I sent these lyrics to my friend, guitarist and songwriter Neil Luckett from Britian, way back on 2007 (Myself and Neil were both involved in a Warren Zevon tribute CD, and Neil did a version of “Mutineer” that was the highlight of that record for me).
It’s my favorite songwriting collaboration to date. I hope we can work on more.
Neil Luckett – vocals and guitar
She went to the cupboard but the cupboard was bare
so she went and cut off her long flowing hair
she laid down between the ground and the sky
looked straight ahead and never asked why
expected little and received even less
her mini-skirt came from cutting her dress
frayed at the edges and torn at the seams
desperation leads to extremes
Discarded bottles a railroad track
fighting that monkey on her back
the conductor smiles then he shakes his head
’cause she left her ticket back under the bed
back where her man’s boots used to be
caked with the sod of another shrill plea
she rolled towards him one night and instead hit the floor
and now she forgets what she needed him for
But what does it matter when you get down to it
a place to lay down, and a soft spot to sit
she tells herself this, then she cries like a child
who’s been left in the dark, scorned and reviled
So take this all down, so the record is clear
the coast might be too…but it may not be near
love’s a backhand across the mouth
as it rolls on away…to points due south
Is she just a collection of assorted loose parts
out of warranty….out of broken hearts
a beat down jalopy…just another used car
always destined to not get very far
this world’s a place that can swallow you whole
scorned for the capture…not for what you stole
tell me what’s she supposed to say
when she gets the news….that he’s MIA
Old Lynn Concerts – 2/8/2014
In Lieu of You
12 O’Clock Whistle
Don’t Kill My Heart
That’s What He/She Said
This is what songwriters dream of. My song…covered by a guy I’d pay to see. John Canjar. I get to call him a friend too. It doesn’t get much better.
It’s a second take only because he did a perfect first one and I forgot to hit the record button. If I could sing and play like this I could sleep late everyday.
Thank you John. I’m truly honored.
I’ve been thinking of Pete Seeger. It should not be a surprise that a 94 year old man has passed. But I was surprised. I feel that way every time a man who cannot be replaced dies. Seeger was like Mandela with a banjo. A man who walked and like he talked (and sang) it. Utterly fearless..yet never fearsome. When dragged before the infamous house un-American activities committee, Seeger offered to sing, but eloquently refused to name names (or use the 5th Amendment..”I had nothing to hide” he said)…..facing down the small minds arrayed against him with so much integrity that his accusers seemed baffled. Seeger is my definition of a great American. A man who served his country his entire life.
I’ve long been an ardent student of Woody Guthrie. But even Woody at his most rambunctious couldn’t keep up with Pete. Seeger was like a liberal energizer bunny. There was one path. The right one. He would not equivocate. He would not compromise. No man more fervently believed that “all men were created equal”. When I hear these famous lines from Tom Joad…
“…wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.”
…I know it was truly Seeger who lived them. Right to the end. Always imploring us to sing along. To get involved. To not be passive. To raise our voices. You think it’s easy to get folks to sing along? Try it sometime. I’ve seen many a fine musician want to crawl into a hole onstage after failing at audience participation. In the last few years of his life Seeger’s singing voice was no more than a whisper. Yet he could still raise the roof….with 3 part harmonies to boot.
If not for Seeger, marchers wouldn’t be singing “We Shall Overcome”. Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” would not be sung by today’s school children. Leadbelly might be the unknown answer to a trivia question. Who knows. Dylan might be working in a Minneapolis car-wash. Oh…that Dylan kid. The famous story of Seeger grabbing an axe and wanting to cut the cables during Dylan’s electric set at Newport is all true, but Pete wasn’t pissed with the amplification. He was pissed because nobody could hear the words to “Maggie’s Farm”. If you can’t hear the words, how can you sing along? Seeger could never understand anybody being intentionally unintelligible.
Seeger made the world a better place. How many can say that? Can you really think of a better legacy?
