I have written some lyrics for songs over the years. It is surprising to me how many years ago some of them were developed as I drove from here to there or wherever. Or back home from wherever. Songs, not poetry. Not that I have that much disdain for poetry; it just seems a bit more pretentious than… okay, I have purposefully written a few poems.
Since I have been playing harmonica (harp to hipsters and such folks) long enough (since 1969 or so when Buddy, of Buddy’s Sign Service, gave me a Hohner full-sized slide chromonica- current replacement cost- $224.88 at Guitar Center) that I have enough Blues Bands and Special 20s, as well as the cheapie versions by Hohner and other manufacturers, with blown reeds to, someday, get them all together (or as many as I can find) with some resin and create some sort of assemblage. So Artsy. In my mind, it would be the kind of thing where any observer would have to ask, “Do you know what harmonicas cost nowadays?” More than they did when you bought one, just to try it out.
It is not accidental that many of my lyrics fit into a blues format. My older son, James, is a musician, mostly a guitar player. James started out with Heavy Metal, studied Classical Guitar at the Lionel Hampton School of Music, did some sessions at Port Townsend’s Centrum Blues Festival (not that he attended classes. He claimed that going to the week-long retreat, paid for by his grandfather, gave him access to “The Bad-asses,” he and some of them jamming on the porches of the old buildings at Fort Warden), moved on to blues-jazz fusion with his own bands, while playing lead guitar with The Fabulous Kingpins, a long-time cover tune band.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned James before. Sorry; I got started, kept going.
SO… blues, harmonicas, lyrics; the harmonica is an instrument one can play while driving. Legally, I believe, if one isn’t distracted. One hand. While I can play a range of songs… note of caution- wailing out the last verse of “All Along the Watchtower” will blow out the reeds with notes you only meant to bend- I do use my alone/driving time to write/play/sing loud enough to almost overcome the noise from the blown-out muffler on my surf rig.
I do have a working radio on my work van, with pre-sets to one NPR station, one hip Seattle station, one cool station from Everett, and one local one from Port Townsend. But… when the news is redundant and or horrific, when the folks are begging for funding, when the music is shitty or the talking heads are discussing topics I don’t actually care about, I can hit an alternate list. Classical FM, an AM station I’ve never bothered to tune out. Or I can play harmonica and sing a variety of songs I know some or all of the words to. “In the Early Morning Rain,” “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” are two examples.
It might not be surprising that a collection of songs I put together and got a copywrite for (I would have to look for the actual date- it has been a while) is entitled, “Love Songs for Cynics.” Not that I’m all that cynical. I do have some, you know, like, love songs in the mix. Here are a couple of the titles: “Ain’t Got No Problems with Lolita,” “Honey Days,” “I Just Wanna go Surfin’,” “And So am I,” “You Made me what I Am.” Oh, that one is a bit cynical.
The NEWS. A problem with watching dire weather forecasts, looking at confusing and not-necessarily-epic surf forecasts, reports from Seattle about homeless camps and people stealing catalytic converters and drilling holes in gas tanks to steal ever-more-costly fuel, network news about Ukraine and Putin and tanks and shelling and evacuations and refugees is… it is just too much.
I WAS THINKING, specifically, about this song. I tried to remember all the lyrics. No, it’s not about peace; it’s really kind of whining, poet-like. However, with a little tweaking…
“Give me some good news, please, no more bad; You know I’m crazy, but I’m not mad; Guess disappointed’s the word I’d choose; Come on, can’t you give me some good news? Something that might shake away these blues.
Something that might shake away, something that might take away, you know we can break away from these blues; If only you could give me… some… good… news.”
There is also, along with the other two verses I can’t totally remember at the moment (on a thumb drive somewhere, a printed copy somewhere else), an outro with this:
“…You know and I know and we know and they know, the world has blown a fuse; And God ain’t grantin’ no more interviews; so, come on, can’t you give me… some… good (big finish here) NEWS.”
OKAY, I’m going to check that surf forecast again. Not to dissuade anyone, but it looks a little… sketchy.
“SWAMIS” UPDATE: I’m four chapters in on the total rewrite and I’m condensing and tightening what I wrote in the outline I wrote to condense and tighten the over-expansive two earlier versions. It’s actually going pretty well. I just did more on Portia and Baadal Singh, set up Chulo and Gingerbread Fred for the chapter after the next one, and I’m thinking… can I just eliminate that one, move on to Chulo’s murder?
Thinking. It’s what I do when I’m not playing harmonica.