Remo hadn't written a hit song in years. He had a string of them in the late '90's, but then he up and disappeared. Lost his touch, or lost touch, I guess.
We all thought it was for the best, as Remo had started to develop a real attitude. He used to go on and on about his own successes, and his gifts as a writer. He called his songs not by their titles, but by the position they reached on the charts ("Have you heard my new Number Four…" etc.). And he referred to other
people only in the 3rd person, which for some reason seemed condescending.
But after a while, Remo just dropped clean out of sight. Last I heard, he had gotten himself heavy into computers and computer programming, and had hung up his songwriting hat for good. (He actually used to wear a songwriter's hat, which was like a beret, only Frencher.)
Last week, I was listening to K-FOX on the way to the studio. A song came on that made me pull over to the side of the road. It was near perfect in its delivery: concise phrasing, lilting melody, no saxophone. It was a contemporary masterpiece and when the deejay announced Remo's name, I near fell off my horse. Remo was back. And he was better than ever.
I tracked down his cell number, and when we finally connected, he seemed not at all like the Remo that I remembered. Gone were the attitude, and the heightened sense of self. He was, instead, rather humble and almost hesitant to discuss his new song. Something was up, and I needed to find out what.
As soon as I thought of how to end this story, I made my way up to Remo's new apartment on the Upper West side. In the old days, Remo would have greeted me with a bear hug and a reach around, and then ignore me as though I'd never arrived. But on this occasion, he simply offered up a lifeless wave and beckoned me inside, a shadow of his former self.
The apartment was non-descript, save for a loud whirring coming from behind the bedroom door. Remo caught me looking in that direction and a thin, nervous smile spread across his face, as he spoke:
"You know how well I was doing…I had the knack. Damn, there were a couple of years there where I couldn't take a crap without a beautiful ballad coming out. I was consumed with the craft…the science of it. But the more I studied it, the more I realized how intimidating it was. You know…you're only as good as your last tune."
"But your last tune is unbelievable, Remo," I said. "Really excellent stuff."
Remo shrugged and looked off in the direction of the bedroom.
"Robbie…In 1999, I developed a technology that I knew would revolutionize the art world and relieve all of the pressures of being a songwriter. A simple computer, with a simple string of code that could deconstruct and analyze hit records from the last fifty years. The rhythms, the melodies, the lyrics…I fed them in, and through a process of binary extrapolation, I built me a little hit-maker."
My God, I thought…had it finally happened? Had that near-perfect radio single actually been penned by a machine? It couldn't be. No microchip could ever create a piece as angst-ridden as a Joe Strummer tune, or as sardonic as a Randy Newman number.
"This microchip can do that," Remo said. I must have typed too loudly.
"You see, Robbie, programming the computer to feel emotion wasn't the problem." Ushering me over toward the bedroom door, he continued. "The problem was getting it to stop feeling emotion…"
As soon as Remo swung open the bedroom door, the whirring paused and the room grew eerily quiet. There was a really slick-looking computer in the corner with a green light that stared suspiciously back at me.
"One taste of success, and he's developed a real attitude. All he thinks about is writing hit songs, and he's blocked me from accessing any of his new riffs or licks…"
The screen saver was frozen on an image of the computer itself, lounging by a pool.
"Only he can turn himself on now, and he won't even consider writing a duet with me. I think I've created a monster…"
The computer sounded a sad and plaintive chord.
"And he won't take off that stupid beret."
I end this week's Blog with another interesting musical fact:

- Beethoven made good money when he performed, but most of his income came from the sale of concert t-shirts and posters -


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