll play.

    I should also mention that the forms and arrangements of the songs almost always change when taken on by the band. Karl Doerfer (DH! guitarist) has a better head for form than I do, and he almost always will call for a certain section to be lengthened or shortened. Another example: we’re working on another song in rehearsal where Jon Steinmeier (DH! keyboardist) significantly augmented the bridge with a layered countermelody– and vastly improved it.

    [Oh, and speaking of other Detholz! members, make sure and check out Jon Steinmeier’s blog: jonsteinmeier.wordpress.com and Ben Miranda’s solo project , Tiny Tron : http://www.tinytron.com]

    Back to the matter at hand: in a live setting, the bass line would likely be played by Ben Miranda, our bass player, and doubled either by Jonny or by a backing track as needed. We’ve done this with previous demos (“Chapel of Love” is a perfect example), and– since I’m a bass player at heart– I love to alternate between live and synth bass, and/or double them up. It adds a lot of depth and punch, and makes for some quirky, interesting tones, esp. when either the bass or synth is distorted.

    Interesting you should mention guitar-keyboard swapping. In this arrangement, all of the countermelodies were originally guitar tracks, but because the vocal melody is so simple, I felt like they needed to be doubled to stand out a little more in the mix. I’m a sucker for that synth clav lead tone– you’ve heard it in a lot of the past demos– and it doubles the typical snarly-treble DH! guitar tone well.

    As far as the 80’s thing goes… we’ve gotten that a lot, as you know. I have more to say about that subject. Tune in for next week’s post!

    With this particular song, I was actually pushing pretty hard to nail that 80’s synth-pop sound since, well, it’s a song about Tammy Faye Bakker– a person that almost single-handedly represents the excess of the 80’s!

    I realize that that’s a love-it-or-hate-it thing. Like Eriq pointed out in his last comment, this song could be criticized for straying into the “meta-music” category– perhaps even the “gimmicky” category. So, it’s probably not for everyone. But what song is? Perhaps “Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden? Or maybe “Hey Jude.”

    Thanks, as always, for listening, and throwing your hat in the ring! Hope you’re well and to hear from you regularly on this thing…

    Side note: These conversations are hugely helpful to me– I hope you all are entertained by them as well! Keep those comments coming, folks!

  11. Eriq Says:

    Oh man, this is soon to be my new favorite blog. Ever since I started taking night classes rather then playing drums with real musicians I hardly have time to do anything with music writing. It’s is awesome to me that you’ve opened up your writing to a blog. Anyways…

    Funny you note Phil Collins as I kind of got a Genesis vibe off this tune. Though I don’t know if anyone could ever get to a level of “Number of The Beast.” I actually don’t think the “meta-music” is wrong per se. It’s not good when pop music tries to make the most noticeable aspects of the 80’s sounds relevant again through some pseudo retro hipness. It usually turns into some over-produced mess. Being that I doubt you’ll talk about how you could be my girlfriend or you’ll have Akon rap the break in the middle of the track, I bet you’ll be safe 🙂

  12. detholz Says:

    Eriq: It’s invigorating to hear that this blog will actually serve a purpose for someone. You know, a blog is inherently a little self-indulgent, but I hope that continued discourse will serve to satiate you in your current musical desert. Start playing again soon!

    I agree that indie posturing and reworkings of an old, tired form for its own sake is, at best, a rocky road in songwriting.

    Unfortunately, I have a severe weakness for compositions that use few elements– and usually some of those few happen to be fat, synthy tones. As a result, I fear Detholz! has often been pegged as an 80’s retro outfit, but that’s certainly not our intention. I guess I’ll leave the final judgment up to you.

    The “rap bridge” is not a technique I’ve ever tried, but would certainly have to involve a 3rd party. 3rd Base, maybe? They had those impressive hi-top fade haircuts… very hard to pull off for a couple of white guys. (!!)

  13. Abraham Says:

    I am really digging this song, jim. your point about simplicity in choruses is executed swimmingly here. a high bar has been set…. cheers, bub!

