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Night Vacation

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You know me, always on the trail of inspiration.

Sometimes it comes from unusual places. Like this…

The song lyric I wrote this week is inspired, shaped and formed through the poetic genius that was SHEL SILVERSTEIN (1930 – 1999) … author of children’s books The Giving Tree and Falling Up,  songs like 25 Minutes To Go and A Boy Named Sue.

And then there’s my family’s favourite Silverstein poem ME STEW:

I have nothing to put in my stew, you see,
Not a bone or a bean or a black-eyed pea,
So I’ll just climb in the pot to see
If I can make a stew out of me.
I’ll put in some pepper and salt and I’ll sit
In the bubbling water–I won’t scream a bit.
I’ll sing while I simmer, I’ll smile while I’m stewing,
I’ll taste myself often to see how I’m doing.
I’ll stir me around with this big wooden spoon
And serve myself up at a quarter to noon.
So bring out your stew bowls,
You gobblers and snackers.
Farewell–and I hope you enjoy me with crackers!

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I wrote the lyric lines of NIGHT VACATION to reflect the journey we all take through night’s passages and dreams as we sleep … the mystic and magical, the sensual, the hilarious and sometimes terrifying.

Inspired by Silverstein, yes,  but you might even detect a wee smidgen of Beatles and Elton John peaking in.

Finally, because this is intended as a song, it begs the question … what sort of musical approach would I take for this?

Because it deals in quiet nighttime and dreams, I would send this out as I would a small boat on the sea…  with a sense of swell and meandering, almost a feeling of fantasy.

Just as an example of what this might sound like, try listening to this link and feel the dream as it develops (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVCF4H0BzMw). It’s a recent favourite of mine from a group called Darlingside. The harmonies are like melting chocolate in your mouth…

And now, here’s this week’s song lyric.

NIGHT VACATION – Larry Green July 6, 2019

Each darkness has its creation don’t you think
a cast of characters that come and go with the day
and echo voices from the past breathe and sway
like the unseen moon’s reflected glow
where faraway sounds and caws of the crow
mist the hours from our in-between soul

A chase a flame a sun-kissed field of hay
a childish innocence and Mom who never ages
Strawberry field vistas and horny-back toads
scents of billowy sages on long dusty-stretched roads
cresting storms filled with lightning and rage
laughter from haunted houses and hyena cages

…..

CHORUS

Close your eyes and dream sleepy bedbug
of a world churning in whirlpools and funnels
lost ties whispering at us from unending tunnels
a narcotic sojourn without the drug
our every night vacation

…..

Skin shiver toe tingle star twinkle hours
a blush and a heat where we founder
playful our hands as the sweet erotic other
through twisted linens and bareness uncovered
sweet epicurean encounters rise and become thwarted
that make an emission impossible

Tumble and plummet from the roof of the sky
sieving air through pores and tightly tucked places
a separate bliss with crazy stretched faces
lions tigers giant insects from hives
swirly kaleidoscope of morning sunrise
bring me back home to my morning eyes

…..

CHORUS

Close your eyes and dream sleepy bedbug
of a world churning in whirlpools and funnels
lost ties whispering at us from unending tunnels
a narcotic sojourn without the drug
our every night vacation

sleepy moon

Childhood Solstice

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kids play at sunset.jpg

This week’s song lyric is a reflection on summer and youth …

… we all carry within us a trunk filled with sunny memories of long, warm, (hopefully) carefree summer days.

My early boyhood in Hamilton, Ontario was a mix of outdoor sports (football, baseball, tennis), mischief with friends, occasional flirting with a young crush, delivering newspapers, family meals … all within the milieu of a hot, humidity-soaked summer day next to Lake Ontario.

And of course, the bittersweet notion of summer solstice… that moment when the procession of long…  longer … longest days … comes to a halt and the slow slide towards fall and winter begins…

This 6-verse song – like summer wear – is going semi-naked … chorus-less and bridge-less. The rhyme pattern is a bit ragged but I’m OK with this… just because!

