Hiding Out in Paradise Lost
(a demo)

There is a mysterious, mystic part of the creative process that is outside the individual artist. It’s what makes creating so intoxicating, and why one can get lost for hours in the process. You look up and wonder two things: where the time went and where did that line come from.

I also believe artists, without intention, reflect not just their experience and beliefs, but those of their surroundings, such as the fears of some or the desires of others. That belief is supported by my experience, which I have mentioned before, that I don’t write songs so much as I catch them. Many other songwriters express it similarly.

“Hiding Out in Paradise Lost,” not the subtlest of titles, falls squarely in the ranks of the protest songs that speak more to an emotional response to a changing world rather than a specific political topic. While I am no conspiracy theorist, I am not immune to the sense of an increasing disconnect in the public square. And I’m not even talking about the obvious, literal current events. That sense was evident to me long before the first candidate declared, and even longer before they caucused in Iowa.

While such disenfranchisement has been reflected in earlier songs (“Old Men,” “No Flood This Time,” for example), this one is as explicit and direct as can be.

       Apocalyptic even.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

Hiding Out in Paradise Lost 

(Chorus):

Here they come they’re riding those horses
Here they come they’re driving those tanks
Here they come they’re flying those drones
everybody knows they’ve emptied the banks x2

They took our jobs and they took our land
Somebody’s needs to draw a line in the sand
Otherwise we’re all just double-crossed
Hanging out in paradise lost
Hiding out in paradise lost

(chorus)

First they preach law and order
Next thing you know they’ve burn down the church
Then the holy-rollers hoot and holler
Just like sharks with blood in the water x2

(chorus)

We’ve been warned and we’ve been told
The longer you live the longer you’re old
Now they’re saying that’s all wrong
They can’t afford you, the money’s all gone
Nobody loves you when the money’s gone

(chorus)

(bridge):

   Nobody knows how long this’ll last
   Everyone’s waiting on the next newscast
   In the meantime, we’re saying our prayers
   Cause heaven only knows if God even cares x2

(chorus)

 

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I Miss My Friend (a demo)

What if?

That’s how a lot of songs get written. Asking the what-if question about this or that situation.  You don’t always have to write from strictly personal experience.  You can imagine, and in this case: What would happen if you married your best friend?

You hear some people say they married their best friend.  I’m never sure if that just means they became “best friends” after they were married, or if they really were friends who then fell in love.

Marrying your best friend is not the same as teenage puppy love maturing into a long-lasting marriage. It’s certainly not an impulsive, first-sight love. Rather it implies the couple knew each other as friends and then somehow over time fell in love.

Seems to be at odds with the chemical reaction that is so acutely associated with falling in love. I guess two brains could have a delayed reaction. About each other.  At the same time.  

Anyway, this is a a tongue-in-check blues riff on what happened to the singer when he married his friend.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

I Miss My Friend

you were my friend before you were my lover
and I love you baby now more than ever
but I sometimes I do declare
yeah sometimes baby, I miss my friend.

you love me just like there’s no more tomorrow
and lord knows it can be a talent show
so this might not seem fair
but sometimes baby I miss my friend.

you were my friend before you were my lover
and I love you baby now more than ever
so it might seem like I’m splitting hairs
but sometimes baby I can’t help but miss my friend

everyone says I met my match
and I don’t know how lucky I am
they say you saved me from a fate worse than death
but be that as it may, sometimes I miss my friend

 

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Slow Trains,
South-Bound Women (a demo)

“Slow Trains, South-Bound Women” says it all in the title.

In the tradition of the blues, “Slow Trains” is a first-person lament over the loss of a lover. She done gone.

The melody, too, is strictly old-time blues, with its three-chord progression over 12-bars, though as I am want to do, I toss in a bridge that gives us two new chords!

The way I write most of my blues: start strumming and wait for the words to follow.

What follows is a brief history of the blues:

Started in the Mississippi Delta (Delta blues), then migrated north (after the 1927 Mississippi Flood when the Great Migration began) to Chicago.

There it added a few more instruments (horns even) to the basic rhythmic harmonic structure. These other instruments added more than just three chords per song and notes, and before you know it, they were calling it jazz.

Some of that Delta blues also found its way to Memphis, where it took on more of a vaudevillian, dance style to go along with the entertainment district along Beale Street.

Here, the lead guitar was added. This would become instrumental (no pun intended) in the evolution to rock and roll, where two guitars became the norm to pair with bass and drums for all that bopping ‘round the clock.

 

The above is just me and my guitar, wishing I knew a little harmonica.

