New Sound All Around, You Can Hear It Too

depeche-mode-sometimes-i-wish-i-was-dead-flexipop.jpg

So today, I found this flexidisc at one of my local shops.  It was originally issued with a magazine called “Flexipop” which used to give away exclusive tracks by emerging artists (this was emerging artists of the early 80’s).  This release is probably one of only two from the series that are really collectible (the other being the early version of “Lament” by the Cure – a more finished version would feature on their “The Walk” EP, but the version on the flexidisc is actually Smith + Steve Severin of The Banshees, making it the first release by their side project The Glove).

This was a Vince Clarke composition from Depeche Mode’s “Speak & Spell” era, making this one of the few releases where Clarke was a member of DM.  It was all Clarke in the studio, with singer Dave Gahan providing the vocals.  In a book on DM, it was apparently Clarke’s ability to write and record all the instruments (save vocals) on this track by himself that gave him the idea that he didn’t need DM, and could instead branch out and perform with whichever vocalists he wanted, and not be constrained by a ‘group’ hierarchy.  But, solid group lineups tend to sell better than some boffo studio genius plus random vocalists, and so Clarke’s other best-known works are when he performed as part of a group – first as half of Yazoo (Yaz in the US) and then as half of Erasure, his longest-running project.  It’s a good song, but it sounds very 8-bit, as a lot of early synthesizers tended to sound – you either got deep and rich, or thin and tinny.  Being a ‘flexible’ record means the sound is fairly crap, even if the record is in great shape.  It’s since been reissued as part of DM’s “Speak & Spell” on solid 180-gram vinyl, but it’s still cool to have this early, original version in my collection.

Switch On the TV, We May Pick Him Up On Channel Two

ziggy_stardust_by_dr_sur

Today is the anniversary of Bowie’s first live performance ‘as’ the character Ziggy Stardust.  Bowie had spent months preparing to ‘inhabit’ the character of a hedonistic alien bent on saving the human race, developing his persona, designing costumes for himself and his band, and getting ready to ‘live’ as Ziggy.  It was his hope that this ‘inhabited’ character would propel his career in ways that hadn’t happened yet.  Premiering at the Tolworth Toby Jug in London on this day in 1972, the performance wasn’t an overnight smash.  Truthfully, the Hunky Dory album was still in the shops, and the songs that comprised the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars album, though mostly written, produced, and recorded in November of 1971, (a last few tracks would be put to tape in February of 1972) wouldn’t appear in the shops until June of 1972.  But it was common for acts of the time to be premiering new material live on stage prior to the release of an album.  But the early leg of the tour was a dud.  When Bowie finally performed “Starman” on Top of the Pops in July of 1972, he’d already been performing this new material for 5 months to little fanfare.  His ToTP performance changed that – TV helped catapult Bowie, as much built on image as on sound, into the hearts and minds of more performers than he could have hoped to reach with only album sales and tour receipts.  The performance was slightly scandalous, with Bowie having made remarks to the press that he was gay, and the appearance on ToTP showed him draped across his guitarist Mick Ronson, insinuating something naughty.  The orange mullet, odd jumpsuit, and silver circle on his forehead were revolutionary in rock costuming.

This brought Bowie the newfound notoriety he’d been looking for.  As the Ziggy Stardust tour progressed, Bowie crossed over to the US, then back to England, the US again, then over to Japan (in April of 1973), and finishing the world tour in England.  Nothing lasts forever though, and on July 3, 1973, Bowie ‘retired’ Ziggy Stardust live on-stage.  During this nonstop tour, Bowie was able to produce a follow up album, Aladdin Sane, featuring perhaps his most famous look, the lightning-bolt face.  It had been a wild 20-month ride that changed rock music forever.  It brought glam to the forefront as a viable musical genre.  It taught aspiring rockers how to invent characters for them to inhabit.  It presented a credible take on the ‘concept’ album.  It made David Bowie a bonafide rock star.  Not to mention it produced one of the best albums in the history of rock music, one whose blueprint can be heard in songs still being released today.  Here’s to Ziggy.