Most current songs you hear have a chorus with a distinct “hook” that makes the song memorable and humm-able – think of your favourite songs and how you often remember the words to the chorus but not the verse …

… which means that when I get to setting these words to music, each verse will need to have a catchy melody line with a sense of a “hook”.

music hook

OK, let’s go…

Here is this week’s song lyric:

CHILDHOOD SOLSTICE

First summerday breeze so stifling and damp
I have sunburns from the beach
grassy field stains on my pants
I have a laugh and a lust of playground flirting
Wallowing in my head, barely within reach

Lugging “The Spec’ from doorstep to door
I have the weight of canvas bag
black newsprint on my arms I abhor
I have the Scot’s brogue of Ogilvie sisters
Apartmentized pair of old tea-sipping crags

Then breath-sucking afternoon swelter
I have the sound of the truck chime
strawberry shortcake for a nickel or dime
I have Good Humour icy popsicle that melts
Syrupy orange on my face and sugary grime

The sun still high but here it is suppertime
I have Friday night eggs from the pan
Monday night chili made by Dad’s old hand
I have Sunday roast beef with everyone there
Tomato juice and steamed corn we eat with our hands

Nighttime flickering moths on streetlamps
I have chords of Paul and Carole and James
bouncing beats of Mungo Jerry
I have harmonic strains of Brian and brothers
Black and white Dick Van Dyke and The Dating Game

My head weighs down on this soft downy bed
I have baseballs and footballs thrown in my head
Mom’s amen kiss on my cheek cheeky-red
I have water sucked hard from a sprinkler
Glazed-over eyes playing hopscotch with stars

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Elton vs Freddie

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freddy vs jason.jpg

I know the title sounds gruesome, like the name of a horror pic… weird white masks, long claws and blood-dripping knives … but … no.

Horror ain’t my genre (CNN is close enough!) …

But music is.

This past year has brought us two highly-hailed musical icon biopics, although inexplicably neither the (Failing) New York Times nor The Globe and Mail contacted me for my reviews.

Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

Elton and Freddie

By modern musical standards, both Brits are brilliant at the craft of songwriting and music production.

Interesting similarities … British, gay (or bi-sexual), piano players, ultra-flamboyant performers, the same manager for a period of time.

There are a lot of reviews of each of the flicks that dispute the honesty and full-disclosure and timelines of the stories – but you know what? I don’t really care.

Every life is a sh*tshow of interpretation and false-memory and all the bad and good put into a blender of individual perspective (kinda like history in general).

Besides, books do a far better job of relating the nitty-gritty details of a life… movies capture highlights, usually entertain … and in these particular cases, highlight the discography of the musicians. And that’s enough.

I knew of these two artists in the 70’s, and in looking back over time to my formative years … I was all agog over Elton … his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album was a masterpiece encompassing many musical genres.

At the same time, I knew and enjoyed some Queen tunes but Mercury never quite caught me in the same way that John did.

I was Elton’s slave where pop and rock music was concerned. Just to be clear, we never had sex (it never occurred to either of us, go figure).

That was then. This is now.

Today, I’ve switched allegiances somewhat. I haven’t lost my sense of awe in the songwriting of John … but …

… years of listening to the complex orchestral and harmonic brilliance of Bohemian Rhapsody (and to a slightly lesser extent, the larger Queen repertoire) has elevated and shifted my joy of their songs.

But back to the movies themselves.

The flicks took a different approach to the era from which they both emerged… the in-your-face sex and drugs of Rocketman contrasted against the more scratch-the-artist-surface storytelling of Bohemian Rhapsody.

None of us is so naive to believe these were musical angels in disguise … no doubt the sexual encounters and hazy miasma of drugs were large parts of the life and creative existence of both, but brought to the screen far more graphically in the telling of John’s life.

Fantasy scenarios and telling his story through the medium of his songs was a cool and innovative approach for the Elton movie, but somehow it couldn’t draw me in to its narrative in the same way the Mercury one did.

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Ultimately, I think the reason I came away enthralled from Bohemian Rhapsody and not from Rocketman comes down to the main actors.

Elton John’s portrayer, Taron Egerton was always a person, an actor, playing Elton John … he never inhabited the role of Elton. He was Taron singing Elton.

But when I watched Rami Malek … I was taken in, absorbed … and believed that he WAS Freddie Mercury … from his actions, to his voice, to his vulnerabilities.

