Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What?! (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Where’s that bee and where’s that honey? Where’s my God and where’s my money?

This was one “Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel” that almost didn’t happen.  After the busiest of weeks and hours of off-line frustration in the Mississippi country-side, I said screw it all to hell and collapsed into bed with weary bones. Maybe it’ll be a Monday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel, I thought as I drifted into a deep air-conditioned slumber. Two hours later, at 4am, I awoke with a jolt to the spectres of Eddie Harris and Les McCaan. This is our Sunday, they insisted, so I reached with drowsy digits for my discarded laptop and whaddaya know?!  We suddenly (miraculously?) made contact. Now, fueled by caffeine & cigarettes, and a crazy lovely love for this song, I’m gonna knock this sucker out.

This week will be less wordy that usual, partly due to my fried-egg sunny-side up brain, but mostly because this song sings for itself.

How to introduce “Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What” ???

What can possibly be said about one of the greatest songs of all time?

All I can do is tell you what it means to me and urge you to form your own fibrous connection. And you will. You will. It’s that damn good.

When I was 15, my Dad and I took a long dusk-to-dark ride through the New Mexico mountains. Our headlights guided us around treacherous curves which my father — an expert driver and Motor City son — took smoothly, sweetly, safely. The moon was fat and the stars glittered like sugared candies. It was the kind of memory that sticks to your ribs; the kind of living that gives life texture, taste and deliciousness. It was the kind of  time that carves into your soul and (RE)MAKES you into a new configuration (concoction?) of your self. It was there, in that cushy comfy night, that I first heard “Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What.” It was also the second, third, fourth and fiftieth time. We played it over and over and over while reveling in the troubled beauty of the world.

Ten years later, my Dad was dead.

There would be no more moonlight rock-out rides; no more trading barbs over breakfast until he broke into a grin over my writerly wit; no more mounting our motorcycles at dawn and VVROOM-VVROOMing into the rising sun. 

There was no one to call when I needed to remember who it was that did that amazing fucking song. 

After all, that crazy beautiful fucker had turned me onto so many songs over the years and I figgered he’d always be around to help me keep ’em straight.

What was the song we used to play on the pontoon as we floated lazily down the Maumee River? Right. Take 5. Dave Brubeck. I remember now.

Who was it we were listening to that 3am by the fire? Ah! Buddy Holly. Duh.  

Who was it that did that kick-ass cool song that we couldn’t get enough of that night in your Lincoln, with the fat moon and her spilled candy?

Huh? Who? Hello? Dad? Where the hell you’d go? Hello?…hello…hey…hello? Daddy?

Damn that silence sucks.

Fortunately, there’s now such a thing as google. I typed in “tryin to make it real compared to what,” and was led to youtube, where Eddie Harris & Les McCaan broke my heart all over again. Then fixed it. Then broke it. It was awesome. I hit replay at least a dozen times. Oh. Such goodness. Such beauty. Such power.

My body flooded with rock & roll relief.

The song returned to me, like a gift, an act of cyber kindness, and now in the spirit of punk rock gospel, I am passing it on to you. I hope it breaks your heart and blows your mind. I hope it carves into you and sticks to your ribs. I hope it stays with you forever.

Is that too much to ask? No, I really don’t think so. Listen to it, see for yourself. Then go buy the record, download it onto your ipod, add the song to a playlist — spend some quality time with it. Let it add taste and texture to your memories… all the while striving to make it real while asking “Real?… Compared to what?”

Like a Buddhist koan, there’s really no answer but the question props your mind open.


I love the lie and lie the love
A-Hangin’ on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin’ up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby!

Slaughterhouse is killin’ hogs
Twisted children killin’ frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin’ logs
Tired old lady kissin’ dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can’t use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby now!

The President, he’s got his war
Folks don’t know just what it’s for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We’re chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin’ to duck the wrath of God
Preacher’s fillin’ us with fright
They all tryin’ to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can’t use it!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

Where’s that bee and where’s that honey?
Where’s my God and where’s my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol’ young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real — compared to what?!

(Music break)

Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

6 Responses to “Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What?! (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel)”

  1. gammaword Says:

    Wow — those are insanely wonderful (and poignant) memories of your father. Kind of opened a window for me, thinking of different futures for my relationship with my kids. I love that car ride through the mountains and — I want my kids to be writing/remembering something like that about me one day. What strikes me is the one-on-oneness of it, though — growing up, we rarely had time alone with our parents. And never with that kind of transparent sharing of a moment…the “here I am”/”here we are” of real connection. Not to mention that things in the suburban mind tend toward a certain ordinary orderliness, so even the mention of (for example) “3am” and either of my parents is just a total disconnect.

    Oh, and I totally love the song.

  2. […] Cream Scene Carnival a carnie-queen lipstick shamaness circus freak sees things her way « Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What?! (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel) […]

  3. alphabetfiend Says:

    I didn’t know this comment was even here! YAY!

    We were a family of two parents and six kids but we really did manage to have alone time with each of them. I’m not sure how purposeful it was, it never really felt like they were going to some great effort to spend time with us. It was more organic than that. Like “hey, feel like goin’ for a ride with yer dear old dad?” oh yea, alright. “Ok, jump in.” We all took trips/vacays with him to and I never felt left out when he went off somewhere with one of my siblings.

    What’s strange to me is that all that jealousy and competition flared up after he was dead, once the time was finite and we’d each gotten what we’d gotten. I don’t know if there was a backlash against me cause of my sort of ghosty dreamy nature (like I would somehow manage to get more time with him, dead or alive) or if they just resented our relationship in retrospect. But it was weird and I never saw it coming.

    The relationship with parents and kids isn’t something that can be forced and like with any combination of people, chemistry does come into play. Some people just click and some people just clash and sometimes those two people are parents and kids. Also, like with any relationship, disfunctional patterns can overwhelm affection.

    You’re probably forming those memories and connections all the time, without a thought, and more is never too much and now is never too late. As far as what my Dad did right, he showed me his true self and now it brings me comfort to know that I witnessed his soul and brought him deep crazy joy. I also felt witnessed by him and then accepted and exalted which has given me confidence as a woman. I love to be adored by the men in my life, whether romantic. friendly or familial but I certainly don’t need their acceptance to feel OK in my own skin. That’s a huge gift for a father to give a daughter and yet I doubt he ever gave much thought to it.

    It would probably surprise you the odes yer kids could write about you. Or the ROASTS!

  4. […] daddy was in office. I wanted to address the redundancy of politics (and the resulting tragedy) in last Sunday’s Punk Rock Gospel (Tryin’ To Make It Real…) but a political rant hardly fit the emotional tenor of that post. Still it stuck with me like a […]

  5. Damn! As much as I already loved this song, you have given me a new appreciation for it. Thanks for sharing…

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