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THE COLOUR OF RAMBLER SUMMER – The Song

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Carlos Santana and band on Stage at Woodstock Music & Art Fair

Where were you in ’69?

Or maybe… were you YOU in ’69?

I was ME… 12 years-old with a galaxy of unseen stars in my eyes, a limitless future of the still-to-be-known.

Almost heading into high school… sometimes over-confident, sometimes fearful, sometimes insecure, eternally hopeful.

Formative years… for me the most exciting, most challenging, most disruptive years of my life were probably between 1969 and 1977.

When you’re young, a whole life can be seemingly lived in just a few short years. The emotional heights and depths soar and crash. The intensity of our teenage times can feel like an eternity.

In 1974 I bought my first car.

It was a brown 1967 Rambler American bought off a used car lot. $900. Automatic. Bench seats. Defrost that rarely worked. Windows that kept some of the rain out.

rambler

Bought with the “riches” from my McJob with a starting wage of $1.55 per hour.  A full shift of flipping burgers put a little bit more than $12 in my pocket. I was good at it. Making burgers, that is…

I was a McDonald’s ALL-STAR (yes, Truly).

Buying that Rambler in the hot summer that I turned 17, symbolically and utterly shifted the shape of my life.

I instantly looked cooler and more attractive (I thought), but it also allowed me, in reality, to be “grown up”. Paying for gas, insurance and repairs matures you in a New York Minute.

The purchase of that car marked my transition from a green-behind-the-ears teenager into a young adult living in the world of weighty responsibilities, giddy romance, love, and a new kind of heartbreak that felt so totally different from what I experienced when my Mom died.

The lyrics I’m posting here this week reflect a little of this Rambler Man period of tumultuous change in my world.

Maybe take a New York minute yourself and think about your teenage days and how they helped mould you – for better and worse – into the person you are today.

(Following the lyrics below you’ll find a link to a song (When Atlas Shrugged) that I wrote and posted lyrics for October 4, 2019. The song is my reflection on the #MeToo movement from the other side of the gender fence, acknowledging the privilege of being born male. The music has a slight Spanish flamenco-styling to suggest the bull in the ring… the one who believes he has the power, but ultimately ends up dead in the centre of the spectacle).
bull and girl

OK… today’s song… Let’s go:

The Colour of Rambler Summer

by Larry Green

Cool Butch and handsome Sundance
were the heroes of this laddish young’un
and I’d pretend to be the thuggish
bad boy that held the school hall fun
watching the shag cut kids with tabs to share
droopy eyes singed by drugs

We sat in movie theatre matinees
cool dark balcony with Steve McQueen
while outside buses fumed the air
sidewalks seared shoppers’ feet
city streets scorched humid in the sun
that curled the women’s hair

CHORUS
The colour of my Rambler summer
was a camouflage tone
like the melt of ice cream
syrupy sweet sauce
light and dark
wholesome and harmful
dreams only come free at a cost

The year before, the crickets chirped
Cool water sucked up from sprinklers
between turns at the bat
then Charlie slashed Sharon’s blood
ugly sickness stole the life unmet
death to pigs spelt in bloody black

This acned face shiny and pure
I craved and hoped with boy hormones rich
like trees draped with vines
I tasted alcohol I tasted kisses
in bittersweet Summer of ’42 flavours
not the tang of Bryan’s Summer of ’69

CHORUS
The colour of my Rambler summer
was a camouflage tone
like the melt of ice cream
syrupy sweet sauce
light and dark
wholesome and harmful
dreams only come free at a cost

I don’t know if I learned the truth at 17
or in my older days
pages turn and still I learn
the colours of a rainbow’s arch
seemed so clear in my first car
shared tones between the bars

The colour of my Rambler summer
… the colour of my Rambler summer
… the colour of my Rambler summer

WHEN I BECOME INVISIBLE – The Song

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invisible

This coming Tuesday would be my Mother’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Mom I’d gladly say and sing to her if she wasn’t so long gone (1973 to be precise).

Every one of us has or will most likely say a final goodbye to our parents. It’s a sad but very natural day, and a universal experience.

My children will one day say it to me as they carry forward in life.

I’ve lived long enough now following my mother’s sudden death from a heart attack at 61 years to lose a huge amount of the memory of her. The fine details, the individual days – like a Vaseline-smudged camera lens – are mostly badly faded or well tucked away in my brain’s recesses.

