John Chaffee is a strange bird. With the release of his new book, One Thousand Thoughts, in Five Words or Less, he essentially has eschewed standard norms for something that is entirely surrealistic in terms of a literal reading experience. When you accept the book on its own terms, you can enjoy it in a manner that feels akin to dream logic. But separate the pieces, and in my view the thing fails. “After a career in broadcasting…John (Chaffee) began pursuing his lifelong dream, songwriting.
In 2004, (Chaffee) he released a song he wrote, ‘Someone is Missing at Christmas’, performed by Anne Cochran, which in the following year reached…#11…on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. The song continues to be played each season on All-Christmas-Music stations, and a portion of the proceeds are directed to breast cancer and ovarian cancer organizations.” Such a sense of altruism is needless to say highly commendable, and would make one picture Chaffee as a sort of Bob Dylan type figure, at least in terms of balancing music with a sense of ethics.
But Chaffee is his own animal. Take, for instance, one of the passages in his book. “To like, to want, is/Burn your demons/Maybe someday comes/Sorry, there’s no explanation/Embrace your spirit/Be kind and true/Somersaults are for the young/This time matters/Legs fold, arms hold/Even people lay an egg,” he writes. “There will always be forever/There once was a memory/Get out of your cradle/Carve your life cleanly/Somewhere there’s a twin/Don’t live under water/Far away, a light/When it calls, answer/Look, obstacles aren’t really there/Silliness leads to laughter.”
It’s not that it’s not deep stuff. It’s just so off-putting when you think about this kind of thing next to Chaffee considering his credentials. But then again, look closer and you’ll see the book is still a mastery of craft. The sentences themselves are evocative, ideologically sound, and whether alone or in the context of formatting and the book have this uncanniness to them random intermixing could never instigate consistently.
This kind of bait-and-switch mentality, at least on a superficial level, can somewhat be surmised to what appears to be Chaffee’s healthy and creative sense of irreverence in real life. “In 2009, following the appointment of a man who didn’t pay his taxes, (then)…(becoming) Treasury Secretary, John began work on ‘Play by the Rules’. The audio track was recorded in Nashville at Trax Studios and in the summer, at various Cleveland, Ohio locations, the video was shot and then produced at Commercial Recording Studios. The song has been featured in Country Weekly and UpCountry (UK) magazines, several newspapers, and in November of 2009 won the Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Country Song.”
It’s interesting to think of what Chaffee describes as his ‘word evolution.’ In effect, he’s stopped using any sort of conduits or vehicles, opting for just communicating the cruxes of the ideas themselves…