Rosalind and I spent a lot of time talking about “feelings” which I particularly enjoyed since I felt I was somewhat emotionally repressed. Since I was reading a lot of New Age stuff at the time, I channeled the language to talk about my journey. What’s interesting to me is that the song has an emotional component, at least I get that when I listen to it, particularly at the key change in the chorus.
Never actually met Cindy. My dear friend, Joey Goldman, told me about her and I started musing until she became my muse for this tune. I had been playing the guitar riff for a while (I think it came with the guitar, a classical that I had recently bought) and the lyrics followed as soon as I learned about Cindy. I’m sorry I never had the chance to play this song for Dave Van Ronk, as I think he might have been interested in it. He was certainly in my mind when I wrote it. The penultimate line is from The Iceman Cometh and for some reason was a line my father loved and frequently interjected into conversation.
This is a twist on the notion that there’s no point in fixing the roof if it isn’t raining, and if it is raining you can’t fix it or you’ll get drenched. I knew I wasn’t handling relationships all that well, and I suspected that I needed to be alone to figure things out, since the problem was almost certainly with me. But before I’d made any real progress, I’d meet someone new and that would be that.
My favorite song because it works so well. Not sure why I wrote this, but I remember sitting in my room in Goldensbridge and channeling it, playing on a classical guitar that I had at the time. Most of my songs are written, at least in form, for someone else. In the end, though, they’re mostly about me. And in this sing I cut out the middleman. I think of this song as me singing to my reflection in a mirror, and in fact, in my play Nomad, I have the main character do that. On this recording, Eric’s sublime flute playing really lifts the piece. The parenthetical title is the title I used to use for the song, the “toad” a reference to my lifelong identification with frogs.
I first met Danielle Gilman when I picked her up hitchhiking on Fordham Road in the Bronx. Our relationship was every bit as unlikely. We were lovers for a while, but we morphed into movie buddies, and she introduced me to the wonderful world of American Movies which we saw religiously each weekend at the Theater 80 St. Marks. I had been brought up mostly on foreign film but watching Astaire and Rogers with Danielle was a game-changer for me. There actually was a Margaret Elinore Chessington from Baltimore whom I met and had a brief conversation with around that time. I had no romantic interest in her but I thought her name scanned wonderfully well, it stuck in my head and emerged in this song. I played this song for Danielle; she was unimpressed (and I suspect did not like the way I portrayed her).
This song was great fun to write, is great fun to sing, but is a bear to play, so I really never performed it anywhere. Even recording it I ditched the guitar for a simple piano part.
I grew up with a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan and the influence of Gilbert’s patter songs can be seen here.
No recollection of where this came from, just that it was in the period I was seeing Rosalind, the late 70s, and it reflected the kinds of things we talked about. Another song rescued by an Elliot arrangement.
Typical of the self-bashing songs I was drawn to write at a certain point, particularly on my inability to get to my feelings. That was a big issue for me for a long time but my five years with Rosalind was a wonderful tonic for that. It was the only language she spoke and since I loved her I needed to learn it. These lyrics have a slight country flavor, since self-bashing songs are a staple in that genre. Can’t imagine that anyone would care but I channeled the theme from the film The Great Impersonation, written by my favorite film score composer, Heinz Roemheld, in the third and fourth lines of the song, and unlike what happened in other songs where I accidentally borrowed a theme, this was intentional.
I have no idea where this came from. It’s a weird mix of humor and pathos, and it never entirely worked for me. I never performed it and I don’t believe I played it for more than a couple of people. But again, Elliot made it a little more interesting and there are a few parts that I now find somewhat compelling.
In the period after Rosalind and I had split up, I wrote this song. I subsequently lost the lyrics and tried to piece it together from what I remembered. Years later I found part of the song written in one of my notebooks. This version is a combination of all that, but it’s still not what I originally wrote, which is a bit frustrating. And in any event, it doesn’t really reflect our relationship. But it’s fun to sing.
Early on in my marriage, Robin and I hit a bump and it was a while until we could find a mutual language to communicate in. This song was written during that time. The guitar part was me channeling the great guitarist Danny Kalb’s playing on Phil Ochs’ Power and Glory. It’s a bit beyond my grade level. Eventually, I got my lifelong buddy, Pete Wernick (aka Dr. Banjo, whose band Hot Rize has been performing for over 30 years) to add a banjo part to the mix.
I first learned about Theodore Roszak from listening to Margot Adler’s drive time radio show on BAI, Unstuck in Time. She talked about his book Where the Wasteland Ends, a book exploring the evolution of the counterculture, and I went out and bought it and soon thereafter wrote this song. If interested, you can read more about my history with Margot in the introduction to So Many Times Before, another one of my songs on this site also written for her. I particularly remember a phone call she received from a rather irate listener. Some of the older lefties that listened to the station often called to complain when the talk got too hippie-ish or New Age, and this guy was lecturing Margot that she had an obligation to instruct the younger generation. She took a beat and said: “I never really thought of this show that way. I just feel like I share what interests me and if a listener feels like he or she is “home” then the show is working.” That’s how I feel about all my writing and Margot gave me the context and the courage to believe that that was acceptable. I do miss her.
Written for Tina Jacobowitz to whom I was married in the mid-80s. Many of my songs are written when relationships have gone sour, this one was before the relationship started in an attempt to get it to start. I have to think it helped make that happen (although the result of that, at least for Tina, was not felicitous). I intended the song to be somewhat light in tone with a lot of wordplay and some humor. But when a friend who had never heard the song read the lyrics she commented on how beautiful they were. Not sure about that, but clearly no matter how lightly I intended to treat the song, my deeper feelings came through. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t drink, but I liked the image and the rhymes)