Sunday, February 24, 2008

Professor Ivan P. Corey's guide to perplexed writers and unskilled guitarists

Professionalism demands that you write like a writer, telling people things they didn't know-- or knew only vaguely-- until straight, clean words explain to you a feeling state. Or a wall.

I went to a technical university. Maybe that's why some of my writing is like old-style technical writing.

"Your TV 'remote' is an interface and the menu you have pointed it to is painfully slow."

Or in the case of a musician trying to find the key to the guitar technique of famed Woodstock song- opener Richie Havens, you go this way:

Havens uses open D tuning on the guitar. By fretting all strings it produces a major chord on any position on the neck of the guitar.
You have a D chord which will sound with no fingers on the frets at all.
Then all you need is a kind of capo. Your pencil. Your thumb?.A blunt brick applied to the fingerboard?...Anything at all.
...But then you have to get Haven's rhythm, which is practially inimitable.

Ah. Old-style technical writing until that trade became the writing of computer programs.

I have been toying with Richie Havens' guitar technique, I tried it and failed miserably.

There are times when white men indeed can't jump! Or play.

But Mr. Havens has a tradition.

The night was cold and dark and still
There were three crosses on the hill
And on each cross a burning hood
To hide its rotten heart
of wood.

Oh sister
I hear that iron sound
Who beats me
on the cold, cold ground?

Now the man who travels with the Klan
He is a monster, not a man
For underneath that white disguise
I have looking into
his eyes.

Mr. Havens jealously guards his lyrics, but I have memory to help--at least what's left of a memory.
Drunken folk singer, turning the light on myself. Trying to sing black.
Can a honky play funk?
Well, sometimes.

But how in hell do you introduce a minor key on a guitar that is tuned open D-major? Placing of fingers, yes.
Oh hell. Back to regular tuning on your guitar. Start the song in an E-minor, which only requires two fingers, then hit a D-natural and you're in business.

From down the hill the riders came
Jesus! It was a crying shame
To see the blood upon their whips
And mark the scarlet
of their lips.

Hm. More technical writing. What is "scarlet"? Filth. Foul-mouthedness, or, as our Australian friend might snort,

Ah poor Professor P.
Jack of all trades and maybe master of one.
Certainly not guitar playing.

Perhaps a pimp. :)


Charles Gramlich said...

Great lyrics. Wild as hell. said...

Yes. Hell.
That's what Mr. Havens is talking about.

Anonymous said...

behold,yon scarlet pimp doth pluck, and play, those very strings in the tune of life,while hell,in retreat,pretends repose....... said...

He's here, he's there.
He's everywhere.

Those damn Frenchies!

The Scarlet Pimpernell! :)

Doubting Thomas said...

I remember Professor Irwin P. Corey.

I also remember being fascinated by that drop of sweat hanging from his nose, shining in the spotlight, while he played at Woodstock. You are analyzing his playing technique, and I can't get past the sweat on his nose! Oh, and the gums...

Tom said...


Yeah, I kind of identify with Professor Irwin Corey, the nutty one on TV years ago.
So much Professor Irwin Corey in all of us.

I was just complaining elsewwhere to correstpondent Donnetta Lee about my problems with my upper teeh--almost gone, though the old root canals are keeping them in...

But poor Richie Havens has no upper teeth at all...Small wonder the moustache and beard...can't notice that way.

Ah well. Cool-looking pair of sandals Mr. Havens had on while the sweat dripped from his nose.

But could the man ever sing and play.

the walking man said...

Better a pimp than a pusher at least you get laid once in awhile instead of strung out on your own stuff.


mark said...

Good morning, Mark.


Sometimes the girls come back.

I haven't yet worked this out, but it seems the ladies are really attracted to alcoholic achievers.

And pimps? Heh.

I think our clever, tough bleak accontants are down on the sexual desirabilty scale.
IQ's that would f*ck up computer.
And the girls say, "I piss on your elegand manners and computer skills. Give me what I want."

Oh Black Demmy Rum. I'm into it!
Black is the colour of my true love's ...?
Whee! Six o'clock sunriser.


TomCat said...

You'd be amazed how many tunes you can play with C, Am, F and G7, or if you don't like that key, G, Em, C and D7, or even D, Bm, A and E7.

Writing, on the other hand, is more difficult.

Anonymous said...


I tuned to an open G to emulate Jimmy Page about 30 years ago. Never went back to standard tuning.
Borrowing technique from a thief. Hm. Anything wrong with that? said...


Yep, Tin Pan Alley made billions on those pattterns. Sh-Boom!
Crew Cuts forever! :)

Thank God for BMI and the rockers
they covered.

It is my contention that most ASCAP songs followed that pattern almost religiously. said...


Jimmy Page stole that tuning?

And I was wondering why I couldn't hit a couple of accidental notes in Stairway to Heaven.
Ami to D seemed somehow off.

A story is told of Chuck Berry walking up on stage to punch Keith Richarsds in the mouth for stealing a riff.

Did you and I ever play together...
CKVR TV in Barrie, Ontario?

We also played at a club called
"AJ's Office" and the Grey Goat.

Doubting Thomas said...