I never considered that one day he’d leave us. He’s always been here. Pro-union. Pro-worker. Walking the picket line. Marching for Civil rights. Marching against war (at the age of 83 he stood alone in the dead of winter along the highway near his home holding an anti-Iraq war sign, as cars motored past either honking their support or giving him the finger. The sign said, simply, “Peace”) He was very much involved with the current “Occupy” movements. He was the largest 130 pound man in the world. There may be an American artist out there with Seeger’s integrity. But dammit, right now I can’t name one. Can you?
I once sent him a letter and some songs I’d written. He responded with a hand written note (with his trademark banjo drawn in the corner) and called me a “great lyricist”. I think I had to wear larger shirts for a month to accommodate my puffed-out chest. I hope he realized how much the little things he did for people like me mattered.
And so we move on. Pete will be out of the news in a day or two. I wish that wasn’t so but it is. He deserves so much more that what modern memory will offer.
A final story. Pete recently sang for a group of schoolchildren in his hometown of Beacon, New York. Their teacher introduced him as a “man who has probably done for this country than any other.”
I can’t argue. Can you?
Farewell Pete. It’s been good to know you…
In a bit..
A new kitchen table demo….
Listen to what folks have to say. If you don’t agree with it, don’t just tell them they’re wrong. Show them….
I figured I’d get a jump on this 2014 thing. I’ll be asleep surely tomorrow night at midnight.
I have no resolutions. I try to live the same regardless of the calendar year. Don’t be an asshole. Treat others with respect. Write something everyday, even if it’s just a few lines. Earn my money. Try not to drunk-text. Write some good songs. Know enough to throw away the bad ones. Wear Doc Martens everyday….even if we take a family beach vacation.
I shall definitely release a record this year. Perhaps even two. Twenty new songs in total. Maybe with help from comrades. Maybe not. That depends on the comrades. I have a guitar. I have a microphone. Last I checked that’s all that is required. Money would be helpful but there’s even ways around that. I’ve been dead broke since 1998 and have managed to release a bunch of stuff. Ah the wonders of having a basement (and being the recipient of state grants).
I also have a piano, where I love to tinker. I can’t use the term “play”, because that suggests a certain competency that I do not possess. So “tinker” it is. The later the hour is the better. Perhaps the haze of drink suits me when I sit on that bench. It’s such an expressive instrument, even when played by a person who can’t play it. The thought of taking “lessons” on an instrument fills me with horror. I had 2 formal lessons on the guitar, both from my brother, who was completely self-taught. So chaos was the result, followed by many Yuenglings. From that time on I learned by listening to Who records. I figured (and still do) that if you could play “Magic Bus” you were halfway home. The other half could be traveled in various ways….(Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan…or some Clash records). The Beatles were always dicey because they were British smart-asses who loved to use funky chords and confuse the unwashed. Much more palatable where the Rolling Stones, who mastered the Chuck Berry thing and decided to make a (pretty good) living out of it. “Beggars Banquet” is a record that you can learn guitar by. ”Sgt Pepper” buried the guitars and made you wonder if they were even there. I remember learning “Lovely Rita” and feeling quite taken with myself. But then I wondered where I might share my new knowledge. Turns out nowhere….so I kept “Sympathy for the Devil” in the playlist for the next 30 years….and when people ask for Beatles I’ll pull out “Back in the USSR”….which Chuck Berry could have written if he’d been granted an audience with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Actually Chuck may have been in jail at the time over trumped up Mann Act charges….so there’s that. Funny the way history moves on regardless, no?
Half of this music game, I’ve been thinking, is being in the right place at the right time. I make my own variations on that noise. In my own time. From my own basement. Not many are left to filter through what we’re all doing. I’m not clear on who these judges are. I just do what I do. I don’t know.
And then they say…..what do they say?
Does it really matter?
We do the best we can.
You are not going to be famous by writing a song. For a tv show, or a pizza delivery chain, or a car commercial.
They are mining obscure Dylan tracks for that. From 1962. That should tell you something.
But you’ve got a mind of your own. What do you want to get away with?
So you got tunes that are gonna rock the world. Or at least your little part of it. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what interests me. Push. And then push some more. To paraphrase Frederick Douglass, “agitate, agitate, agitate.” If you don’t think you’re hot shit don’t expect anybody else to.
Your next move is….what?
It’s actually a new year. You can wipe the slate and start fresh.