480_DavidBowie_ZiggyStardust_0-1

 

Something Else…By The Kinks

SomethingElseKinksCover

There seems to be one store where I find all my Kinks records.  After finishing up at the gym today, I went to said shop, just randomly to kill some time.  I’d been thinking I’d love to find a copy of Something Else by the Kinks, and lo and behold, it was right there behind the counter.  So of course, I didn’t buy it.  But I did call later in the day to have them put it on hold for me.  Yeah, sometimes I don’t do the obvious thing.  This is one of their best albums, with well-known tracks like “David Watts” (which was covered beautifully by The Jam) as well as “Waterloo Sunset” an absolutely brilliant track.  It also features one of my favorite Kinks tracks “Lazy Old Sun”, along with a bunch of other early-period Kinks gems.  You really can see the blueprint for Britpop within the grooves of early Kinks records, a very English-centric, wistful, nostalgic, feel to the songs.  Good stuff if that’s your bag.

The Ideal Copy

Wire_-_Mannequin_ad

Speaking of groups that don’t get enough credit or respect, let’s talk about Wire.  Going strong (on and off) since 1977, this band is the band that’s inspired all the bands you love.  Their first album, 1977’s Pink Flag, features a lot of short, sharp ‘punk’ tunes.  They took the pre-formatted punk angst and boiled it down to unique, 90-second snippets of aggression.  By the time of 1978’s Chairs Missing, they’d already tired of the short-song format, and the speed.  They slowed things down some, and brought in some artistic twists to the lyrics.  If you like The Cure’s first two albums, this is the blueprint for that sound.  By the time of 1979’s unheralded classic 154, they slowed things down even more, and brought in elements of dub and a burgeoning electronica influence.  It’s a fantastic album that rewards deep, extended listening.  It also features perhaps their only ‘classic’ song, in Map. Ref. 41N 93W.  They couldn’t even title their most overtly ‘pop’ song in any way people would be able to remember easily.

And then they broke up.  Or so everyone thought.  Wire has always been a band of extremes, and it became the ‘rock’ duo versus the ‘art’ duo.  So they split, and made a bunch of solo-and-collaboration albums that are fine on their own, but for the most part are missing that certain spark that some groups have only when they’re all operating together.  There was a posthumous live release called Document and Eyewitness that was released in 1981, which showed them playing songs that hadn’t been on any of their albums previously – this restless, relentless writing was a quality they would keep for ages.  I’ve seen Wire live 3 times now, and they rarely play ‘recognizable’ songs.  They keep plugging away with newness, forwardness – and that can make for an exasperating concert experience – certainly one different from every other group you’ve ever seen live.

And then they got back together.  The 80’s would see a new Wire as much aware of the decade’s new ideals as they were in the 70’s, with a new sound to match.  Wire returned in 1987 with The Ideal Copy, with a complete shift in the way they composed their songs.  This would continue with 1988’s A Bell Is A Cup…, and 1989’s ‘live’ album It’s Beginning To And Back Again, which, much like Document and Eyewitness, was not so much live songs as reworkings of old material in a live setting.  Then came 1990’s Manscape, a mostly electronic affair – even the ‘played’ instruments were fed through primitive MIDI equipment.  After that came The Drill, live versions of a single track (The Drill), their first song recorded as a group in the 80’s.  Each version is manipulated in such a way that you can’t put them together – you’d certainly have trouble recognizing each of the 8 versions as the same song.  Then their first, and only, drummer, Robert Gotobed, left the band.  They dropped a letter from their name and put out one album as Wir, now a trio.  The album was called The First Letter, because the graphics showed the W in the Wir as the number 3 turned on it’s side.  It’s even more electronic that Manscape, once again reflecting the dominant alternative sounds of the times.

