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Studio Time

jennysletter

This is the story of a song that came out a finished work the first time I played it, never having played it before. This had never happened to me with a song that has both music and words. Which is to say, I have improvised piano tunes that were finished works, though I could never repeat them exactly as I played them the first time. But music and lyrics in their finished form the first time I played a song? Definitely a first.

Which reminds me, if I may briefly digress, of the one short story I’ve written in my fifty years of writing stories when the first draft was the final draft, and that turned out to be one of my most popular stories, Of Water and Melons. I recorded it for CD of stories I Steal My Bicycle and other stories. And you can listen to my reading of Of Water and Melons on YouTube.

Now back to the song story.

So… the basic guitar parts, piano parts, and my vocals for eleven songs on my new album Lounge Act In Heaven were recorded and I had a three-week wait before I could get back into Peter Temple’s studio to do more work on the album. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Moreland was listening to those eleven songs and figuring out her accordion parts and vocal harmonies.

I had been practicing those eleven songs every day for months. Now that they were recorded to my liking I no longer needed to play them, so I turned my attention to working out second guitar parts and vocal harmonies, though those would mostly have to wait until I heard what Gwyneth came up with.

And I resumed my usual practice of improvising on both piano and guitar and hunting around for appealing patterns of chords and neato melodies.

On a beautiful fall morning, about two weeks before Gwyneth would begin recording her parts for the songs, I picked up my guitar and played high up on the guitar neck a repeating pattern of three jazzy chords and sang in a plaintive voice, “Got my songs together, waiting on studio time. Got my songs together, waiting on studio time, studio time.”

Then without pausing, I shifted to a classic rock n’ roll chord progression and sang, “If I make a million from my music, this is what I’m gonna do, build me a super duper studio for me and you, get a super duper engineer, on call twenty-four hours. We can work there night and day, maximize our power.”

Again without pausing I went back up the neck to the high jazzy chords and repeated, “Got my songs together, waiting on studio time. Got my songs together, waiting on studio time, studio time.”

Then I played the rock progression again and repeated, “If I make a million from my music, this is what I’m gonna do, build me a super duper studio for me and you, get a super duper engineer, on call twenty-four hours. We can work there night and day, maximize our power.”

Song finished, I put down my guitar and went outside and had a good laugh because the song struck me as both a funny satire and an honest elucidation of my impatience to get back to work on the songs for Lounge Act In Heaven. In a wholly unanticipated outburst, I’d composed an anthem to the adolescent fantasies of millions of wannabe rock stars who imagine the only thing standing between them and stardom is studio time. That is to say, when I was young, before the advent of digital everything and YouTube, aspiring musicians everywhere longed for studio time.

I played the song again, wrote down the words, practiced the song many times, and when I finally got back in the studio I recorded the groovy tune in one take. And while recording the song, never having done this before, I spoke the line “Shred it Johnny” between the rock progression and the high jazzy.

I really loved how the song turned out and thought I’d like to find a hot lead guitar player to play hot lead guitar on the instrumental sections. But after Gwyneth came up with a groovy accordion part and I recorded a vocal harmony, I thought I’d face my lead guitar demons and take a crack at playing lead. After lots of practicing, we recorded my lead guitar parts and I was happy with the results. Shred it Toddy.

Studio Time

Got my songs together, waiting on studio time

Got my songs together, waiting on studio time

Studio time, studio time

 

If I make a million from my music, this is what I’m gonna do

Build me a super duper studio for me and you

Get a super duper engineer, on call twenty-four hours

We can work there night and day, maximize our power

Shred it Johnny

 

Got my songs together, waiting on studio time

Got my songs together, waiting on studio time

Studio time

 

If I make a million from my music, this is what I’m gonna do

Build me a super duper studio for me and you

Get a super duper engineer, on call twenty-four hours

We can work there night and day, maximize our power

Shred it Johnny

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A Wedding Song

town beach

I’ve just come out with a new album of songs Lounge Act In Heaven and I’d like to tell you the origin of one of the songs: A Wedding Song.

