Resist!

I wrote this song in 2016 in response to a darkening world. I have always resisted injustice and inequality. Now more than ever!

Somebody asked me a short time ago 
"Where are all the protest songs?" 
I thought about it long and hard 
How we gonna right this wrong?
I thought about my place in this world 
And what we're going to leave our grandkids
Looking at me so curiously
Asking me "what we did?"
Time, Yes it's time
Time to resist
Time, yes it's time
It's come to this
Big fat bullies in a china shop
Running amok with their lies
Breaking all truth and beauty
They're Pigs to loathe and despise
'Cause There's no room for billionaires
Laughing on their gated thrones
Greedy dragons basking in their lairs
Feeding on people's bones
Time, Yes it's time
Time to resist
Time, yes it's time
It's come to this
They Promised to return to a better time
A time that never really was
They fooled the folks with alternate facts
Lies that re-enforced their cause
They dumbed it down for the disenfranchised
The narrow-minded, bigots too
Wrapped in the flag, pretending to be holy
But What the hell would Jesus do?
Time, Yes it's time
Time to resist
Time, yes it's time
It's come to this
Their Contempt for women and veterans
Mexicans and muslims too
Cutting off food, the arts and education
Next they'll be coming after you
So take your anger to the streets
Yell at them and shake your fist
Never give in 'cause you know it's wrong
You know you have to resist
Time, Yes it's time
Time to resist
Time, yes it's time
It's come to this

The Visit (Up To You)

I like to refer to sudden inspiration as “The Visit”. When I get visited I try to be welcoming and open even when the visit comes at an inappropriate time (4a.m.) or place…driving…on the bog…. 

I am fortunate to be in tune with these visits from the ether. If I ignore the visitors, they do go away and take their gifts with them. I enjoy my solitude, but I don’t ignore them anymore. I write or record the inspiration as it comes and drop whatever else I am doing.

Obviously with not much taking place during the pandemic lockdown, I have the time and space to do so. I was visited by this particular chord sequence in a chunk…. the lyrics flowed after I improvised the first line. The visit was short and sweet and yielded the  following song:

may 21, 2020.
Sometimes you get the visit 
Sometimes you don’t 
Sometimes it’s exquisite
up to you If you will or if you won’t

some things you can prepare for
Other things are beyond our control
The secret is in how you handle it
up to you to hold or drop the ball
How many times were we too tired
Missing out by not looking up
Wasting time preaching to the choir
Dragging our feet and running Out of luck
Some days are not what they seem
You think you’re awake, but it’s a dream
Some paths are just so obvious
up to you If you’re doing or being

I Don’t Want To Wear A Hat

I met up several years ago with my good friend Terry to catch up and just enjoy each other’s company over a cup of tea. As we settled in to our seats he asked me how things were going? At the time my life was seemingly spinning out of control. I had a mother who was fading away and who lived several hours away. I had a teenage daughter who was struggling with life, another teenage daughter who wasn’t, but felt neglected. My job was stressful, and my boss was Narcissistic. My marriage was straining (actually failing) and my art was suffering. I said; “I wake up and put on my Dad hat, I drive to work and put on my teacher hat, I come home and put on my husband hat, there were many more hats, but you get the idea. He said “Sounds like you are wearing too many hats!” which was true. He then asked “How are your migraines?” to which I replied “Worse than ever!”. He said “Maybe you should take off a few of those hats!”. He was right, of course.

The thing is, we wear hats to define ourselves. Nothing says “British Banker” more than a Bowler. Cowboy hat on a musician means you aren’t listening to Jazz. A beret means you are artsy (or a fascist). Work hats are obvious. A uniform. We often wear hats just to fancy ourselves up. Hats are an accessory that people notice first (unless maybe you have no nose, are green, or naked). Just the other day someone asked me “Which one is Ted?” and I said “the guy with the Peeky Binders Hat”. I didn’t have to describe any further. Some hats we put on out of necessity like a helmet or a toque to protect ourselves. I have noticed that many people who are balding or bald wear hats to lower the glare or frame their face.

The good thing about most bald men that I know is they have nice shaped heads. Baldness suits them. My head is a block. If I were bald, they’d get out the pitchforks and torches and I would scare little children. I have a full head of hair which is nature’s way of protecting the aesthetic of the environment. My head is also very large (I was going to say “huge”, but that might be an exaggeration). My chiropractor was working on my head and remarked: “Ian, this is the biggest head I’ve ever worked on!” I replied “There goes my self esteem!”

I wrote this song shortly after my visit with Terry. It came out in one fell swoop. Plopped in my lap fully formed. I was quite pleased to have written something that sounded so balanced and catchy with so little effort. I performed it as early as July 2008 at The Yellow Door and another engagement in January 2009. Then I sorta shelved it because everything in my life came to a head and music became secondary to survival. I recorded a demo of it at home in 2010 (the xylophone sound is an Orff instrument I had borrowed from the school I was working at)) and I always intended to re-record it and put it out on an album. I returned to it last week and listened. I decided to master it on-line to see what that might produce. Lo and behold, I am very pleased with the result. The guitar and voice have a presence I was unable to access in my home studio.

