As always, I have to point out the extraordinary playing of my old pal and collaborator, Mighty Jo Meacham. We have something of a competition with each album. Each time, the bar is raised a little higher. I think you will agree that once again he has surpassed himself. The man is a genius. We have been joined on this one by some other Mighty Talents. Ladies and Gentlemen...on the drums, Jamie Little! And featured on SuperFunk Guitar...Tim Maple! Earlier this year, Tim and Jamie were drafted in to sprinkle some funky magic on to a number of tracks, two of which appear on this album. The rest are still in the vaults, ready to amaze in the future. And so, inspired as always by the extraordinary lyrics of my friend, Big Dave Pierce, on to this collection....
Lady Wants A Gentleman
One from the early nineties, this was a favourite of Chad’s. Largely because there were harmonic possibilities. In this version, I decided to leave them out, mostly because I can never improve on his harmonies and also because in the original, written at David’s kitchen table in Paris, that was how the song first appeared. There was another verse...present her with flowers / on bended knee / be all those charming things / a prince can be. But neither David or I thought much of it, and away it went. The lines...and ever grow old, or turn away from a lover’s touch...well, they give me chills every time. The utter brilliance of David M Pierce.
This was one of the original lyrics that David showed me the day after we had met, at a party given by the great jazz singer, Annie Ross. Written in 1979, originally with Meal Ticket in mind. I love the way he managed to get all the old names for Broadway into the lyric. Great White Way, Mazda Mile.... I believe Mazda was a brand of lightbulbs, thus...letters of light. And of course, the Roseland Ballroom was the great Jazz and swing venue. Once again, there is more than a hint of the Forties and Fifties in the words. Chad and I recorded a version of this song on our Rocshire album in 1983. They insisted on changes to make it more, well, pop... Thus she was a Girl, not Gal. No Buffaloes, just long legged. One of the delights of the Bottom Drawer is to be able to present the songs as they were originally intended. That said, I have no idea what a Buffalo Gal is. Buffalo Soldier, certainly, but Gal? Answers on a postcard, please.
The Love You Left Behind
I can always tell which songs were written when, just because of the amount of words. As David became increasingly unwell, the amount of words decreased. Unlike Buffalo Gal, from the beginning of our collaboration, this dates from close to the end. I would get a few lines in an email, and then, laboriously, via Skype from Paris we would try and add enough to make an acceptable song. The upside of this is, of course, that Jo has to fill the gaps. Which he does, brilliantly. But even though this song had a difficult birth, Pierce can still amaze with a line like...Our future, like our fingers, intertwined....
I Never Knew That It Could Be Like This
The observant amongst you will now have noticed that once again there are comparatively few words, and will have deduced that this is a late work. You will also have noticed that Jo surpasses himself and; fills in the gaps with some astonishingly gorgeous playing. This song originally appeared in two unsuccessful attempts at a musical based on our catalogue, and indeed there is more than hint of that in the song. I seem to remember that in both cases it was sung by the heroine. However, by taking it away from the theatre and arranging it for acoustic guitars, I hope that this version works on its own. With a chap singing it.
Hurry Up Baron
One from the Mid Nineties. Paris. August. A hot evening, drinking cheap cold beer outside the bar on the Rue Didot.
ME. So what have you got for me in the old word department to start on tomorrow?
HIM. I haven’t got anything. Bit of a writers block.
ME. That’s no good. I’ve come all this way. It’s your job to come up with ideas. Its my job to set them. That’s the deal.
HIM. Well, as I said, bit of a blank, ideas-wise.
ME. Then write about someone round here. This place is filled with characters. What about him?
And at that point a guy on a bicycle appears, riding the wrong way against the traffic on a one way street. He has grey hair, worn in a ponytail.
HIM. Oh, round here he’s known as the Baron Of Lima. Le Baron De Lima.
ME. You mean, as in... The Finest Peruvian Flake? As in Drugs??
HIM. That’s right.
ME. That’s it then. Write about him.
And sure enough, as I was eating my croissant the next morning, I could hear Dave tapping away. And then handing me the completed words, before going upstairs to watch the sports channel on the TV. Funny old business, inspiration.
Some Small Town
An early one, the lyric intended for Meal Ticket. I suppose David’s writing partner Rick Jones never got around to setting it. Chad and I did versions of this, stacked with his superb harmonies. Once again, I decided to take it back to its original state. I always think of this as another of Dave’s Norman Rockwell songs, nostalgic for a world that was disappearing , just as he was growing up. In his case, in Canada. Perhaps in some small town. I have clear memories of places like this, seen from the windows of the tour bus in 1964, utterly unchanged. It’s odd to realise that Chad and I first arrived in America only two months after the Kennedy assassination. It still felt like the Fifties. And looked like it.
Once A Day Isn't Missing
I can usually tell the era that the song was written in by the font. Thus the 80s stuff is on a typewriter, 90s on a word processor, and after that in my writing as illness struck and I took over as scribe. With that in mind, this one is on a word processor, so...Paris, in the 90s. A great, productive time for us both. Big Dave was a master of irony. It’s what gives his words such depth. When I played this for Chadwick some years later, he didn’t quite get the joke, and I had to explain. Some lovely drumming from Jamie, picking up all the accents. And if it reminds you of Van Morrison’s Moondance, then all I can say is...pinch from the best.
