Thoughts on the Songs

DC At Nomads

Thoughts on the Songs
Each song has a narrative – a story – holding it together and guiding and reflecting the music.

‘Who You Gonna Run to?’ for example, is an older guy giving advice to a younger, married guy. The younger one is considering doing something stupid in his relationship. The older guy is being ‘Socratic’ by asking him these leading questions. His questions are blunt and to the point.  The questions intimate a harsh reality as the consequence of ‘Younger’ fucking up.
Then, there’s the bridge – that is the soothing part of the avuncular advice offered by ‘Older’. It should be almost heard as a lullaby. (There, there, it’s not so bad. Just don’t fuck up.)
The off-kilter melodies; the one that acts as opening riff and the other as the bridge, settle into place at the end, but it seems rather unsure…

‘All I Need’ – is less a soliloquy then a disjointed play-lette. There are three voices, not characters really, but collective voices rather like ‘commedia dell’arte’.
The first voice – a sort of Candide – proclaims that he is happy and satisfied with his life; ‘All I Need I have right now’.
The second voice – the villain – tells him that something is missing (e.g. clear skies, time, a scorecard, the means to obtain it, etc).

Third voice is the voice of Temptation, offering a mountain, a promise of fortune, ‘all you need is waiting there’.

Then the first voice, Candide, rejoins that he has all he needs right now. The second voice ups the ante. The third voice offers the same tired vision.

Wildwood – This is a melodrama based on personal experience and framed by story told in the fantasy series entitled ‘The Kingkiller Chronicles’. I think of it as my own version of a ‘Childe Ballad’ – when tales (i.e. ballads) were told in song. It is a tale of seduction.

The woman leads the Lover through a labyrinth called the Wildwood. His mind and senses are awakened in a dream world; he sees the stars wheel in the sky, watches day pass to night, hears silver beetles, chiming, is enraptured by her scent, etc.

Then, the Temptress leaves our hero to pine and wander endlessly; lost in the Wildwood.

Most of the song is told by the narrator – the Lover-hero.
The bridge is wordless; it’s meant to invoke that dream-like state of being in the enchantment of Love.

Baby, Come Back – is a comedy of errors. I call it a cynical love song. The singer is a schmuck, a cad, a lay-about, a schlemiel, a bounder and a manipulator. The woman, ‘Baby’ was right to leave him. He’s a top-drawer arse.

He cheated on her with her friends. (e.g. Had some babe in their own bed. Uses the ‘C’ word. Uses drugs. Is unemployed. Contributes nothing to the household. Does no chores. He blames his mama for being like he is. He takes no responsibility for anything.

He tries to sweet-talk her and still address the reasons why she left him.  He plays the pity-card ‘You treat me like a dog.’

He also slips in little asides that reveal his true feelings; ‘Most likely I’ll regret this’ ‘You ought to be flattered’, ‘My guitar is still in pawn’, etc.

I honestly hope she’s smart enough to tell him to fuck off.

Bull Toad Blues – is a cautionary tale. It just as easily could be called ‘Arsehole Blues’. That’s what Bull Toad means; arsehole. The story of this song comes from when my former band, BoPoMoFo, played at a certain venue in Taipei. The owner was a piece of work. the ownerl is the Bull Toad – the arsehole. We used to refer to him as ‘the Bull Toad’; he reminded us of a toad and he was a bully, plain and simple. Stories are epic and legendary about what a total douche this guy was. (For instance – he fired the band by text at 2:30am because a guest artist thought he was getting his drinks for free as he was playing without pay. This sent the Bull Toad off the deep end despite the band paying the bar tab as a courtesy. )

All reference n the song are to swamps, croaking, amphibians, warts; ‘Bubba, you can hop on this’. This is a very aggressive song. My buddy, Bill Janssen said in his review of ‘Feeling Fifteen Again’ (on this site under reviews, BTW);  ‘the sinister and vaguely threatening rhythm section who probably wear zoot suits, carry prison shivs and would gladly cut you in some insane monkey knife fight. Want proof? Check out Bull Toad Blues.’

The moral of the tale is that ‘Everybody knows a bull toad (arsehole)’ and it’s best to get them out of your life, although it’s conceded that such separation is not always possible. (‘Might be your boss. Might be your wife!’). We have to deal with arseholes. It’s a fact of life.

Bloodied But Unbowed – The feeling I want to convey is that you must be true to yourself – as Shakespeare states through Polonius in ‘Hamlet’ ;‘To thine own self be true.’ The cost of that philosophy can be dear. The moral is one must stand by one’s convictions and suffer ‘the slings and arrows’.  Stand bloodied but unbowed. So, the chorus of the song must be a joyful and proud statement. “I’m bloodied but unbowed’.

