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'Chunk Style

Sixteen straight days of gray skies and rain. Flooded streets, lightning bolts, thunderclaps menacing enough to send the cats scurrying. The awful, preternaturally darkened mornings and sullen, dreary afternoons -- it's enough to make Bandwidth pray for a respite. By the time we got to Boynton Beach on Tuesday, June 25, there was a rare break in the cloud bank, and a steamy South Florida sunset gave the western sky a still-stormy but promising glow. After that, all it took was Superchunk to set us straight and chase away those rainy-day, wrist-slitting blues. The acoustics at Ovation still leave much to be desired, but this time, the sonic slop truly hit the spot. One fan was enraptured enough to present a huge oil painting to the band midsong. The 45 minutes of bliss seemed to pass by in seconds, but the soaring chorus of "Hello Hawk" lingered on and on, like a garlic breathmint. Singer Mac McCaughan was awful happy to be on home turf again -- his grandparents owned a farm in Lake Worth, he explained, and he himself grew up in Fort Lauderdale. "It's good to see the grass is still the same here," he noted. "It's different up in North Carolina."

Don't we know it.

And somehow, the next day was dry. Thanks, Superchunk!

"I'm sure you know who I am," Sean Cononie said into the phone. Yes, we do: This paper has written about the controversial activist for the homeless at least eight times since 1999. Cononie's exploits have generally been consigned to what we in the newspaperin' biz call "the front of the book"; his revolutionary method of panhandling has never lent itself to entertainment reporting. Until now, that is.

Cononie has just released a CD single called "Don't Do What I Have Done," an antidope diatribe sung to the tune of Terry Jacks's 1974 megahit "Seasons in the Sun," which incidentally, is the biggest-selling Canadian single of all time. Cononie doesn't supply the gooey, octave-scaling vocals, which are courtesy of 19-year-old local Erga Shukrie, going by the uni-name Esperance.

The young singer volunteers for the Homeless Voice newspaper put out by Cononie, who finds her to be "really conservative and into strong family values -- which is really cute." And to top it off, he says, she really is cute. "It's true: She's a real good-looker. Her modeling photos will sell [the disc] itself."

Selling the disc is out of the question for now, as Jacks's publisher hasn't yet given permission to use the tune. No matter: Cononie says he's going to continue to give copies away no matter what. He adds that it's taken him more than 25 years to pen new, thought-provoking lyrics for the revamped piece, which includes this chorus: "We had joints, he had fun, we had opium in the sun/That the wine and the bongs made us feel as we were gone."

The preprogrammed backing track is obnoxiously plastic, but the song's cautionary lyrics, which seem to connect the dots between smoking pot and an early death, makes its effectiveness questionable. Maybe the problem was that Cononie couldn't find anything to rhyme with OxyContin. The painkiller, he claims, has taken the lives of several friends.

When we busted out the song in the New Times compound, reaction was mixed. While Bandwidth pined for the original (and maybe a chaser of "Alone Again, Naturally") some coworkers actually asked for the song to be played again and again and again, and at least two hummed it when its absence proved too much to bear.

"I have weird dreams sometimes in my head," Cononie mentions. "I envision the song being part of a motion picture soundtrack for a real tearjerker of a movie" -- specifically, a hypothetical film wherein the lead succumbs to the perils of dope and then kills himself at the end. It's an idea with promise, he says, and he's going to take the idea to the right people.

"Don't laugh, but we're trying to get ahold of [Ben] Affleck and [Matt] Damon. And I sent a copy to Elizabeth Taylor."

Well, that oughta do it!

This is exactly why I'd direct a more cynical listener in the direction of Spell (no relation to the grunge-rock band on Island Records) and its 1993 remake of "Seasons in the Sun." Meaner-than-thou self-proclaimed misanthrope Boyd Rice puts a beastly, sardonic bitch-slap on Jacks's drippy sap bucket. No fan of pets, children, or what he politely calls "stupid people," Rice's version wavers between satirizing the song and paying some sick homage to it. So in that sense, at least, it's not terribly different from "Don't Do What I Have Done."

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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