Melodies come into the world in many ways. I’ve had the most beautiful melodies come to me seemingly divine, through dreams or the twilights of dreams. Sometimes they arrive through the white noise of rolled down car window, or by the rhythm of pavement seams on a long drive. Some just pop into my head, usually at the least convenient times. Then there are the laymen melodies, who are generally good sport and offer themselves for any old lyrical idea - they come by less mysterious ways, typically by hours of sitting at the piano trying new things until something interesting happens. Last count I had close to 600 melodies, all waiting for lyric assignment. I do sometimes feel guilty that these poor things must wait so long, sometimes years. I especially feel bad for those that came in such angelic ways - now having to sit and wait along with the average toot-lee-doos and dum-dee-dums and old nameless waltzes who bide the time with chess games, no longer even looking up when the door opens. But all melodies arrive naive to their purpose and ready to adapt, if necessary, to their soon-to-be partners for life: the lyrics. Sometimes though not so soon.
Here’s the story of one melody in particular.
Three years ago the most intoxicating little marching melody arrived at the doorstep of my mind. He had his lead sheet, his license to inspire, everything in order. The smile on his young face was half the song. To be real and honest, I can’t actually remember how the melody came, but given the feel of it it was probably after hearing one of my old school classic favs, on the local classical station, probably while driving. Probably Ravel as some will immediately recognize. But here was this little guy. And it just felt best to give him his first trial run into the real air accompanied by my daughters and our ukulele. Sometimes the girls don’t oblige, but this time they did.
I recorded this on my phone. And what I ALWAYS do is email these recordings to myself, so that they are safe in my email server, at least until I catalogue them later. For whatever reason I didn’t email it. I forgot to. A few weeks later my phone was charging at my parents house and Dad brushed up against the wire. It slipped off the counter and slapped the tile floor hard facedown.
No big loss. I was due for an update anyway. But when I got a new one I failed to transfer or save some of the audio recordings thinking I’d emailed them to myself. I have to say, I’m an absolute rough idea cataloging zealot. These ideas are caches of gold. The flashes of potential I’ve always thought of as sparks of lightning fire to cavemen - God-given beginnings of emotional sustenance and warmth, and my own evolution as a songwriter. They don’t happen often enough and when the strike occurs you drop your flint hide- scraper and you make a tar sludge torch... and you carry that flame like your firstborn until it is safely saved and backed up as a bed of coals on the cave floor.
Three years later (and this is literally five days ago at the time of this blog) I am desperately seeking one more solid track for a kids album. The album had great songs but needed that 12th man - that secret ingredient to add some charm. I was searching through my roughs trying to find any old recording that I might have made of the bedtime songs I used to sing for my kids, possibly for a hidden track. Anything really. And then I thought, well just maybe there’s one on that old cracked phone. For some reason I’d kept it in the back of my desk drawer. Pam somehow found a prehistoric charger in another drawer, and I plugged it in and waited........... Can I just say. These devices. As frustrated as I get daily with them, they are truly amazing. It lit up, wide-eyed and ready to dumb down my brain again, as if it had never left us. It’s little shaded rounded app icons. So 2014.
Carefully thumbing across glass shards, within a few seconds I was in my old audio files again. I didn’t find that hidden track candidate. But I did find that little marching melody. Back to the beginning of this blog entry. Songwriters are sometimes terrible matchmakers. These melodies and these lyrics, all desiring their perfect mate for life, don’t always start off with the right partner. When I heard that little melody, the lyrics of another song I had written since, immediately ran to my frontal lobe and fell hard and deep into lovely rhythm with this young march.
There was nothing I could do. I was witnessing an all-out lyric/melody affair in broad daylight. And I let it happen. When you’re trying to get an album done you kinda look the other way on things like this. I’m NOT looking forward to the slow walk with the other abandoned melody, back to the waiting room with the old waltzes and simple country boys. He’ll understand though, and agree whole-heartedly. These melodies are a reasonable and patient species. I love them every one.
So... here is the new marriage:
Thank you for visiting my site and indulging me with this blog. I’ll try to do more entries. The complete song and full kids album will be available for pre-order on June 8th. By the way when I say kids I mean of all ages :)