Somewhere, sometime during his mostly miserable musical career, Ira Marlowe was accosted after a show by a woman on Ecstasy, who claimed she dug his act so much that she wanted a “private concert.” Delighted to reap at last one of the time-honored rewards of rock stardom, a randy Marlowe showed up at the specified time and place, only to find that “she really meant she wanted a private concert, and she was there with her friends and her boyfriend waiting to hear me sing,” he says ruefully.
It's the kind of embarrassing story you'd usually tell your friends at the bottom of a fifth of gin. But instead Marlowe is transforming his workaday lemons into theatrical lemonade with his How to Write a Song, a one-man multimedia show in which Marlowe's autobiographical storytelling is augmented by video clips featuring his “demons” (the personifications of his hectoring inner voices) and performances of his surprisingly tuneful original compositions.
Song traces Marlowe's painful slog from early big-fish-in-a-small-pond musical success in Richmond, Va., to strikeouts in Los Angeles, New York, and the Bay Area as he attempted to transform himself from frontman to singer/songwriter to hit-maker for other artists. He was this close to several record deals, but somehow everything seemed to fall apart at the last minute in ways both ludicrous and humiliating. Yet just as the worst experiences make for the best anecdotes later, Marlowe's travails are studded with caustic funnies. Like the time a new manager set up a “very important meeting” with an L.A. music-biz mover and shaker. Thrilled, Marlowe flew out to meet the big cheese, only to find the guy's office was located in a wholesale bedding outlet. Soon after, the “Mattress King” reneged on the deal because, as Marlowe relates, “he said, 'Too many people are buying futons these days.'”
Ira Marlowe has a million stories like that. And they'll all make you laugh even as you cringe.