Robin Williams – “Feel So Alien” by Integr8d Soul

To be American is to be have been raised on video and TV reruns, and so many of us had just heard our baby sitter had killed himself. “Favorite Uncle,” as one girl put it, making me shed another tear and forfeit my Man Pants again. A lot of energy flowed through me, to my friends, from my friends on social media. Robin Williams, gone. I suspect it’s still going to be part of a few phone calls. As soon as I found out, I wrote a personal eulogy, found here:Robin Williams: my role model. Doesn’t that explain a lot?

cronauer2 am found me in the middle of some yoga stretches, watching bands on Carson Daly, when “Nanoo, nanoo…Mork calling Orson, come in Orson” sounded like a good hook for a song! Some sense of a melody held it together when I took out a clean sheet of paper at the dining room table and spent at least forty five minutes composing.

I incorporated elements of Mork & Mindy, especially in the early going, and let a Williams-esque observation of human foibles be my personal guide. There was a lot of compassion. I felt Robin Williams with me in spirit, smiling at the Beatnik/ hippy I will always be in my lyrics, as I tested the words out under my breath while Angela played Zoo nearby.

Feel So Alien

Nanoo, Nanoo /Mork calling Orson, Come in Orson
Sometimes I don’t get this planet/ and it’s starting to show

The things these creatures do for money
when it doesn’t even make them happy
no wonder they think it’s crappy
and it’s starting to blow

Shazbot, you’ve got to dream / of an inner peace, of a new release
You’ve got to meet yourself/ asking “hey what do I do?”
Nanoo, Nanoo

I feel so alien / who’s the one who’s upside down?
Take what’s good, pass it around
and you’re all so funny, you should hear your voices / see your choices
Little machines of distraction / where’s the interaction?
Who’s sitting right there with you?
Is it just too hard to say / “ Nanoo, nanoo”

I feel so alien / I feel so alien
strange things you do for fun / strange things you do, Nanoo, Nanoo

2. Nanoo, nanoo / consumers trash the oceans
poison food and the bees are dying
Desert sky god told you before / we don’t agree, so it’s off to war
Differences we could let go
Shazbot, you’ve got to dream / of an inner peace, of a new release
Why not just meet yourself / saying “hey, what do I do? Nanoo, nanoo”?

I feel so alien / who’s the one who’s upside down?
Cruelness, so alien / when we all could live in the beautiful sun!
I feel so alien / I feel so alien / when you end, you’ve just begun
My egg has taken me / to this Earth mystery / all these strange things you do
strange things you do, Nanoo, Nanoo _ I’m calling Orson, come in, come in, come in Orson, come in come in come in….come in, come in, come in (you’ve got to dream) come in, come in, come in…come in, come in come in…I feel so alien.

-Cecil Disharoon (Lue Lyron) August 13 2 to 4 am (with music)

mork and mindyGoing into page two, I discarded “you might be a redneck if/ your human racing off the cliff” because even a funny cheap shot at the South seemed so specific as to take me out of the flow of human commentary in general. A comment artist Joe Philips had made about the “desert sky god” did find its way in place of the discard, which never made it to the page. The flip page was surprisingly faithful to the pattern of the first, though not slavishly tit-for-tat. Then I took out the guitar, somehow without once crying (I got a bit feely three times, earlier), and spent probably fifteen minutes deciding on the key, before supplementing my F G Am riff with the proper accompaniment. I had one moment where I said to myself I don’t know theory like a trained person; I don’t have an innate sense what went together in this sonic territory. I didn’t give up, though. I had a sense of what worked together with specific phrases in a way I didn’t develop for years, and after much trial and error, by 4am roughly I had a playable song!

Original page of lyrics/ chords
Original page of lyrics/ chords

feel so alien written page

While timing it, I noted it was turning out roughly the same length as another great space man song, “Space Oddity,” and for that matter, “Rocket Man,” which use the same metaphor in ways unique from mine. Working on “Moonage Daydream” again lately probably evoked the Ziggy Stardust character, the space man who came to Earth to eventually rock and roll and apparently burn out. The Bowie influence did shape my song, in particular: I remember trying a B flat-minor 7th shape at one point that didn’t quite work (but a Fsharp did) in tribute to the progression of “Oddity,” but the “Feel So Alien” is nonetheless uniquely mine, without overt emulation, just authentic expression as I frankly grappled with suicide, somehow, in a song that makes the laugh-worthy “Nanoo, nanoo” greeting from the sitcom a poignant statement. I can’t just preach at you, I’ve got to rock you, move you, and make you smile…which is actually pretty typical of preaching, from my experience. Shazbot, the expression used like a swear word, sort of introduces an oath in my song, too; Mork usually said it after an accident or mistake, so it seemed right to say, in wake of the mistake of our miscommunication as a species, or even the tragic decision Robin made. I’m sure he did seek some inner peace and try to return to idealistic dreams, many, many times over in his sixty three years.

