Lessons from a blue eyed lady

I once knew a girl.

Well, woman would probably be
the word. I was in my twenties,
and she was about 35. She was
creative and had a great voice,
wrote brilliant songs of despair
and so, of course, I was hooked.

We met in group therapy, I’m
proud to say. Proud because,
having been therapied so
long and so thoroughly, you will
know that I am a self-possessed
and princely gent able to confront
multiple big messy and complex issues
in a single bound.

And, or, having been therapied,
maybe I’m tired of talking about
all that stuff.

I must say that group therapy is
a perfect place to meet a person
for a short lived tempestuous
affair, and so we did and so we
did.

One day we were talking about
songwriting and she said to me
that when you come to the chorus,
get your big blurt of concentrated
feeling OUT because that’s what
will make the song go.

The HOOK, in other words, is a super
condensed statement of the overall
feeling of the song.

I put that in my back pocket ready to
deploy the next time I was a chorus
short.

So, one day I get up in the morning and
I’m thinking of this bird, longingly, with
confusion and hope and and and…

oh yea, I had it bad. I sat down at my
kitchen table and wrote a declarative
statement.

She’s got a grey streak in her hair

Then I made a speculative statement

I think her baby put it there

Then I put an emotional statement.

And she’s got eyes with a blue you’ve never seen

Then I made one of those wishful thinking kinds
of statements…

and she wants to be with me

Then I wrote the second verse very quickly:

She’s got her own way with a song
but she only sings about love gone wrong
I wish that I could help her change her tune
and she wants to be with me…

So, now it was time for a chorus..and I distinctly
remember that I did not have any big musical
idea going yet.

Sometimes the melody comes and you find
words for it. Sometimes an idea comes, so
you write words and search for or construct
a melody.

This time I had a bluesy little tune for the
verse and nothing for the chorus.

So I thought about what she’d said about
getting every drop of emotion into the
chorus…and let ‘er rip.

I have to be honest. I thought what I wrote
down was quite plain, and perhaps too direct.
And I even thought, with the psychobabble
that I was ready and able to wield at that
time that it sounded “co-dependent”..
And it didn’t even rhyme.

I thought to myself, “I’ll have to fix
it later”.

The words were:

If she loves me…
I’ll have everything I need
If she needs me…
I will find a way that
she can be with me…

Okay, so, anyway I went on
to come up with a little sting
for the intro, and the chorus
was sung over the same shape.

I felt NOTHING one way or another
about it when I plucked it out of my
ass…I mean when I plucked it out
on the guitar. It seemed like an
exercise in logic.

I wrote a cello part and had a rehearsal
to learn it and a few others for the
concert we had coming up. The cellist,
the lovely Simone Desilets immediately
told me that she REALLY REALLY liked it…
conveying an intensity I had not seen before.

I thought…funny, it’s so simple. And it’s
pretty straightforward….maybe too much
so?

Anyway, we started performing it and people
went wild for this song. It was hands down
the highlight of our show. I made a demo of it,
and one other song, and was signed to EMI
publishing in Canada by Hank Medress,
who loved the song.

Hank had been the driving force in The Tokens,
who brought us “The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. Hank
also produced Tony Orlando and Dawn and others
including Melissa Manchester.

He was a real New York Music Guy and he loved
that song. He got Al Kooper involved in my career,
and Al Kooper loved the song, and was going to
produce me until the wheels fell off and I tumbled
into a different place I’m still endeavoring to
climb out of.

Oh and another person, Gale Garnett, now
Gale Zöe Garnett, Zöe to those who know
her…heard the song on CBC and was so
excited by the sound of it in “her earball”
as she calls it, that she wrote a rhapsodic
encomium in the Toronto Star.

So, a lot of people really liked this song,
and I owe the tune to the crazy blue eyed
lady who made me feel so much in the fishbowl
of group therapy and who gave me such a
great lesson in songwriting.

One more thing. We played it live on a television
show in Toronto called ‘Global News at Noon’.

The whole crew and staff, including the talking
heads burst into applause, and the anchor, a man
called John Dawes, looked into the camera and
said, “Beautiful”.

I have it on tape, so if you don’t believe me, I’ll
prove it to you. It was a bit like the moment
in ‘Last Waltz’, when Mavis Staples blurted out
“beautiful” after ‘The Weight’.

Anyway, people loved this song and we made a video
of it and it was on “medium rotation” on Much Music for
a while.

So, erm, I guess it’s time for me to lay the
TUNE on you, right?

GreyStreak.mp3

It’s called Grey Streak, featuring Simone Desilets on cello, Marlowe
Börk on trumpet, Darcy McFadyen on French Horn, Steve Haflidson
on “drums” and Erica Buss on backup vocals. I played acoustic guitar
and the lead vocal.

So, what movie…Hmmm….how about Goodbye Columbus? Or
any romantic comedy where the guy realizes his mistake and
is running the gauntlet through New York City when, suddenly
and inexplicably a cattle truck overturns and 1000 steers are
let loose on the streets of Manhattan. He leaps over vegetable
carts and knocks over old ladies to get to the wedding in
time while the chorus plays against the sound of his
inhalations and exhalations in slow motion…

If she loves me…
Steers turn en masse into Times Square
I’ll have everything I need
Close up of his look of grit and determination
If she needs me
He leaps over two saw horses covering
an open manhole
I will find a way that she can be with me…

Credits roll as we imagine that somehow
someway he and she will be reunited…

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2 Responses to “Lessons from a blue eyed lady”

  1. Grey Streak Says:

    ,,,,,and we did, and we sure did,
    and you did, and it’s still beautiful, and it’s 20 yrs. gone by.
    But I remember every breath of it.
    If it was me then, who went with you, we would be shipwrecked by now.
    Now I watch us each rise from our own salvage, verdant, undefeated.
    m

  2. getmysonginamovie Says:

    The blue eyed lady speaks!!!!

    You are quoting D. H. Lawrence and
    Kahlil Gibran.

    It was Gibran who pointed out that
    the pillars of the temple need to be fairly
    far apart for the whole shooting match
    to remain standing.

    Is Madagascar far enough?

    And D. H. Lawrence pointed out
    that if two ships are going to the
    same port, and tie themselves
    together during times of calm…
    all will seem well, but when the
    storms come, they will be smashed
    together, he said.

    I like what you said but for the
    verdant. I was turtle hunting with
    son Henry the other year. Our goal
    was to catch a painted turtle in a
    net. He needed me to get into the
    slime because my arms are longer,
    see.

    So I did not catch the turtle and my
    toenails turned chartreuse.

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