Keith Richards was practicing with Chuck Berry and the wizened one touched the controls on Chuck's amp! Chuck promptly put Richards in his (lowly) place and then proceeded to teach Richards how to play. (Don't be messin' with the king's stuff!) The clip may still be on Youtube. I enjoy watching it. (It strikes a chord.)


Lana Gramlich said...

There's something to be said for a jack of all trades & master of none, you know...
I really should pick up my own guitar again, even though my callouses are long gone. <:( said...

Strikes a chord, you say. :) said...


Oh don't we get rusty?
I have to force myself to play at least five minutes a day so I don't lose my callouses.
...And I've totally forgotten ":Forbidden Games", the only "classical" song I knew by memory.
How do you spell arpeggio anyway?

Anonymous said...

ain't no open tuning in "stairway"...classic A minor,with deviant/diminished progressions,including the thru' the archipelago of fingers on harmony guitar background,solo on fender,dry off the recorders,add gibson...if someone says "you mean arpeggiated,don't you?",I'll bust my Les Paul over their vernaculars...on to next page... said...


I been schooled. said...

Is that you writing about them there demented chords?

Myself, I'm something of a musicological bullshitter--hell of a montage of syllables, no?

But I know what you are saying.

Anonymous said...

an actor out on loan...moserite,blues,Jack Daniels,and 7th's...if you give that man a ride... said...

Well I'm an old serviceman, usually stationed in Quebec, where we sang,
"With a knick-knack, Tabernac
Give a dog a bone." said...


We put this poor gay Frenchman into a clothes dryer, but he only went around once.

Anonymous said...

someone must have paddied his whack...are you sure it was a dryer?...and what did you put in it to entice his entry,so to speak?...look what they done to my song,ma... said...

Sorry, Anonymous.

I think we were both into the good stuff.

I hear you on the Melanie Safka song.

Don't want to insult your intelligence.

Il sont change ma chai song, Ma

By the way, is that you JM?

Middle Ditch said...

Ha-ha-ha ... I had an old organ once. One on which you pedal furiously to get it to make a sound at all.

Numbers for notes and I really enjoyed it. Thanks Ivan, a great memory has returned.

Anonymous said...

maybe it'll all be ok [ma] said...

middle ditch,

Takes a while to cramnk up sometimes. :)

Donnetta Lee said...

" least what's left of a memory..." Me, too. Who are you?

Donnetta said...


Yep, of all the things I have lost, I miss my brains the most.

Who is that mysterious stranger?

Seems "anonymous" and myself are going are going through the culture derby and the short hair count, but playfully. As in guitar?
He doesn't leave enough of his words so I can get a handle on his syntax.
But then, who knows. He might like a handle on his syntax. LOL.

Anonymous said...

nope...just a whiter spade of ace,ma.................. said...

Well then. The light fantastic! said...

Rapunzel! Rapunzel! :)

Anonymous said...

Hades of spades...all 7ths...them glass bottom blues...leave me nothin' but sedimental rues...every form of refuge has its price.................Rapunzel girl, dress up all in lace and go in style... said...


Bob Dylan:

"I'm a poet
I know it
Hope I don't blow it."

Does the following c.c. ring a Chuck Berry bell for you? It's part of my Air Force alumni correspondence:

Hello again, Dave Thompson.

Some time ago, you were checking your list of email contacts and found my name there.

...So many people on your list. You emailed me and asked how is it that I was on your list of correspondents, and did the name Dave Thompson ring a bell.
I had answered that I knew all kinds of Dave Thompsons, certainly a number of students of mine, since I had become a magazine writer and college professor after the Air Force (Good old DVA correspondcnce courses and Ryerson U).
Seems that since you weren't a student of mine--I had mentioned several Dave Thompsons (but left out any Air Force Dave Thompsons)--you took me off your email list.
Actually, I'd had a zillion occupations since leaving the RCAF, it is small wonder that we couldn't place each other.
Well, I for one,had finally placed a Warrant Officer David Thompson (English name, not Scotch Thomson), lately of RCAF Foymount, that lovely station I'd served at from early l958 to about l960. While at Foymount, I met then-young Tony Baxter, son of Squadron leader Baxter, who was something of a prodigious guitar player and we formed a the time both of us got to Station Edgar.
We played at different clubs, including a short stint at CKVR TV Barrie on a program called Country Junction..
Tony was barely sixteen, I was 20 and as a very young musician he had a hard time getting past the duty airman at the airman's club, but we got him in to play, somehow.
S/L Baxter, Tony's father thought we were in a frivolous pursuit, but once he realized we were making money, he didn't necessarily think that the venture would lead Tony astray.
Foymount was part of Tony's growing up. He has a deep nostalgia for the place, as do we all.

While at Foymount, I met Mike Koerner, a bear of a man and highly likeable.
It is Mike Koerner who now manages OldFCO news and has been handling past reunions. I have been in continuing correspondence with Michael though I could never afford to take part in the reunions....Michael, of course, follows the late and truly great Ren L'Eucyer, who had set up the incomparabe Pinetree line website.
I will try to make the August reunion, but since my life is always topsy-turvy, I might have to keep the old rain check handy.
Heh. "Ever since my masochistic baby left me, I got nothing to beat but the wall" :)
Nice to see you guys keeping up the tradition and the faith; we were a unique breed.

I guess I am back on your list.


Ivan Prokopchuk.