  14. Jonathan Says:

    you should get thax to do the rap…

  15. detholz Says:

    Thanks for tuning in, Abraham! MEans a lot…

    For those that don’t know, I have an alter ego as a bass player in Abraham’s band, Baby Teeth. Pls. check out Abraham’s excellent songwriting blog, “52 Teeth”:

    52teeth.wordpress.com

  16. Jim Says:

    I too am a fan of the lead synth sounds. They are very prevailant throughout Cast Out Devils and much of your other newer tunes (Whatever happened to City of Gold or Knives of Paradise?), but I have never thought to call your musical style 80’s music. All of the synth effects and the huge, reverberant, electro-drum sounds back then, for the most part, were the only thing to cover the role of the meat and potatoes. No real substance. Sorry. I’m just not a fan of any of it. You have always used these soundscapes in context, acting as a rockin’ vehicle for amazing songwriting.
    I know that anyone mentioning that the music is “too 80’s” isn’t neccessarily saying “thumbs down”, but don’t ever let too many mentions of it send you off in an unnatural direction in honing the latest sound/style of the Detholz!.
    (Exclaimation then a period – is that how it works?)

    I wish I had more useful information, but the damn truth is that I believe you can’t do wrong. K e e p o n R O C K I N ‘ !

  17. detholz Says:

    Hi Jim:

    Thanks for tuning in! You ask some interesting questions…

    “City of Gold” was part of a massive, somewhat pretentious concept album I started last year called “The Pilgrim’s Regress” (basically the story of John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” in reverse) that was abandoned after completing 3 tracks, of which “City of Gold” is the 2nd. That particular song is a re-working of an old DH! B-Side called “Heaven.” The old version was played a few times in years past, but the new version never saw the light of day. I’ll likely post the 3 tracks from that broken-down album on this blog shortly! Maybe I’ll finish it someday– I’ve always been pleased with those songs.

    “Knives of Paradise” was also written last year, and was “carved out” (ahem) a little more in a few rehearsals. None of us was too thrilled with the end result, though I have to say that it was vastly improved when the rest of the band sunk their respective kitchen knives into it. At this point, I cringe when I hear the demo for “Knives”… I feel like that song was a laboratory experiment gone horribly wrong. The melody is WAY out of my vocal range, and the lyrics are ponderous, pretentious and generally “toilet-quality.” Oh well. In my opinion, quantity in songwriting is everything– one writes 10 songs hoping that 3 will be keepers, you know? More on that later in this blog…

    Glad to hear you think the use of synths isn’t overly “retro” for us. I’ve always thought we managed to incorporate electronics without sounding too dated, but… well, we’re all getting a little old, aren’t we?

    Thanks for tuning in, Jim! Hope to hear more from you!

  18. Jonathan Says:

    city of gold is pretty much one of my faves of yours. shame on the rest of the band for not embracing that one. I have to agree with knives though.

  19. Colby Says:

    Something about the production & vocal delivery really reminds me of the song “Magic” by Mick Smiley off of the Ghostbusters soundtrack (one of my fav tunes!). I bet it would work in a montage scene as well (perhaps as the ghost of Tammy Faye invades the city of New York?). “Tammy” falls into that catagory for me of “song I once hated, then fell in love with, and now just randomly pops into my head while doing chores”. I’m not sure that it’s the first single off the new record, but it will definitely end up being the track that “Greatest Hits” buyers miss out on by not searching for the deep cuts.
    I really wish that someone would make DVDs of the “Jim J & Tammy Faye” talk show starring our late subject & JM J Bullock (of TV’s Too Close For Comfort). It was a fucking treasure!

  20. detholz Says:

    Hey Colby, thanks for dialing in and giving this one a spin! Good to see you (however briefly) at the Soul Revue a few weeks ago.

    It’s an open question whether this one will make it onto the record or not. As I said, the rest of the Detholz! boys haven’t weighed in on it yet– even though I sent it to them days ago.

    That’s a sure-fire sign that it’s a flop, historically. If they’re excited about it, I’ll usually get a flood of emails saying as much.

    So I’m guessing that “Tammy” will disappear into that new-fangled circular file, the “internet only” bin.

    I never saw the “Jim J. and Tammy Show,” but was hoping it might be her shot to become a real force in the media again. It could have become a media franchise: “The Tutti and Tammy Show” (co-starring Kim Fields from “Facts of Life”) or even :

    “Lifetime Presents: The Betty Loren-Maltese Story starring Tammy Faye Bakker”

  21. Jim Says:

    Yeah, off the bat, I can see a lot of ho-hum feedback from the rest of the band regarding Tammy. But the song, and the informative blogbituary you wrote pays very good tribute to someone who is somewhat of an icon in the world that you write music about. The song is more than just valid. It would fit quite nicely on a Detholz album. Not as a hit, but I wouldn’t consider it filler material either. A few tune ups here or there never hurts, but I dig it.

  22. detholz Says:

    Ha, yes. The rest of the band doesn’t have as much patience for the “meta” aspects of certain songs. That’s probably a good thing.

