Tag: lyrics

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Show Me a Smile

Let’s dispense with the important disclaimer: The song lyric that follows is in no way about my wife. I wrote it years before we ever met, in 1979, at age 20, around the same time as “Seventh Star Dreamer“.

I got to thinking about “Show Me a Smile” today while discussing high neighborhood rents. I reminisced about my first apartment costing just $40 a week—and being more visually appealing than the great place where we live now. Most of my best songwriting goes back to that first flat. 

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Joe College

I started writing song lyrics around age 14, when given a typewriter. I long had fancied myself a lyricist, and you can be the judge by reviewing some of the verse. Songwriting was harder, but the first song came to me while walking home from high school (gasp) 40 years ago—perhaps a May day like this one, year of my graduation. I don’t recall the date. All my writings from the 1970s and 80s were left, and later lost, in Vermont circa 1989.

“Joe College” is simple, purposely repetitive, and peppy. I remember trying to hold the melody and words together in my head as I rushed back to my bedroom. The tune, as first inspired, changed because of short-term memory loss before being committed to permanent neural storage. Strangely—and I do mean strangely—the inspiration came from an animated Peanuts special, which in part featured Snoopy the dog as Joe Cool attending college. 

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Noon is What You’re Waiting For

For reasons even I can’t explain, I’ve slowly started to complete a number of lyrics with melodies written decades ago. The verse below is among them. I banged out the first draft, through to the chorus, during my senior year of high school. Today, I added two additional stanzas to finish the song, barring any future revisions.

“Noon is What You’re Waiting For” derives from two inspirations: My then, strong anti-religious sentiments and something discussed during literature class: Cycle of life as morning, noon, and evening (or is that twilight). Meaning: Noon doesn’t refer to time of day when the protagonist sneaks out to meet boys but to her coming of age and freedom from Catholic colloquial confines. 

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Seventh Star Dreamer

In early 1979, I moved into my first apartment, for the rip-roaring rent of $40 per week. I had never lived alone before and spent much of my off-job time listening to music or songwriting. I wrote short “Seventh Star Dreamer”, lyric and melody, 36 years ago this month, sitting at the kitchen table late one afternoon.

By choice, I worked third-shift at a factory producing laminate tabletops. My typical day ended as most other people’s began. But there was something refreshing about my nocturnal lifestyle and evening walks, with stars above, to my job. The Milky Way inspired my writing.

From my catalog of other lyrics or songs posted for this year: “Cries by Day, Cries by Night“; “Dank Deep Eyes the Darkness“; “Disco Queen“; “Empire State“; “Road to Jericho“; “Surrealistic Pillow“. 

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Road to Jericho

Spring 1985 in Washington, D.C., the cherry blossoms adorned the streets. I was 25, feeling virile and wanting to write something different. My lyrics typically tell tales of women, which interest me as a heterosexual man. By contrast, “Road to Jericho” is the hero’s story—man fighting against other men and weakness within himself.

I am no scholar of Old Testament stories but admit with some certainty that the tale this song tells isn’t in the Biblical record. Being unfamiliar with the historical period when writing 30 years ago, armaments aren’t right either. So I take poetic license, for which I ask your pardon if someone of Faith. 

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Cries by Day, Cries by Night

For Valentine’s Day, I present a sad song of lost love written in early 1979. Lyrics are same, but I made an alternative melody in 2014 that is lighter than the original’s more somber tone.

I wrote this song back in my cat-despising youth. If you asked why, I could present no answer for the attitude. Regardless, it is what inspired the verse, to which I soon after put to melody. I knew little about romantic love and nothing about loss then.

“Cries by Day, Cries by Night” is the fifth lyric posted since the new year. The others: “Dank Deep Eyes the Darkness“, “Disco Queen“, “Empire State“, and “Surrealistic Pillow“. More will follow. 

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Dank Deep Eyes the Darkness

Some days creativity is like the California drought. I sit down to write, and no rain falls. But wanting to post something, I reach into my personal, secret archive of treasures, which for 2015 opens publicly. Sporadically, over the past six weeks, I posted lyrics to three songs: “Disco Queen“, “Empire State“, and “Surrealistic Pillow“—all written in the late 1970s. Today’s contribution is quite a bit newer but still not recent: March 27, 2004, finished at 12:30 a.m. ET. Others lyrics will follow over the months ahead.

This verse stands without melody and, honestly, lacks reading rhythm that would make a good song. Like most of my lyrics, the subject is a young woman—no one I know, and from none inspired. The only inspiration here is the dusty basement office where I worked, where unwelcome late-night pests came out of hiding. 

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Disco Queen

Following up sharing lyrics to my songs “Empire State” and “Surrealistic Pillow” is another from my more prolific lyrical writing youth—before prose became my profession. I wrote the first verse and melody some time in 1978. The Disco Queen refers to Donna Summer, who suggestively moaned in her hit song “Love to Love You Baby”, which released three years earlier and reached No. 2 on Billboard in 1976.

I tend to write lyrics in complete form, but words with melodies often start out and languish. I didn’t come back to finish “Disco Queen” until November 2003. In posting today, I remove the third stanza and ask commentary about whether or not to keep it. 

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Surrealistic Pillow

I am quite possessive about my songs, in part because lyrics and singing are natural, but playing musical instruments is not. Posting “Empire State” and now “Surrealistic Pillow” is an exposing experience. But since both will be part of forthcoming serialized vampire thriller My Blood, now is as good a time as any to share them. Coincidentally,  this one, like the other, is 1979 vintage.

Every lyric tells a story, but “Surrealistic Pillow” has one, too. 

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Empire State

I fancied myself a lyricist in my bygone youth (okay, still do today). Bernie Taupin and Tim Rice inspired my topical, storytelling style. I was prolific in my teens and twenties, writing words for eventual melodies. I never envisioned wordsmithery of any other kind and still wonder how prose came to be my profession. It’s not my first love.

Occasionally I put melody and verse together, as is the case with the song (or lyric to it) below. December 1979, just after Midnight on a Sunday morning, I looked down Manhattan’s 34th Street from FDR Drive at the Empire State Building. The night was cold. I was alone, bored, and angry. I wrote the first two stanzas and chorus right then, with melody, and added the last stanza about a month later.

This song, and several others, will appear in my forthcoming book My Blood, which begins serialization someday, credited to fictional character Cusper Rhodes.