I declare my day a success when I can remember where I set a single pair of my many reading glasses… aye aye aye…

Mom didn’t change the world in any outwardly measurable way… no discoveries, no political or professional accolades… but the thing that really lingers, and is a testament to her meaning is the satisfied feeling and warmth she left inside me and her family around her. No resentments, no angers, no bitterness. Just pleasant smiles and warmth.

This song is about her last day, and the final moments I shared with my mother. Her death came without warning, or providing any opportunity for me to reflect or share with her her importance in my world, to even say thank you or I love you.

goodbye

Most songs I write these days I tend to fill with a good deal of symbolism and metaphor. I like representation by symbols and the pictures they create in my mind.

But this set of lyrics is largely straightforward and more prose-like (OK, there is some symbolism and metaphor)… a bit more straight from the heart.

One final note: I’ve been publishing a good number of song lyric posts lately sans music. I know this feels incomplete, only half the “story”. Many of you have asked for the actual song in its musical form.

TA DA!

I’ve been struggling for months about how I might best post some of the lyrics in their song format for you to hear. It’s not perfect, and of course my singing isn’t stellar, but at the bottom of this post you can follow a link to one of the songs about our COVID times that I posted (The Blessing and the Curse) on April 26, 2020.

Now onto today’s song:

 WHEN I BECOME INVISIBLE

When she said the simple words
See you tonight
there was no real meaning
it happens a billion times
like stars we see on cloudless nights
it’s so easy when we can’t
see our future moments
through our eyes or through our mirror

CHORUS
When I become invisible
Will my final words be as plain and
filled with meaning as yours
See you tonight

Could I have ever guessed
what your final words would be
Could you know your push for me
to earn a buck or two
was our final blurb
Could I know I’d soon watch you
take your final breath
on the asphalt by the curb

CHORUS
When I become invisible
Will my final words be as plain and
filled with meaning as yours
See you tonight

We think we know the boundary
is the cliff’s edge far and distant
hidden beyond the horizon
myopia makes a foot away
seem like the angels outpost
sweet heart and smiling eyes
her days come down to seconds
her memory becomes her ghost

BRIDGE
In evening twilight
the stalking lion
slithered its way
through your veins
struck fast with madness
longer spring days
couldn’t hold off the sadness

CHORUS
When I become invisible
Will my final words be as plain and
filled with meaning as yours
See you tonight

 

THE BLESSING AND THE CURSE – The Song

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blessing curse

INTO Week Six of isolation here and now we’re disinfecting our outer AND … by gonzo suggestion from the top… inner… surfaces.

It’s like a Shakespearean tragi-comedy, except we can’t spit out our words like dramatic stage actors for fear of an impending manslaughter charge. No aerosols please!

Last week I mused about our collective situation of isolation and suggested some ideas that might help deal with our fresh new world. I quoted singer Garth Brooks who noted that everything we want comes with both a blessing and a curse.

The words stuck in my head like a *yum* peanut butter and banana sandwich does to the roof of my mouth.

Blessing AND Curse.

garth

Neither you nor I know what our world will look like in a year, there are too many moving and interactive parts for any rational assessment. This is the scientist in me speaking. My inner Bill Gates. We need rational thinkers like Bill and Melinda.

But with all of these unknowns… the artist, the creative me … holds onto a desire to think also in loftier terms, more emotional terms. It’s our artists – the musicians, the writers, the painters – that give us hope and joy in difficult times. We need artists as much as we need scientists.

And so I’m finding a bit more time in my days to write more prose, more song.

Yes, we’re on a ride folks.

And since the peanut butter phrase Blessing and Curse stuck with me I’m using it once again this week, this time in poetry and song form.

I hate cliches, but I’ll stoop now.

Be Humble. Be Kind. Stay Safe.

