Categories
Under Strange Skies

Emily

lyrics

We go walkin hand in hand in hand

stop at a payphone to call in our demands

hey operator do you get lonely too?

look what it’s costin’ me just to talk to you

Emily,  can’t you see

you don’t have to spell it out for me

I’ll bring you English Breakfast tea

and you can read the leaves

and learn what everybody else can already see

you should be drinkin your tea with me

Emily

Day 47 is just like the one before

Channel 11 is live outside our door

I watch a little but they don’t understand

i love you so I can’t let go of your hand

Emily,  can’t you see

1 and 1 and 1 and 1 is 3

I’ll bring you English Breakfast tea

and you can read the leaves

and learn what everybody else can already see

you should be drinkin your tea with me

Emily

Girl you got my number

Call me I’m goin under

I saw you peekin up at the morning sky

I know you’re sneakin around with another guy

Somebody’s comin/I hear them through the walls

Honey hang up the phone before they can trace the call

Emily,  can’t you see

you got me beggin on my bended knees

I’ll bring you English Breakfast tea

and you can read the leaves

and learn what everybody else can already see

stay here with me

Emily

Categories
Under Strange Skies

Spring (From the Secondhand World)

lyrics

she brings me shining things that she pulled out of the river

knee deep in shimmering

i hear her whisper to her

sisters on the wind

the winter steals my breath

but she says

that spring

is coming

yes she says

that spring

is coming

and the seeds you sow will reach out for the sun

your heart will beat again

the blood will run

so sleep right now in the arms of the cold cold moon

sleep right now but remember

spring is coming

she lights her secondhand world with stolen constellations

says a cold rosary of stars

she sings me strangers’ songs

late

into the midnight

orion rules the sky

but she says

that spring

is coming

yes she says

that spring

is coming

and the seeds you sow will reach out for the sun

your heart will beat again

the blood will run

so sleep right now in the arms of the cold cold moon

sleep right now but remember

spring is coming

my fire is burning low and I pull you close again

wait for the spark to come on

oh sun won’t you come again

come and shine the way you was

the winter steals my breath

but she says

that spring

is coming

yes she says

that spring

is coming

yes she says

hold tight / hold on

hold on through this cold cold night

hold on now

but remember

spring is coming

and the seeds you sow will reach out for the sun

your heart will beat again

the blood will run

so sleep right now in the arms of the cold cold moon

sleep right now but remember

spring is coming

story

The origins of this track date back a few years to a wintertime field trip that my friend Jeffrey and I took to the coast. A huge storm was thumping Northern California, and we wanted to go see the waves in Pacifica, or Princeton, where we’d heard they were sweeping small dogs and inattentive meter maids out to sea.

We made it to Princeton, where the waves were indeed impressive, pushing boldly up from the shore into the center of town, nosing into businesses and restaurants.

On the way back, Jeffrey played me a song by one of his favorite up-and-coming singer/songwriters, and I was really taken by an acoustic guitar loop and repetitive mellotron chord that created a very melancholy atmosphere: I resolved to steal that trick as soon as possible.

The storm kept up for several days, and by the end I was feeling very done with winter, especially as I was crouched over the piano in my unheated music lair one night experimenting with the kind of loops and sounds I’d heard on Jeffrey’s CD. As it got later, and colder, the recurrent drone coming out of my speakers and the deepening night created kind of a trance state, and the first verse of the song came steadily into focus, with the last two lines feeling especially right.

Categories
Under Strange Skies

Katydid

lyrics

katydid

what she did they won’t tell me

katy lies

underwater/fast asleep

fast asleep

dreaming deep

and are you fast enough to fly away

when the time for you comes?

are you still so young to take your wings

so close to the sun?

and when the wrecking ball finally comes for you

when the hour for you comes

will you go quiet or will you cry

that it’s not your time?

butterfly

flies in circles over me

butterflies

live a day/then they are free

then they’re free

she’s nothing to me

and are you fast enough to fly away

when the time for you comes?

are you still so young to take your wings

so close to the sun?

and when the wrecking ball finally comes for you

when the hour for you comes

will you go quiet or will you cry

that it’s not your time?

katydid

what she did they won’t tell me

katy lies

katy lies

and are you fast enough to fly away

when the time for you comes?

are you still so young to take your wings

so close to the sun?

and when the wrecking ball finally comes for you

when the hour for you comes

will you go quiet or will you cry

will you go quiet or will you cry

will you go quiet or will you cry

that it’s not your time?

story

Unbelievably, Katydid started life as a sprightly lullaby for small children. How it transmogrified into a somewhat morbid semi-raga I don’t know. Songwriting is weird that way.

Categories
Under Strange Skies

The Captain's Daughter

lyrics

stowaway / for a year and a day

sail the ocean wide

shook the dice cup / my number came up

mama stood and cried

yeah mama stood

they made me sign / they said choose a line

the slaves against the fools

a man with brains / holds on to his chains

obeys the golden rule

obeys the golden

stay away from the captain’s daughter

walking on wine made from water

uncorked on the sly

and they tell me the ship is sinking

but I’m going down drinking with a

toast to the sea and the sky

throw me a line

left my post / off the skeleton coast

once the madness passed

under strange skies / I’m traveling by

the star I keep on the mast

the star I keep on the mast

now I been flailed with a / cat o’ nine tails

keelhauled off the bow

but all this I swear

just doesn’t compare

with the plank I’m walking now

with the plank I’m walking

I got it bad for the captain’s daughter

walking on wine made from water

uncorked on the sly

and they tell me the ship is sinking

but I’m going down drinking with a

toast to the sea and the sky

throw me a line

stowaway / for a year and a day

I thought I knew the score

but how could I / have known I could try

but I’d never reach the shore

no I’d never make it back to shore

I’m staying here with the captain’s daughter

walking on wine made from water

uncorked on the sly

and they tell me the ship is sinking

but I’m going down drinking with a

toast to the sea and the

raise it up for the captain’s daughter

walking on wine made from water

uncorked on the sly

and they tell me the ship is sinking

but I’m going down

I go down drinking

I’m going down

I go down drinking

I’ll be going down

I go down drinking

all the way

captain’s daughter

I’m walking on

story

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!