Seeing as almost no-one buys music anymore, I thought I should let this song go. It is worthy of being heard. Best way is going to be a video. I asked some friends to submit some goofy shots. Here it is.

The greatest hat I ever wore
Kept my four corners warm
Sheltered me from every storm
Man, I miss that hat!

Some hats are too loose
Some hats fit too tight
Some hats I get to choose
But nothing seems to fit right

I don’t want to wear a hat
The ceiling’s low and my head’s too fat

I wear a hat when I go to work
Another when I get home
I wear a hat when I’m out with friends
I even wear one when I’m alone

I can’t remember when my head was bare
Since I was young, there’s always been something there
Always on the go, always on the do
Always trying to try on something new

(chorus)

When you wear a hat it’s hard to dream
If you’re a dreamer your head will be splitting at the seam
Cause if your head’s too big like mine is
A hat’ll just confine this

If I gotta wear one, make it fit
Not just my head, but what’s in it
If I gotta wear one, make it cool
I’m tired of changing hats like a fool

(chorus)

In god’s house I try to keep my head bare
But prayer caps and doer caps keep slipping up there
I wish I didn’t care
What hat I wear when people stare

(chorus)
I think it’s pretty unfair
I just want to feel the wind in my hair

Empty Rooms

Revisiting troubled times is always fraught with danger. All of the “what if”‘s and “could have been”s return to the conscience. A home is a place to alter to your tastes and fill with familiar objects and keepsakes that provide comfort. Today I was finally getting around to some of my music that had been neglected if not downright forgotten and I rediscovered “Empty Rooms” and remembered the walk through video (at the end of the blog) I took of our sold house the day before the possession date. Shattered dreams and failure overshadowing the happy times and the delight of raising two wonderful children. But, to quote the Bacharach/David song, “a house is not a home”.

The music started out (I am not sure of the year) as just a guitar piece on electric guitar using a volume pedal to eliminate the attack of each note and/or swell the chords (with Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen on cymbals). I still intend to record it that way some day.

I do remember that I was very inspired after seeing an Art exhibit by Brian Eno at the “Galerie Lavelin” in Montreal called “The Quiet Room”. The article below describes the exhibit very eloquently and saves me the trouble of doing so as well. https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/arts/brian-enos-quiet-revolution/article1117765/ Funny how in my mind the exhibit was called “Empty Rooms”, but I digress.

The poem came to me in the dark one night several years later while I was laying emotionally wounded on the wooden floor (visible in the video) and wondering what on earth I could do or should do about my seemingly impossible situation. It is not easy living on a volcano. I picked up the guitar and the song fell in place, distracting me from my misery.

I have recorded it several times, never quite satisfied with the result, and shelved it. My life now is vastly different from those times, so I never felt the need to express this pain anymore. Today, though, as I mixed and mastered, I finally heard it the way I wanted it so I added all of the ingredients together to make this little video. I hope it may be of some comfort to someone out there to recognize that there is light and shared experience beyond the bleakness.

The song
The walk through

Buttery Moon

I was going to watch my first born daughter (Ema Jean) launch her second CD (Room for Fascination) the other night and the moonrise on our way to the venue was spectacular. Sharon observed “look at the buttery moon!” which, in itself is a miracle because I am usually the one that points out celestial events to her. I looked at the moon and it was indeed buttery in at least two ways. The first way that I observed was a shininess, a shimmer on the almost perfectly round orb. The second sense was that it looked like a pat of butter. Not the square ones, but the round ones you might get at a higher scale restaurant. I loved the phrase. I like the rhythm of it and the fluttery, buttery, come whatery of it.

The evening was a stunning success. The concept for the album about her journey through some trials and tribulations and the execution of the music were inspired and inspiring.

Ema Jean emerging from her Chrysalis

You can hear and purchase Ema Jean’s music here: https://emajean.bandcamp.com/album/room-for-fascination

My daughter’s voice was indeed “buttery” in the sense of smooth and slippery and also in the sense that almost everything is better with butter.

I was determined to write a song called “Buttery Moon” and I picked up my guitar and the first chords that came out were Ami to Fma7 which is a favourite progression of mine and of two of my songwriting heroes (Bob Dylan and Neil Young). It is OK to trust that almost all chord progressions and melodies have been discovered before, yet can seem fresh and new like a newly built house that has the same design as the neighbour’s but has the individual tastes and decorations of home. Then the first verse spilled out in one splash. I went to bed with the wheels spinning about where to go next. Nada except lack of rest….

The next day I was sitting with my coffee and watching the action around our bird feeders in the backyard and I was struck by the simplicity and wonder of our natural world. A poem came out that fit the other song…Buttery Moon. How to reconcile this? abandon the first? store them separately in the notebook?

