The Sweetest Moment of my Songwriting Career

When I was 23, I went to Europe
for the first time.

It was a great adventure and many of
the highlights took place in Greece,
where I have returned several times
in the intervening years.

The morning I’m thinking of had to do
with Socrates, the Greek philosopher.

I had read ‘The Meno’ by Plato in which
Socrates uses the illustration of “The
Road to Larissa” to draw the distinction
between knowledge and
true opinion.

Okay, whatever…

But when I got to Greece, I just had
to visit Larissa…on a kind of pilgrimage
to a philosophical distinction.

When I arrived I noticed it was an
undistinguished, dusty little Greek
town. In other words it was gorgeous,
lovely, heartstopping.

The first café I found had one patron
sitting outside looking into the street,
flipping his worry beads and breathing
contentedly. I decided to go inside
and have a coffee and relax my
feet.

I took a seat in the spacious, cool
dark empty room, the kind of place
where men drink coffee and play
dominoes for hours.

The “patron” came in, and morphed
into the proprietor. He asked me
what I wanted. In my best Greek
I said, “Kaffay EllineekOH”.

He brought me the coffee, collected
twenty two drachma and took a seat
in the other side of the café.

Then it hit me. One of those waves
I talked about in an earlier post.
I felt a song coming on, and I could
hear it so clearly. It sounded like
a cocktail pop song from the fifties.

And it was Tony Bennett singing it,
of that there was no doubt. From
the tone alone, I knew what it was
all about.

I could hear Tony introducing it in the
tone he used to introduce ‘I Left My Heart
in San Francisco’.. on the record of his
I used to have which included
‘Because of You’, ‘Cold Cold Heart’
and ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’.

“..here’s the story about a little
vixen that took my heart and stomped
into a million little pieces…”

That sort of thing.

So, I pulled out my trusty empty book —
the kind you buy at art supply
stores and started to write down
the words.

The first verse rolled on out of my
pen effortlessly.

Though you had a look of mischief
on your little baby face
How was I to know that you
were coming on?
Every thought I had of you
was so wholesome and true
Now all I know of love
is that it’s come and gone.

Then I looked up and it hit
me like a ton of brooks.

The owner of the café was actively
PRAYING for me. Or vibing for me.
Or sending me immense mojo. He saw
that someone was having an IDEA —
in HIS little café — and he was thrilled,
and was beaming love and support and
encouragement to me with every
nanotittle of his being.

I was moved deeply.. beyond any
self consciousness or hesitation.

His eyes were saying, “Yes, go! I’m here
for you. Grab the moment! Let’s do it!”

So I looked back down at the page — which
I still have — and wrote the second verse:

You were quite a little teaser
when you said you’d fall in love
with the man who’d save to buy your diamond ring
Honey careful what you say
you could steal the heart away
from any fool who tries
to give you everything

And out rolled the chorus:

Genuine Ingenue
you were mine, but not true
you were sweet but not fair
close your eyes, die your hair

At first I could not figure out how
to play it. My meagre harmonic
skills were not quite up to the
challenge. When I got back to Canada
I asked my old girlfriend Roxanne’s
boyfriend George to accompany
me on the piano.

He figured it out right away and
told me the chords.

This is another proof that chicky
chacky is not the only way to
write a song. I could not have
chicky chackeyed my way to
this song with a guitar in hand.

Anyway, in time I got to play
it with ‘The Angels of Montenegro’
in various clubs in Toronto, including
‘C’est What’. The trumpet sounded
great….very Coltrane on trumpetish.
Sarah McElcheran really kicked the
crap out of this melody with the mute
on.

I will have to do some more digging
to find a good live version with
band. Meanwhile, here’s me slumming
it on my Martin Backpacker guitar.

Now, how can I get this in your movie, Mister
Director Sir? What if I tell you that chicks dig
it?

Will that turn the trick?

Will you say, “Hmmm, even though I’m casting
an action adventure flick in the future featuring
cyborgs disguised as pterodactyls, I do kind of
see how this song will give a goose up the
tension in the battle scene..”

One chick, erm, girl, who was a really good
singer, and the sister of Ernie Tollar, used
to come out with her friend so that they could
shout out, during the chorus, “Die your hair!”

And there are other reasons to dig this song.

For instance, one of the Blue Rodeo guys likes
it. Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo was sitting in
the back room of the Cameron House one
time. We played the song for sound check,
and Greg came up to me and said, “Did you
really write that song, Tom?”

Yes, I lied. How could I tell him it was a gift
from Socrates and a Greek café proprietor?

All right already, listen to the dang thing.
Maybe the best place for it is one of the
coming of age romances like the one with
John Cusack and Ione Skye where he wears
an overcoat a lot, looks into the mid
distance and wonders how she
could have taken her love away
from him.

Romantic comedy material, right?

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2 Responses to “The Sweetest Moment of my Songwriting Career”

  1. barbara Says:

    i wish i had known you at 23.

  2. getmysonginamovie Says:

    Yeah? And what would have happened then?

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