This is one example of a song based on collective life experiences rather exclusively on my own. The ‘Boss-man’ is a compilation of lots of bosses I’ve had. (Even the Bull Toad!) The ‘Preacher’ is lots of religious types I’ve encountered. The ‘Woman’ is a composite of women I’ve known. The ‘miserable people’ can be seen everywhere; misery loves company and those in misery quite often resent those who are happy. They ‘like nothing better than to tear’ other people down.

All four are also drawn from the experiences of other people.
(I’ll let you guess what ‘vertical smile’ means.)

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Older Than I Look – the story behind the song

‘Older Than I Look’ (subtitled ‘Younger Than I Feel’) is one song that is not based on a true story. It’s based on observation and experience distilled into a coherent tele-play narrative.

‘Older’ is a kind of ‘fish-out-of -water’ story. It’s the story of an older ‘fish’ who is slowly realizing that the water has changed and he is expected to change as well.

I presented the story in a series of vignettes which illustrate the quandary that the narrator and his unnamed friend find themselves living in a world of ‘Me, Too’ and gender fluidity.

The first indication that the narrator is out of step with the times is in the opening vignette and his reference to ‘a pretty little thing’. Such archaic, disrespectful terminology is frowned upon as dismissive, dehumanizing and misogynic – as well it should be.  The narrator, a member of an earlier generation, is oblivious to his social faux pas.

According to the decorum of an older generation, however, a polite gentleman was expected to tip his hat and offer greeting to women he encountered. The narrator shows that he is stuck in an earlier time.  Those cordial gestures – once seen as essential courtesies – are misunderstood and even resented by a generation who has never experienced those courtesies. The young woman in question, whom the narrator sees strolling on the street, is taken aback and questions his intentions if not his sanity.

The next episode takes place in a small restaurant (an eatery) where the narrator is a frequent patron. He, once more, is confronted by a member of a younger generation who is working as a wait staff. He greets her with what he considers an appropriate manner ‘Howdy, Hon’, which goes over like a lead balloon with the ‘20-something waitress’ who reacts with a pique the narrator does not expect. She goes on to read him the riot act heaping approbation on his glib, sexist demeanor.

More than a bit exasperated, he explains that he simply wants to place his order and intended no sexual innuendo or untoward implication; ‘I tell you this, I’m older than I look and younger than I feel’. He then gives her his order of the blandest of foods; Farina, broth, dry toast and – in an attempt at wry humor – an  order of  ‘Metamucil’, a dietary supplement used to insure regularity of bowels.

Next, the narrator’s friend joins him for lunch and commiseration. The ‘oldest friend’ whinges about his age and wistfully reminisces about their younger days. The narrator – obviously the wiser of the two –reminds him scoffingly that they had done ‘stupid shit’ in their youth. The friend then, in response, flips the title phrase on its head by saying ‘I’m younger than I look and older than I feel’ implying that he has lots of vim and vigor housed in a rather ravaged exterior.

The old friend then cracks an off-color joke about feeling like an ’18-year-old… maybe two’ – meaning two young sex partners – clearly inferring that he hasn’t yet learned, as an old fish, how to navigate the new social waters.

Older Than I Look, Younger Than I feel
DC Rapier ©2018

So, I’m strolling down the street the other day
A pretty little thing comes walking my way
I tip my hat ‘n’ say ‘Howdee do?’
She eyeballs me as if to say ‘Dad, what’s got into you?’ 

I smile ‘n’ shrug ‘n’ shake it off; I got someplace to be
Gonna meet a friend of mine at a local eatery.
I slide into the corner booth; check the specials of the day
When a 20-something waitress traipses over with her tray

(Here she comes now, traipsing…)

I say ‘Howdy, Hon! You’re new here. Won’tcha tell me what’s your name?’
She puts down her tray, cocks her head ‘n’ sneers “I don’t play that game.
Why, you’re old enough to be my dad. You oughta be ashamed.
I got a good mind to slap your face.” Yeah, she was that inflamed.

I throw up my hands, say “Ho-ho-hold it there. No need to be so rude.
I ain’t trying to make a play. I just wanna get some food.
Since you’re new, you might not know I’ve been coming here for years.
And all that time, I’ve been watching myself grow old in the shaving mirror.

I’ll tell you this: I’m older than I look but I’m younger than I feel.

