40 Days (a demo)

      Mary Todesca, the wife of fellow musician Jim Todesca, thought for a long time that the line “coming down on a sunny day” in John Fogerty’s “Have You Seen the Rain” was “coming down for 40 days.” If you listen to the Creedence version, you can understand the confusion.

       But she held on to that conviction, or at least pretended to, long after being provided proof.

       So, I figured there should be a song about 40 days, just for her.  So, I wrote one. 

      It has a melodic salute to Creedence (one of my very favorite bands in its heyday). If you listen closely you might detect a hint of Fogerty’s “Green River” in the little guitar riff at the end of each verse. And the bridge opens with the line: “there’s a calm before the storm,” which is the second line in “Have You Seen the Rain.”

      I’m rather proud of those touches, and I also like the song. It’s one I play out sometimes. And if I ever recorded a CD or EP of blues numbers, this would be on it. I’d love to hear a slide on a Dobro and maybe more made of the “Green River” riff.

 

        The above is just me and my guitar

40 Days

The rain’s gonna fall
40 days in all
pour down like a shower of shooting stars

the wind’s gonna blow
lordy it’s gonna howl
like a mangy old wolf on the prowl

   (bridge):
   there’s a calm before the storm
   they say that’s your chance to a run
   but you know you can’t escape
   the damage done

cause the river’s gonna rise
the levees give way
gonna drown all the sinners and saints

(coda):
Yeah, the rain’s gonna come
Wind’s gonna blow
And that river’s gonna wash over you

 

 

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I Got a Witness (a demo)

This is my attempt at gospel music.

Gospel music, like the blues, has it origins in the early 1800s and comes from the black oral tradition. Its rhythmic history is rooted in the handclapping and stomping when the singing was mostly unaccompanied by instruments. Lyrically, gospel music is simple and repetitive, often employing a call and response.

For my lyrics, I have used the weather as a simile for praying, not praying for rain, so to speak, but praying like rain, or like thunder.

Gospel music is most like the blues when describing a desperate situation that needs the Almighty’s attention. But it deviates from most of the blues by specifying the Christian atonement as the answer.

For reasons that are fairly obvious, the bottle and its different manifestations are a recurring concept in my songs. In flipping the image of the Biblical miracle of water being made into wine to say leave it water this time, I’m also borrowing from that great alcoholic’s prayer song by T. Graham Brown, “Wine into Water.” (If you’ve never heard it, google it and listen, but have some tissue near by.)

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

I Got a Witness

Lord I’m standing, standing on the edge
don’t wanna fall over, don’t wanna wind up dead
so I’m praying, praying like rain
you’ll find me instead
yeah you’ll find me instead

lord i know, I got it coming
just can’t help, but be out there running
so I’m praying, praying like thunder
i won’t come to nothing, I won’t come to nothing

(refrain):

I don’t need no alibi
got me a witness, who’ll testify

 

lord that bottle, is a live wire
and it’ll burn me, like the devil’s fire
so I’m praying, praying like wind
you make water this time, yeah leave it water this time

(refrain)

lord we’re hurting, in a world of hurt
and we don’t need, any more burdens
so I’m praying, praying like lightning
keep the home fires burning, keep the home fires burning

(refrain)

 

 

 

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Never Been to Austin (a demo)

In Atlanta, Melissa and I liked to attend house concerts, where lesser known but incredibly talented singer/songwriters earn most of their living. It’s an intimate setting, usually in the living rooms of super hosts, who invite friends and neighbors to a covered dish dinner and music.

For a period, it seemed that every singer songwriter we encountered was from Austin. At the time, I had never been to Austin, though I thought of Austin as the mecca of real country music. Country folk and honky tonk and blues all messed into a sound quite distinguishable from NashVegas.

But it became obvious that those from Austin not only thought better of themselves than Nashville songwriters, but they thought better of themselves in general.

It was just a little south of obnoxious.

At this particular house concert, the Austin singer songwriter had played a couple of what I call two-stepping songs (One Day at a Time). At the time, I had dabbled in and around the form, but had never really figured it out.

The next day I decided to write a two-stepping song.

I started strumming, figured out the melodic form and the first words out of my mouth were: “I’ve never been to Austin…..”

This is not a new song. It’s just that I finally got around to making a demo of it. I’ve been playing this song at most gigs for a few years now.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

Never Been to Ausin

I’ve never been to Austin
But don’t hold that against me
if I’d had my say
I’d been born in Texas
but as it is I just a runaway
from way down in Georgia

but I’ve been to Nacogdoches and Longview
caught me a case of them east Texas blues
but you can have Dallas if you really want her
sort of reminds me of Atlanta Georgia

(chorus):

yeah I’m just man
whose been displaced
trying to find some saving grace
before it’s all gets washed away
come that heavenly day

it don’t take much
to satisfy me
never been accused of being greedy
but then again I won’t settle for less
than what I need

and I need a gal just like you
I think you know what I’m saying’s true
so come over here let me stare into
those big blue (brown) eyes

 

 

 

 

 

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Got the Blues Last Night (a demo)

This is not so much a blues song in the strictest sense, as it is a country cheating song in the tradition of Hank Williams: “I Got a Feeling Called the Blues.” (If only I could yodel! Seriously.)

The cheating song has a long tradition in all forms of jazz: blues, pop, rock and roll and country. In country, some of its best songs are in this sub genre: from Dolly Patron’s “Jolene,” to “Your Cheating Heart,” another Hank classic.

