Marilyn..anatomy of a song

I had planned to stop writing songs after completing the four albums I had planned, and I have stopped.  But whenever  a song stimulus arises, my brain starts to organize material pertinent to that inspiration.   So, while watching with my daughter the Moscow Ballet dance the Nutcracker, it was as if somebody had typed the keyword Nutcracker into my Google Brain Songwriting App.  When the ballet ended and i was spooning lunch into my daughter mouth while she watched a Mr Bean cartoon, I grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled several stanzas about this and that without thinking. After returning home after taking my daughter to preschool, I picked up the guitar started playing it without any thought as to what I was playing, and then sang then  lyrics I had scribbled down without regard to form or melody.  I turned on the tape recorder and sang it again, then added a couple guitar parts and some effects.  On playback, I found  there were several things that didnt work, so I went back to the dining room table and did a quick rewrite, then played it again.  For the first take, i had added some guitars and effects, but the guitars were too loud and the song wasnt presnt enough, so this time I changed the mic placement and didnt add any effects or second guitar  parts. That is the version here.

Now to the way the brain works when it does all the work in writing a song.  We dont usually think of the brain working in isolation to manufacture creative work, although it is commonly accepted that people in other lines of work can perform their tasks without giving them any conscious thought.  The brain, however, does not discern between creative and menial tasks, and, if an idea for a song enters it, it will go about the work of composing that song, whether its owner is willing or not to assist.  So here is the mental process that went on without my consent as my brain scanned its memory for anything related to the Nutcracker Suite.

My lifetime friend and former songwriting partner Rob Cook  was the rehearsal pianist for Seatlle Ballets 1970s era productions of The Nutcracker suite.  Marilyn, a dancer in the company, was in love with him. as were most of the dancers.  When they were not rehearsing Rob and I  used the rehearsal studio to work on our own music and once the dancers found out about it, several of them started to come up and hang out while we worked.  So I got to know many of the ballerinas pretty well, including Marilyn, who wanted to get in good with me so I would speak highly of her to Rob.   At some point I moved about 20 miles out of town to live on a farm so when I came into Seattle, I didnt have a steady place to stay. One day Marilyn found me in a coffeehouse, scratching my pen on a piece of paper and looking frustrated.  She asked if I was ok and I said I was, except I had a song trying to get out and had no place to write it. so she invited me to come to her house and write it.  so I did.  The years passed. I moved to Boston for 17 years and upon my return to Seattle ran into Marilyn,  In the course of our catching up conversation, she said she didnt dance any more but still worked for the company in the costume department and was designing leotards on  the side, which she hoped they would buy from her.  so that is essentially the story the brain extracted from me.

Where do the Rolling Stones come in?  Well, I was putting together a heavy metal band called Sexualicatus Rex with a guy from Bath, whose brother was the tour manager for the Rolling Stones Steel Wheels tour.  Our project was interrupted when his brother offered him the position of Mick Jaggers personal attendant. No i suppose my brain knew it had to find an event to split up the dancer and the pianist in order to insert a time passage elision, so it pulled out the file of the band that didnt happen because of the rolling stones and made the substitutions.

The spaghetti sauce?  During the Nutcracker era, I used to visit five Sicilian sisters who lived together in the neighborhood with their mom and dad, and someone was always making spaghetti sauce, so my brain realized it needed to get Marilyn out of the room while the pianist wrote the song, and accessed that  memory.  And so the process continues, with or without the guy holding the guitar who claims authorship.

And so ends my example of my songwriting process, and why I wite so maany songs and do it so quickly.  Oh, and it wasnt until today, when I typed out the lyrics, that I see that so much of the song is Marilyn speaking.  I never thought of that at all while writing the song. Neither did I remember Lanis, my teenage heart throb, who was a ballet dancer without a future because of her large breasts.  Last I heard, she was married to a guy named Hank, running a heallth food store in California.  But I never thought of her as my own Marilyn, but I imagine my brain had her in its sights the whole time.

listen first , download for free if you like it.  click on link below.


I had a song in my heart
But no place to put it down
Marilyn took me home
She said, ”There is a piano in the living room.
I will be in the kitchen
Making sauce for the spaghetti
Call me if you need anything”I wrote my song and I sang it for her
And she danced my song to me

I played piano for the ballet
When they danced the Nutcracker Suite
Marilyn was the prima ballerina
And Marilyn was in love with me

I went on tour with the Rolling Stones
Played some boogie woogie and blues
But my opening act wasnt going over so well
So Im back on the corner, still paying my dues

I ran into Marilyn just the other day
She told me she was still with the company
I asked when she woud be performing next
She said, ”Those days are far behind me.
Im working in the costume department now.
They say Im the best seamstress they ever had.
Im working on designs for a new style of leotard.
Im lucky to still be living the life that I had. ”

I had a song in my heart
But no place to put it down
Marilyn took me home
Said, ”There is a piano in the living room.
I will be in the kitchen
Making sauce for the spaghetti
Call me if you need anything”

So I wrote my song and I sang it for her
And danced my song to me
Marilyn danced my song for me
Marilyn danced my song back to me





9 thoughts on “Marilyn..anatomy of a song

  1. I like this post for a number of reasons. First, the music is good. Second, the lyrics tell a story. Third, you probably won’t like this, but, I enjoy your backstory more than the song. I guess I’m a words kind of gal, and your anatomy resonated with more than the music alone. You are a gifted storyteller. Your short bursts of memoir are fantastic. Combined with the music and the lyrics, the three parts to the post are memorable.


    1. i was answering your comment on 518 west roy when your comment disappeared. and now i cant find it, so i just wanted to clarify that the admiral was my fathers future father in law, not current stepfather. curiously, none of his children seved in the military. my he other hand, was a lifer in the navy. my mother was a teenager at pearl harbor during the attack, and had a lot of fun goofing around in prohibited areas. she told an exciting story about zigzagging in a submarine from pearl harbor to san francisco shortly after war was declared.


      1. i think i might have got that wrong. it makes more sense that the ship was zigzagging to avoid the torpedos from enemy submarines. what years were you in the navy,, where were you stationed, what was your rank and duties?


      2. That sounds more dangerous than a ride in the sub.
        I was in the Navy from 1981-1985.
        I went to Orlando for bootcamp and “A” School in San Diego. Then I was stationed at the northern tip of Scotand at a communication statione. I was an E4 Radioman. I used a teletypewriter and sent and received messages from subtenders and other ships that came to our area. I loved it.
        But I got out when when my first husband and I found out I was pregnant with my son. He was born in Scotland. This past summer (he is now almost 35!) went to London and Scotand with me on my group trip. It was a pilgrimidge for me. Now I want to be an ex-pat and live there. I forgot how much I loved the country and the people. Spending my days looking out at a loch with a fire, excellent Scotch, and the time to write my stories would be my idea of heaven.
        Sorry, probably a little too much information. You caught me in the middle of a school day wishing the weekend would arrive!


      3. during your navy years, my sister was stationed in millington TN, just north of memphis. she alsohad some training in orlando, which is where my doad retired after working for NASA on the space program and living in cocoa beach, were i lived with him in 1966. many launches we watched that year. your job in the navy sounds more intersting than my isters, which was primarily scraping batnacles of boats when she was stationed at virginia beach, where i also visited her. did you do any trainspotting while in scotland?


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