Updated: Jul 25
In my last blog, we covered the bookends of Bait & Switch. As I said, I had only two songs for Phil to review. And that left me thinking, "How many songs should there be?" I figured 13 songs would be a good length. Since 13 is an "unlucky" number, I tempted fate. Besides, I wasn't even sure I could write 1 more song. Nothing to lose.
I thought very hard about how to put 13 songs in motion. Two were in the can. But:
1. I had no idea what I was doing
2. I had no experience producing CDs
3. I was old and over weight
4. I couldn't sing well
5. I had no band (no tour)
I left authenticity to my childhood and teen experiences. I hated school and my teen years a lot. My family life was a mess. Everyone had something to take, and nothing to give. Friends were few. I was socially awkward. While I took some pride in being more clever than the "good students" that surrounded me, for the most part school was boring. Half the time I didn't even study, or do homework. I hated math, and reading. I hated filling in those standard tests. All the schools ever wanted from me was to get good grades and get a job. They wanted little, well-behaved, assembly line workers.
When I was a kid on the farm, my dad rescued a fox, Dolly, and later a crow, Christopher. See the fox and crow above? What do you think they have in common? They are trickster spirits. The fox (Kitsune in Japan) are well documented tricksters (9th century CE). The crow has deep roots in aboriginal and native American folklore as a trickster. Is it a coincidence we helped these guys out? Or is there something else behind it?
My dad and I also rescued a raccoon in the winter around 1975, (Azeban Native American). As it turns out, I have a cardboard cut out of Rocket (Guardians of the Galaxy) on my studio wall. I never really thought about it until I started looking at my childhood imagery. These tricker spirits are still around me. And that gave me incentive to dig into my childhood even more.
(I digress) My dad would often criticize trappers. He said it was torturous and cruel. I not only agree with my father on this, but agree trapping should be illegal. It's not hunting. Matter of fact, it takes no skill at all.
This one raccoon we set loose together in the winter already hat its tail missing, and it changed the way I see things forever. They'll gnaw off a limb just to get loose. They look all cute, but when faced with trauma, they'd rather chew of a limb, than get stuck in a trap. And that my friend is the definition of resiliance. It might be painful, but it's better to live your life free than live in a trap.
In Marvel Comics, Rocket sums this up nicely. Don't mistake his sensitivities for weakness. He might be a tortured cybernetic life form, but he's often the smartest guy in the room. He's pragmatic and tough. And just to finish it off, he'll pull some kind of prank (like say he needs someone's robotic leg for a jail break, when he was just kidding).
(I regress) So, back to the song. Musically, it is whimsical. It starts with ukulele, and a flute. Then electric piano, then bells, then guitar. All the while interweaving melody and harmony. At the second verse, I added strings. It slowly builds up with a full brass ensemble at the end. The gag is over before you know it. And if you've heard it, I hope you ask how I pulled this off. I'm just some guitar player. And I have no formal education in music. I can't even read the stuff. So, it was fun to monkey around with these interweaving melodies.
Still, it references the one thing I've grown to respect in my adult life. Life is right under our noses. Music has always been under my nose. It's in my nature. So, I embraced it. I didn't let my limited education stop me from experimenting. I put all of this "education" behind me.
(I digress again) I'm not saying we shouldn't be educated. What I'm saying is a formal education is fake. It's fake teachers, with no real life experience teaching us things they haven't really done. In school we learn a lesson and then we get tested. Real life isn't like that. In real life, we get tested and then we learn our lesson. And those lessons stick. That is why Jane Goodall is the world's foremost authority on mountain gorillas. Yet, she never went to college. Respect!
(I regress) Lyrically, I criticized formal education (so much for school and mathematics) As much as I love science, looking for life on other planets just to see if we're alone in the universe is vanity to me. This world is already full of life, and we treat those we share it with horribly. Before we go looking in the stars, why not look here, and take care of what we have here, first? This planet is a gift. And we take for granted.
So, through my child hood, I rediscovered my love for life forms we're surrounded by here. We love the critters on this beach, and so have become stewards of it. Life is magic.
But when I was I child, I knew it intuitively. My folks made sure I worked right along side nature. Wen I Wuz A Chyld was song number 3. It was placed at the top of Bait & Switch.
It took two weeks to write and arrange.. But once I got it, I understood my strength was in my childhood. I'm not sure anyone wants to be a farm boy, but for the first time I started to remember lessons I learned early on in life. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
I would continue to lean on this concept as the album progressed. I knew I had more songs in me. I just had to remember the little kid inside me, and where he got bloody noses along the way.