Take Meh, Shake Meh

Friday, February 20, 2009

:: Henson - Do Me Wrong, But Do Me ::

Update, 2/20/2009
Well as The Dude himself has said, "New shit has come to light."

I've recently been in correspondence with a relative of Tim Henson's who informed me that while the police ultimately ruled the death a suicide, an independent private investigation came up with his death being a murder. I would like to write a more complete tribute to Tim Henson at a later date once I've filled in some more blanks, but for now I'd like to get this one thing out there for the respect of his family. So read some of what's below with a grain of salt for now, and hopefully I'll rewrite this piece in the near future.

A long time ago, at a record store kinda far away, I picked up about 200 pieces of 7" vinyl. I think they were 20 for a dollar, and I took full advantage. Some of the things I found were actually really cool, like an early Wrens (the incredible NJ rock band, not the vocal group) 7" and a handful of autographed Mark Sandman side project singles (he had just recently died). But for the most part, I selected things that sounded bizarre or funny. After listening to several of my acquisitions, I decided to make a compilation of the best/worst ones, hurriedly throwing it together and dubbing it Scars On 45. I took it to band practice, and it soon became a post-practice listening staple, a legend in our own minds. I made two more Scars comps, and I can trace back this whole addiction to finding and sharing the strange and wonderful plastic platters that are out there to those times. I've never looked back.

This song is probably my favorite thing I've ever found. It's not the weirdest, nor is it the funniest, but to me it is the the best combination of the sublime and the ridiculous. It's almost become mythical to me, because of my struggle to learn anything at all about the artist, researching many different times and ways. I think I've finally got enough of a handle on it to be able to write something.

Henson was Tim Henson, a Fame Studios session keyboardist. Many, many classic recordings were made at Rick Hall's Fame Studios, home of the "Muscle Shoals Sound." I am told he played keyboards on the monster soft-rocker "Torn Between Two Lovers". I guess Tim was being given a shot at being more than just a session player, and this single, and the self titled album it comes from, came out in 1974. "Do Me Wrong But Do Me" was written by Alan O'Day, who had a pretty big hit with the perfectly goofy "Undercover Angel" in 1977. O'Day's own version of "Do Me" appears on the same album. The flip side of his single is a cover of my favorite Beach Boys song, "God Only Knows," which is a bit of a trip because of the abundance of analog keyboard sounds. "Do Me" was produced by Rick Hall himself, with string arrangements by Grammy, Emmy and Clio Award winner Jimmie Haskell. It's filled with squawking wah guitar and ridiculous lyrics, but balanced with some really nice changes, and to top it off, what I think is a perfect bridge. Even though the lyrics are hard to take seriously, and in fact were probably supposed to be humorous, the music underneath gives off a darkness in juxtaposition that makes this, for me at least, a fascinating listen. I'm sure I've listened to this song over a hundred times.

In my final round of internet searches on Tim Henson, I came across someone who knew him, and through him I got some actual information. It seems that shortly after Tim had been made an official member of the prestigious Muscle Shoals Sound rhythm section, he took his own life. There was evidently a lot of pressure being a studio musician, in both quality of performance and the amount of work one would have to take on just to make ends meet. I guess if he was also trying to make it as a solo artist, the pressure would be that much greater. So yeah, this tale does not have have a happy ending, and we see yet another talented musician who becomes little more than a footnote in rock history. For me, this song always had a melancholy vibe to it, and knowing what I now know, it always will.

I'd like to thank JD Wyker and the members of the Mighty Field Of Vision mailing list for all the help and information they've given me. I was wondering if I'd ever be able to do this piece, or at least do it any justice, and they gave me what I needed.