What I Did Instead. This week’s song is one of the songs with commercial intent, a genre I ushered in a few weeks ago with “Slow Learner.” I wrote it New Year’s Eve and recorded in New Year’s Day. I worked out a few of the kinks in it over the weekend (i.e., I actually learned the song) but stayed with the New Year’s Day recording so I could say it was recorded New Year’s Day. It didn’t come out so great because I didn’t know the song very well and also didn’t get the levels set right on the recorder, so it sounds sort of like it was recorded in a leaky submarine. I tried to fix it by putting a bass track on there (because, you know, if a song sounds bad, sometimes you can fix it by adding another instrument you can’t really play) but that didn’t work, so I took it off and just left the vocal and guitar. I wish I knew how people kept the pick-scraping sound off of acoustic guitar recordings. Maybe they just know how not to hit the guitar with the pick.
I like the song. It’s upbeat, the right length (about three minutes) and pretty versatile, I think—it could go contemporary country, soul, R&B, jazz, folk, maybe even contemporary Christian or inspirational (if that’s a genre), depending on the arrangement. I’d like to hear it with drums (real drums), bass, piano, maybe even some horns. Mostly I want to hear a really strong vocalist do it; I hear it mostly as a soul song, something for a strong, inventive vocalist to make something of, but one of those big-voiced country guys like Toby Keith would also do. So if you know Toby Keith, send him on over. Or the Reverend Al Green. Or Gladys Knight and the Pips! The Pips could really rip on this song.
(Why doesn’t Gladys Knight register on the cultural radar anymore? She was huge in the seventies, on TV all the time, she and those groovin’ Pips. I just checked out some youtube clips, and she and those Pips sound really good. I wonder how you got to be a Pip? Oh, I see, you start out by being Gladys Knight’s cousin.)
Back to this song, the lyrics are not really all that special because I was trying to keep them from getting in the way of the song, if that makes any sense. This could have been a nutcracker song, and the original intent was that it be a nutcracker song; it was going to be a very specific litany of all the rotten, dumb stuff I could have done, and then the not-as-dumb stuff I did instead. Somehow it took a non-nutcracker turn, and I’m happy about that. Usually the opposite is the case. I usually start trying to write a song that might appeal to people other than me (that’s my definition of a “commercial” song at this point) and wind up nutcrackering it (or self-sabotaging it; I’m indebted to my friend Barry for that formulation.) That’s how Melissa Etheridge tee-shirts wind up in songs or how a fun Scottish country dance song turns out to be about incest.
Alphabet Tally. This isn’t the W song I said I had last week. I didn’t like that one very much anyway. I might have a K now. If so, that just leaves U and X. The others (O, V and Z) I have covered, unless I decide not to do them.
Video. I have about fifteen solid minutes of Thomas explaining the whole world of Star Wars. It’s from last summer after our June campout at Enchanted Rock. At that point he’d seen only one Star Wars movie, but that lore gets passed around among six- and seven-year-old boys so fast and gets so deeply ingrained it may be altering the genetic code of the species, maybe messing with the language gene Noam Chomsky theorized forty or so years ago. Within our lifetimes it’s possible that kids, or boys anyway, may be born already encoded with all that knowledge. For the next generation or two anyway, I doubt anybody will be adjudged to have had a greater influence on childhood than George Lucas, not even J.K. Rowling or Nutcracker Buck.
Outlook. Well, it looks like this thing will get completed. We’re down to single digits after this week, and pretty much all the songs are accounted for. I’m starting to put some thought into how the remaining weeks get scheduled. I hasten to assure you that I haven’t been holding back the good stuff for the end or anything like that—though I have enough songs complete or near-complete to finish out the project, some of them might be stinkers, because I’ve generally tried to go with whatever I liked most (or was most recent) in any given week. I have only one song recorded ahead, and it’s been recorded-ahead so long that it must mean I don’t really want to use it. So it’s still a week-to-week operation. There are a couple of blog topics I want to get to, and probably in the next to last week I’ll try to put together some thoughts on what the whole project was about, what I’ve learned, etc. Because I do think I’ve learned quite a bit from it. And I’m quite ready for it to be over.
Elvis. For the past few days I’ve been trying to calculate when I will have outlived Elvis, and I keep screwing up the math. I think I finally got it right: One week from today, January 12, I will have outlived the King. I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Elvis lately. He turns 75 this Friday, the same day as my tenth wedding anniversary. Here’s something from the 1968 “Comeback Special” that demonstrates why he was the King.