To Young…New video collaboration from Acousticmaddie (Sweden) and Bill White (Peru)

 

Acousticmaddie..lyrics and video

Bill White  music, guitar, vocal

 

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518 West Roy…anatomy of a song

 

compton-house-1906.jpg

 

 

listen to 518 West Roy, or download it for free, by clicking link below,

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/518-west-roy

 

I lived in a mansion  518 West Roy

21 in the 20th Century

Our dining room table was big enough for everyone

Who had come to the fair from every other where

And was boarding with us

 

Elvis Presley was strolling the fairgrounds

My sister said she saw him just hanging around

When the fair closed down, we saw Elvis in the movie

And the fairground ruins was our new playground

 

We played in the fountain and the monorail was free

Once a year on the fairs anniversary

Dylan and the Band played in the Coliseum

I bought an $8 ticket just to see em

Bumbershoot hit the grounds one Labor Day

It was free at first,  now its $100 a day

Back in 1962, for the fair you had to pay to get in

Two bucks for adults and a dollar for kids

 

There is no mansion at 518 West Roy any more

Just three blocks of condominiums

With no yards between them

A line of buildings where there used to be mansions

And I lived there

In a 20th century vision of the 21st century

The present of the past is bereaved

But all you thought you ost will be retrieved

 

 

Over a 35 year period,  Yasuhiro Ozu directed 55 motion pictures.  For the most part, each film told the same essential story.  So when we watch his films today, we are seeing the cultural history of Japan as it evolved through the years 1927 – 1962.

1962 was a pivotal year for me.  I had just returned to Seattle from South Dakota after living with my father after my mother divorced him.  At age 11, I had already made out with girls in movie theatres, eaten hamburgers in bars where men drank beer, was nearly buried alive in quicksand, stood over the grave of Wild Bill Hickok on Boot Hill in Deadwood South Dakota, wrote a 60 page essay on the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler, and waited for Old Faithful to gush in Yellowstone Park.  Now I was back in the city where I was born, but instead of the housing projects in Holly Park and Renton Highlands, I was living in a mansion on Queen Anne Hill, which had been transformed by  the Worlds Fair into a vision of the future.

My father was a gunner on the USS Enterprise during the war in the Pacific with the Japanese.  My grandfather was the Rear Admiral on that ship.  My father, a loudmouthed boozed up troublemaker, married the Admirals daughter. The Admirals wife was a flapper in the Roaring 20s, and he had her comitted to an insane asylum, where she died sometime after the turn of the century.   When the Admiral remarried to an heiress to a frozen food business in Californias Bay Area, my mother was taken in and treated like one of the new family.  But her marriage to my father resulted in her being virtually disinherited, and our family was the typical post war Boeing working class one that began in poverty and ended in middle  class subsistence.  Meanwhile the Admiral married a third time, this time to his gold digging secretary, and raised a third family in the luxurious digs of Mercer Island.

I go into this to explain how we wound up in that mansion on Queen Anne Hill.  After my mother and father divorced, the Admiral bought it for my mother to run as a bed and breakfast during the fair.

This song takes that place and tries to suggest how the city changed over the course of five decades by  observing the changing ways in which those fairgrounds have been utilized.  it is not exactly Japan as seen through the lens of Ozu, but it is Seattle as I experienced in from 1962- 2012, less the years 1982-99, when I lived elsewhere. And its just a song, not a history, not even a movie, let alone 55 movies…but I hope something of interest comes through this changing picture of a city from the persective of a house that no longer exists, and hasnt for several decades.

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.

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/marilyn

 

MARILYN
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

 

 

 

 

Billy Barnum, actor/poet/dancer Dead at Age 94

 

I just received word from John Voigt that poet/actor/dancer Billy Barnum passed away on July 25th at the age of 94. He studied dance with Mikhail Nikolayevich Baryshnikov and mime with Marcel Marceau.  He was the best actor I ever worked with, and I wish I had filmed his brilliant performance of my adaptation of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I do have a copy of our version of Antonin Artauds To Have Done with the Judgement of God, which also features John Voigt, who initiated the project. you can see it here…

 

 

Song of the Day #32 The Undisciplined Truth

Song of the Day #32 The Undisciplined Truth, Click link to listen or receive a free download https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/tr…/the-undisciplined-truth-2

Antonioni epanded the language of cinema and the world declared a state of boredom. Dylan expanded the language of rock and roll and received a Nobel Prize. Pollock dripped paint and all American artists began to drip. Warhols first soup can dripped, and when he was told he ddnt have to drip, another border was crossed. The trick in crossing borders in the arts is to go as far as possible without falling off the wall. This is the song of someone who fell off the wall, discovering that you cannot apply a discipline to the truth, but without discipline the truth is unapproachable. The knights of the round table learned this in their quest for the grail.

You cant cross in
Until the seal is secure
Wait unti they bring
The bark of the Jambu tree
It wil seal borders
And let you cross

You can push back
The edges of the frame
Just dont let the picture
Fall off the wall

How much is too much?
How far can I go?
Can I touch your knee?
How are gonna stop me?

