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.
In 1999, I collaborated over the ‘net with an English techno kid named Deakin Scott. He’d heard my trip hop stuff on the old mp3.com and he asked if I wanted to write a vocal part for a 140 beat per minute mix he was working on.
He emailed me a work mix as a guide. I listened over and over, playing with different ideas. Finally, in frustration, I picked up my acoustic guitar and started hashing out some classic rock and roll chords, unrelated to Deakin’s music.
There was, in that first exploration, a kind of teen angel sort of vibe and when I surrendered to that vibe, the lyrics below pretty much came out whole. They play off the teen tragedy vibe, focusing on the protagonist’s feelings in the moment of loss.
I don’t mean to trivialize the emotional resonance of the lyrics for me, though, at all. I really wanted, in my small and clumsy way, to explore the tragic beauty of love and inevitable loss. But… see… you can’t talk about that. Or it sounds like, well, that, and, yet, is simultaneously somehow too personal. So I like the ironic distance afforded by reworking a classic form.
The chords I came up with are reflected in the version below, for the most part. The delivery to Deakin’s 140 bpm music precluded conventional singing, so what melody there was was somewhat irrelevant. Nailing the lyric rhythmically at that tempo was challenging, but after much work I came up with a set of vocals I could really live with.
I emailed them the vocals (bare and attached to his mix as an example/guide) with careful instructions on how to set them on the beat in the mix, since there’s a fair amount of syncopation. Somehow, those instructions must have got lost.
Deakin’s music sounded even better than the guide track I’d worked with — but the vocals I’d sent him were dropped in just a tiny bit off the mark. I explained my concern to him, but he said he’d fallen in love with the mix just the way it was (which I usually take to be code for I’m working on my next project, shouldn’t you?) Anyhow, I can’t make my mix available for download, but broadband users can hear it here (or at the link below).
You’ll find a link for a ‘studio version’ as well — that’s my music and vocals — and while the chords are essentially those I use in the AYoS version, here, the production and arrangement are considerably different… so three three quite different versions.
Today’s acoustic version:
Deakin Scott/TK Major (TK’s Mix):
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