I gotta go now but I don’t know how to say goodbye I gotta walk out tall can’t go stumble and fall every time I hear your voice I gotta go
Who controls the creative process: the artist or the art? The origin of this song was provoked by the unexpected death in 2018 of my sister Cathy and the deep struggle my niece Anne suffered with this sudden loss of her soulmate and mother. I had the beginnings of a chorus – I gotta go now but I don’t know how, to say goodbye – and built it up from there. But the creative process isn’t that simple. We think we’re in control. We are not.
This song has morphed and evolved into a lament for all who experience profound loss and brawl with the process of letting go, … of family who pass, of friends who move away, of lovers who move on. What accounts for the shift in the song’s direction? I can’t explain that. Nor can I impose too many limits on what is bubbling in the creative well. When lucky enough to be inspired I need to let it move where it feels the pull and just try to give it form. I think that any artist understands that tension.
This demo was recorded over the past 2 weeks in Studio B, a.k.a. my apartment in Aix. I thought it was going to be an upbeat acoustic style with my Martin D35 guitar and a bit of piano. Hated it. The acoustic guitar tracks were tossed, the the playful piano piece deleted, and what you’ll hear is a style closer to 1960s era pop, like the Hollies or the Byrds. I always loved that jangly electric guitar style. I hope that you enjoy it as well.
To Say Goodbye will be rerecorded by my band The Vivid Stage in 2021 for the upcoming album.
it leaves me paralyzed I can’t look away I hold my hands up to my eyes but I’m blind and it’s too late it leaves me powerless to the brilliant blazing high the way she moves her summer dress leaves me paralyzed
La Rondalla was one of the best bars in San Francisco. It offered a harmonious Mission blend of local latinos, buttoned up hipsters, dykes wandering over from the Lexington on 19th, torn up punkers, hippies from the Haight, and just every day folks hanging at the dim serpentine bar, drinking high-octane margaritas under the year-around christmas lights, and listening to mariachis blow their soulful sounds from south of the border.
Big Tom Gold was my go-to drinking pal there. We’d amaze at the age range of the house band, a Mexican family led by dad on violin and the rest, 8-9 in all, strumming guitars, bowing on fiddles, or blowing their trumpets. Everyone sang. They were brothers, dads, cousins, or uncles.The youngest were under 10 and learning their craft. And that’s what makes this song interesting.
I wrote Paralyzed after a memorable evening at La Rondalla, and when it came time to record, … well it just seemed to scream for a mariachi treatment. I reached out to one of the top bands in San Francisco – Nueva Generacion – and started a discussion with the leader Eduardo about backing me in the studio. I came to learn that his group was the younger generation of the La Rondalla house band Tom and I would listen those many years before. Eduardo was one of those little tykes all sombrero’ed out and playing guitar with his dad and cousins. It is a small world. Eduardo’s arrangement on this song really brings the mariachi sound, and the musicianship is incredible. I hope you enjoy.
walking on a bed of coals I dive into the falls below I handle snakes and sell my soul anything for you cause you’re my baby you’re my babe
What do Adam & Eve, Tony & Maria, and Howard Marshall & Anna Nicole Smith have in common? They were irrational, dangerous relationships that confounded everyone in their sphere, … except the couples themselves. When you are willing to face the ridicule and scorn of friends and family, face all of the well-intended “what the hell are you thinking??” judgements, and the only real reply you can come up with is, “she’s my babe”, well then you know you have something worth fighting for.
Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello fame was invited to play drums on this track and it was his idea to give it a rockabilly spin. Jon Followes raves it up with a wicked flurry of lead guitar riffs, inspired by the original playing done by my good friend Wayne Ditzel, who played on the demo way back when. She’s My Babe reminds me of those great Blasters hits from the early ’80s, the golden age of LA-based rockabilly revival. I hope you enjoy it.
stay close to me don’t let go fingers gently whispers softly so close to me
Our modern lives run on hyperdrive these days it seems. Too few of us take time to truly appreciate the important things: a great meal enjoyed with close friends or family, a long but easy Sunday wander, getting caught up over a pot of tea, or resting warmly, intimately with someone we love deeply, … particularly after the main event. It’s one of life’s divine pleasures, but too often cut short as we rush off to rejoin the tedium of our daily quotidien.
Linger With Me was recorded at the amazing La Buissonne studios in Provence, France. Sony recording artist Daniel Mille brings his special genius on accordion and Laëtitia Costechareyre delivers the french heat purred sensually through the musical interlude.