The last image to come from the show was Mork’s arrival in his egg, always depicted in the show’s opening. For the first time I connected it with the fact that human life begins biologically in a fertilized egg, too, and that’s the egg in which we arrive on this planet…possibly, from somewhere! By that point I’d already anticipated “come in Orson” from the top of the song as a desperate plea and a definitive focus to center all that came along in between. The idea of an egg bringing us here to Earth’s mystery returned the relevance of the metaphor and perhaps the unending path to inner peace where we sometimes just want to return to the beginning and start all over!change the world

Last things last, as with first things first: my favorite pairing of chords with “I feel so alien,” E7 and Aminor7 (transposed by capo two; they are actually an F sharp 7th and B minor 7th, I imagine), a pairing I only used twice because I didn’t want to exhaust the power of its vulnerability, became my closer. I already had tried out “come in, come in, come in” repetitively in three run-throughs, let’s say, before I got the definitive ending. I remember timing it three times to that point on my phone’s stop watch, to come out of my sense of timeless time and see how much song I had, did I need to use a chorus again and what WAS the chorus. I don’t insist on strict rules of formula, but I do like coherency. Sure enough, a full page front and back, as is many times the case, was enough!

I was making up coffee to start later for everyone else when I heard “you know you’ve got to dream” as the companion line to “come in, come in, come in”; I like rounds, as evidenced on “Evolution” and “Angela Dawn,” built, like the Indigo Girls did it, on our two voices threading in and out of each other as the epic conclusion fuses sentiments. I like to think at the present that all I ever learned informs the next piece. Robin had said something I later saw put together on a beautiful meme, a photo of him with a butterfly on his nose, about “don’t let anyone tell you differently: words and dreams change the world.” It was born of the same ethos, the Sixties counterculture, that is probably most seminal to my work to this day; to paraphrase the man himself, I remember the Sixties because I wasn’t there!

robinI can honestly say Robin Williams, in some way, at least the one I carry with me in my head, revived successfully after he could not be, helped me write the whole thing. A recent comment from Ridge DJ Matt Davis, about his son and Radiohead (especially “Sail To the Moon”) had evoked their unique sense of melody and made me want to put the line that became the title afterwards in vulnerable terms. I was inspired by the anomie, the loneliness Robin and indeed all of us feel sometimes, and the rest of the song detailed why that loneliness is so: we know there’s a better way if we just didn’t hide from ourselves and conclusively, each other. I tried out just two titles around 4:30 am, and Angela liked suggestion one, “Feel So Alien” and that’s where I kept it. I think that was the very last thing. Titles usually are; they are like the cover to a comic book or book in general. A broken e-string assured I would not try recording it, which was just as well, as I was still mumbling the words while perfecting the chord changes, but I needed to replace those strings anyway, and it will be in the line up August 21st.

About 5:11 am, I had taken a brief rest after a shower, and after cooling in the early morning air by my window and drying off a bit gradually, I sat down to type up my words. I was too tired to fight with positioning the chords in a second copy; it was enough to share the lyrics four or five different places, mostly on my wall and blog, call it a night about an hour-plus later. Four and a half hours after my initial idea, I was ready to let it rest. I think four hours is a nice work period, generally, and see why Stephen King suggested sticking with your craft that long every morning. I like the idea of this human existence having a natural home out there in the greater cosmos, and I guess Mork being from Ork always worked for me because reporting back to our point of origin is a very useful metaphor for gaining perspective on existence on Earth. Great sacrifices of pain precipitate many great works of art, but in my case, there’s a hope and some note-worthy epiphany that either emerges in the creation of the work itself or empowers that creation. Some kind of realization, relevance, reverence, always makes the essence of a lasting artistic statement.

Completing a short story, drawings, and now a new song, suggests a type of gestation that took time in between while I went out and experienced life and took in impressions. They feed one another, too; the drawings brought me words of wisdom and praise from the person they honored; the rambling essay evoked the lasting impressions of what made Mork important to me, not just his silliness, but my anticipation of what he’d learned about us from his feigned naivety, an authenticity that was true to Robin Williams, a sincerity for which he may have cursed himself for not staying faithful to, while a cold evaluation of human kind continuing to suffer for all they refuse to learn may have haunted him.

I said at one point in the night that art is like emotional antibodies we generate and then try to share with a sick world.
Do I even need to tell you why I made this song?

Advertisements