Maybe that was too much, because then they broke up again.  They’d be back, different again, in 2003.  But that’s a discussion for another time…

Slaughter’s Big Rip Off

slaughter

Records these days are a rip off.  I get that anything made in ‘limited’ quantities is going to have some sort of sliding cost structure associated with it, but it’s really about supply and demand.  And the worst example of supply without demand is Ebay.  I’m sure that Ebay has deals on certain things, but…wow, even their cd’s are overpriced.  I’m not sure if anyone realizes this, but you can get most cd’s for pennies on the dollar.  Records are a little harder to come by, but when the average cost on Ebay versus other seller sites (like Discogs) is 30-40% more per title, on average…who are these sellers?  If overhead isn’t a cost concern, then sure, leave your record on there forever, but…where’s the logic in that?  I thought the idea of selling something was to, you know, actually sell product.  One problem I can see is that, since shortly after it’s launch, Discogs became the official ‘price guide’ for record stores and online sellers.  Now, instead of pricing something to sell, nobody wants to go below the Discogs minimum listed price.  And Ebay sellers seem to take that and immediately add 20%.  But hey, if you need something now, this minute, I suppose that’s what Ebay is there for.  Otherwise, if you’re already into the hobby, or just getting into the hobby, be very careful with your dollars.  Here’s a nice post about cost aggregating.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to bash on Ebay, but when it comes to their vinyl pricing, yeah, I guess I am.  But that’s not down to the website, it’s down to the sellers operating there.

Kickboxing In America

Dark

Sometimes I want to talk about things other than music.  Although, I don’t, not really.  However, sometimes, your day is too busy to think of something original to write about.  I wanted to write about Simple Minds, a band that is way better than most people remember (right up until about 1985, that is), a band that is still making music today, but given that i just read a decent article about them on Stereogum, I didn’t want to potentially parrot anything I’d just read.  Instead, let’s talk about television.

I watch TV, like most people do.  We don’t have cable here at The Fault, so we watch streaming platforms, mostly Netflix but sometimes Amazon as well, and the odd new release movie.  Yesterday we started watching a Netflix show called Dark, which deals with time travel and shifting perceptions associated with the same.  The wife and I are suckers for a well done time travel story, and this one has started out well.  It’s a -bit- hard to follow because it has a large cast of characters (in 2019 and 1986 versions) to keep straight, so it’s definitely a show that is best watched and not had on as background to something else like a mobile video game.  The show centers on a nuclear power plant, a series of caves, and some odd time shifts, but that’s all I know so far (and it’s all I’m going to give you.  Go watch it yourself.)  It is a German-produced show, but dubbed into English – I wish they had left the native German with subtitles – but I do understand that there are lazy viewers out there who don’t want to, like, read, maaahn.

We’ve not finished the first series yet, but we’re halfway through it and so far, so good.  Although I do think it’s one of those shows you may have to watch through a second time to catch all the nuances and missed clues, which, hey, there’s only so much time in the day, so I’m not all cool with that.  Still and all, it’s decent, and you could do worse – the first (and only) season of The Mist was a massive letdown, with only the last 2 episodes being decent enough to warrant the (ostensibly free) cost of admission.

OK, yeah, Simple Minds.  Screw up, a quick recap.  Their first album, Life In A Day, is pretty sterile and lacking in focus.  Their second album, Reel to Real Cacophony, is a good, experimental, post-punk album.  It’s their third album, Empires and Dance, that really kicks.  It’s electro-rock in a vein not dissimilar to PIL, only with more melodies present.  They followed this up with Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call (an LP and EP recorded at the same time), which doubles down on the synthetics (a favorite here at The Fault) and electronic grooves.  The end of their ‘experimental’ period was also the start of their ‘pop’ period, 1984’s New Gold Dream.  It’s a perfect blend of pop and experimental, showing both sides of the band in perfect harmony.  After that they went pop, did some song to a John Hughes film (you know the one) and kind of got boring.  They’re still making music and they are touring, something I’d be – kind of – interested in, if I thought they’d be playing pre-1986 stuff only.  However, I doubt that’s the case so, in one of the instances where I wish I had access to a time machine, I’d go back and see them in their pre-pop, experimental (though unloved) glory.  That’s what a show like Dark’s possibilities could do for me – give me the ability to catch bands when I loved them, not when the general public decided which songs were good.

Failure?