This song also serves as an homage to Serge Gainsbourg, my favorite french songwriter of the popular music era and a man who never let an excuse for provocation go unfulfilled. I’ll be Gainsbourg and you Jane Birkin, linger with me.
lift me up don’t let me break don’t let me lose this life of faith I’m tough but tough ain’t enough
Physical pain can drop us to our knees. Emotional pain can too, and then so much more. It breaks us from within, aching the heart and stirring tears of anguish or fury. Sometimes we beg, sometimes we howl. Anything to cut the pain. Anything to stand again.
There are 2 opposing versions of How Hard on this record, placed at different points in the Last Night at the Ha-Ra story arc. I howl through take 1, a rollicking blues adaption backed by the Vivid Stage group. I asked Rie Sinclair to take a shot at the reprise version, paired with just a simple, sad piano and guitar arrangement. Her unique voice on the song is transcendent and tender. I won’t explain the song’s role in this rock drama. It’s not important. How Hard is meant as a psalm really for all of us in pain and asking why.
show me what you need spend my final dime then tell me you need more and I’ll glad turn to crime live my life by your design your wish is mine soon you’ll find that I’m mad
Mad is another pre-release from the Last Night at the Ha-Ra album. It is an ode to the rash and reckless behaviour that stems from a mad passion for someone, someplace, or something. At some point I think most all of us have considered it, some have embraced it, and if you have no idea what the song is about then you’re not diving deep enough. The original version, in a softer arrangement, was recorded on my 1996 LP Eskimo in the Sun and can be heard here.
David Bouet joined us on drums for this track, all the way from London! The piano coda played so soulfully by David Dower replaces the guitar on the original version. David, any chance you can come up with something sweet to replace my guitar track on that outro? I’d say he did in indeed.
put the needle in my arm let it drip and I’ll be gone in a fog of summer holidays then plant your kiss upon my head lay me back upon our bed and when I’m dead the love you see will never be strange
I have few fears, thankfully. Some of us spend much time suffering over the state of the planet, the incompetents in power, that mole on our back, how we are perceived by others. I do care, I just don’t dwell.
I will admit, however, to an uncomfortable fear of dementia. It comes down to the richness of life and a heavy dose of vanity. I know where I want to be interred, I know who I want at the podium and the music playing at that fateful fête (what’s on your playlist?), and I know how I want to be remembered. I don’t want to be remembered like that. No one chooses to be remembered like that.
Strange is another early release I’m sharing from the Last Night at the Ha-Ra album, sung by the character Reggie to his wife Daisy. There have been suspicions and now a prognosis, and he has asked her, the partner and true companion of his long life, to think about accepting this unthinkable favor.
Strange was recorded at La Buissonne studios in Provence in February 2018 with my Vivid Stage Productions group. Jon, David, and I played various instruments depending on the arrangement, and invited special guests to help create something truly soulful and melancholy. Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello and the Attractions joined us on drums, Sony recording artist Daniel Mille brought his sublime feel for the accordion, and Isabelle Cordier from the Avignon Symphony Orchestra packed her cello for the drive to Pernes les Fontaines, where we had hunkered down for a week of recording sessions.
Daisy am I looking grand ’cause your dazzling and we’re gonna shine in the bar light at the Ha-Ra leading the cheer out with the crowd singing our song out in the night tonight
Daisy is the opening track off the Last Night at the Ha-Ra album, just completed this summer. It’s a cabaret call to the night, a revelry to mix and mingle and shine, and to stop being “so bored with ourselves.” If it provokes you off the couch and out the door, well then I’ve done my job!
Daisy was recorded at La Buissonne studio in Provence, France with my Vivid Stage Productions group. Veronique Bourges of the Avignon Symphony Orchestra joined us on violin. The glasses clinking in the solo section were recorded at the Ha-Ra club in San Francisco, with the help of good friends and fellow drinkers Mike Sottak and Mike the Garbageman Page. The background chatter comes from the Lone Palm bar in SF’s Mission District. Both were recorded on my iPhone 5. Modern technology!
Click the orange button below for a listen. Please share with any and all who might enjoy enjoy. More coming soon.
you caught me, staring at the sun I was paralyzed, my trigger finger numb I had nowhere to hide, and no time to run from your bullet made of gold
I wrote a piece about heartbreak last September (click here to go there). It was a work of self therapy and reflection on the creative potential of painful experiences. We can let these things destroy us, or we can mine them as artists for the purity of raw emotion they bring to the surface. And we are all artists in one form or another, at one time or another.
Bullet Mad of Gold was the positive product of this difficult moment and I was lucky to have been so inspired. In the studio we decided on an upbeat Nashville sound for this downbeat story, with Jon twanging on a vintage Telecaster, David twinkling the ivories on an equally vintage Wurlitzer piano, Pete Thomas setting the tempo on drums, and me holding down the bass. Accordionist maestro Daniel Mille was with us in the studio that day and added a tasty french-western vibe.