He Lives: Happy Birthday, Jason Falkner

Jason-FalknerDear Jason Falkner:

Hi. You don’t know me, but I wanted to wish you a happy birthday – your 47th, right? 1968 represent! High five!

Anyway, when Troy [Innocent Words publisher] gave me the list of rock & roll birthdays to choose from for the month of June, I was like, “I’ll take Jason Falkner!” and Troy was like, “you always surprise me with your choices.” Sometimes I surprise myself, too, but not this month. You were the totally obvious choice for June.

While I initially chose to write a birthday tribute to you based solely on my undying fascination for the song “I Live,” I realized there are a few other small stories/vignettes to share.

JELLYFISH: We’ve actually met, you and I, a fact I remembered just in time to write this missive. It was in September 1990 – you were in Jellyfish and on the road with World Party. Somehow I had arranged with Charisma (the label) to interview you guys in the 7th Street Entry at First Avenue in Minneapolis for the debut issue of CAKE magazine (RIP). I was late to meet you guys, not to mention nervous (Jellyfish was the first non-Minneapolis band I ever interviewed), and as the interview went on, three of the four were giving me kind of a hard time. Except you. You were quiet and seemed to shift uncomfortably in your 70s-centric clothes. I did learn that you played clarinet in high school, and that your parents wouldn’t believe music was a viable career choice until you had, “like, three Swiss bank accounts.” That was about it. You were unfailingly polite and 22 year-old me was grateful, though she might have been posturing otherwise. Thank you.

You left Jellyfish after that tour. From your website:

Jason wasn’t allowed to contribute his own songs to the band. This fact, topped by his concern that the band was trying too hard to sound like their influences rather than an original band, led to him leaving Jellyfish after their first release. He vowed never to join another band again.

I wonder what it was like, being 23 years old and touring the world on a record you helped make… but starting to suspect that the situation probably wasn’t artistically viable. Like, my kid is almost 23 years old now and I have no idea how he’d handle such a thing.

THE GRAYS: Buuuuut… you went ahead and joined another band anyway. Where was I when this record came out? I think this was released when I was in a pretty deep ambient/electronica phase and was not paying much attention to anything else. While I’m not familiar enough with ‘Ro Sham Bo’ to write about it here, you should know that in the circles I currently circulate in, the work you did there is still discussed with reverence.

ERIC MATTHEWS: It’s kind of weird to include this since you were one of many session musicians on this totally gorgeous record, but it was one of my favorite releases of 1995. Also? The only musician more all over this record than you was… Eric Matthews.

JASON FALKNER PRESENTS AUTHOR UNKNOWN: The first time I heard the opening chords to “I Live” (which are also, as you know, the opening chords to the actual album) sealed its permanent fate as a song that always gets added to the online playlists I generate almost 20 years later. Why? Because it’s fucking timeless! The arrangement, the effects on the guitar, the vocal – all of it works together to sound like something I might have heard on AM radio in grade school in the late 70s… “I Live” next to Blondie and Rundgren and The Police. I also cannot sing the chorus a cappella; the descent musically in the chorus is REALLY hard for me to sing without accompaniment for some reason. My ear’s actually pretty good, so this is probably part of the reason I’m so fascinated with the song.

BECK: Thanks to the internet, I just realized you’ve recorded and toured with a former college classmate, former Walt Mink drummer Joey Waronker. You might even be touring with him right now. Small world!

I could go on, but I’ll wrap this up for now. Have a fantastic birthday, and thanks for the top-notch music.

Lisa B-K

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