Posies

Check out the duo above, they are the primary architects of long-standing Seattle band The Posies.  They look like rejects from The Cure – the leather coats, the button-up long sleeve shirts, the hair.  A picture is worth a thousand words (or maybe a thousand songs?), so you can be forgiven if, after looking at the above image (which graced the back cover of their debut album, Failure), you assumed the grooves inside were some goth-gloomcave-type sound.  However, you would be wrong.  The Posies might look like rejects from a Cure tribute band, but their music hews much closer to classic 70’s power-pop groups like The Raspberries, Cheap Trick, Neil Young, and of course, Big Star, a band they would at various times be members of.

Retro power-pop was a big sound at the turn of the 90’s, with acts like Matthew Sweet, Lloyd Cole, Material Issue, and Weezer all playing a 70’s-homage type of music.  The Posies released Failure on a local indie, Popllama, and the songs sound like polished demos.  They’re not bad, but they’re lacking something.  The Posies signed to Geffen records in 1989, and their debut for that label, Dear 23, came out in 1991, with Geffen putting a decent amount of promotion behind the album.  But, Geffen had also signed another local band, of a different stripe of 70’s sound, that ended up eclipsing what The Posies might have been capable of under different circumstance.  I speak of Nirvana, a band I’m sure you’re all familiar with.  I was already quite familiar with Nirvana by the time “Smells Like Teen Spirit” jump-started alternative nation, and perhaps on another post I’ll speak more about Nirvana.  For now though, let’s stick with The Posies.

While the power-pop vibe was a breath of fresh air after the late-80’s sterile, machine-like lock-step and homogenous lifelessness, it was Nirvana’s recycled punk/Sabbath grooves that really took off in popularity.  And while a rising tide lifts all ships, briefly helping any Seattle band shift units, each ship rises a different amount.  Dear 23 did ok for The Posies, and their follow-up Frosting on the Beater, from 1993, had perhaps their best-known track “Dream All Day”.  But while The Posies were probably looking around at what their career might have been if not for…, they did help resurrect the aforementioned Big Star, appearing live with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens (from the original lineup), to bring 3 critically-lauded Big Star albums from the early 70’s to a new audience.  While it’s no doubt that without Big Star there probably would have been no Posies, it’s nice that they were able to play with their idols and maintain a side-career (as sidemen) while they were putting out original material that was largely ignored for the more aggressive and angsty grunge music of the time.

I personally prefer The Posies, Matthew Sweet, and the other power-pop adherents of the 90’s to the majority of the grunge acts from the era, despite my living in Seattle at the time, and also being in various bands also at the same time.  I mean, I never say “hey, I really feel like listening to some Nirvana”, but I do find myself saying “hey, some Posies might be ok right now.”  It’s a different vibe, something that I think holds up a bit better than grunge does.  This is, of course, my opinion.  Your mileage may vary in relation to mine.

Oh yeah, right.  I found an original Popllama blue vinyl copy of Failure yesterday at one of my local shops.  I grabbed it right away, and I’ve listened to it a couple times now.  Good stuff…a bit raw and unpolished, but definitely pointing in the direction their sound would ultimately take (despite them looking like Robert Smith acolytes).  The Posies are still making original music, and it’s still good.  They’re also running a PledgeMusic campaign to reissue their classic Geffen albums from the 90’s, if that’s your thing, support them.  Go forth and listen!

More Fun With Data

Top 10 Writers by Total Weeks at #1

As some of you know, I’m a bit of a data fanatic.  I like Tableau’s software because it takes your data and visualizes it in a variety of interesting ways.  In keeping with my project analyzing 40 years of American #1 songs, this chart looks at the Top 10 Songwriters that have the most time at the #1 position.  Mariah Carey is actually the most prolific writer, as seen on the chart above.  Let’s be fair, we all know the ‘change a word, earn a third’ rule in songwriting; what I’m trying to say is that Mariah may have written a verse here or there, but she wasn’t solely responsible for any of her songs.  Like many ‘pop’ artists, she employed many outside writers to help with the music and lyrics (I have that viz as well, and I’ll post that another day.)
Actually, if you look at this chart, a lot of the most prolific writers aren’t artists in their own right – Max Martin, Lukasz Gottwold (also known as Dr. Luke), James Harris III (also known as Jimmy Jam), who worked closely with Terry Lewis, Scott Storch – 5 of these Top 10 Writers aren’t performers in their own right, and thus are less well known to the average consumer of the music they produce.  And those ‘products’ are people like Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson, Katy Perry, etc.  You get the idea.  Apparently it takes a lot to bring a pop song to fruition.

