Thursday, August 10, 2006

Suddenly, the world's just too damn old

Mountains come, mountains go

As a wide-eyed youth, I was always a sucker for songs like "Teen Angel," "Running Bear" or the Everly Brothers' weeper, "Ebony Eyes."

"Teen Angel" is pretty well known and its title is probably close enough to self-explanatory... "Running Bear" was about two young American Indians from different tribes, separated by their tribes' mutual animosities -- and a raging river -- who fall in love from opposite riverbanks and finally, overcome by love, dive in from opposite sides and perish in the rapids just as they reach each other. Makes me misty just thinking about it. Loved that hokey "Native American" tom tom beat that underlay the song, too. Bum buh bum bum. Bum buh bum bum...

The Everly Brothers' "Ebony Eyes" is more somber... but a mid-song monologue spoken in a shaky, post-juvenile voice by one of the brothers heads straight for the top of lugubriousness. Hearing it the third or fourth time as a callow youth may well have been my first turn toward cynicism. Even though I'd been a big Everlys fan as a youngster, I remember turning "Ebony Eyes" off more than a few times.

As I wrote in the post for the previous AYoS version of this song, the lyrics were originally written around '99 to go with a fast (142 bpm, if I recall) techno track from Deakin Scott, a young producer in Britain, who came across me on the web and wanted to collaborate.

Deakin didn't have any idea what kind of lyrics I should put to it.

I fooled around with a bunch of ideas and eventually pulled out my acoustic guitar (which was not first reach in those days), found myself playing a classic rock 'n' roll progression (I-vi-IV-V, for those who keep track of these things).

I came up with the first line ("Mountains come, mountains go..." -- which was inspired by a song in my favotire musical, the 1955 Kismet... " Princes come, princes go / An hour of pomp and show they know / Princes come / And over the sands, and over the sands of time they go..." [Forrest and Wright]) and it looked like it was going to be one of those "highest mountain/deepest ocean" things but then it veered off into tragic loss.

Now, I can't tell you why, but I have to admit that, embarrassing as it is, I find these lyrics strangely moving. They're far from an empty exercise in pop formalism to me. I guess you're really not supposed to admit that you're emotionally affected by your own lyrics but... well, there ya go. Call me a silly, sentimental sap.

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Mountains Come, Mountains Go

Mountains come and mountains go
but a love like ours will surely show
the stars themselves to be a fling
I've seen the End of Time
It's no big thing

The ocean deep is just a pond
I throw my coat for you to walk upon
The waves are tears that mist my eyes
The mighty wind is
just your sleepy sigh

When I sing to you the angels sing along
and yet I know there's something wrong
The sky above is in your eyes
and I know that means
you're lying on the ground

The sirens freeze my blood is cold
suddenly the world's just too damn old
the future fading in your eyes
time and space collapse
in one last sigh

Mountains come and mountains go
but a love like ours will surely show
the stars themselves to be a fling
I've seen the End of Time
It's no big thing

1999 08 01
(c)1999 TK Major

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Truck stop, french fries, ketchup on your cheek in the pale moonlight...

Truck stop, french fries, ketchup on your cheek in the pale moonlight

How many of us have the kind of memories we thought we'd have, growing up?

I remember the day I decided, once and for all, to find the malt shop. On bus trips and car trips through downtown, I'd kept my eyes peeled, convinced that I'd find that centerpiece of teen culture (that I saw on TV, in the movies, even in comics) among the other one-off exotica (a bookstore, a music store with sheet music, a fancy men's store with elevators... the height of the urban sophistication in a county that had gone from farms and orange groves to suburban tracts almost overnight in the postwar boom... sure there was a single elevator far in a corner of the new Sears, there seemingly for the panic-stricken escalator-phobes who would freeze in panic in front of the then-new-fangled electric stairways).

Surely, there must be a malt shop full of bobby-soxed and pony-tailed teen girls with their pompadoured boyfriends.

