June 24th, 2006

Tracy Thielen

I just found out that my friend Tracy Thielen died this week.

Tracy wasn't a close friend - I hadn't seen him in a couple of years - but I always liked him and appreciated his unique talents. We first met at my bookstore, when we discovered we were both serious Dickheads (Philip K. Dickheads, to be precise). There was a coffeehouse (the Iguana Cafe) behind the store that had become a nexus for local independent musicians and poets, and Tracy often performed there. Not long after we met, he got together a band called Tracy & the Hindenburg Ground Crew, and started to record records at an amazing rate. His songs were usually short and bitterly witty, and in the course of a few years he also gained some solid musical chops, working with musicians like Duke McVinnie. He formed his own company, Actionbox Records, and even distributed the work of other artists, including a pre-Aragorn Viggo Mortensen. I put together a website for him (which sadly exists now only in my computer), and we hung out fairly often. His band started to catch on and he toured indie clubs all over the U.S. He reminded me a bit of Frank Black, and I thought he was perpetually on the verge of major success.

Then I didn't see him for the last few years, and I was wondering what happened. I assumed maybe he was touring some other part of the country. Then I hear he died of an overdose. And I'm just stunned...This is a guy who, when I knew him, just didn't have time for drugs. He was constantly writing, rehearsing or recording music, running his company, touring, and working a dayjob as a driver in the film industry.

This just doesn't seem possible.

Anyway, here's the Tracy I remember. I know we're just barely into summer, but this is my favorite Tracy song. Mom and I play this every Christmas and always laugh ourselves silly. And I think this is how Tracy would like to be remembered. So, enjoy "The Christmas Song" and think of the guy who wrote it, performed it and recorded it.

"The Christmas Song"