Or that’s what ‘they’ would have you believe.  Because within the Top 10 above is one Barry Gibb.  Don’t get me wrong, Barry Gibb wrote (and produced) songs for other artists – quite a few, or else he wouldn’t have managed to be as prominent in the Top 10 as he is in the chart above.  But, as a member of the Bee Gees (his band) in the 70’s, the only other writers were his brothers Robin (represented here) and Maurice.  So, if modern pop music makes you think it takes a ‘factory’ to produce a hit single, look to an earlier post of mine about the Bee Gees and their run of #1 singles.  They wrote them without outside help, and still managed to leave a lasting impression upon the pop charts.  So, the next time you hear a #1 single, search out who the real talent behind the creation is.  Is it the singer, the group, or some outside ‘consultant’ hired to make a hit single?  If it’s the latter, doesn’t that take all the fun out of the process?

The Pale

frame-19

I don’t always talk about records.  Sometimes I do actual writing.  Here is a short screenplay I wrote about a year ago.  I apologize in regards to some of the formatting.

The Pale

FADE IN:
INT. HOME OFFICE - DAY
JEFF HENNIG, mid-twenties, gangly and sloppily dressed, sits
typing on a computer.  His son, RONNIE HENNIG, 5, with
shoulder-length blonde hair and tall for his age, bounds
into Jeff’s office.  He wears a red-and-blue baseball
uniform.  In his hand is an Iron Man figure.

RONNIE

Gotta go!

                    JEFF
          Hey buddy!  Just hang tight a

minute.

Jeff rolls his office chair quickly past his son, tousling
his hair in the process.  Still seated, he pokes his head
out of the door of his office.
                    JEFF
          Honey!  I know it’s my turn to
          drive but I’m really behind on this
          project, can you take Ronnie to
          practice today?
RENEE HENNIG, late twenties with olive-skin and the striking
features of an actress, walks into Jeff’s office.  She gives
his chair a playful bump as she enters the room.
                    RENEE
          What’s up with my two men?
Ronnie bounces from foot-to-foot animatedly.  He looks up at
his mother.
                    RONNIE
          Mommy!  Gotta go. Go go! Baseball!
                    RENEE
          Come on, monkey.
Renee shoots a sideways glance in Jeff’s direction as Ronnie
yelps with delight.
                    JEFF
          Thanks honey.  I’ll make dinner.
          Chicken sound good?
                    RENEE AND RONNIE
          We love chicken!

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 2.

Renee leads Ronnie out of Jeff’s office.  Jeff can hear them
rustling around in the living room.  Jeff hears the door
shut.  He puts his head down and goes back to typing.
Momentarily, he gets up and wanders into the living room.
He sees that the front door is unlocked. He mumbles
something to himself as he locks the door.
EXT. DRIVEWAY - DAY
The red Dodge minivan’s back window is covered with
stickers, all superheroes in action poses, but the van still
looks shiny and recent.  Renee buckles Ronnie into the
backseat.  Renee shuts the back door and gets into the
driver’s seat of the van.
INT. MINIVAN - DAY
The van moves quickly down the lightly trafficked four-lane
road.  Renee smiles, glancing at the scenery speeding by.
Ronnie is in the backseat, playing with his Iron Man toy.
                    RONNIE
               (softly)

Uh oh.

Ronnie’s toy slips out of his hands and rolls under the
front passenger seat.
                    RENEE
          Looks like we’re gonna be early,
          little man.
EXT. HIGHWAY - CONTINUOUS
The minivan moves down the road as traffic passes by on the
opposite side of the yellow dividing lines.  A white Ford
F-150 pickup truck approaches from the opposite lane.  The
truck suddenly crosses the centerline and hits the drivers
side of the van. The minivan lifts slightly and then lands
with a thud, rocking back and forth as it settles.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
One year later, Jeff, now too-thin with visible bags under
his eyes, sits down at a kitchen table across from Renee.
Renee is still attractive despite the new visible lines on
her face.  She has a large scar running the length of her
left forearm.  Jeff drinks Diet Coke from a can.  Renee has
whiskey in a tumbler.
                    JEFF
          It’s early for that.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

3.