The movie battle of the musical icons is over in my mind …  Elton vs Freddie brought Freddie as the clear and easy winner. Hail Freddie and Bohemian Rhapsody.

… but …

Oh, I’ve finally decided my future lies … in going back to my (long gone) vinyl collection and enjoying the REAL Rocketman, Elton John.

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Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

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beatle bananas

Remember a couple of weeks back when I said I’d be using you to help me work on songwriting? You do?

Fabulous!

‘Cause this is where we are today and I’ve got a few lyrical lines to share.

They’re pretty simple ones… nothing too flowery or poetically profound … but heartfelt and melancholy for me … and for others in my family.

I confuse myself. There must be a fatal flaw inside me because when I sit to write lyrics I almost always begin with the thought that … “this one I want to be light and fun and maybe even silly”

… and then this shade of darkness bubbles to the surface out of nowhere… maybe I’m the Nowhere Man I mention in the song … maybe …

Anyway… here are some song lyrics I’ve written about my older brother – diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 7 years ago.

He rides the amusement park rollercoaster where he’s stuck on the downhill slope with no chance for an uphill boost.

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Today he’s far removed from the erudite, quirky intellectual – a PhD chemist, Monty Python lover – his family and friends knew for many decades. He lives in a care facility where he slowly dwindles but retains his easy smile and gentle demeanour.

It’s such a common scenario for so many …

If you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement, fire them at me.

Let’s go my friends:

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

VERSE
I called my brother the other day
when he answered I knew he wasn’t there
his voice held up strong but
the same world we didn’t share
at least not anymore.

VERSE
It’s funny that you can hear a smile
though the sound travels a thousand miles
the words are a salad, they even sound sane
Do you think you can remember my name?
No, not anymore

VERSE
Books linger hushed on your shelf
framed photos pretty your little room’s walls
with blue summer skies and childhood smiles
are prairie breezes sharing your favourite waltz?
I don’t think so anymore

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing

VERSE
So let’s chat lightly for a bit mon frère
I’ll ask the questions, make the chatter
You’re pretty cheery so does it really matter?
We’ve sipped some wine, skied some trails
but, perhaps, not anymore

BRIDGE
There’s a thief in the house
taken the marbles and flown
the halls echo empty where you once roamed

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing.

banana cake.jpg

This Song’s for You

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Version 3

Next month marks 7 years of this weekly diatribe, this wordy assault of inner thought in my character of MAN ON THE FRINGE.

In June of 2012 … I began a meandering reflection totalling 365 weekly posts (with the rarest of exceptions) to date.

My intent at the time was to personalize the differences, the commonalities, the challenges and beauties and frustrations between men and women. All from the viewpoint of a guy who doesn’t fit neatly into a box of manly genderociousness.

But as I’ve learned over these years, as you probably have too, gender labels are fluid and there is danger in categorizing and putting lives into tidy little boxes.

Yes, nothing in human relations is simple. When I think I’m smart, I’m actually stupid.

Over time I’m realizing that perhaps I should re-brand, re-label as PERSON ON THE FRINGE.

But that’s just a touch of lint-gazing into my not-so-pretty navel (who designed belly buttons for God’s sake?). Let’s move forward, shall we?

Given that I’m a guy who has a mixed relationship with routine, I’m patting myself on the back for staying with this diurnal habit – this diarrhea of words with no seeming end – and I plan to carry on for a wee bit longer… but … but …

… perhaps with a slight twist to my “norm”.

There is a price to be paid for attempting to absorb too much of the vigour and energy that surrounds us.

Diversification in investing is admirable, smart even, but too much diversification in real-life can become deworsification.

The dilution of what we really appreciate and want, dilution of what drives us becomes a painful irritation of casting about in a huge ocean.

I need to spend more time on the things I love.

For the past few years I’ve been focussing more on music, and one of my desires… my goals … is to write music … meaningful lyrics, melodies and harmonies.

It’s narcissistic and self-aggrandizing to some extent to believe we have something important and meaningful to add, but it’s a draw into humanity that refuses to be ignored… it just is.

