Stowaways, Skeletons, and Slaves – Sound Like A Hit Song To You?

Music is supposedly something that runs in the blood, and so is the sea. My dad is a musician (he was part of the best dance band in Southeastern Idaho in the mid ’50s, and he’s had his own saxophone quartet for the last 20 years), and he also served in the Navy between Korea and Vietnam.
I fortunately did not have to join the Navy, but for someone who’s never sailed anything larger than a Sunfish, there seem to be an awful lot of seafaring references in my songs, “The Captain’s Daughter” being Exhibit A.
If you listen to even a few bars of this song, you might be surprised to learn that it started out as a guitar riff, and it stayed that way for…years, actually. I’d pull it out and fool with it whenever I had some free time. Never went anywhere, though, until one day I came across a magazine article about The Skeleton Coast, World’s Biggest Ship Graveyard (which is off Namibia, in South West Africa). Wow! Skeletons, really? Once you run across a name like that, a song can practically write itself, and in fact these verses then unfolded pretty quickly.
The chorus, however, was another matter. It just refused to develop, until I decided to take a flyer and try the song on piano. Different instruments pull the song in different directions, and switching to piano simultaneously put a little more drive in the verse and, with the descending bassline, generated a more melodic, Beatlesy feel for the chorus.
I came up with the melody pretty quickly and then started singing nonsense syllables (a la Keith Richards‘ “vowel movement” approach) in a generally nautical fashion. I used to date a woman who actually was a captain’s daughter (though he flew planes rather than sailing ships), and I guess she was on my mind at the time. The phrase popped up, immediately suggested “water” (duh) as a rhyme, and the song was then probably finished in about an hour. Five years and an hour!

What about you? Ever been in the Navy? Seen the Skeleton Coast? Taken more than five years to finish a @&!@#%*!?! project? Let me know in the comments!


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