                    RENEE
               (slurred speech)
          It’s cocktail hour somewhere.
                    JEFF
          You’re drinking too much lately. I
          need to ask you something.
                    RENEE

What?

                    JEFF
          I never told you but the day of the
          accident I noticed you forgot to
          lock the front door when you left.
                    RENEE
          What?  Who cares?  You were right
          down the hall working.
                    JEFF
          It’s not that.  It’s just...you get
          forgetful when you’re rushed. Did
          you...
                    RENEE
          Did I what?
                    JEFF
          Did you forget to buckle Ronnie in?
                    RENEE
          Fuck you!  I never forget to check
          Ronnie’s seatbelt!
Jeff screws his face up, grabs his plate, and walks down the
hallway into his office.  Renee watches as Jeff retreats
from the kitchen.  Renee begins to weep quietly.

OFFICE

Jeff tosses his plate of food violently into the garbage
can.  Jeff sits down in front of his computer and begins
typing.
INT. GUEST BEDROOM - NIGHT
The clock on the wall in Jeff’s bedroom shows 1:17 AM. Jeff
is sitting up in bed staring at the clock.  He stands up and
exits the bedroom and walks down the hall to his son’s room.
RONNIE’S BEDROOM

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 4.

Ronnie’s room has toys strewn about - a baseball bat close
to the window, three different superhero figures on the
brown lacquer 4-door dresser, and a still newish baseball
glove on the nightstand next to the bed.
The bed is covered in Iron Man sheets and blankets. Ronnie’s
Iron Man figure is on the bed close to the pillow, it’s left
arm missing since the accident.  Jeff sits down on the bed
and runs his fingers over the figure.
The air crackles.  The light coming in from the window dims.
Jeff tilts his head up and down and side to side. All light
disappears from the room.  The area above the bed begins to
glow a dull whitish-green.
                    JEFF
          I’m ready.
A shape takes recognizable form above the bed.  It is
Ronnie’s ghost.  Jeff tilts his head upwards and stares into
Ronnie’s face.
                    JEFF
          Why do you come to me?  What does

it mean?

Jeff is cut off by Ronnie, who picks up a book, and settles
onto the bed next to Jeff.  Ronnie points at words.
INSERT: "keep", "trying"
After a few moments of this, Ronnie disappears.  Jeff, with
a stunned look, lies down on the floor beside his son’s bed.
INT. MASTER BATHROOM - DAY
The next morning, Renee brushes her teeth.  She bends over
the sink to spit but suddenly stops.  Her eyes jerk and she
draws her head to the top of the mirror. She reaches her
right hand out towards the mirror.  She stands like that for
a moment and then shakes her head. She goes to pick up her
toothbrush but it is not by the sink where she left it.  She
looks around the bathroom and sees that the toothbrush is
now in the brush holder. Renee’s confused
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
Jeff and Renee are seated in the kitchen.
                    JEFF
          I called a counselor and explained
          our situation.  Maybe we should go
          talk to her?

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

5.

                    RENEE
          Does it even matter?  Nothing I do
          is ever right.
                    JEFF
          She said we need to deal with our
          grief.  I just need to know if we
          can go back to the way we were.
                    RENEE
          I don’t know.  Can we?  You tell
          me.  Not going to call me a killer
          today?
                    JEFF
          That was once!  I was hurt!  I said
          I was sorry.  It was mean of me to
          say that.
                    RENEE
               (sarcastically)
          You meant it.  Don’t you think I’m
          hurt?  Don’t you think I blame
          myself?
                    JEFF
          I don’t blame you.
                    RENEE
               (screaming)
          You do!
Renee turns away from Jeff.
                    JEFF
          I’m going for a walk.
Jeff exits the kitchen.  Renee watches him leave, then
begins to make a sandwich.  Behind her, a fork that is
sitting on the counter next to the stove lifts into the air
and hovers.  After a moment, it drops to the ground with a
metallic clang.  Renee spins around quickly, scanning the
kitchen.  She sees the fork on the floor and picks it up.
INT. GUEST BEDROOM - NIGHT
Jeff is sitting up in his bed, and turns to look at the
green neon-backlit clock on the wall. The time reads 1:17
AM.  Jeff stands up and exits the bedroom.