The key to a good cheating song seems to be the straight-ahead undeniability of the fact, and the raw emotional response.

Cheating songs, like falling-in-love songs, don’t necessarily have to come from a singular personal experience. Rather, they can come from tapping into the universal sense of falling in love or being dumped. Almost everyone has experienced either or both of those emotional carnival rides.

At a certain age, there seems to be little else one feels.

And with all blues, the singing it, the hearing it, or dancing to it somehow lessens its impact.

 

The above is just me and my guitar

Got the Blues Last Night

(chorus):
I got the blues last night
saw my baby with another guy
haven’t slept a wink
for cry-i-ng

baby had on a new red dress
where she got it don’t know hate to guess
but that’s not all that’s troubling my mind
see that wasn’t baby’s first time

(chorus)

said she’d love me til the end of time
now I know she was just lying
haven’t slept a wink
for crying

just might get me a gun
shoot that sucker just for fun
but that wouldn’t make everything right
cuz baby’s going out again tonight 

(chorus)

baby taught me a thing or two
there’s more to life than the blues
so get yourself a baby
you don’t have to worry about
looking for me a new baby
one who won’t go stepping out

 

 

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The Bullet (a demo)

The Bullet

I’m partial to this haunting blues number.

Melissa claims it crept out of the night, spawned by having watched HBO’s “True Detective.”

We didn’t take HBO at the time the show morphed into a cult hit, so we had to wait until the series starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson became available for purchase.

Quite a story. And if you saw the series you’ll remember the indelible theme song, The Handsome Family’s “Far from Any Road.”

So, I think that’s what gave Melissa a sense of the song’s origin, since it is a little different for me.  She might be right.

But I was looking for a spark to ignite some songwriting and had been told that as songwriter if I change instruments or tunings, it just might spark something.

So, I grabbed my electric Telecaster down from the shelf. I seldom play it because an electric guitar is truly a different instrument and I don’t know how to play it well.

But three songs jumped off that Telecaster, the first of which was “The Bullet.”

It’s POV is clearly a different one for me, but an important one, and not so foreign as you might think. I know first and second hand the horrors and consequences of addiction. I lost a parent to a bullet. My children navigated a “ghetto” school, as they fondly called Grady.

So, this is real, which is the first requirement of the blues.

The above is just me and my guitar

 

   The Bullet

Sometimes, you can’t get enough
Sometimes, it gets in your blood
Then you’ll spend your life like
a homeless man looking for work
 
Sometimes, you got to choose
Yeah sometime, you got to move
Cause that man out there is looking for you
 
all the love in this world
can’t take back a bullet
once it’s left its gun
 
They said, just stay in school
And you’ll get ahead if you play by the rules
but just to be on the safe side
we’re going build some jail cells, too

 

 

 

 

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Lights, camera, action

A little over a year ago, I was trying to take a nap when I got a call from an agent at the William Morris Agency.

I immediately recognized the name of the world’s largest entertainment agency and my mind quickly began thinking perhaps someone has heard a song and wanted…. when the caller asked if my book “The Real Coke, the Real Story” had been optioned?

This gave me pause. Book? I had written a book 29 years before. Option?

I managed to say without too much hesitation, “No.”

He then says two of his clients want to option my book for a movie. And he wants to arrange a telephone conference so they can make their pitch.

Random House 1986

Random House 1986

I had managed to get both feet firmly planted on the floor just before I was elevated to whichever cloud induces fantasies of fame and fortune. But I was soon to learn that to arrive at such destinations one must travel a long and winding road full of delays without end or explanation.

I was told the two writers were the writers behind one of Hollywood’s recent surprise hits: “Zombieland,” starring Woody Harrelson and Jesse Esienberg, with a cameo by Bill Murray. Critics loved it and it made lots of money. They even overnighted me a DVD of the movie, as if I hadn’t seen it.

While I waited for the conference call, I did a little research on these two and found out they were also the writers on the much-anticipated movie “Deadpool,” a spin-off from Marvel’s and Sony’s X-Men goldmine.

These guys had other credits as well. They were, in other words, the real deal.

I speculated, and they later confirmed, their interest in new Coke came about because of the success that Oscar year of two business scandal movies, “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Hence, the creative types in Hollywood, home of the world’s largest Xerox machine, were brainstorming other American business debacles or scandals.

Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese landed on new Coke. They found the Kindle version of my book on Amazon and fell in love with it.

They told me they envision the Coke movie, like “American Hustle,” as part period piece, in this case, the “vibrant” 1980s. They speak in hyperbole, which I’m too modest to repeat, about how big they think this could be. And some of the actors’ names they toss around, well, quite frankly make me giggle.

So who knows? It may never happen. I bet there are a 100-plus options, if not multiples of that, for every movie made.

Still, I have a book that has been optioned for a movie.

Yeah!

And for y’all dying to know but won’t find out in the grocery store tabloids: There is no money paid for an option (or otherwise Hollywood would go broke, per the above ratio of options to movies).

Payment is made on day one of the actual production. So, they have to get the movie financed and into production before I would receive anything.

So, keep your fingers crossed. And if anyone ever suggests I take naps because I’m lazy, you now know the real reason: I am waiting on a call.

 

P.S. For those who would like to read the book before the movie comes out, follow the Book link in the header above or click http://thomas-oliver.com/books/