“Get Along, Amazon” Live at Phoenix Books

In spite of my sordid past and shady acquaintances, Phoenix Books allowed me a couple of minutes to play “Get Along, Amazon” at their grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, June 8, 2012:

I had just put out the produced version of my anti-Amazon.com, pro-Phoenix-Books song a couple of days before, so it was a thrill to be able to play the thing live for real. I can’t thank co-owners Renee Reiner and Mike DeSanto enough for letting me be part of the festivities and, even more important, for opening Burlington’s only indie, new bookstore in the first place.

I hope I made a good enough case for the store’s importance in last week’s post, so I’ll just add for anyone reading about this for the first time that you, yes you can be a part of this community-supported and community-supporting endeavor. Just visit http://JoinPhoenix.com to learn more.

Delivering remarks and cutting the ribbon? None other than Burlington’s brand-new Mayor, the Honorable Miro Weinberger:

From L to R: Phoenix Books co-owner Renee Reiner, Nato, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Phoenix Books co-owner Mike DeSanto

From L to R: Renee Reiner, Nato, Mayor Dubs*, Mike DeSanto. Note the “Miro for Mayor” sticker on my guitar case.

Thanks and hugs to Rich Nadworny for being such a strong supporter of local Vermont business, not to mention for filming the video in the first place as well as taking the pic! His digital branding efforts are starting to become the stuff of legend.

* “Mayor Dubs”?!? OK, so maybe I’m the only person in #BTV who says that. But let’s face it, the name “Mayor Weinberger” is intimidatingly multisyllabic, and “Mayor Miro”, while alliterative, is completely inappropriate. But “Mayor Dubs”? OK…also inappropriate…but flows nicely. Calls to mind those old “VDub” ads for Volkswagen with Peter Stormare or even, more au courant, dubstep. I’ll keep using “Mayor Dubs” until his lawyers inform me otherwise…

“Get Along, Amazon”

Here’s my latest song, “Get Along, Amazon”:

Wait, am I selling out and “going commercial”? Hah, I wish. No, I’m throwing my support behind a local, Burlington, Vermont business that’s going to play a significant role in my community. So what’s this Phoenix Books about? It’s a new, independent bookstore in downtown Burlington (191 Bank Street) that only sells new books.

For the record, there’s definitely a place for giant online retailers like Amazon, but let’s face it: Not only do they NOT give you that real-time, physical pleasure of browsing using all your senses, they also don’t add anything of value to your community. For all the time you spend online, your real community is where you actually live. It’s where your kids grow and learn. It’s where your family and friends and neighbors and acquaintances ALSO live. Like it or not (hopefully, like it), you are all in this together. And that’s where the bookstore comes in.

A bookstore is more than just a bricks-and-mortar retailer. It’s a part of the fabric of a vibrant community that cares about people’s well-being, cares about the arts, and cares about literature in all its multifarious incarnations. And a bookstore that’s part of a vibrant, thriving downtown, one block from an amazing treasure of a pedestrian mall, becomes a part of your regular experience of the city.

It’s where you stop by after a restaurant meal to check out that book you heard about on the radio. It’s where you go to look for more books for that reading-voracious child in your life. After a little while, it becomes a place you go just to check in with the cool staff to see what they’ve been reading, what they recommend, maybe even what they’ve heard about the adaptation of a classic book that was just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

In short, an independent bookstore is as concerned with how its community experiences and benefits from printed media as it is with selling books. Phoenix Books is now Burlington’s only independent bookstore selling just new books. I hope you’ll consider being a part of its life, either by purchasing a membership or purchasing books. Or both!

Membership site: http://JoinPhoenix.com
Official Web site: http://PhoenixBooks.biz

And here are the lyrics. Sing along!

“Get Along, Amazon”

Well they promised me low prices
But they never said the cost
And I few years later
I can see what I’ve lost

So I’m speakin’ out now,
And I don’t wanna be rude:
But with no new books
My whole town would be screwed

Get along
Amazon, get along
Get along, Amazon
I want a bookstore in my downtown

Take a look into your future
And here’s what you’ll see:
You need jobs and schools
And lots of parks with trees

But without a good bookstore
Life is so much worse
So I go to Phoenix Books
My community comes first

Get along
Amazon, get along
Get along, Amazon
I want a bookstore in my downtown

Now some places don’t care
About quality of life
And they’d trade their soul
For the lowest price

But we’re in Vermont,
And we do what we like
So, hey, Jeff Bezos
Take a Long Trail hike

Get along
Amazon, get along
Get along, Amazon
I want a bookstore in my downtown

Copyright © 2012 Nate Orshan

“Shake Your Hoodie”

So…I’m not a hip-hop guy. Retro-pop/rock, yes. Even funk. But hip-hop, with rapping?