Slow Trains, South-Bound Women

(chorus):

slow trains, south-bound women (x3)
well they gonna be the death of me

slow trains they take forever (x3)
and never get you where you wanna be

south-bound women take it with ’em (x3)
and don’t care if they ever see you again
(chorus)

(bridge):

my south bound woman she done left me
this train ain’t never gonna catch her
south bound women slow trains
well they gonna be the death of me.

(chorus)

 

 

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Blue Lights (a demo)

This one is special.

When I was in high school in College Park and beginning to date, there were two main places where couples would go parking. (Remember parking? Making out?)  

One was down Virginia Ave. toward the Atlanta Airport. You took a road that ran beside the Holiday Inn, and at the end of that road was a precipice overlooking a runway. At night, the runway was lit with blue lights. Very romantic. And the destination told everyone everything. To go to Blue Lights meant you went making out.

I found the melody to this song playing with a loop machine, which plays a chord progression you started over and over, while you play a lead or scales or whatever along with it.

And sometime after that I had the first verse.

But then I was stuck.

I knew this could be special and would mean something to a lot of folks from College Park, so I wanted it to be right. So I didn’t rush it when frustration set in.

Finally after several months, I was watching a John Denver documentary. Early on when he was still with the Chad Mitchell Trio, Denver produced a Christmas album of his originals for his friends and family. His new manager Jerry Weintraub, who would go on to produce many hit movies, told him he had a hit on that album but the title was all wrong. The title was Oh Babe I Hate to Go, in the tradition of naming the song after the last line in the chorus. Weingtraub said, no, the title is “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” And as they say, the rest is history.

What I had forgotten was that that song spoke subtly of the angst surrounding the Vietnam War and the young men who were leaving to fight it.

Bells and whistles didn’t necessarily go off, not consciously at least.

But a few days later when a friend from my high school days posted a query on Facebook reminiscing about Blue Lights, I went back to the song and the “radio blared: I’m leaving on a jet plane….” and that fostered the bridge, which made the song something more than just a up-tempo nostalgic pop song.

Again, I love being part of this magical mystery tour of songwriting.

The response to this song has overwhelmed me. Far more than just hearing from old classmates, the response also has been local, particularly at a weekly jam I go to. They say you don’t have to be from College Park to appreciate it.  

Hope you enjoy it as well.

The above is just me and my guitar.

Blue Lights

We knew a place we could go
after the picture show
Park the car, make out
watch the planes land and take off

Blue lights on the runway
Sparkle like the stars in the sky
In our eyes we could see
All we needed to know that night
at blue lights.

First touch. first love,
The one you are so sure of
and we went as far as we dared
As the radio blared:
      “I’m leaving on a jet plane
      Don’t know when I’ll be back again”
     And it seemed so real 
       But it was only a dream.
(bridge):
then those friendly skies turned dark and gray
there was a war it was calling our names
some fought and some fought to stay away
and those blue lights were fading.

The years flew by and we all                                          
went our separate ways
far from home just like
everyone did in those days

but blue lights on the runway
sparkle again in my memory
just like it was
when we were young and free

when blue lights on the runway
sparkled like the stars in the sky
In our eyes on those nights at blues lights
..at blue lights….at blue lights
ah those nights at blue lights

 

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She Works Hard for Our Money (a demo)

This is what I refer to as a ditty. A cute little song thrown off for a laugh. A novelty type song.

It must be fairly simple to do because now there is a Ditty app that turns your text into a ditty.

This song came out of my joking with friends that yes, I am retired, while my wife works, and works hard. Melissa has had two different jobs here on the island, and at both of them she’s worked the equivalent of two jobs. So, as I began contrasting our daily schedules, it just naturally turned into a comedy routine.

The first time I played this out, our neighbors David and Judy were in the audience. They are very aware of the differences in our schedules, and when I sang the opening lines, they started laughing so hard I wasn’t sure I could continue without breaking up myself.

Anyway. Lest someone suggest that all my songs are serious, here’s one that is definitely not.

 

The above is just me and my guitar.

She Works Hard for Our Money

 

when i get up in the morning
it’s almost time for lunch
my wife doesn’t fix it for me
cause she’s already gone on to work

me, i plan a busy day
singing and playing guitar
it may sound good but it doesn’t pay much
and without her job we’d starve
      

she’s working hard for our money
 she’s got a day job down at the mall
 she’s working hard for our money
 and me, i’m hardly working at all

 

when she comes home in the evening
you’d never know she’s worn out
she’s getting ready for late night shift
down at the waffle house

me, i plan a busy night
singing and playing guitar
it may sound good but it doesn’t pay much
and without her second job we’d starve

she’s working hard for our money
working two jobs is awfully hard
she’s working hard for our money
and me, i’m hardly working at all

she’s working hard for our money
hey who says you can’t have it all?

 

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