Saturday, June 9, 2012

On the 11th day of "pre CD release" Eric (via Leon) gave to me

I promise to get back to my random musings that have no relevance or connection to each other soon. But I'm so excited about the impending release of my new album, My Brother's Keepers, it's like Christmas for me. Due to that I decided to do a little something specifically pertinent to Christmas and the CD release.
Since there are 12 songs on the album I figured I'd tell you the inspiration or story behind the songs on "My Brother's Keepers" one per day until we get your lords a-leaping all the way to the partridge in your pear tree on June 21st. Sing it with me now.... "On the first day of pre CD release , Eric gave to meeeeee......"

"If Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right"

     My step dad, Leon, is one of the most remarkable people I've ever had the privledge to meet. I think he was the inspiration for the Dos Equis (Most Interesting Man in the world) guy. He is equal parts John Wayne and Larry the Cable Guy. His wealth of life experiences exceeds his years (he has been in 23 emergency landings as a test pilot in the Navy, he once stuck a gig completely through his foot while flounder and of course continued floundering for hours afterward before returning home because it was a "good night", and in 1954 he was in a Hula contest and won a mink bow tie for having the knobbiest knees. Getting the picture?). And the funny thing is , he is 82 years old and the guy shows no sign of slowing down. I guarantee that no one has ever squeezed more out of 82 years than he has. I could sit for days and tell tales about Leon but as to keep from getting off on anymore of a Leon story tangent I'll get to the point. Before continuing I just wanted to at least introduce him to those of you who haven't met him.

      This larger than life character, Leon, is a self admitted horrible singer. He prides himself on having been the only person so bad that he was kicked out of his Church choir (note: he also got kicked out of his high school choir but I'm guessing that's a more common occurrence).  Don't think for a second that his lack of technique stops him from singing in the slightest though. Quite the contrary. He sings every day. He will sing at the drop of a hat. Well he couldn't sing some previously recorded song. That wouldn't be "Leon". Instead he prefers to create songs on the spot. Typically his song topics are very stream of consciousness, i.e. "Juanita needs a cup of coffeeeeeee!!! So iiiiiiiiiiiii will go to the kitchen and get her some mooooooore". These creations were all once in a lifetime experiences (being as they were made up on the spot and never written down). Well eventually Leon realized the world was missing out on all these gems so he decided to archive them.

    Understand that Leon realizes he is not a song writer. But much like his singing......why would he let that stop him?

    For years now Leon has been getting my mom (much to her chagrin) to catalog his lyrical ideas for my potential use. I have binder after binder filled with nuggets like "I think I need to take a nap" or "Is it cold enough for a jacket tonight?" or "Juanita needs more coffee". These little snippets are just supposed to be ideas I guess but a lot of them are kind of hard to imagine as full songs. Anyway Leon loves writing them down for me (or rather getting mom to write them down for me) therefore I love reading them.

   Leon does his "songwriting" as he does everything....with his signature grin. But his "songwriting" stretches that grin wider than usual. I think this mainly due to the fact that this action reminds him of his childhood. It reminds him of his childhood, not because he ever wrote songs as a kid but because his favorite past time back then was teasing girls. With his recent writing he gets the thrill of being a young boy again. He gets the same exhiliration from pulling the girl's ponytail back then when he sees my Mom's disgust over having to write "then we went to get groceries and stopped at Zaxby's" in the "lyric" book.

   Again Leon is doing it for his own amusement, and it is obvious he has no false ideas that he is Bernie Taupin or that he will be accepting songwriter of the year awards. He just writes his song ideas because it gives him another project (plus he gets a kick out of annoying mom. In a loving way).

    Anyway, I always take the time and read every single line he or his "stenographer" writes for me. And oddly enough, it always helps to read Leon's song ideas. I will admit that some are much more lyrical than others (some are also just a phrase while others are more completed works).  But they all are far removed from my normal thought processes so if nothing else it gives me a fresh perspective when I get back to writing.

   Well one day I took a break and decided to brain rinse with a reading of Leon's latest song ideas. There was one song idea about brushing your teeth and one about picking tomatoes from the garden. So I was getting my usual entertainment. Then, right before I put down Leon's stream of conscious song ideas and got back to work I saw something. One of his entries said "If two wrongs don't make a right how many do?"

    My eyes got as big as saucers. Wait a minute. What did I just read? That was sheer genius. There is a real song......actually a really good song waiting to be pulled from that one. Before I had even set the notebook down I had already imagined the whole story in my mind.

    This little seed from Leon's song ideas book set up a perfect tale of an on again off again romance.  I could imagine the folks fighting and the girl peeling out of the drive way only to be trying to hook up again a few weeks later.

    My brother Wendell and I took Leon's idea and ran with it. We actually constructed the song fully where the couple meet again at a bar accidentally and sparks fly again. The first draft was different than the final result.

(some left out lyrics -
"I can't believe I saw you here.
A month's passed and we're both out.
Neither one of us remembers clearly
What we were ever mad about.

Baby, this bar is stale and dying.
The band sucks. Let's pay our tabs

I see you came here with your girlfriends
The boys I brought well they can catch a cab

And I pray to everything holy
That history truly repeats itself

Cause so far every time we have fought, we've made up
By making love like two people who are possessed)

After we made some revisions I feel like we ended up with a more concise story but those omitted lyrics let ya see where our minds were at.

   "If Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right" is one of my favorites on the album and it would never have come into existence of not for the crazy Leon.

   The legendary Leon, against all odds looks like he is actually inching closer to becoming a full fledge songwriter. Is there nothing this man can't do?

    Oh. Yeah. ........Sing.

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