Another snippet from the new opera, The Boats called I Dreamed Of You Tonight. Rock Opera vs. Real Opera. Naked Lunch. Slippermen. Relationships. Inigo Montoya and The Princess Bride. Bohemian Rhapsody. The Elevator Pitch.
Roger CortonA new snippet. This is exceptionally beautiful. I’m starting to hear a theme in the all the snippets you’ve put up.
JCHOh, it’s all connected, that’s why it’s taking so damn long. It’s just so personal.
RCBecause it’s your family story?
JCHWell there are also lots of things going on in my ‘real’ life, right now, but yeah, it’s been tough teasing out the story. See the thing I keep trying to get across to fans is that these are ‘for reals opera’, not ‘rock opera’. Progressive Rock fans talk about ‘rock opera’ all the time and I find myself channeling Inigo Montoya
RCFrom ‘The Princess Bride’?
JCHYes. As he so famously says, “I do not think that a means a what you think it means.”
RCSo we both consulted the Almighty Google and it turns out that Wikipedia has a definition for Rock Opera!
A rock opera is a collection of rock music songs with lyrics that relate to a common story. Rock operas typically are released as concept albums and are not scripted for acting, which distinguishes them from operas, although several have been adapted as rock musicals. The use of various character roles within the song lyrics is a common storytelling device. The success of the rock opera genre has inspired similar works in other musical styles, such as rap opera.
RCRap opera? Who’d a thunk it?
JCHWho indeed. But they hit the nail on the head. All the ‘rock operas’ are really just a collection of songs that tell a story. But real opera is more like a movie. Or rather–movies are like opera. An opera, like a movie, has separate characters playing real parts that interact with one another on a real stage.
RCMaybe that’s why Rock Operas tend to make crappy movies (laughs).
JCHEXACTLY! Something like The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway? Fantastic. But it’s Peter Gabriel telling a fantasy story. It’s not really ‘characters’. So there’s a ton of freedom. You don’t have to worry about pesky details like ‘plot’ or whether something can be actually staged (laughs).
RCNot sure I follow you.
JCHOK, check it out. Remember the book ‘Naked Lunch’?
RCWilliam Burroughs. But that was back in college.
JCHNaked Lunch reminds me a lot of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
RCCome to think of it, the whole ‘Slipperman’ thing does have a ring to it (laughs).
JCHSo a bunch of people have tried making a movie of it. I’ve seen one version of it. And the end result is a totally crap movie. Why? Because it’s just not like Jane Austen…
RC…that’s for sure.
JCHAnd neither is The Lamb. Or any other ‘rock opera’ for that matter because they’re not concerned with being stageable. All they worry about–all Burroughs worried about–was doing his thing with words. Your mind does the rest. He didn’t worry about how it might look with people actually doing those things. And when Peter Gabriel thought up ‘Rael’ and all his shenanigans all he wanted was to make a good rock show. Fine. But all the costumes are just props. But what I’m trying to do is write something stage-able from the ground up. Oh, by the way, muso alert. PG loses his place in that clip and God love them, Tony and Phil stay right with him. Now that’s show biz, folks! If it were Yes?
RCTrain wreck (laughs). OK I get what you’re saying. But so what? Why do you think ‘real opera’ like yours will have any interest for people in general… and Progressive Rock fans in particular.?
JCHWhat average people dislike about ‘opera’ is the stereotypical Fat People Singing In Italian, not the idea itself. People who really dig music love musicals. If I were smart, I’d call what I do ‘musical theatre’, like ‘Le Miz’ or ‘West Side Story’ or ‘Hamilton’.
RCHeaven forbid you should be smart.
JCHIronically, calling it ‘opera’ is sort of a stubborn nod to Progressive Rock. The great operas give equal weight to the music; the music is just as much a character as any of the sung roles. I don’t want people to hear a bunch of ‘songs’. I want them to hear the music as much as the singers.
RCOr that’s your plan (laughs). OK, so tell us about this song.
JCHWell, the story is that the three brothers thought they were going to inherit their father’s fishing boat and continue on as their family had done for centuries. Think the family farm here, right?
JCHOK, so when the fishery is shut down and they realize that ain’t gonna happen, each of them has to decide what to do. And the story vaguely follows the reality that these guys each decided to emigrate to a different place: Canada, Australia and America. But each also have a wife or girlfriend. So…. then there is this painful discussion.
RCAre you coming or not?
JCHYep. Even the best relationship will have a moment or two of “How can you do this to us!”, right? If you’re the one who has to leave, you can’t help but resent it if yer wife isn’t one hundred percent behind you. And if you’re the one being asked to leave, you can’t help but feel like the ‘asker’ has no idea what they’re asking you to give up. Or that’s how I imagine it went down. There’s a Come To Jesus moment where you have to air the dirty laundry before you can move on.
RCSo that’s what this song is. Airing the dirty laundry.
JCHYeah. You have this combo fight of “I love you” and “How could you?”. And at the end, you either stick together.
JCHOr not. It’s the moment where you know what you have. You either break up or you move on. But either way, you learn something about the resentments all partners carry.
RCSounds like you speak from experience, brother. It just occurred to me how far this is from “Close To The Edge” (laughs). We talk about this a lot, but why should Prog Rockers have any interest in this?
JCHAnd why should old people who dig Puccini have any interest in this?
RCRight. It’s almost perfectly designed to appeal to…
JCHNOBODY! (laughs). What do you think keeps me up at night, dude? But I have to have a short answer in order to market this so here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
RCYour elevator pitch? Go for the gold!
JCHThe original fans of Progressive Rock are people who are very open to new music. Almost unique among music lovers, they embrace long-form stories, virtuosic performances and a wide range of genres and ideas. At a certain point, many want to expand their listening beyond the confines of conventional ‘prog’ and get to something just as epic, but frankly with more depth. However, asking them to jump directly into Verdi or Mozart is just too much. But what I’m doing–providing the depth of opera, but within the more familiar singing styles and instrumentation of a rock band. And that is doable for a lot of people. In fact, I think it’s something that many people want but don’t even know they’ve wanted for a loooong time. It’s just that when you put ‘rock’ and ‘opera’ together, most people’s minds immediately go to…
RCBohemian Rhapsody (laughs).
JCHOr The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Or Tommy. I think the very term ‘rock opera’ has prevented a lot of writers from doing something that should’ve been pretty obvious.
RCWell, I hope you’re right. It’s not ‘prog’ as I understand it, but it’s definitely beautiful. So… where are you at in this ‘process’? It’s been over a year now, right?
JCHSlow. I’d like to say that I’m more than half done, but I got ninety percent of the ‘songs’ done on Detroit and then I realized that it was just a bunch of songs and not a real drama–if that makes sense. My goal is to get some form of ‘product’ completed by early next year; either an album akin to Songs From Detroit or the full score that I can try to shop to various arts organizations.