“Whatever happened to feeling good?” the singer asks. “Was it a dream?”
For the performer, the answer is all too specific: what happened to feeling good was terminal colon cancer, diagnosed last year and addressed with surgery that removed several pounds of tumors and his entire colon.
The singer, Mark Vaccacio, 58, recovered enough strength to resume his on-and-off job for the last 30-plus years of performing in Beatles tribute bands, for the last decade with Strawberry Fields as George Harrison. The cancer was not totally eliminated, however, and Mr. Vaccacio’s prognosis is uncertain, having been told a year ago that he might live 18 more months.
Between Saturday performances at B.B. King’s in Times Square and long periods of rest and intravenous hydration, Mr. Vaccacio has been recording and tinkering with an unreleased album of original songs called “Farquar and the Purple Gang.” Following a profile of Mr. Vaccacio that appeared in The New York Times last Thursday, his friends convinced him to release a few songs to the public.
And so: leaked! Three songs, recorded at Rabdaddy Recording Studio in Flushing, Queens, are best described as “eclectic” and available for streaming here.
Mr. Vaccacio, or “Farquar” to his friends, discussed the tracks on Tuesday, starting with “What It Takes to Be In Love,” a ballad written by his collaborators Allen Morrison and Jeff Gottschalk and recorded before Mr. Vaccacio became ill in 2010. It is sung in a voice that is sure to remind listeners of Elvis Costello.
“It’s a song about a guy telling a woman, in plain English, that he doesn’t have what it takes to be in love,” Mr. Vaccacio said. “It’s the perfect ballad, in my opinion.”
The song “Wasted,” quoted above, was recorded after the surgery. “It starts off sounding like Joe Walsh’s ‘Rocky Mountain Way,’ and then takes you on a completely different trip,” he said. The up-tempo rocker belies the lyrics, summed up by the singer: “I’m wasted, I’ve had it.”
Last is “Diane,” an epic worthy of Queen that begins with a male-female opera duet before morphing into rock, reggae and full-blown, James Brown funk.
“‘Diane’ is a song about a couple whose sex life is a little bit on the rocks, and they need to perk it up, to shake it up,” Mr. Vaccacio said. “The opera in the beginning is a man and a woman basically having a fight. It’s a beautiful fight, but it’s a fight nonetheless. The general fights that occur between a man and a woman, in my opinion, are about money and about sex. There’s nothing else to fight about.”
The opera parts were taken from separate samples available on computer programs that Mr. Vaccacio mixed together. There is no reason to believe the two singers ever met, or that they are even fighting.
“No idea what they’re singing,” Mr. Vaccacio said. “To me, they’re arguing.”
He said: “After I play it for people, their jaws are on the floor. They’re blown away.”
The rest of the world can choose to agree or disagree, and will have the opportunity to own the music in coming months, with 13 other songs. “I’m of the mentality, let’s let them all out now,” he said. “I might kick the bucket.”