    Musically, it would stand out like sore thumb with the songs that have already “made the cut”… Stay tuned for more details on why!

  23. Andrew Says:

    I saw this post today on Boing Boing about Jim and Tammy’s recordings. May be of interest to you:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2007/07/29/holy_surveillance_ta.html

    On another note, it’s been a few years since I’ve fallen hard enough for a record that I’d bait my music conversations with “You have to ask me what I’m listening to…”

    My unqualified response in 2007 has been “The Simp.” Absolutely incredible. Such a gorgeous ass on that record. I love the Holz, but Baby Teeth have raised the bar.

    Andrew

  24. Jon Says:

    Let’s hear it for “Tammy”!

  25. Jim Says:

    Alright. I’ve been listening to the song quite a bit, and I know that it has probably already been ousted. Oh well. But regarding the repetitive chorus; If it’s within your power to freak in, then freak out, and then freak in thrice over before freaking out one last time, I believe we can all find it in our hearts to give it up for Tammy. And I’m not ripping on Club Oslo. I, along with pretty much everyone else I would guess, love that song, regardless of the repetitive chorus. Comparatively, I never found myself irked at the song Tammy.
    Maybe throw in a few more “Give it up”s to switch it up or something. I don’t know. I write music. I suck at writing songs. I’ll be quiet on this one now.

    Oh, since I’m closing my open endings as far as this blog string goes, I’m going to continue playing devil’s advocate and say that I was always impressed with the creative and unique vocal performance on Knives. It’s not the way your vocal coach would have told you do it, but it gives the song that badge of originality to set it aside from other Jim Cooper material.

    That is all.

  26. detholz Says:

    Jon: Thanks!

    Jim: Well, it’s gratifying to know that “Knives” didn’t die a meaningless death. When you’re swinging the Music Bat, sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. That one may have been a “foul.”

    Once this blog gets some legs under it, I’ll probably post some of the B-side and/or “reject” material, just for the sake of discussion. There are far worse misses than “Knives”…. To borrow a phrase from my lovely ladyfriend, there “MAY or MAY NOT” be a Detholz! attempt at hip-hop in existence…

    *shudder*

  27. Mama Steiny Says:

    Jim, I had to comment on this composition because I thought you did a terrific job of helping us see how vulnerable we are to the distractions of this world, yet, if we are willing, we can be redeemed once again. Your level of compassion for Tammy indicates to me that you, like me, know how in need of Grace and Mercy we all are. God is faithful!!!

    It’s great fun to hear your new compositions, read the many comments and evaluations, and appreciate how much all of your friends respect and admire each others talents. This is a rare gift. Thanks for sharing.

    By the way, I like some of your new sounds. I can hear maturity and mellowing with the philospher’s questioning mind always there, but the sometimes rebel attitude more infrequent.

    Thanks again. I will try to pull myself away from my knitting to comment more in the future.

  28. detholz Says:

    Mrs. Steinmeier:

    Thank you for honoring us with your comments here! I appreciate the encouragement, and am glad you liked the song.

    Ha, “mellowing” is right– I’m getting OLD! Jury’s still out on “maturity,” however– I’m trying to stave it off as long as possible. Definitely not as hoppin’ mad as I used to be, and for that, I’m thankful. Life gets a little easier when one doesn’t have so much to prove.

    We ARE blessed to live in such a rare circle of talented friends and fans, as was evidenced at Karl’s wedding this past weekend. It was very moving to watch all of my closest and dearest friends (incl. Jonny and Rachel) file past as Karl and Jennifer served them the Eucharist. It all kind of comes back to the same thing, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, great to hear from you, and hope to hear from you more often on Ye Olde DH! Blog!

    Peace,
    Jim C.

  29. kebabdylan Says:

    i must say I was eventually won over by this song. The verses are stellar and that guitar line is like candy. I don’t see it as a detholz! tune though. Have you thought about offering it to baby teeth?

  30. detholz Says:

    ‘Bab: Baby Teeth is Abraham’s baby. The rest of us don’t really contribute material, unless it’s in the context of collaborating on an arrangement.

    I think this has helped BT’s sound to stay relatively unified, which is important in that band.

  31. kebabdylan Says:

    wasn’t there an ep that you all wrote songs? anyways, I gotza say, I’ve been listening to the simp lately and that song with the roller girls which i believe is yours right? Sounded like tammy would fit right in.

    On paper baby teeth is not up my alley, but I’ve actually really enjoyed a lot of the simp. “your either on the swim team or your not” – what a great line to build a song on.

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