I took the dogs for a walk in the park and caught a snowflake on my tongue which reminded me of walking another dog in another park at another time late at night and another verse was born.

I realized that the three seemingly disparate songs were related somehow as they all came out of my imagination, but could not reconcile that they evoked three separate experiences and there were jumps in time of day and weather…. then I realized that they all did belong together as they all reflect gratitude:My daughter and her music (which was positive and thought provoking), The indoor and outdoor birds that bring me joy and peace while they go around just being birds, and finally, the sounds at night walking in the cold city in a Canadian winter. So many things in there: Family, wife, nature, sound, music, exercise.. all gratefully brought together under the Buttery Moon.

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My baby sang out last night from her Chrysalis

(E)merging from the shrouds of clouds like a buttery moon

glowing over the darkest nights of dissonance

Shining healing light on ancient wounds

buttery moon, buttery moon

buttery moon, buttery moon

shining healing light 

on ancient wounds

on ancient wounds

(There were a) dozen different birds out back today grazing on seeds

(in the) blowing snow they know where to go to fulfill their needs

bless their little souls they don’t complain

in the snow, sleet, hail or the driving rain

the driving rain, the driving rain

driving rain, driving rain

cleansing, washing away

residual pain

residual pain

(catching) snowflakes on my tongue in the cool crisp air 

(there may be) better places on this earth, but I don’t know where

(I hear a) rebound off the boards at the rink across the way

someone letting off steam at the and of the day

the end of the day, end of the day

end of the day, finding my way under the buttery moon 

buttery moon, buttery moon

buttery moon, buttery moon

shining healing light 

on ancient wounds

buttery moon

I Don’t Like It Here (Not One Wee Bit)

While travelling back to North Wales from London by tube and then Train I overheard a whiny little boy who quite clearly was fed up with waiting around in Euston train station. I wrote the words he spoke: “I don’t like it here, not one wee bit” in my notes folder. Back at the home where we were staying I picked up a guitar forgetting I had tuned it DADGAD. I grabbed what I thought was a D chord but in this tuning was a D7. The next chord (Bb) was just where the song went…almost like it was dictated to me. The words rushed out in a torrent as I channeled my own experiences of discomfort and imagining those of children with Autism who I have known. As I was writing it all down I was aware that I actually DID like it there. It was a beautiful experience to travel in my ancestral homeland.

Everything is noisy, no-one’s sitting still

I won’t drink the poison, I won’t swallow that pill

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

my clothes are feeling itchy, I need to take a shower

feeling itchy, snitchy, bitchy,  minutes seem like  hours

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

everyone looks worried and no-one looks around

scurry hurry worry, people driven underground 

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

we all know time is fleeting, time to beat the clock

time to miss more meetings, time to take a nature walk

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

(today) all the trains are running, but nothing runs on time

pacing, racing, chasing, I have no peace of mind

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

I tend to glorify the past I want time to stand still

but nothing ever lasts and nothing ever will

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

I feel ill at ease, like I don’t fit my skin

I need to be released, my patience is running thin

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

cooped up, locked, up locked down, locked out,

look out, look up black out, fed up

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

I don’t like it here, not one wee bit

They Lost Their Way

In 2014 I experienced my first Christmas in my part of Canada (Quebec) where there was no snow. If it wasn’t the first, then it was the first I was cognizant of. That was pretty weird, but it didn’t really hit me until I was returning from Arnprior, Ontario on New Year’s Day after a visit to my sister’s home. We were driving south east along the Trans Canada between Ottawa and Montreal and I saw Geese flying North. Canada Geese are usually gone at this time of year, and they go South. With Global warming/climate change a real and challenging threat to our existence this got me thinking about how muddled things are and how we have messed with nature, and how now nature was messing with us. This song arrived pretty much in a chunk. No real work involved. I don’t think I even had to erase a word or a line. I am not saying this to brag, but to underline that necessity is the mother of invention. Of course the next year had a ton of snow and I din’t sing the song. Subsequent years have been very different. The norm seems to have gone from copious amounts of snow to variable conditions. This year, as I write, there is rain and freezing rain throughout the region bringing the relevance of this song into focus especially as there seem to be more politicians abusing their privilege to encourage behaviour detrimental to our planet.

They Lost Their Way

I saw them flying North today

A sight for April or for May

But today is New Year’s Day

I guess the geese have lost their way

There was no snow on Christmas Day

No jingle bells no one horse sleigh

No more laughing all the way

Not just the geese have lost their way

It’s not just tradition dying

Canada Geese should not be flying

What a way to start the year

This warming filling me with fear

I saw them flying North today

The lakes are open and the fields are grey

But today is New Year’s Day

I guess the geese have lost their way

They used to know instinctively

When to arrive and when to flee

They’d hit the air and form a  “V”

They knew exactly where to be

It’s not just tradition dying

Canada Geese should not be flying

What a way to start the year

This warming filling me with fear

The patterns of the centuries

All disappear when the lakes don’t freeze

So give me ice and give me snow

And geese who know which way to go