Every spring I plant flowers that I know will return to composted soil in a few short months for another season, and still I return each year to the seeds of growth because the ephemeral beauty is too luscious, too sweet, to turn away from.

I’ve said more than once that I use you as a juicy, delicious Bugs Bunny carrot of motivation in writing this blog. You are my personal assistant sans pay!

My proposal is to use you (again) as my motivator … my muse … the fire at my feet to take my disciplined approach in writing this blog every week and carry it over into the passion of songwriting.

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So going forward I’ll take a break from my every week yada yada yada posts to morph into regular lyric writing, an internal friendly exchange of prose for poetry.

No, not every post will become a tuneful poetic ode but I see it as a refresh and a push to spend more time on something I love … the personal expression that comes out of my head and my mouth in harmony.

You’re welcome to comment on my writings and also to share your lyrical thoughts back if you care to “expose” your inner expressive words for others to enjoy.

So… here’s a song I’ve had in process for a little while now, not complete yet but so be it … a nod to those who struggle with interior thoughts of suicide… I’ve used the late Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade as a means of personalizing the unbearable pain many suffer:

THIS IS WHO HE WAS (Anthony & Kate’s Song)

Camera catches amber light
that last bite was great he said
giggling of a child with bread
smiling host whose face was red  
eyes just a little wide and wild
This is who he was

Sad can’t be the sun in sky
When setting at the end of day
maybe clouds will always stay
when you fly a million miles
blindness hides the fragile eyes
This is who he was

CHORUS
His Days were numbered
our days are numbered too
sometimes we choose to count them down
sometimes they’re counted down for you
smiles within a smokescreen
sun comes shining through the clouds
yet there’s nothing left but rain

Born a Christmas Valentine
In a castle with your schoolboy prince
Cast your eyes on Central Park
Colours helped you make your mark
For every girl who wanted to be you
This is who she was

Whispers in your playful smile
Like snowflakes ‘cross your spirit while
The ones you’d helped to come of age
Blinded by your hidden pain
Or the one you left behind who carries on
This is who she was

BRIDGE 
Our loss has no end
Listen to the mystic hymns that guide us back to life

CHORUS-
Her days were numbered
Our days are numbered too
sometimes we choose to count them down
at times they’re counted down for you
the smiles are just a smokescreen
of normalcy through pain
the sun comes shining thru the clouds 
yet there’s nothing left but rain

… nothing left but rain… nothing left but rain…

anthony-bourdain-kate-spade.jpg

 

Wondering Where The (Dande)Lions Are… The Migration of Birds, Wines and Music

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Sun’s up mmm hmmm looks OK … the world survives into another day … and I’m thinking about eternity … (Bruce Cockburn)

Everything’s behind normal (is there really such a thing?) in the spring season in this part of the world.

Even the dandelions are hiding away in fear of an unvaccinated chill.

But that’s all changing …

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The delicate, darling cedar waxwings who swoop in from parts afar have made their first guest appearance this week – almost 3 months later than we normally spot them swarming in like honeybees to the Mountain Ash tree and its fermented orange-red berries.

The waxwings and robins stagger away in wobbly circles after feasting in a drunken haze, like Star Wars X-Wing fighters.

American Goldfinches parade across the yard, little wind-blown soprano-voiced daffodils, as Downy Woodpeckers lightly punch a quiet percussion rhythm in the tall birches overhead.

Regrettably, the flickers too now hang like feathery rock climbers on the wood siding of the house, attempting their best break and enter. Noisy thiefs.

Yes… SPRING is here… the world is twitterpated with life and sensual exhilaration.

There is sex going on all over my yard. I have to close my blinds to the rampant fornication.

Moving on …

I know I’m not snowdrift crazy (sidebar: that’s fake news) when, as the days grow longer in daylight length, the musical soundtrack inside my head shifts into a new phase, a new mode.

Don’t you feel the changeover happening inside you too?

It’s the same as how my wine preference migrates away from the dark meaty reds … the Pinot Noirs and Merlots … into more sparkly rosés and Riesling/Chardonnay land, even Gewurztraminer!

flying wine bottles

Birds migrate, wine migrates, and music migrates too.

The denser, more complicated musical arrangements of autumn and winter have been boxed up and sent to the basement of my brain until the snows of December return.

