As You Like It, A Tame Snake

If I could, then it was so
but still you only tell me no
I tried and lost it seems
I can't keep changing with your evil schemes

I've had a weird relationship with the works of William Shakespeare. I haven't always been into his plays, though that has been changing. I know civilization falls to him, but it's not always easy for an average student to see why, though it could just be me. Like most of the people I went to school with, I was introduced to Shakespeare in middle school and the first play being Romeo and Juliet, - I was aware of him before that, and knew all the general quotes but had yet to officially study his works - I even acted out a scene from Act V, Scene III...in faith, I will... after Romeo slays Paris, and finds Juliet lying dead, not an easy scene for an eighth grader. For extra credit I went to a Shakespeare Festival. Beyond that semester I tried to avoid the stuff until it was forced back at me in University.

There's nothing to contest
I fulfill every request
and still you fight it
ain't it as you like it?
First Hello, but soon Goodbye
you laugh until you cry
how well you hide it,
ain't it as you like it?

Again I felt Shakespeare's language is too foreign to modern American English. Footnotes! Nothing is more trying for a young reader then all the footnotes: explaining old jokes, antiquated language, historical context impossible to know. So much lost in translation. It is hard to see the power of the words, the meaning, the feeling, the understanding. Now that I am older, my eyes have gotten wider. It was a few years ago, when I was getting ready for our second LP I revisited As You Like It

*
I found this beautiful artwork on Google from an Artist Allyson Haller
check out her blog to I was really taken by this image.

The story and characters are interesting enough, but the themes were what spoke loudest to me. Love, wit, inspiration, music, all come back over and over. Like the whole thing is a meditation Shakespeare leads us down. I also loved the constant double-talk. Verbal acrobatic of yes and no, love and loss- almost every line is filled with contradiction and a strange looping reasoning that is very rock and roll to me. The more I read from it the easier it was to be inspired. So I made a character, much like the one's in As You Like It, brutalized by love. Played by false strings. A tame snake.




I remember I was coming back from a doctors appointment and driving in the car when the story hit me. By the end of the 45min drive I had pretty much all the verses and most of the chorus written out in my head. When I got home I rushed to my notepad and put them all down with minor alterations. Sometimes it works out that way.
From that As You Like It, the song, took shape. I went into my familiar T.Rex/Elvis/Everly territory, the perfect way to write rocknroll in my humble opinion, and hammered out rather quickly the melody to go with it.

The song, upon reflection, is in the wrong key, and if I were to play it again live I would probably lower it down a bit. The mix of the song needed to have the background vox a little higher too. Life is not perfect though. And these are very minor complaints, nuisances really. Sometimes it is impossible to listen uncritically to myself. I think it is a beautiful artifact of that recording session. Maybe sums up the album completely? Anyways great job all around.

here is a live version I found on YouTube, complete with my fretless bass!
Actually sounding really good. I loved that machine.



A traitor to your own word
You keep my pride unnerved
I'll still abide it,
Ain't it as you like it?



Once I had the words I took As You Like It to my acoustic, which most of my songs are written on, and later transferred again to the band with the help of the other dudes. The story of a person whipped up by love is so central to rock and roll that the idea just unfolds itself. My favorite part being the Beatles style backgrounds on the chorus, dancing around the lead, wrapping around the melody so nicely. When in doubt always go back to The Beatles for music or Shakespeare for words.

I know my buddy Ben would have a few thoughts about this...I think we actually had a conversation on the very subject in San Diego... I feel Shakespeare's works are something best to grow into. If they're forced, the plays can be very taxing, but if someone wants to go there, pursues them out of their own volition, they will find a beautifully rich and rewarding trip. A travel I recommend making, and one I frequent more and more often.

I can appreciate them more now, being older, possibly smarter, and more willing to work than when I was a teenager. As glad as I am now that I was introduced to him, it has helped me so much as a writer, I really wish my education focused on reading works that would have inspired me to want to read more. Current books, of which there are many, many great selections, instead of classics from another time, another country, another people.

The lines that really jumped at me. The words that grabbed my heart and forced me to read into my own life.  They were all far more understandable. It felt like they were written to me, for me. I didn't need a map to navigate the meanings, laugh at the jokes, and feel connected. If I hadn't fallen in love with the American Short Story which I did outside of my recommended readings and sometimes at the cost of my grades, I would never have gotten into poetry, novels, plays, writing, all sorts of literature the way I had.

So why not focus on modern American fiction? Speak American Poetry? See American plays? Or in the case of Texas- Mexican: that culture should be a lot more relevant to me than Shakespeare's, no? -or insert your own culture and interests here. I am speaking only as a young Texan, not that I think everyone needs to read like me- Again just a lot of questions, but think how inspiring it would be for a child to hear words that speak of current ideas, current politics, things that are affecting their lives, their families lives? Maybe it would be more potent, more dangerous... maybe they would be inspired to write their own plays, stories, poems, songs? But then again I keep pulling from the classics all the time... 

...as I stood by her body, lips painted and shut. eyes closed. hair a brittle grey like dried grass. I knew nobody was different. we all walked off the past. stood on stacks of old bones. and just keep passing on the torch until someone figures out what to do with it...


-rene