"In the early hours of the morning..." It's time to give props to what has always felt to me like the first Anomaly song, It is NOT one of my own, and yet never felt like a cover. Stingray was written by my friend Shaque, with whom I worked for years, back at Muze, in the 1990s. Shaque was a drummer and a really sweet guy. Everybody liked Shaque at Muze. When he and I became friends I remember feeling honored, like I"d been touched by greatness. He was a smart guy and interested in a lot of different music. The hot thing at Muze in those days was Pavement, Guided By Voices, a lot of those grungy lo-fi bands that never got big but I imagine had a lot of opportunities because they were critics' darlings. This wasn't the kind of stuff I was into, I can't remember if Shaque did, he had his own thing and dug bands like Man or Astro-man, whom I loved, and also had respect for some of the proggier things that I dug. At some point Shaque invited me to form a band with his then-girlfriend and he. He was teaching her drums, and he would play guitar. I don't remember what the idea for bass was, maybe I was going to get Eddy (who by this time was my roommate, as this was a couple of years before Anomaly). Anyway, this band barely even rehearsed, I seem to recall one time that I schlepped out to Sheepshead Bay with a keyboard and we played drums-keys-guitar, but I can hardly remember the actual part where we played music. The most important thing about this band that never was, was that Shaque taught me his song Stingray. It's a beautiful song.
"Stingray" to me is this perfect little 90's grunge rock song, though perhaps a bit more up than your average Pearl Jam or Soundgarden number. i found it perfect for my vocal range, and I loved the sentiment of the words, frustration with a lover --or it could even be a parent waiting up for a teen child ("I'll be sitting in my chair, I'll be pulling out my hair, where are you?") with some odd interjections -- "and all them TV sets, you better burn 'em"; "I'm writing you this book, take a look." Eventually I couldn't resist adding my own little stamp, turning the second appearance of "and all them TV sets" to "you better bring your Dunsinane to Birnam" (a backwards MacBeth non sequitur).
After the chorus, I never totally learned from Shaque exactly how to get back into the verse. I'm recalling him playing it to me with kind of a long fermata on the last chord of "you'd better take your Stingray." When I took this song up, the way it felt right was with a bar of 3/8: "Sting- ray" [beat] - [back to the top]. A little hop. But that's me then, innit? It's always felt perfect to just have that 1-2-3 and back into the bass riff. I can't remember if Shaque's version had that bass solo at the beginning either. It must have. When we were searching for a drummer, after our British one had skipped the continent, this was a nice way to test the mettle of various drummers. Can they handle the 3/8 jump in "Stingray"? (Brian nailed it.)
This was our first song at our first gig. I've always regarded it as our "hit single." It got old after a while though, and we dropped it from the set by the summer of '98. It was resurrected later when I decided the "in the" at the beginning of each verse, instead of being straight quarter notes on the beat, should be sung more syncopated, as dotted eighth notes, off the beat. Brian emphasized these hits with cymbal crashes.
I remember Shaque had a band in the same period called "Velma" which I enjoyed hearing. They were a real-deal 90s grunge rock band. By about the third time I heard them play, sometime in '97 I would estimate, they had introduced "Stingray" to their set, which pleased me. I liked our version better of course, but it's a great song , and I'm sure Velma's version was truer to the artist's vision. They had more of a punk vibe, naturally. Wonder if I could get my hands on a recording of their version.