On a rainy winter’s eve circa 2001 I was sitting in the living room of the house I was renting in Berkeley, noodling on my guitar, when I happened to noodle upon a progression of chords that made a pleasing three-part song. At the time of this propitious noodling I was the daily babysitter for Conor, the one-year-old child of my neighbors Karen and Scotty. Karen loved my new three-part song and asked me to play it for the processional at their upcoming wedding, which I did.

th_istealmybicycle-550

A year or so later I was making a CD of three of my short stories entitled I Steal My Bicycle & other stories, and I recorded songs without words to go before and after each of the three stories on the album. I played guitar and Adrian West accompanied me on violin. The last of the songs on that album is Karen’s wedding processional, which I entitled Wedding Song.

I Steal My Bicycle came out in 2003 and all these years later Wedding Song is still occasionally streamed or downloaded by somebody somewhere in the world, no doubt because the title is Wedding Song. You can listen to the instrumental on YouTube or stream and/or download from your favorite sites. Or you can get the CD with three fab short stories and groovalicious instrumental music for just five bucks from my web site.

Over the ensuing years, I would occasionally play the progression of chords for Wedding Song so I wouldn’t forget how the song went; and I would try out a lyric or two, but nothing ever caught.

Fast forward to early 2019. I collaborated with local vocal wizard Gwyneth Moreland for the first time on my CD of songs Dream of You. Inspired by working with Gwyneth, I wrote a bevy of new songs, and while I was writing them, my friend Max Greenstreet released his wonderful half-hour movie Guys.

I watched Guys three times in four days, and then over the next few weeks watched my favorite parts of the movie several more times.

And then I had an epiphany. One of the things I love most about Guys is that much of the dialogue is composed of intriguing questions for the viewer to ponder.

This epiphany led me to wonder: what if I wrote lyrics to Wedding Song composed entirely of the kinds of questions prospective marriage partners might ask each other? Might such a composition make a compelling song? You bet it might.

So I started creating a list of such questions, and whilst making my list, Marcia and I went to supper at Bill and Sally Fletcher’s house and the four of us brainstormed about such questions and I took copious notes. After accumulating hundreds of potential courtship questions, I began fitting the most compelling questions to the music until I completed the song, which I entitled A Wedding Song to distinguish it from Wedding Song.

For A Wedding Song, Gwyneth plays accordion, I play guitar, and we sing the song as a duet with a couple extra Gwyneth vocal tracks here and there throughout the song. You can hear our rendition on YouTube, or you can add a few pennies to my coffers by downloading or streaming the song (or the entire CD) from your favorite music site.

Here are the lyrics to A Wedding Song.

 

Are you a day person or a night owl?

Do you like traveling by train?

Would you like to go out walking with me?

When it starts to rain?

 

What’s your earliest memory?

Where in the world do you feel most free?

Wanna go for Thai food with me?

 

Who was your first great love?

Are you always early or always late?

When did you stop believing in Santa Claus?

Do you believe in luck or fate?

 

How old were you when you started to talk?

Have you ever run a marathon?

What’s your go-to comfort food?

How do you feel about puns?

 

Do you have a favorite song?

Wanna sing it and I’ll sing along?

Oh come on now it might be fun.

 

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?

Who’s your favorite movie star?

What really really pushes your buttons?

Can you imagine a world without war?

 

What do you like to do for fun?

Are you a gourmet cook?

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Have you got a favorite book?

 

Do you remember your dreams?

What if life is not what it seems?

Would it be okay with you if I needed to scream?

 

Did you have a happy childhood?

What’s your favorite holiday?

What would you do if you suddenly got a million dollars?

Would you give it all away?

 

When was your first real kiss?

Do you like poetry?

Who is your very best friend?

It’s okay if it’s not me.

 

What do you really want to be?

Can you imagine living with me?

You’d wake up and there I’d be?

 

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

What makes you laugh and cry?

If you could have just one super power,

Would it be that you could fly?

 

So I guess the big question is:

Will you marry me?

Merge your heart and soul with mine,

Share a destiny?

 

Let us never be afraid

To say the things we need to say

Trusting love to show us the way

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