HALLWAY

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 6.

Jeff’s slippered feet make little noise in the hallway. Jeff
pokes his head into his son’s room.  He looks at the bed,
not noticing that the Iron Man figure is gone. He then
stares out Ronnie’s bedroom window at the tree outside for a
moment, then continues towards the staircase.

KITCHEN

Jeff opens up the cabinet above the refrigerator and takes
out a bottle of whiskey, placing it onto the kitchen island.
He opens the freezer and grabs the ice tray and places it on
the island next to the bottle.  He walks over to the
cupboard next to the sink and takes out a tumbler.  Walking
back to the island, Jeff steps on something that makes him
jump.
                    JEFF
               (quietly)
          Ow!  Son of a bitch!
Jeff puts the tumbler on the island.  He bends down and
picks something up off the floor. It’s his son’s Iron Man
figure.
RONNIE’S BEDROOM
Jeff drops the figure onto Ronnie’s bed.  Jeff lays down on
his son’s bed.
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - DAY
Later that morning, Jeff walks into the master bedroom.
Renee is sitting up in bed, reading.
                    JEFF
          No work today?
                    RENEE
          I took a sick day.
                    JEFF
          Another one?
                    RENEE
               (curtly)
          Yes, another one.  I’m doing some
          research.
                    JEFF
          What kind of research?

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

7.

                    RENEE
               (curtly)
          I’m looking for a divorce lawyer.
Jeff’s face contorts in concern and worry lines form on his
forehead.
                    JEFF
          I don’t think we’re there yet.
          Listen...Renee, has anything weird
          happened to you?
                    RENEE
          Like what?
                    RENEE
          I don’t know.  Anything strange.
Renee’s face changes slightly.  Her eyes darken.
                    RENEE
          There was something...no.  What
          aren’t you telling me?
                    JEFF
          Never mind.
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - NIGHT
That evening, Renee is in bed in the dark reading.  The
light from her iPad illuminates her face.  She looks at the
clock on the iPad and it reads 1:17 AM.  She turns to put
her iPad on the nightstand when Ronnie’s ghost materializes
above her.  Renee lays there stiff, staring up at the ghost
hovering above her head.

RENEE

          Jeff!
               (screaming)

Jeff!

                    JEFF (O.S.)
          What’s going on?  Are you okay?
                    RENEE
          Jeff!  Get in here, help me please!
Jeff crosses from the guest bedroom and stands in the door
frame.  Jeff looks at Renee and then follows her gaze
upward.  He sees Ronnie floating above Renee.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

8.

                    JEFF
          Renee, Renee.  It’s Ok.  This is
          what I was trying to tell you
          about.
                    RENEE
          What do you mean, tried to tell me

what?

                    JEFF
          About anything strange.
                    RENEE
          Uh-uh.  No.
Renee bolts out of bed and runs past Jeff into the hallway.
Jeff looks up at Ronnie.

HALLWAY

Renee crumples in the corner.  Jeff bends over her. Renee
looks up at Jeff.
                    RENEE
               (hysterical)
          What is that?  Did you see that?
                    JEFF
          Shh.  I tried to tell you.
                    RENEE
          What?  This is more than something
          strange.  Is that Ronnie?
Renee struggles in Jeff’s grip but Jeff leads her back into
the bedroom.  Ronnie has disappeared.  Renee looks at Jeff
in confusion.  Jeff moves to hug his wife. Renee is stiff
but then lets Jeff hug her.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
Jeff and Renee sit at the kitchen table.  The plates of food
haven’t been touched.  Renee looks sad and confused.  Jeff
looks contemplative.
                    JEFF
          I understand you have questions.
                    RENEE
               (growing agitated)
          Questions?  Like what?  Like, "gosh
          Jeff, how long have you known our
          dead son was visiting our house at
          night?"