Sunshine that lasts as long as the limbs on Daddy Long-legs spiders now suffuses me with bright pop-py tunes that lilt and float and flit like hummingbirds from ear-to-ear through my heart and back out through my mouth in trumpeted sounds of joy.

And… the migration of the music is slightly changing its tune this time around the sun for me.

Over the past year or so I’ve begun collaborating in musical partnerships of different stripes.

Each week now, not unlike birds migrating into my yard, a lovely coterie of talented musicians and singers drops by the mini-music studio that is my living room – the chairs and couches happily sharing their space with the cords, microphones and amplifiers, the recording studio mixer board, the guitars and banjo and mandolin hanging from the walls.

When I strap on my guitar to play, the euphoria and enjoyment of my music soundtrack is expanding just like the universe. Stephen Hawking would be so impressed.

This is good stuff.

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Music is a universal experience. Every culture, every person has an internal musical dance they love.

I’m listening to and playing my “normal” folk and country-style tunes -yes,  the James Taylors and Carole Kings and Paul Simons – while at the same time adding in sweet French love tunes, some mournful blues, the 50’s Everlys and Elvis, even a bit of jazz.

Each one of my musical guests sits and settles in – a cup of herbal tea or a glass of wine at their side, and shares their talent with me, adding a syrupy richness to my soul, tablespoons of delicious spice.

There is such a beautiful magic that happens when we share our voices, our instrumental talents, our ideas and excitements …

… the harmony of springtime and music shared is uplifting, a spiritual energy re-born as the flowers and birds rejoice along with us.

And shhhhh …. sometimes, a sip or two of delicious spring wine while playing and singing makes the song even sweeter … just ask the lusty cedar waxwings, little drunk revellers carousing out in the trees.

drinking beatles

SING! SING!! SING!!!

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MAry Poppins singing

Mary Poppins loves to laugh… Ha Ha Ha!

Laughter is wonderful and marvellous… yet, it’s a moment that dissipates quickly like steam clouds from a kettle. Like snowflakes on your tongue. Like a shooting star in an inky sky. Like losing my virginity. Gone…

But singing … yes, Mary Poppins loves to sing too!

Singing is a lasting memento that lingers and meanders and harmonizes … like a light tongue lick across your soft shoulder skin that tingles and teases and melts down through your body to the nether regions of dark deliciousness.

Sorry, where was I?

Kids love to sing. Dogs and coyotes love to sing.

I love to sing… I’ll bet you do too…

People just love to sing…

I sing by myself in the car … I sing in the shower … I sing solo at Open Mics … I sing in duets on various stages here in the Okanagan Valley. I’ll sing anywhere.

Sometimes people listen, sometimes they don’t. Doesn’t matter (I lied, it does!). Singing transcends ego.

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Me, Nancy and Jimmy in Yellowknife’s Hoist Room. 1978.

In Yellowknife, I sang Valdy and CSN songs with Jimmy and Nancy and Steve in the Arctic bars; in William’s Lake I sang Dylan songs in Cowboy Country coffeehouses with John; today I sing Civil Wars and Willie Nelson songs with Marie and David.

My earliest memories of singing were in Grade 6 at Glen Brae Middle School in Hamilton, Ontario.

I sang in Mrs. Laing’s class choir… my friend Danny and I both loved harmonizing- at lunch break we’d rush over to the Millionaire Drive-Inn (best Vanilla milk shakes ever!) and buy a root beer and a 25¢ burger wrapped in tin foil, before running back to practice with the group. We sang Love Is Blue (L’Amour Est Bleu). Simple harmony parts but it was beautiful.

I wonder if Danny still sings somewhere out there today?

My daughter went out to sing last night … Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre was jammed with 1,000 enthusiastic strangers filled like feathers in a pillow to the peak of the balcony … every single person there singing their hearts out for one night … belting out DANCING QUEEN young and sweet, only seventeen …oooooo oooooooo.

CHOIR! CHOIR! CHOIR!

choir choir choir vancouver

In a few months my sister in Ontario will be having the same CHOIR! CHOIR! CHOIR! experience (except a different song I’m sure). Communal singing in sheer joy.

My daughter and sister aren’t unusual.

