You Do What You Gotta Do,
You Do What You Can:
Notes on DIY
I never took DIY [Do It Yourself] as a personal credo. I still don't. If I had my way, I'd have legions of groveling underlings, who at the snap of my fingers would trample each
other to get me a pack of cigarettes. Unfortunately, that kind of deferential butt-kissing has eluded me thus far, and anyway I don't smoke. So why DIY? Most musicians, myself included, sooner or later find themselves
facing a situation where everyone who was supposed to come through hasn't. Which leaves two options: do it yourself, or go back to college.
I did my first album myself. After recording it in a guy's home studio
during one of the coldest winters I can remember (every time the door opened an arctic blast knocked all the guitars out of tune), I wound up having the LPs manufactured in Arizona, the covers in Texas, and the lyric
sheets in Oklahoma (where I was living at the time). It was expensive, it was a thousand headaches, it was being told every step of the way that I'd done all the previous steps wrong, it was people trying to scam money
right and left, it was vanishing artwork, it was not knowing if the skips in the test pressings were due to faulty pressing or to the old turntables that were the only ones at my disposal.... You get the picture. But
when I opened the first box of album covers and saw 200 sleeves, spine out, with my name on them, it was definitely one of life's little crescendos.
I made sure that the albums got out to radio stations, the press,
and all the A&R people whose names and addresses I could get a hold of. In other words, I took 'em all to the post office myself (and patiently explained to the clerk that, yes, even though record albums weren't,
strictly speaking, books, they could be sent "Book Rate"). I made follow-up calls on every one of them. Then someone reminded me that there was a place called Europe, so I did the whole thing all over again.
What I gained from this experience, I'm still discovering. It's given me a greater awareness of opportunities and some degree of business savvy, and it's led to me getting records out on both sides of the Atlantic.
Every record deal I've signed I've negotiated myself, and presently I'm getting by without a manager or a booking agent. I even get fan mail occasionally, sometimes from places like Hong Kong.
Of the three albums
I've recorded, the money for each came out of my own pocket. I never thought that it was supposed to work that way in rock & roll, and maybe it isn't. But like I said, if I'd waited for the limo to take me to
Fantasyland, I'd still be asking, "Do you want lids on these?"
So no, I'm not getting rich doing this. My savings account is currently at twenty-three dollars, and the "check engine" light on my
car's dashboard, which used to flash on for fifteen seconds every once in a while, is now as steadfast and dependable as a loyal friend. Yes, I'd like to get rich doing this. It's hard to convince yourself that you're
in it for the glory when you have a blowout in the Ozarks at five in the morning in January. And the thought does occur to me that this is the country that let Herman Melville and Lonnie Johnson die penniless....
But it's like the old JBL speakers ad used to say, "Under pressure, most tweeters simply fail." When you do it yourself, you only fail
when you choose to.