Written, I think, around 1975. I was deep in the business of raising a young family, and quite possibly as a result, was feeling drained of all inspiration. As the writer Cyril Connolly put it "the enemy of promise is the pram in the hall." And so, for the first time, I decided to see if I could set someone else’s words. The obvious place to look was, of course, my old friend Hugo. He was not then the renowned poet he was later to become, but a struggling young writer. Surely he had some spare words lying about? He most certainly did, and the songs started to flow. I’m pretty certain that this was the first one we completed.
Trying to Turn the Calendar Back
One from the late 80s/ early 90s. Written in Dave’s house in the south of Paris. Actually, it was a converted tailor’s factory, exactly how you would want to live as a bohemian writer, filled with old bullfighting posters in honour of Hemingway, and an ancient pool table. As I was filming a great deal in Europe in those days, mainly in Prague, it was easy to route the ticket home via Paris. Wonderful memories, which came to an end when David had a stroke and I was convinced we would never write together again. Miraculously that turned out to be wrong. Some our best work lay ahead of us, but that was the end of the house, and with it, the end of a wonderful chapter.
One of mine, a rare moment of inspiration in the middle of child rearing. Chad and I made a demo of this, in the style of Jerry Lee Lewis, much boogie piano from Chadwick. The thing about setting lyrics by someone else is, of course, that the work rate really picks up. Suddenly you don’t have to think of a subject to write about. And when I first opened Big Dave’s Bottom Drawer, it was like entering Aladdin’s cave. So much material, so many ideas just needing a tune. Without that, I might have managed the occasional little number. Like Bellhop.
As some of you will know, Chad and I were offered a record deal in the early 80s. A small label in Orange County, California. Name of Rocshire Records. My marriage had ended…I loved working with Chadwick…time to head West.
Meanwhile Rick Jones was also starting a new life with Valerie in LA, and so Dave Pierce also decided to join the gang. It was not a success. He hated driving, there wasn’t a Deli nearby, and he longed for Paris. This lyric sums up his feelings at the time. Then the FBI arrived at the door of Rocshire, closed it down, and made several arrests. End of dream.
Another one from Hugo. Mid 70s. When I started to think about recording this version, we discussed the lyric. "Happy with the name Jennifer Brown?" said Hugo. "Love it" said I. As it I happens I know a Jennifer Brown, but it’s entirely made up. Interestingly, both Dave and Hugo mention Lassie. "Why didn’t Lassie marry Tin Tin Tin?" (Dave). "That Lassie bookend…" (Hugo). Once again, those 20th Century references.
Wings of My Heart
When I first looked through Hugo’s Bottom Drawer, an astonishing muddle of half finished ideas, there were of course a number of lyrics inspired by his deep love for Hermine. They are still married, over fifty years later. I suspect this refers to their early courtship. And naturally, there are many French references in his words. Entirely unsurprising, as of course Hermine is indeed French.
Hope to Hell
For the many years Rick and Valerie lived outside San Francisco, their house became the essential stopping off point whenever I found myself in the neighbourhood…any excuse to sit around the pool with guitars. On one of those visits I asked Rick if he had any spare words lying around. He produced Hope To Hell and I disappeared to a far corner of the garden. When I played him my version he said "well, I never would have done that". To which the answer is "that, Rick, is the whole point!" We always planned to write more together, but never seemed to the find the time. So there are only two of ours in the BDS sessions, this one and Lord, Save Me on BDS 4.
How Many Trains
One of the lyrics I found when I first went round to Big Dave’s house in London. Late 70s/ early 80s. Like so many of his words, there is a definite feel of an old black and white movie. Clouds of steam on the platform. Everyone wearing hats. And of course no mobile phones. I nearly dropped the bit about "Straighten your tie" but decided eventually to keep it because it had such a lovely period feel. I have such memories of waiting for someone on a station platform, not knowing whether one’s friend was on the train. Nostalgia is all very well but modern communication equals less anxious moments.
I Don't Want to Hear About It
With his love of 30s and 40s classic songs, David would occasionally throw in what is apparently known as the verse…a sort of prologue before you get to the actual tune. It was a kind of challenge , to see if I could write in the old style. Well, challenge accepted, Dave. There was always this element of teasing each other to see if the other guy could write in a different style. Look, Spot, Look on BDS4 is a good example. "Bet you can’t write a tune about a dog called Spot". Challenge accepted, old boy! But this song is a definite & deliberate throwback to an earlier time. Set ‘em up, Joe.
A while ago I said to Jo "I think we need someone who can play that choppy funk style, in the manner of Nile Rogers, or any of the later James Brown tracks". And he immediately called Tim Maple, funkmeister supreme. So in came Tim & over the course of one day he put down some gorgeous funky licks which are now starting to appear in the remaining Sessions. Thanks, Tim…
Shall We Dance?
The retirement song. Or at least, one of them. "Kiss on a bridge crossing the Seine"…once again David’s beloved Paris. In the past few years, so many lovers kissed on a particular bridge and then left padlocks attached to the railings, that the weight became dangerous and the authorities started to remove them. On one of my trips to see Dave I went to look at them. An astonishing sight. Have I kissed on a Paris bridge? I’m delighted to report that I have. A lovely memory.
The Moment I Saw You
One of two songs I wrote when staying at Chad’s place in Encino, California, in August 1970. I was on holiday after doing a play, Conduct Unbecoming, in London for a year, and now on the way to Broadway. It was great to be back with my best friend & his family, not worrying about acting for a moment. And then I met a beautiful woman on Malibu beach & fell madly in love. This song is the result. We later married and had children and sadly did not live happily ever after. But our children are wonderful and a blessing. The other song written in that brief holiday will be appearing on BDS 7.
I found this in Hugo’s drawer, clearly a blues form, probably written for his pal Wilco Johnson. As Wilco hadn’t used it, I had a go. From the mid 70s.
For those of us who have been though a divorce, this is a killer. Brilliant lyric but hard to hear…" fom the kid’s room, not a sound". Written in Paris in the 90s. "Days go too fast. Nights go too slow. Loves never last. Wonder why, anyone know?" So good. So true. As Rick used to say… "Pierce, on a good day… no one better".