by the Trouble Dolls

39. “Nikki Says”

This song is about an old friend of the Trouble Dolls.

$*^&#!! was a very nice person, but she could be super-critical, and this bugged us. Because we are better at writing songs than at handling friendship problems, we wrote a song about her judginess. And because we are also very nice and considerate people, we told her about the song before recording it.

$*^&#!! was hurt. OK, she was crushed. She said all the other Trouble Dolls girl-name songs were love songs, full of affection or longing; this one was exceptional in its tone of exasperation. She didn’t want to be special that way.  Could we please change the name from $*^&#!! to another girl-name? And then she could like the song very much.

Because we are very nice and considerate people, we changed the name in the song from $*^&#!! to Nikki. And because it’s got two syllables, it actually sounds better. Thanks $*^&#!!

38. “Harbingers of Change”

The last of four songs we adapted from poems in our friend Oliver Baer's book “Baer Soul.” The other three will be on an upcoming album of us and four other bands setting Oliver's words to music. (They can also be found on this tumblr, here, here and here.) This one’s the outtake.

We’ve never asked Oliver to explain his poems, but this one seems to be a lullaby to a certain little corner of the New York music scene, with references to Lach, Debby Schwartz, the Rooks and us (and possibly one or two others that we missed). We cut out Lach, Debby and the Rooks. Not because we don’t love them. Maybe, in fact, because we do. We like to think that at this very moment they’re writing their own versions of this song and cutting us out.

37. “LA You Don’t Love Me”

Last July we were in LA, minding our business, working hard in a bunker deep in the Hollywood Hills, when the note came: “Singers, strummers and drinkers: you are invited to The Event. In order to attend you are charged with this task: write an unrequited love-song including the words ‘ink’, ‘print’, ‘quill’, ‘spelling’, and ‘scrivenor’” (sic). “Easy,” we thought. “Love songs fall out of Trouble Dolls like fleas off a sheep dog.” Except it wasn’t so easy. You try including “scrivener” and “quill” in a song without invoking Herman Melville. We earned our blue chips and Blue Moon beer on this one.

36. “Love of My Life”

This one goes waaay back, and has a special place in our hearts. It was written on a plane on the way to Barcelona, where our friends Tony and Rika Daniel were getting married the next day. It was polished off in a hotel room in Sabadell that night, and performed for the first time — poorly, but with love — at Tony and Rika’s wedding reception in the blazing Spanish sun. None of the above has anything to do with how we usually roll, except for the part about writing songs on overnight deadlines, which we’ve become quite fond of doing. Give us a deadline and we will give you a song. It definitely helps if we love you, though. Happy Valentine’s Day to Tony and Rika and to all of you.

35. “The Queen of Queens”

More often than not we start with the music, or at least an idea for the music. But this one began with the words, written at an office desk one afternoon when one of us Dolls was supposed to be working. The first verse explains how to get from the northside of Williamsburg to the house where the subject of the song, who is very real, used to live. The second verse zeroes in on the precise destination. This song is its own Google map. But the Queen of Queens has since moved, which is a good thing, because her old place is probably gonna get all touristy now.

33. “O My Body”

Happy new year. The world is one year older. We are one year older. Body parts, like international economies, are slowly failing. Imperceptibly at first, but ever more perceptibly as our lives move from verse to bridge to chorus to solo (and back). And so we dance. And we call on all lost or absentee lovers to join us.

32-3/4. “Winter Wonderland (Live at Bowery Poetry Club)”

Another holiday extra. This one was recorded way back when at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, at a show paying tribute to one of the greatest Christmas albums ever made — certainly the greatest one ever made by a Jew. The night was organized by the literary magazine Boog City, featured a lot of our favorite New York bands, and gave us a chance to arrange a song around a sample of a certain drumbeat that, well, if you’ve never done it yourself, you really should. (Speaking of that certain drumbeat, here’s a Spotify playlist we made of songs through the years that use it.)

Happy holidays, and see you in January.

32-1/2. “December”

A holiday extra. Today’s entry isn’t a new song and it isn’t part of the Difficult Neverending Second Album. “December” comes from Sticky, our short simple first album, and we offer it here as a free holiday download. It’s a hopeful song written on a particularly sad day several years ago. This may seem silly now, but it made us incredibly happy on that day to realize that “drumming,” “strumming” and “humming” all rhyme. You discover some truly amazing things when you write songs.

The sleigh bells were jingled by ex-Dolls drummer Gabriel Rhodes. Evan Silverman played the upright bass, and Mark Bacino harmonized with Cheri and Pam on the ba-ba parts. Here’s to old friends and new beginnings.

(If you’re interested in hearing more from Sticky, here it is on iTunes, and here it is on Spotify.)

32. “You Don’t Comb Your Hair Anymore”

Sometimes inspiration is hanging on the wall right in front of where you’ve been standing for years. There’s a poster in our rehearsal space of a Dennis Hopper photograph of a couple sitting in a booth at a diner. She’s got fabulous brunette hair and a cigarette. He’s tattooed and shirtless. They are the models for the first verse of “You Don’t Comb Your Hair Anymore.” We dropped the tattoo and added the custom chopper that we assume is waiting for them outside. It’s obvious from the photo that both of them comb their hair quite often, so it’s safe to say that the “you” we’re addressing in the song’s chorus isn’t either one of them. They’re just a poster, after all, a poster that came to life for us for one crucial moment.

One other note about “You Don’t Comb Your Hair Anymore”: It marks the first appearance by the T-Dolls horn section, the awesome Rob Christiansen on trombone and the amazing Chris McBurney on trumpet. Chris is of course better known as our drummer, and Rob once drummed for us, too, because Chris was on the road masquerading as Ringo Starr that day. Make of that what you will. Also, we’re not sure if Chris combs his hair anymore, for whatever that’s worth.