Right now, I feel like some Farina; a cup of broth; some dry toast, Metamucil…”

Right then, my oldest friend comes in and he’s looking rather glum.
He says, “Y’know what I really miss the most ‘bout being young n dumb?”
I say “Tell me, son; might it be all the stupid shit we done?”
“Well, there is that, my friend, but you gotta admit it was lotsa fun!

But now; I’m younger than I look but I’m older than I feel

Right now, I feel like an 18-year-old; maybe two; one blonde, an’ …
Yeah, I know. Dream on, old man. Dream on…”

 

 

[ 中文歌詞翻譯 ]

前幾天我在街上散步
一位漂亮的小姐迎面走來
我禮貌地向她打了個招呼 “你好!”
她仔細地盯著我看好似在說 ”老爹, 你是怎麼回事?“
我微笑了一下, 聳了聳肩擺脫掉剛剛那份感覺; 我還得趕著去個地方
跟我朋友約好了在當地的餐廳碰面
我坐在靠近角落的位子; 看著今天才有的特餐
一個看起來二十幾歲的女服務生拿著托盤閒蕩
(現在她正往我坐的位子走過來…漫無目的地閒蕩…)

我說 ”你好, 甜心!“ 你是新來的. 你要不要告訴我你的名字啊?
她把托盤放下, 歪著頭並輕蔑地笑著
”我不玩那種遊戲. 為什麼? 因為你年紀大到可以當我的父親. 你應該感到羞恥. 我真想打你一巴掌.“
沒錯, 她生了很大的氣
我舉起了我的雙手, 我說”等一下, 沒有必要這麼粗魯無禮吧“
我沒有要跟你玩任何遊戲, 我只是想點些東西吃
由於你是新來的, 你可能不知道我是這裡的顧客已經有很多年
許久以來, 我一直看著自己在鏡子中慢慢變老. 我可以告訴你:
我看起來比實際的年紀年輕但是我已經感覺慢慢在變老 (x3)
(現在, 我想吃點麥片, 喝點清湯, 再來點麵包跟纖維素…)

那時候我一位老朋友進來了,他看上去有點沮喪
他說, “你知道什麼是我最懷念我們那段年少無知的歲月嗎?”
我說, “告訴我, 老朋友; 該不會是我們一起所做那些愚蠢的事吧?”
嗯, 那是其中之一, 我的朋友啊, 但是你必須承認那是非常有趣的吧!
但是現在, 我看起來比實際的年紀老但是我感覺我還是充滿活力 (x3)
(現在, 我覺得我才18歲; 也許是兩個;一個金髮女郎,一個…
是的, 我知道. 繼續妄想, 老頭. 繼續做夢…)
我看起來可能有點老但是我感覺我還是年輕

[ 此首歌的背景及故事 ]

在小時後, 我們耳濡目染當時社會中的一些禮俗及文化, 但是隨著年齡的增長, 整個風俗文化也跟著有所變化, 而從年輕人變成老年人時, 仍然會根據自已所熟悉的背景, 習俗, 言語用詞等等繼續生活, 即使其中有些情況已不再適用. 而這一首歌的故事, 最主要在表達隨著時代的變遷, 兩代溝通的差異及認知的不同, 而老一代則需要做一些調整來平衡這個落差及適應時事的變化. 而歌詞中的兩位男主角即使年紀差不多, 但因為周遭人事物的影響而造成心境的不同.

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Feeling Fifteen Again – the story behind the song

The questions most often asked about the album ‘Feeling Fifteen Again’ and the title song is ‘Why Fifteen? What so special about 15?’. 

My answer is simple; That’s when I first got hooked on performing music. Being naturally long-winded, here’s further explanation.

When I was 15 years old, I was in a band without a name. We ‘borrowed’ a name from a band we’d read about in the Chicago Tribune Sunday section. That band was called ‘Saturday’s Children’ – which is a great name. We borrowed it to play a show at the Momence Gladiolus Festival in 1965. The Glad Fest was a big deal – especially for a young band who didn’t even have a name to call their own.

The festival organizers were serious; we had to audition, await a call-back and then audition again. Very grueling, I can tell you. For the second audition, we played Bob Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Women 12 & 35’ from his landmark album, ‘Blonde on Blonde’. (Dylan devotees will know that this album was his ‘electric album’ which the die-hard folkies of the day detested as an abomination; a sell-out to corporate music. Very radical. Quite the controversy.)

The gig itself was before about 1000 people sitting in the grandstand set up for the glorious reviewing of flower-bedecked floats and grand displays of (what else?) gladiolus. The stage was not a stage at all but a tarpaulin stretched across the ground in front of the stands upon which sat all the electrical equipment; amps, drums, mike, PA stuff, etc.
Now, somebody must have thought that the tarpaulin would somehow remove the chance of electrocution. They were wrong.

