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.
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.
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
I have since re-written Blue Lights and had it produced in studio. To read about the re-write, click here.
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