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: (2) 9.

Renee violently pushes her plate of food away from her.
                    JEFF
          You would have said I was crazy.
                    RENEE
          I’m still not convinced you’re not.
          How can I explain last night?
                    JEFF
          We could both go to Ronnie’s room
          tonight.  He always seems to appear
          at 1:17 AM.
                    RENEE
          Why my room last night?
                    JEFF
          I don’t know.
                    RENEE
          How many times have you seen him?
                    JEFF
          Does it matter?

RENEE

Yes.

                    JEFF
          Humor me.  Tonight?
Renee stands up.  As she does, her fork falls off the edge
of the table onto the floor.  Jeff stands up suddenly.  The
couple look at each other across the expanse of table.
                    JEFF
          You’re sure nothing strange has
          happened to you?
Renee turns and walks away from the table.
                    RENEE
          It was a fork!  Let it go!
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - NIGHT
Jeff sits on the edge of Renee’s bed.  The clock ticks over
to show 1:17 AM.  Jeff grabs Renee’s arm, and they both get
up and walk out of the bedroom.
INT. RONNIE’S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Jeff and Renee enter Ronnie’s room.  Ronnie appears above
his bed.  He looks in the direction of his parents.  He
smiles.  Jeff and Renee look up at their dead son with
wonder and confusion. Ronnie floats downwards until his feet
meet the floor, and holds out his hands.  Jeff reaches for
Ronnie’s left hand.  Renee stands motionless.
                    JEFF
          Take his hand.
                    RENEE
          What’s going to happen?
                    JEFF
          Take it.  Find out.
Jeff takes Renee’s hand and moves it towards Ronnie. Ronnie
grabs her hand, and both Jeff and Renee go stiff.
INT. MINIVAN - DAY - FLASHBACK
It is the day of Renee and Ronnie’s accident, seen from
Ronnie’s point of view.  Ronnie is playing with his Iron Man
figure, flying it around in front of his face.  The car
bumps slightly, and Ronnie drops the doll onto the floor of
the van.

RONNIE

Uh oh.

Ronnie unbuckles his seatbelt and hops off the seat onto the
floor.  He deftly grabs the doll from under the passenger
front seat, tosses it up onto his seat, and begins climbing
back onto his seat.  He is working on getting his seat-belt
back on.  His hands slip.
                    RENEE
          Looks like we’re gonna be early,

little man.

Just then, the white Ford F-150 hits the van, which knocks
Ronnie head-first into the passenger-side back window, which
cracks from the impact.
                    RENEE (V.O.)
               (screams)
          Oh god!  No!
BACK TO SCENE
Jeff turns from Ronnie and looks at Renee.

10.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:  (2)

11.

                    RENEE
          Oh, no, no, no.
                    JEFF
          I understand now.
                    RENEE
          Understand what?
                    JEFF
          It wasn’t your fault.
                    RENEE
          It was my fault!  I’m his mother!
               (sobbing)
          I was supposed to protect him!
Jeff opens his mouth and then shuts it again.  Ronnie lets
go of his parents’ hands.  Renee’s voice hitches and she
reaches her hands out to Ronnie, who is fading away.
                    RENEE
          No!  Don’t go yet!  Not now!
Ronnie fully fades away.  Renee drops to her knees and
begins to sob uncontrollably. Jeff kneels down and caresses
her hair.  Ronnie’s Iron Man figure has disappeared from his
bed.
INT. RONNIE’S BEDROOM - DAY
Fourteen months later, Renee and Jeff are looking into a
crib and smiling at a chubby infant girl dressed in pink. It
is Ronnie’s bedroom but most of the room has been
rearranged, and instead of Ronnie’s bed, the crib is now in
the center of the room, beneath a picture of Ronnie in his
baseball uniform.  Renee leans into the crib to pick up the
baby, removing the baby’s blanket as she does so.  Renee
stops suddenly and stares at her daughter.  In the infant’s
hand is Ronnie’s Iron Man figure with the missing left arm.
Just then Jeff glances down and also sees the figure in his
daughter’s hand. Renee hugs Jeff, then looks around the room
and smiles.

THE END