69465831 - young man composing the song with guitar on table with tea cup

 

THE BLESSING AND THE CURSE

by Larry Green

Little ones chase that coin
the one rolling down the street
towards the gutter or the drain
your two hands reach to grab and save
both mamas pull the chain

Last month I sipped sweet coffee from your cup
stopped in narrow grocery aisles and chatted
you pass me by at distance now
wild-eyed like something rabid
can we resurrect the sacred cow

CHORUS
Flip the hands, see the change
litter scattered in the desert whirling
shrink from shadows watch the afterbirths
there’s beauty and there’s hurting
Fill me up don’t leave me empty
The blessing and the curse

Stash your voice inside your house
Strike x’s through your plans
Bake bread to soothe your troubled soul
Muse about the coulds and shoulda-haves
Search blind and madly fill the holes

Alone now but are you lonely
put the Tanqueray away
this fog confines but stars abound in space
bright neon light will shine again
we’ll leave our separate places

Next year I hope we meet once more
unlock the chains and hug the children
I’ll touch your shoulder when you’re shaking
Wipe the tears with ungloved hands
we’ll walk the road untaken

CHORUS
Flip the hands, see the change
litter scattered in the desert whirling
shrink from shadows watch the afterbirths
there’s beauty and there’s hurting
Fill me up don’t leave me empty
The blessing and the curse

stars on beach

 

Take A Breath – The Song

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Harry Chapin2

A child arrived just the other day…”

.

Many years ago I heard the music and writing magic of Harry Chapin… musician, songwriter, storyteller superb.

Harry transformed me.

The beauty in his storytelling had an incredible way of capturing the depth within a life’s soul with few words.

Perhaps no song of his is more gut-wrenching… more heartbreaking… than Cats In The Cradle, a song of father and son.

It’s a song of longing-to-be-loved in the moment, but both the dad and the son in their own time are unable to give the other what he needs.

In the end, the father sees and laments where those seeds of unintentional neglect that he sowed so early on have left him in his later years.

There seems to be many songs of fathers and their overlooked sons.

But what about mothers and their children?

Perhaps a bit unusual, I have seen some examples out there of strained mother-child relationships and pondered…

So, this week in my lyric writing, I’ve taken Harry’s wondrous inspiration and my own observations… but with a turn of the gender tables (yes, idea sex at work).

This song tells of a woman who truly wants to meet society’s expectation of what a mother could and can be, but sadly, is unable to unearth the ability to give, to step back from her own needs.

The song has no formal chorus like we come across in most current songwriting. Instead, I’ve set in a small 2-line bridge between each verse to show a transition of forward movement in time.

(NB: An inside scoop? Writing song lyrics requires deft rhythmic ability. I know from experience that when I write lyrics, the rhythm and pacing in my writing won’t run smoothly when I begin setting a melody to the words. So if you notice an unsettling unevenness to the lines, don’t be surprised. I’m not. This jarring arrhythmia gets worked out as I settle down to my guitar or piano and “fine-tune” in much the same way I edit a blog post, over and over.)

dandelion blow.jpg

Take A Breath

by Larry Green

Take a breath
it’s over soon
Take a breath
it’s over soon

They told her she’d be maternal
perhaps she’d live the dream
and when the searing scorch she felt
below as the infant came
was the burning birth of
shackled days in chains.

Take a breath
it’s over soon

Sleepless nights made hollow eyes
thank god she had her man
supermarket smiles a constant drag
with every aisle she slogged
expectation’s lure too great
smeared cheerless laughs across her face

Take a breath
it’s over soon

Her man he made the meals
most times he cleaned the house
normality like a pancake flipped
absorbed by her mother’s doubts?
but her kids still feel the sunshine so
she poured another glass of wine

Take a breath
it’s over soon

The job she chose meant pretty clothes
a steady stream of evenings out
the kids in bed when she came home
the bedroom lights turned dim
she swore she’d dance them to the moon
one day in her world of might-have-been

Take a breath
it’s over soon

Each year’s gift passed in turn
pencil lines marked the growth
kids blown afar with deeper scars
lamented choices too early sown
guilt’s voices sing their songs
the voices sing their songs

Take a breath
It’s over now.

The Christmas Twins

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xmas twins

It’s the most …..?….. time of the year.

I’ll leave you to fill in the blank because each of us has our own different word that lies in our head and our heart.

I’ve been struck… haunted actually… for a long time, by the juxtaposition of Christianity’s drive towards joy at a time when I see and encounter so many that are bereft and lonely, depressed and distant from the concept of “joy”.

I’m talking Christmas here.

It’s a snowflake dream and a teary conundrum.

…………………..