And yet…

“Shake Your Hoodie” was a song I was especially self-challenged to create. As I’ve said before, working for Vermont Teddy Bear Company gave me an excuse to come up with goofy tunes in support of some of its whimsical and fun products, and by the time I left I had contributed no fewer than five tunes just promoting Hoodie-Footie Snuggle Suit alone (PajamaGram is part of the company).

So there I was at my job, and out of nowhere this little faux rap sprang into my head: “Shake your Hoodie if you love me / Shake your Hoodie if you {something something some-} above me”. The words didn’t matter as much as the fact that the vocal rhythms felt realistic for the idiom. I wrote the lines down as carefully as possible (in this weird hybrid notation I use) and said to myself, “Nato, you’re going to do your first, honest-to-God hip-top tune.”

First, just to make sure I wouldn’t stray too far off target, I took a little trip to Billboard’s Top Hip-Hop and R&B list (for August 2, 2011) to get a sense of what the current tunes sounded like. Regardless, I knew right off that I couldn’t get too electronic-sounding, as I didn’t have any sampling or autotune software, so my song was going to have to have a smoother, more old-school R&B sound.

Here’s three songs from that week’s top-10 that suggested ideas:

Artist: Big Sean
Song: “My Last”
Idea: Jazzy chords on piano
Impact on song: Fairly big

Artist: Nicki Minaj
Song: “Super Bass”
Idea: Backwards crash cymbals
Impact on song: Minor, but a nice addition

Artist: Lil Wayne
Song: “How to Love”
Idea: Slower “Back To Life”-ish drums
Impact on song: Substantial

Speaking of Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life”, a couple of decades ago that song was actually a big deal for me, and I seem to have logged quite a few hours dancing to its smooth “boom, ba-smack boom, boom smack” beat. Hey, as long as we’re looking at videos…

So once I got a sense of what might make for plausible hip-hop (again, it’s not what I usually do!), from there on out it was a ton of fun to make, including:

  • Coming up with the faux-hip-hop lyrics. Sample line: “Shake your Hoodie like a playa / Set it up on Foursquare, be your own mayor {‘may-ya’}”
  • Doing the rap. Oh, man, that took a lot of takes with all kinds of different styles. I tried it in my lowest Barry White, my whiniest Beastie Boys, and finally settled on something closer to my natural voice which, surprisingly, reminds me a little of Snoop Dogg. Totally unintentional, but, hopefully, adds to the funny.
  • Doing the multi-voice chorus. After I was done, I realized I seemed to have channeled 70s-era Michael McDonald for the high parts. Luckily, I’m a fan.

I hope you enjoy “Shake Your Hoodie”, but honestly? Don’t try dancing in one during the summer months. What use is looking so hot if you die of heatstroke?

Oh yeah. Lyrics!

Shake your Hoodie

Shake your Hoodie for the DJ
Shake your Hoodie so you show ‘em there’s a party in your PJs
Shake your Hoodie on the dance floor
Show ‘em somethin’ you don’t need a degree in finance for

Shake your Hoodie with ya homies
Shake your Hoodie if you want another somethin’ cold ‘n’ foamy
Shake your Hoodie on the weekend
Hoodie-Footie inna house, and we’re goin’ off the deep end

Shake your Hoodie, Hoodie-Footie, Baby

Shake your Hoodie like a swinger
Shake your Hoodie with the thumb holes, wagglin’ ya fingers
Shake your Hoodie, take a picture
Hoodie-Footie is the paint, and you’re the paint mixer

Shake your Hoodie onna freeway
When you wanna make ‘em look, Hoodie-Footie is THE way
Shake your Hoodie like a player
Set it up on Foursquare, be your own Mayor

Shake your Hoodie, Hoodie-Footie, Baby

Shake your Hoodie, Hoodie-Footie

Shake your Hoodie on the street, now
If you wanna get down, just zip off the feet, now
Shake your Hoodie when ya rock it
Go and stash all your cash in the kangaroo pocket

Shake your Hoodie for my vocal
Shake your Hoodie even if they’re sayin’, “Es un loco”
Shake your Hoodie for ya home crew
‘Cuz Hoodie-Footie Nation is the one ya comin’ home to

© 2011 Nate Orshan