It used to be that adult choirs were typically associated with churchgoers. That’s still true to a certain extent but general community choirs are rising like fervent yeast in a warm cozy kitchen. Everyone loves to sing and harmonize.

Singing is the like the mellowing effects of legal cannabis, an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.

Endorphins and oxytocin don’t only emanate from the runner’s high that carried the Boomers through the ’70’s and ’80’s.

Singing releases these “feel good” hormones too. That explains why a number of studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness.

The great thing about choir singing is you can really suck at it and no one knows. My wife, who could be described as lacking “perfect pitch” but charged with lots of vocal enthusiasm, joined a Sweet Adelines chorus years ago and her voice became subsumed and absorbed into the blender of voices. What is better than that?

All sorts of people with terrible voices sing at Karaoke bars because … well… it’s fun, it’s merry, it’s joyous – to use an old expression… it’s gay … even without 10 B-52 shooters on board.

Singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and less sweat inducing than working out.

Singing immerses us in the waters of our past with small tidal fragments of memories, ripples of happiness and melancholy … all the things that make us real and human.

Yes, singing is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed … where darkness is shaded out by light, depression pushed down and away, smiles made brighter and broader…

… and Mary Poppin’s kites fly higher and higher in the sweet gentle air of endorphins.

water memories

Arrogant Earworms

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Ceti eel.jpg

I want to scream until blood gushes from my eye sockets.

In the movie STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Khan (which we saw at a Prince Edward Island Drive-In theatre in 1982), there is an earworm scene.

As part of his plot, the villain Khan (Ricardo Montalban… good to the last drop) introduces us to his household pet: a loathsome, slug-like creature called a Ceti Eel.

You see, their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. This has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion… Later, as they grow, follows madness and death…”

I don’t remember a thing about the movie other than this repulsive scream scene that sticks in my head like a Chinese finger trap.

I suppose you could say it’s become a visual eyeworm about an earworm.

The good news is that I don’t usually scream (there is one exception, the cliffhanger will be resolved below) when I’m infected with a musical earworm.

Most earworms – those snippets of music that refuse to go home when they’re told –  are a trivial annoyance, although there are occasions when they can be a pleasurable repetition inside our heads.

I’ll admit I cringe and throw up a little in my mouth when I’m contaminated by incessant YMCA or Chicken Dance song scraps, unless … I’m thoroughly ensconced in a Molson or Smirnoff haze. Then it’s Dance Fever! You too?

Earworms come in lots of flavours.

Commercial jingles are the bane of the earworm world.

Successful jingle writers know they can plant their flag at the pinnacle when the ditty they penned is hummed by millions of office and factory workers for many years afterwards…

  • “I am stuck on …”
  • “I wish I were an …”
  • “Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun …”
  • “Meow, meow, meow, meow …”
  • “Plop plop, fizz fizz …”
  • “Like a good neighbour …”
  • “I’d like to buy the world a …”

Notice how I didn’t complete the jingles as a test to see if you could figure out the product being advertised? Pass or Fail?

Yes, most of these are oldies, but knowing that they’re from decades past and I’m still consciously aware of them tells me just how juicy the jingles are.

The earworms I love are catchy songs like Tommy Tutone’s 867-5309, whistling Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Pharrell Williams’ Happy, The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles.(who doesn’t love the word Havering?).

I don’t even mind Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, that Psy guy’s Gangnam Style or Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah

They’re all fun and bring a smile to my face.

 

Happy2

I chuckle out loud when I get the anti-vegan Arrogant Worm song, Carrot Juice is Murder jammed in my head….  Carrot Juice constitutes murder (and that’s a real crime)
Greenhouses prisons for slaves (let my vegetables grow)…

But understand that not all earworms are fun and games.

Earworms that aren’t joyous or cute but make the tenderness of melancholy so very sweet are the violin theme from Schindler’s List and the sad saxophone strains from the movie, Summer of ’42. They impart a late night ache inside me that inexplicably soothes.

My all-time favourite?

I carry a soft space of wonder for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody . The opening harmony lines :

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality

… gets caught in the sugary spiderwebs inside my head.