It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
(Best LGBTQ verse ever!)
…………………..
.

Who doesn’t love the idyllic dream of warmth, good food, and comfort in a time of family, friends, and sharing. Filled with iconic trees and sleighbells and characters, pious and secular.

But internally for me, there just isn’t enough money or time that I can give to others to square or compensate for the abutment of seasonal bliss vs sorrow.

The visions and sounds of Christmas fluff up intense exhilaration in some, while at the same time casting others into hell.

All of these opposing thoughts bring me to the music lyrics I’ve written this week.

The lines below are a troubled expression of the mixed emotions I feel and experience each year as December rolls around. Maybe I’m just emoting and puking out this internal dialogue of guilt in knowing that I have so much daylight in my world even as days grow short.

Christmas Echoes

Christmas Echoes

by Larry Green

Two echoes in the mirror
twins tied by ribbon and twine
Two troupes can’t quite see the other
one story yet never aligned
fa-la-las and white christmas
Gemini visions blur the same line.

Like Wolf and the Hawk
when night melts in decline
seek a god of hope and elation
or a god of life flat-lined
my season’s ecstasy meets foul
my smile spins to grime

The crescendo of hymns
the peal of the bells
cinnamon and clove scents
waged battles ‘tween heaven and hell
blazing fire in the hearth with
cozy stories of stables foretell

On the streets in the alleys
Grendel and Cain’s curse in hot flames
but this day isn’t their story
why should angels be ashamed?
my questions prickled thorns
my answers dark stained

CHORUS

I smile for the joyous
I cry for the pained
dissonance of a single note
free hope where it’s enchained
Cuz my eyes have looked round
both sides of this mirror
ofttimes the same day

hope twins.jpg

Photographs Of A Sponsored Life…

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scarlett

A year back a pretty young Instagram “influencer” from London, England, posted the photo above.

Nice, right? Picture Perfect Idealism …

A happy little breakfast scenario that ordinarily (I gather) results in comments like “WOW!” and “You’re so beautiful…“.

Standard Facebook/Instagram/Twitter stuff…

Not so this time.

She was slammed with more than 100,000 angry replies and “dislikes” and prompted a wave of criticism, with the more printable comments ranging from “Fakelife!” and “Bunny-boiler” to “Let’s pop her balloons” and “Who keeps Listerine on their bedside table? Serial killers, that’s who.”

The internet sharks smelled blood and encircled her with abusive rants and taunts. So much for the pleasant and innocent online communities of Instagram.

“Each time I refresh my page, hundreds of new nasty messages pour on to my Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, some of which have contained malicious death threats,” she wrote in a follow-up post. “There are now hundreds of thousands of tweets circling the internet, shaming me.”

There’s a hunger and need for likes and positive comments to allay our fragileness. I admit to swelling when I get “like”ed… affirmation and acceptance and approval are a part of my fuel too.

It is the darkness that quietly lies within/beneath our world of social media that inspired my writing of this week’s music lyrics.

As alluded to in these lyrics mentioning Janis Ian (who wrote a troubled teenage girl’s anthem, At Seventeen, in the 1970’s)… the burning desire for acceptance and love is a huge part of the human “story”.

How Liked I Am Today

The reply said fuck you lady
She shook and took a bite of Big Mac
some sauce dripped on her jeans
wiped it quickly with the napkin
then turned to see if anyone had seen

Sleepless held her hostage once again
no model hair was out of place
even 3:30 near the morning’s dawn
her jacket had the perfect cut
honey face perfection by Revlon

Sweet hearts surround the placid scene
jarred vampires in the web
teacup smile and hairline cracks
forged feeds of reality on a stage
faux bronzer on her back

A baby slurp of bottled water
head down she scanned her Instagram
past ads by KFC and acne cure
this barrenness of checking
flawless photos of her old friend’s wedding

Her Mother’s generation
embraced its FOMO too
the girls in high school bathrooms
where Janis Ian held their torment
wrinkles cursed like webs in wounds

Scales can lie, hold magic high
smiles that sometimes fool you
strawberries often hold no juice
while clots and plaque grow thicker
are photos forever true?

The table finally wiped clean spotless
sun stirs and rubs its eyes
as tears inside are swept away
another day of trademarked life
Look how liked I am today

social media.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