I dont ask questions
Because I dont ike answers
Id rather believe things that are not true
Than know the undisciplined truth about you
Men kill for love
Women kill for hate
Sodiers kill to extend
The boundaries of State

I just pushed the picture
Past the edges of the frame
Til the signature is burned
And the world forgets my name

Shakespeares Final Hour

I got hooked on Shakespeare when I was fourteen years old, after seeing Richard Burton play Hamlet.  That play has been a lifelong obsession,  Ive seen countless productions, and directed my own adaptation in 1991 at Suffolk University in Boston. Some were good, some were not, but the play survived most of its mishandlings, at least until the 21st Century, when both the Royal Shakespeare Company and Englands National Theatre started incorporating the worst tendencies of North American stagecraft.  For the last several years I have watched Shakespeare go down the toilet until now, after enduring the ultimate insult of the Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet, I must admit we are in danger of yielding Shakespeares stage to the plebians of modern theatre. I was going to write an essay on Shakespeares final hour, but what would be the use? The only people who would read it would want to start a fight about it.  So I wrote a song instead, believing that people who listen to popular music are smarter than those who believe there is still life in the remnants of genius that are being cut to ribbons and sold in the market like the robe of Jesus Christ.

The greatest literary scholar of our time, Professor Harold Bloom of Yale University, has fought for the last 50 years to maintain the sanctity of Shakespeare, Dante, and the rest of the classical canon of Western Literature in the ever downspiraling curriculum of North American Universities. I had the plleasure once of seeing him walk off the stage of Cambridges ART during a debate with Carol Gilligan over Hedda Gabler.  He could not abide an audience that preferred her warped point of view over his classically trained mind.  So for all the work he, and his protege Camile Paglia, have done to defend the geniuses of antiquity against the mediocre minds of 20st Century  and 21st Centry Academia,   I have prefaced and epilogued this song which will conclude this group of songs written for my new album Lovestreams,  with a few words from Professor Bloom.

 

Click on this link to hear the song  https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/shakespeares-final-hour

Bill White introduces his new album Lovestreams, now available from Blue Tower Records

 

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/album/lovestreams

 

Although the lyrics tend towards the regretting of lost loves, the true subject of my newest collection of songs is regret for the losing of certain modes of communication The 21st Century has seen the death of cinema, the death of political and social discourse, the death of the novel, the death of the free press, the death of theatre, the death of education, and the death of tangible recorded music.   New modes of communication are replacing the old, and the new ones may prove to be superior to the old, but for the moment, hovering in the limbo between the big band era and the band in a box, the studio system that made Hollywood the ultimate movie making factory and the digital victory of television over cinema, objective news anchors like Walter Cronkite and pseudo empathetic political shills like Anderson Cooper.  The limbo between literature and the blog, the Globe Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, Cole Porter and the songwriting app, West Side Story and Rent,  the daily newspaper and Huffington Post,   the concept album and the downloadable single…..

 

To cite Duke Ellington as the primary influence on an album of fourteen songs written and performed by a single person singing and playing the guitar is a ridiculous claim, yet my intention with these songs was to express my own thoughts and feelings in a musical language that  is part of my inheritance as a human being in the 21st Century,  I am not trying to ape the style and substance of the American Songbook,  any more than I am imitating the English dictionary when I write my lyrics in the English language, but I am inhaling the past and exhaling the present.   Just because I carry an acoustic guitar doesnt mean I am one of Pete Seegers children. And just because I tell the story of a love affair doesnt mean that I am a lovesick fool in the pines brooding over some maneater who recites Jabberwocky at art opening.

 

I started work on Lovestreams because I was sick of people praising my lyrics and comparing me to Bob Dylan.  First, it is the music that is more important to me.  The lyrics exist primarily to give the music a literal shape. I take them very seriously while writing them, but am not thinking of them in literal terms while singing.    The writing of the music is an invocation of the lyric. The words solidify that which in the music is abstract.  The poetic grammer of letters is a key that opens the doors of abstraction so that the listener will better understand the music.  As for Dylan, while he had a profound influence on my decision to trade in my trumpet for a guitar when I was yet a student, I feel very little affinity with the sort of thing he writes and sings.  The commonality lies in our mutual infuences, from John Dowland to Elvis Presley, from the English troubadours to the delta blues, from the hymnal to the American songbook….

 

If you sample a song from Lovestreams at random, it is unlikely that you will find anything special in it.  I write an abum the same way I write a novel, and the album is meant to be listened  to from beginning to end, preferably when you are alone and wearing headphones.  Put this album on at a party and someone will take it off before the first song is halfway over. It is not a communal experience. This album is me singing to you…in private…one person to another….and just as you might dislike being approached in this way by certain stranger, you may well dislike my voice or what I am saying. These songs are not for everyone.  But I ask you to give them a chance before dismissing them.  This is not a virtual product manufactured to beautify your personal space, This is a real person singing to you.

Click on link to hear entire album, or select a single song from the list below https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/album/lovestreams