I’m in a universe of awe when I contemplate how the song – a modern symphony, with so many intricate movements – was ever constructed by Freddie Mercury.

Bohemian

OK, finally… worst of the worst earworms. Scream worthy! Ceti Eel screamworthy?

Drum roll please …..

Boney M. Anything by Boney M.

Top of the exasperation list? Mary’s Boy Child, Rasputin and Rivers of Babylon.

Even writing the names of these songs and I’m holding back a torrent of stomach contents. And of course, now I have this electronic buzz reverberating through my skull… NOOOOoooooooooo……

Hark now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day …

Earworm … BAD

Earworm … GOOD

In the end, isn’t any earworm playing through your head better than a disgruntled voice telling you at 2 am how you could have handled such and such a situation better? Or, what you should have said as a smart retort to a nasty comment directed your way?

Of course. And much much better than a Ceti Eel earworm slipping slyly into your ear canal.

I’d even take Boney M over that.

(Care to share your favs or detests?… I’m all ears…)

Boney M.jpg

 

 

 

 

I think that I shall never see…

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Poetry

Poetry…

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love (Leonard Cohen)

For most of my life, I’ve not truly, verily… understood poetry.

Mud puddles and Gobbledegook!

Sure, I’ve understood and tried to use poetic language in my prose, my letters, my e-mails, my blog posts… language is a beautifully scented rose in life’s garden …

But the essence of a poem: the stanzas, the subtlety, the nuance, the deep intrigue that typically holds hands within a poem have usually left me spinning – confused and suffering from a deep-seated feeling of “inferiority”… why don’t I understand what the poet is saying?

Poetry typically oozes emotional depth… am I merely too shallow to swim in these waters?

I know I can be accused of laziness.

In high school I enjoyed reading poetry.

My teacher would recite each line aloud and explain the meaning submerged within the words, like weed tendrils floating beneath the lake’s surface… the pain, the glory, the love … “ah, so that’s what she is saying, this is good stuff.”

Poetry is very cool.

Then… the teach would send us home with an assignment to read such and such poem or sonnet.

She’d command that we come back the following day with a well thought out interpretation of what the writer intended and why their choice of cutting metaphor and incisive imagery was so cleverly insightful and amazing. So deep.

“But Ms. French, I’M NOT deep.”

“Dr. Seuss I get… Bartholomew Cubbins and his 500 hats makes total sense… but this Shakespearean sonnet is about ….?love?… which physic did except? huh?”

My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
Th’ uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed:
    For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
    Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

 

The weeds kept dragging me down into the darkness – I wallowed and drowned in starless misunderstanding.

Even music lyrics, like written stanzas of poetry are my dyslexia… a Johnny Flynn song I’ve been rehearsing with a musical partner lately goes like this:

Now quick to the cut are we waking
And seeing it all as the dream
The pillars that raised us are shaking
And Samson’s will is the theme
That one minute we see and the next we don’t
In our minds in the devil’s long tail
Slapping sense to its peak and a hard strung out week
And so back to the love in our sails
Gonna sweep this house clean out
Gonna blow out all of the lights
We’ll dream back up the Amazon
We’ll steer her home tonight
We’ll steer her home tonight

 

Samson’s will is the theme… huh?

The rhythm of the waves slaps at the shoreline but I can’t see where they’re coming from, the wordy fog too thick for my understanding.

But wait… there’s hope.

Now maybe… maybe… music, for me, has been the parallel substitute, the lyrical language that is my poetry… the wandering melody and harmony the stanzas of beauty that make my beating heart rise high and float with the clouds…

Music without words is its own poem. When we listen to music we feel the tugs and pulls of joy and sadness: the long drawn out sorrow of death, at times the elation of love, the passage of time.

Can you listen to Pharrell Williams sing and not feel HAPPY? Take in the strains of Vivaldi’s SPRING and the violin’s vision of birds flitting in their bouts of twitterpation?

What is this if not poetry?

Psychologist Howard Gardener proposed a variety of types of intelligence: visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and musical-rhythmic.

So perhaps … the poetry that we each find in our world is a factor of where our intelligence muscles originate.

Maybe you see and sense poetry in the movement of your body, your neighbour in the logical ways of numbers and math formulae.