I spent most of a day riding my bicycle up one urban street after another. There may have only been two business drags downtown in those days (still are, come to think of it) but there were a slug of side streets, at least five or six with fingers of business running off toward the old, 20's and 30's housing tracts that trailed off toward the eastern hills. I went up one, down the other, peering into every storefront.

Several times I thought I'd scored.

There was an old fashioned pharmacy with a short counter. Not a teenager in sight. I stuck my head in anyway to ask if they had malts. No, came the answer. But the pharmacist might remember how to make a cherry phosphate. It sounded like medicine to me, so I moved on.

There was an ice cream parlor... part of what would later become a massive chain. And they did have milkshakes. They also had a no loitering policy aimed squarely at the very teen scene I sought.

I never found that malt shop.

But I kept looking for it and other iconic cultural landmarks I thought were my birthright.

Even after I was deep in my teens and knew full well that I was chasing fantasies, I kept looking. Getting a car in that long ago era when gas was cheap (a car with virtually no backseat, frustrating yet another teen fantasy, but one with, for the era, great mileage) meant I could extend that search out over wider and wider geographic areas.

I found myself driving for... sorry my environmental brothers and sisters... the hell of it, often deep through the night, crossing counties, driving ever eastward into the hills, then through them into the inland empire that lay between and beyond our low coastal mountains.

Eventually I found myself late one evening in San Bernardino... San Berdoo as it was more often known. It was a Saturday night. By then I had long hair and looked like the other body surfers I hung out with... torn jeans, faded flannel shirt, hiking boots.

So when I pulled into a drive-in truck stop diner with sullen, beehive haired waitresses teetering out to rows of parked cars on red high heels, thick hose disappearing into particularly unsexy red shorts (with matching vests) I felt like I'd finally found the space and time warp that would take me to lost but not forgotten dreams of my youth.

And, yes, there were teens.

Pompadored dudes, complete with cigarette packs rolled in left sleeves of sharp white T's and tight, pressed jeans, and pointed toe shoes. No lie.

The girls were... not the girls of my dreams. Instead of pony tails and poodle skirts they had thick masks of makeup, vampire eyes, and stiff, elaborate stacks of teased and ratted hair. When they'd get out of their boyfriend's lowered Chevies, it became apparent that few of them would soon be recruited as runway models. Too many malts, was my guess.

But I see the Rose of this song more as a girl from my earlier dreams... a pretty little thing just a few months shy of adulthood, her dark eyes filled with both love and passion, her small hands holding her boyfriend tight, her trembling lips seeking his.

And I see that boyfriend -- the singer of this song, if you will -- filled with passion of his own... longing -- and a primal, terrifying fear of the fiery love in this young girl's eyes.

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San Bernardino Rose

San Bernardino Rose
I am so alone
and there's so many bad things
Bad things I have done

I know that you're barely a woman yet
hope you'd come to understand
San Bernardino Rose
I want to love you
I need to be your man

Truck stop French Fries
Catchup on your cheek in the pale moonlight
I hold you you kiss me
I know it's wrong when it feels this right

I know that you're barely a woman yet
I'd hope you'd come to understand
San Bernardino Rose
I want to love you
I need to be your man

(C)1990, TK Major

Sunday, August 06, 2006

let's be hypnotized

Meet me in the world of lies...

There are lies. There are damnable lies.

And there are pretty lies you want to live inside forever.

You want them whispered to you. You want to hear them in your dreams. You want to find them scribbled on notes and stuck on the refrigerator in the morning.

And when they're just a fading, bittersweet memory... you long to hear them again -- one more time.

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Meet me in the world of lies
let's be hypnotized...

You know that love
is just a foolish game
it always fades away
I know that you won't stay
but at least you're here today

Meet me in the world of lies
let's be hypnotized
Something in me
every time a dream slips by

I know that I'll always be alone
I know life is just to die
a wise man gives up the world
but I guess I'm just not that wise

Meet me in the world of lies
let's be hypnotized
Don't let this dream die
meet me in the world of lies

Summer 1983