As soon as we took up our electric guitars we were acting grounding agents and inviting electrical shocks. As the lead singer, singing into the only microphone – a huge cast aluminum, potato-masher of a thing – I got a fist full of shocks. Each time my mouth got within about an inch of the mike, the juice would arc and blast me with a mind-numbing shock.  The first time was when I greeted the crowd and offered thanks.
Blam!
I was sent reeling back-wards several stumbled feet. I fought to come to my senses as my fellow band-mates stood questioning my odd behavior before the gladiolus crowd.

I approached the mike again more cautiously but suffered the shocking blue arc as I grounded the whole system. Another stumble and the drummer counted off the Rolling Stones’ ballad, ‘As Tears Go By’.

Ouch! We made it through the song. Somehow, I managed to remember the words, the arrangement and was able to play the correct chords on my red Kingston faux-Stratocaster.

Maybe it was the electrical jolts that reinforced the imprinted of that day on my brain. It was a real ‘rush’ performing in front of so many people and that experience was burned into my psyche by the faulty electrical set-up.

Feeling Fifteen Again
DC Rapier ©2018

Back when giants roamed the land, there was a battle of the bands
Our band competed with a borrowed name
We were minnows in a pond, but music was our magic wand
and if we waved it, it would bring us fame

Yeah, I’m feeling fifteen again  Wish I had the energy I had back then
But I’m feeling fifteen again  Every time I hit the stage, no matter when
I’m feeling fifteen again

That boy who sang his all, he  grew up big and tall  While the universe made other plans
But flip the power on, a new day starts to dawn That boy of fifteen takes control of the man

I blame John Lennon for my misspent youth  All of his yeah, yeah, yeah and goo-goo-ga-choo
But I wouldn’t trade it for diamonds or gold  Cuz it’s music that’s enriched my soul

Now, I strap on a guitar in a neighborhood bar  When the sunset’s a recent memory
The music strikes a spark; illuminates the dark  A flame burns brightly for all to see

Yeah, I’m feeling fifteen again  Wish I had the energy I had back then
But I’m feeling   fifteen again  Every time I hit the stage, no matter when
I’m feeling fifteen again

*Nota bene: The first line of the song ‘Back when giants roamed the land’ refers to the giants of the music biz when I has a lad; the Beatles, Elvis, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and all the others of that incredible era.

[ 中文歌詞翻譯 ]

在那個巨人們*漫遊這塊土地上的時代
有個比賽叫做樂團之戰
我們的樂團用借來的名字來參加
我們如同在池塘裡的小魚, 但是音樂就像是我們手上的魔杖
好像我們一揮就會讓我們成名

是的, 我覺得我還是十五歲… 再一次
真希望我能擁有那時的活力
但是, 我覺得我還是十五歲
每當我登上舞台, 無論何時
是的, 我覺得我還是十五歲… 再一次

喔, 那個男孩花盡所有的力氣在音樂上, 他長得又高又壯
正當宇宙有其他計畫時
就像電源被打開了; 黎明開始了新的一天
那個十五歲的男孩又再次掌管了那個男人

我責備約翰·藍儂使我浪費了青春
他所有的yeah, yeah, yeah and goo-goo-ga-choo *
但是我不會把這些時間跟鑽石或黃金交換
因為音樂豐富了我的靈魂

現在,我背著吉他在鄰近的酒吧裡
看著夕陽是最近的回憶
音樂引起了火花, 照亮了黑暗
而火焰明亮地燃燒著,讓所有人都可以感受到

是的, 我覺得我還是十五歲… 再一次
真希望我能擁有那時的活力
但是, 我覺得我還是十五歲
每當我登上舞台, 無論何時
是的, 我覺得我還是十五歲… 再一次

[ 備註 ]

*那個時代音樂界的巨人; 披頭四, 貓王, 鮑勃·迪倫, 滾石樂隊以及那個不可思議的時代中的所有其他人.
*yeah, yeah, yeah and goo-goo-ga-choo – 約翰·藍儂歌曲中的歌詞

[ 此首歌的背景及故事 ]

這首歌是關於男主角的樂團第一次參加比賽的心情以及對音樂的熱愛. 當他慢慢成為一個男人時, 因為現實的生活讓他年輕時的夢想沒有繼續實現, 或許是上天注定或許是因緣際會, 那個十五歲的男孩又再一次掌控了這個男人,他現在更熱情地做他的音樂表演並實現他15歲時的夢想,而每次上台他都會想起最初表演時的感覺,彷彿又再次把他帶回到那個時空.

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