40 Chapters
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XXXI. “Album of a Lifetime”

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


“Album of a Lifetime”


hoenix was released on July 16, and the morning began with a radio interview on KUT, the University of

Texas’s radio station. After lunch with my family, who had come to

Austin to help me celebrate the album’s release, Geoff Muldaur, David Mansfield, and I had a short rehearsal in the living room of my tiny suite at the old Driskill Hotel.

I had been holding my breath for weeks, hoping I would appear healthy and able to a crowd that would critically watch my every move.

Would I panic if I looked out and didn’t know where I was? Would I tumble over tricky pronunciations of self-inflicted onomatopoeia? I reminded myself that I was actually pretty good at this stuff now, saying under my breath, “Don’t you chickenshit out on me, pal.”

At some point during most days, I was lost. My best concepts of time still deserted me, or I would forget what I was doing and why.

A few moments of this was more than long enough to leave me unsettled. Then I would pause and get quiet. Doing that often allowed me to catch up to reality, prevented anyone else from noticing my perplexity, and kept me from regarding that condition of my life too seriously. “We had lived together for four years when you told me that

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XXIX. Prize for Not Working Hard Enough

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


Prize for Not Working

Hard Enough


n important project of my Bay Area years was about to begin. There I was, fancying myself some kind of romantic, but I didn’t even have my work collected in a place that I could turn to and find the material I boasted about.

Hobart Taylor recalls, “I talked to Townes [Van Zandt] on a trip to Nashville. He thought Vince’s work was so good that it should be catalogued. His exact words were, ‘Vince is a poet. He should do a songbook.’”

So while we played nine-ball in a China Basin bar on a rainy weekday afternoon, Hobart and I decided to rent some studio space and record the materials I had authored. When the rain stopped, we drove over Portrero Hill back into the city. “That was the most important work we did together—recording about 60 songs over five or six months time,” Hobart continued. “The act of recording them means they take a shape, no matter how that might change later. They have an interpretation. It could perhaps make a recording possible.”

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XXV. Fate Worse Than Death

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


Fate Worse Than Death


or five years I had not been able to remember where anything was unless I put it someplace where I would routinely go every day to rediscover the things I would need. I had introduced a support system that allowed me to keep track of everything I valued or needed. Consequently, my life was arranged into a rotation of stations. There was a bowl for my wallet and keys at the front door. In the piano room, the top of the dresser and the desk served the same function for all music-related items: strings, tuners, the Black Book, metronomes. In the kitchen there was a countertop for cutlery, a favorite plate, and a glass. All things that related to school, including my driver’s license and keys to “The Hotel,” were left on the drafting table or in the art bag I carried.

But I forgot to put things where they belonged so many times.

The indignity of losing something yet again drove me to fail-safe my fragmented, piecemeal world as best I could. It’s hard to describe the disappointment I felt when I would turn around for the umpteenth time and realize that I didn’t know where my wallet and car keys were.

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V. Music Where the Words Are the Important Part

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


Music Where the Words

Are the Important Part


n many a lonely road to nowhere but my next gig, my instrument set me apart from the mainstream. It rang with an identity in sound that was distinct from any other guitar. It’s fair to note that most of this distinction existed only between my ears.

My first few lessons about the ragtag of showbiz taught me that if you couldn’t fool yourself first, that if an idea didn’t light you up like

Times Square, you couldn’t fool anyone else into believing they were on Times Square. That guitar and I were growing up in a showbiz life together. I was a hopeless kid in an art world that delighted in its own shadow. My saving grace was that I was young and tough enough to be a pain for one loudshoutingwhile.

But I got tired of playing in between songs on the jukeboxes in the same hick towns. Not very far into it yet, I was bored. I even grew weary of well-intentioned folk clubs. I didn’t write folk music, and I didn’t think folk music. It wasn’t my music, my statement. But more often than not, my best efforts to write currently applicable themes were mistakenly referred to as folk music simply because I chose to compose and play with the acoustic guitar.

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XXXIII. Play Like You Practice

Vince Bell University of North Texas Press PDF


Play Like You Practice


took three trips to Europe during that

Texas stay. The first was in 1995 to Holland and Belgium as the supporting act for the Jayhawks.

March 22









Tivoli, Utrecht (w/The Jayhawks)

Paradiso, Amsterdam (w/The Jayhawks)

Luna, Brussels, Belgium

Noorderlicht, Tilburg (w/The Jayhawks)

Leidsekade Live (National Radio Show) (afternoon)

Nighttown, Rotterdam (w/The Jayhawks) (evening)

Oosterpoort, Gronlingen (w/The Jayhawks)

Zalen Schaaf, Leeuwarden (w/The Jayhawks)

Tom Tom Club, Heythuizen

Cactus Club, Brugge, Belgium

When I did my own solo dates as well, Sarah, our driver Bert, and

I saw the kilometers in between. In Den Bosch, it was at a joint down from a twelfth-century cathedral and a Mexican restaurant. Utrecht was a busy, paved-over university town, and a whistle-stop on the rail line between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. On the border with Belgium, I played the hippest spot in a little hamlet. There weren’t as many people walking the one street in the day as there were for my

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