Listen to what folks have to say. If you don’t agree with it, don’t just tell them they’re wrong. Show them. You can meet some of your best friends this way. And always remember that if people talk shit about other people to you, they’re sure as hell talking shit about you to other people. So trust, but verify.
Off we go. Into something brand new, or the same old shit. I suppose it depends on your attitude.
In a bit..
It’s Christmas. Or nearly. I sit up late-night, listening to ‘Prodigal Son’ by the Rolling Stones. From Beggars Banquet. Anything can be a Christmas song if you listen to it at Christmas time.
(I just learned that my good friend Sean from Belfast was laid off from his job at the BBC. He has a young daughter. He’s an outspoken republican in a city still dominated by a British backed Protestant elite. Things that make you go hmmm. I lost a the job I held for over 10 years last year. Four days before Xmas. I know what he feels like. Shite. We talked some. He’s too talented a bloke to not land on his feet. But still…..I wish the world was a nicer place. Sean…I love you brother. You’re a fearsome talent and a gentle soul. No better combination. And you’re a genuine irishman. Shit mate. If you were a woman I’d marry your ass.)
Wow. I’m hearing a live version of ‘Gimme Shelter’ from 1975 now. This song scares me. And it makes me sit up straight and pay attention. Keith Richards sounded like a panzer corps in the early 70s. He may have been a junkie, but he was the most highly functioning junkie I’ve ever heard. A Mozart in open G tuning. One doesn’t hear songs like ‘Gimme Shelter’ anymore. Guitarists figure it’s all been done before. What Keith did between 1968 and 1972 was prove that that wasn’t true.
Maybe now it is true.
I hope not. What a bore that would be.
I’ve got new songs. Lots of them. And old songs that haven’t been heard before, so I guess that makes them new. I’ve got songs I’ve written for others. I’ve got notebooks filled with random verses….lines written, literally, sideways. My guitar is sitting on a chair in the living room, always good for creativity. “It’s not a person“, my wife will say as she moves it to sit down.
What am I supposed to be doing with these songs? Why the hell do I bother? I gave up singing for my supper years ago. I was starving to death. It takes a certain something to throw the guitar in the backseat and wander. I’ve got everything else required in multiples of ten. But that last bit of ambition I lack. I move a few miles away and I get lost. I start looking for the way home again. I miss what I know. My little piece of ground. My steps. My kids. The view from my own window.
“Can’t Always Get What You Want” is on now. How apropos. But one does get what one needs if one tries hard enough.
(What is it with the Stones songs this Christmas? I have no idea. The thing with Ipods is that you spin that wheel…and come across something….and when you stop sometimes you stay in the same spot for days. Or weeks. I was stuck on John Prine for at least a month around Halloween.)
It’s even later now. I can’t sleep. The rest of the house is knackered. I’m surrounded by girls. Wife. Two daughters. Girl dog. Girl cat. Used to have a fish and a hamster. Not sure how to tell with them but I’m pretty sure they were tribe members too. Just the way they looked at me. Eyes that said…”you poor poor bastard…”
“Midnight Rambler” on now. Good song….but songs about maniacal rapists aren’t gonna make me drowsy. Just how did they get away with this stuff? Anyone remember “Brown Sugar”….something about slaves and cunnilingus? My favorite bit of Keith Richards’s bio is when he wrote of Mick’s “tiny dodger”….so at least I know these things were done tongue in cheek. No pun intended. She blew my nose and then she blew my mind indeed.
I could go on and on I suppose. The Stones do have a large catalog and it’s all on the Ipod. It plays in alphabetical order….and it’s up to Dirty Work now…which has to be somebody telling me to enough is enough. If posing for that album cover didn’t kill Keith, nothing will.
Happy Christmas to one and all. I like “Happy” better than “Merry”. Not sure why. For the record, I don’t mind “Happy Holidays” either (Palin and O’Reily et al can kiss my tiny dodger). Anytime somebody wants to wish me well, they can use whatever fucking words they want. There’s not enough glad tidings as it is. I’m gonna bitch about words?
To quote Keith Richards….”string it, and play it low.”
In a bit..