But for me, I’ll pick up my guitar and delve into the musical poetry that reads true joy into my harmonious heart.

And occasionally, when I need some of that old-fashioned wordy-kind-of-rhyme,

I’ll slip into a scintillating stanza or two from Dr. Seuss or even Shel Silverstein…

Falling Up Shel Silverstein.jpg

 

The Investment Magic of Writing…

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“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
poet Mary Oliver

…………………..

music magic

I’m trying to become a musical magician but it hurts like an August sunburn…

I was a huge fan of Elton John in his early years… Yellow Brick Road, Candle In The Wind, Love Lies Bleeding, Tiny Dancer, Your Song… tons more.

Honestly though, much of Bernie Taupin’s lyrical imagery for John’s songs were beyond my ken (lack of hallucinogenic stimulants?) …

back to the howling old owl in the woods, hunting the horny back toad…

What the hell is that? Intriguing, yes…

I dreamed and schemed of wearing weird multi-hued eyeglasses in my teens as if that would make me a super songwriter… NOPE!

Alright, eyeglasses aren’t the magical secret. So what is?

elton john glasses.jpg

Good writing, whether prose, poetry, lyrics, or music is a jigsaw puzzle of pieces that conjures magic from the ether.

But like any magic, it isn’t really magic, it’s reality with a sweaty halo wand.

Good writing is hard work and when it reads or sounds easy to our ears and eyes, I know the crafter has worked the hardest of all.

Hemingway and Stephen King and Shakespeare and JK Rowling were/are no slouches at the art of writing. Imagination, imagery, metaphor.

Lennon and McCartney, JS Bach, Paul Simon, Antonio Vivaldi dedicated 10,000 hours and beyond to their efforts.

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field… Paul Simon (America) 

Paul Simon takes us on a emotional journey in 8 lines of verse where the initial fun and exuberance of young love fades as they pass over the landscape… it’s simplicity that likely took him a month or more to write.

He could have told us the same story in 4 lines filled with cliche and “you and me” directness but instead filled our minds with storybook images.

………………………….

… magic, it’s reality with a sweaty halo wand …

………………………….

Pretty much any of us can get lucky and write something of quality… something that’s meaningful and memorable… once.

Almost any person can line up a tee shot once in their life and hit a hole-in-one. But can they replicate it? Play the Vegas slots enough and one day a big winner will likely come your way. Once.

But the writers and musicians that make me want to kiss them and raise their children, are those that work past the “lucky” stage and consistently find ways of speaking to us that engage our head and our heart.

I used to think that inspiration was the key. So wrong.

Inspiration is a lazy verb… hell, it’s not EVEN a verb… how slothful is that?

David Ben, a former Toronto tax lawyer turned magician, has been an entertainer for almost 40 years and says he still rehearses several hours each day. Inspiration through dogged rehearsal.

Guitarist Tommy Emmanuel the same.

Inspiration is the feverish result of watching and listening and dreaming and pushing and pulling.

There’s an inquisitiveness aspect to magic-making where we drill in closely at a microscopic level trying to understand what it is that makes something work.

I’ve always been far too lazy or disinterested to understand how a car engine truly functions, or how a sail catches the wind in just the right way. I’d spend my 10,000 hours of learning in a bored-out-of-my-tree haze.

I hunger for magic that makes me jump up and down.

I unearth that feeling when I’m typing words, or picking out guitar notes.

But the inspiration usually only comes with time investment, which is really good for me as I jump up and down when I think of investment.

For the past two years I’ve invested time and thoughtful energy into a song, a song that I publicly previewed for the first time at an Open Mic in Oliver last night.

Two years investment. One song. Three musical minutes.

And it’s an investment – based on a lifetime of learning – that I look at… and as so often like with my financial investments, the end result isn’t quite as rich as I would like.

But that’s just being greedy.

It’s not the wondrous magic filled with fireworks that I dreamed of, but it is magic lite. 

And magical writing – wondrous or lite – is a process that goes nowhere without the sweat equity that makes any investment prosperous.

All these years later I’m still trying to become a musical magician, and damn if it still doesn’t hurt like an August sunburn…

 

Paper Rose photo (1).jpg

 

 

 

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