Album: Beautiful Mess
. . .
While Thelonious Monster put out three albums in three-year period of 1986-1989, it took three more years before they put out their fourth album, 1992’s it-is-what-it-says-it-is Beautiful Mess, as the drink and drugs and every other damn thing were beginning to catch up with head Monster Bob Forrest.
And while Beautiful Mess was also Thelonious Monster’s major-label debut, coming out on Capitol in the post-Nirvana indie gold rush, it was anything but a well-oiled machine, featuring three different producers: ZZ Top’s Joe Hardy, Lynyrd Skynrd’s Al Kooper and Dwight Yoakam’s Pete Anderson. It also featured Dan Murphy & Dave Pirner from a pre-fame Soul Asylum, a post-fame Michael Penn, and a duet with Tom Waits. Oh, and it also had perennial gun-for-hire Benmont Tench, whose organ drives my favorite cut on the album, “Bus With No Driver.”
Produced by Anderson, “Bus With No Driver” opens with Tench’s keyboards trying to overshadow Forrest’s typical honesty about being in a bad place in his life.
I’m like a bus with no driver
I’m like a plane crash that no one survives
I’m the one, who’s afraid of himself
Who’s afraid, to look in the mirror
I am a liar, and a cheat
A lying cheat
I might have loved this song a bit too much in 1992 because I related a bit too much to the concept of being a bus with no driver, as much of that year I was totally unmoored. Maybe not as unmoored as Forrest, but I had no idea what the hell was going on with my life, but I did know that I loved the contrast between the chorus and the verses.
Hey you, don’t forsake me
Cause I’m not bad
Well, hey! you don’t forsake me
I’m not bad, just a little misled
Well I’m not that bad
I really loved not just the “sure, I’m a total fuckup, but that’s not a reason for me to leave” attitude, but also the (uncredited) female vocalist who gave it heft and weight, and Tench’s organ solo over the ringing guitars.
Needless to say, Beautiful Mess did not break Thelonious Monster, and after a few more years of putting a shitton of drugs into his body, Bob Forrest got sober — the best of the three true outcomes of drug addiction — which was probably unexpected, but not quite as unexpected as what happened next: which was that he got somewhat famous.
That fame happened after another Thelonious Monster album, 2004’s California Clam Chowder, a concept album where he did each song in somebody else’s style, and I probably didn’t like as much as I should have.
But it wasn’t the album what made him famous, it tanked like all the rest, rather Bob Forrest became famous as a drug counselor on the Dr Drew Pinsky rehab shows, where his bona fides as someone who survived L.A. drug culture of the 80s and early 90s rang truer with addicts that Dr. Drew’s straight-arrow image.
I guess at some point, the bus had found a driver.
“Bus With No Driver”
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