That Autumn Night
Surprisingly, as there quite a few words, this is a later effort. I see I wrote out the final version in 2009, but I think we finished it a bit earlier. In later times, David was in the habit of writing poems/ lyrics in emails and sending them to his many friends, who may or may not have appreciated them. Sometimes there was the germ of a song, quite often not. The point is that true writers have to write something every day. And out of that torrent I would pick the occasional gem. Note the use of Autumn and Caught... the internal rhyme which he loved to observe. It wouldn’t work if it were Summer or Spring.
Very occasionally, Pierce would get All Poetic. It made him nervous and self conscious. No jokes, no irony to hide behind. You may remember Narcissus Moon on BDS 4. I had to assure him that it wasn’t an embarrassment. He used to share jokes with his old friend, Herbert Kretzmer. One day he showed me what ended up being the first verse...except it ended like this. “Just one more day in the life...of a Jew”. I had to assure him that, yet again, it wasn’t an embarrassment, except for the last gag. And surprisingly fast he comes back with “ Oh that’s easy... change it to Without You “. Looking back I now suspect that the original was indeed Without You, which he had changed to become another of his jokefests with Herbie. Thus not at all embarrassing. But now we needed another verse, if it were to actually become a song. Hours of work on Skype and in person finally produced results. When we started writing together, I spent hours cutting out excessive verbiage. When we ended I was badgering him to find more. And sometimes filling in the gaps myself. So, not only the tunesmith, but also the editor.
Rien Ne Va Plus
Originally a poem from one of David’s privately printed collections, it was then called Place Your Bets... a far more accessible title for those who don’t speak French. A word of explanation... Rien Ne Va Plus is what the croupier says in a French casino as he or she spins the wheel. Literally... Nothing Goes Any More. Or in other words, as you watch all your money disappear. One from the very early 90s which I then played for Chad. He loved it, added gorgeous harmonies and it then became a C&J favourite. However, somewhere along the line the title changed. Not that I mind, but it does present a bit of a problem in the USA, where French is not the second language, as it still tends to be in the UK. If only It were Spanish. Anyway, next time you find yourself in a French casino, you’ll know what is going on.
Lost In Love
If you are lucky enough to have a tame lyricist, all you have to do is to look long and hard at the words and wait for the penny to drop, so to speak. Well, obviously, this is from some lost 30s musical...an extravaganza involving white staircases and ocean liners and comic butlers. Just follow the words. So I did. Chad said he couldn’t believe this wasn’t from that era... a great compliment. I always used to make point of mixing it up when setting the tunes. Thus...just finished some steaming country rocker...time for a ballad...finished that...might be some reggae. And so on. Hint...don’t pick up an instrument to start with. Your fingers will just head for the same old changes. A walk and a hum can produce surprising results.
Ain't It Fun
Hooray...a clue. A little pencil mark at the top of the page tells me that this was written in 1982. So, in California. Chad and I had an ill fated record deal, Rick Jones had moved there with the adorable Valerie, followed by Dave Pierce. The whole circus, in fact. A few years later, Chad and I used to do this live with the band on harmonies as a sort of tribute to the Beach Boys. It really worked. But once again here was a chance to see how it started, with more than a hint of my hero, J J Cale. Always pinch from the best. For a while I tried slowing it down, making it more reflective. But then Summer comes round again and the girls put on their Summer dresses and of course it has to chug along and celebrate that Good To Be Alive Moment.
Once In A While
Another mid-period Paris one. Sometimes I can actually jump back and be there, sitting on the sofa in David’s wonderfully bohemian house, a tribute to bad taste, all lovingly collected from a lifetime spent in flea markets. Pictures of ladies and bullfighters on black velvet; a Barbie calendar, later to inspire, if that is the word, Made For Each Other (see BDS 1) And many happy moths, as housecleaning is not really an option. Anyway, there I am, back to the window, playing this song for the first time. Funny how some moments stick in the mind.
Easy Come, Easy Go
On the matter of inspiration, there is the well known story of John Lennon and Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite, which he took, virtually word for word, from a Victorian circus poster. Somewhat less known is the story of Easy Come, Easy Go, taken from yet another piece of tat in David’s chaotic dwelling. I have it in front of me now.
A brass plate, about six inches across, with an inscribed Victorian gent smoking a pipe. He is relaxing in an armchair. Above him the motto..."What Care I?" And then... "I build my castles in the air. They end in smoke, but I don’t care." David left it to me in his will. I think there is also a sly reference in there to my fondness for a pipe of weed after work, if such a thing could be found in Paris. At any rate, it is a treasured possession.
One last thing. The more observant among you may have noticed that the colours of the set of albums are starting to form a rainbow. You might think that the inspiration for this might be Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation, or the LGBT community. Well, delighted to support both, but the truth is that I was reading the second Ant and Bee books to one of my grandsons. They are a marvellously old fashioned way to teach the alphabet, amongst much else. The second book involves teaching about colours. Ant & Bee find an old tyre &, guess what, they eventually paint a rainbow. I looked at the colours & thought...that makes 7! Perfect for my project. Actually, as it now appears that it may be 8 in all, it looks as though the last one will end up as The White Album. As I’ve said before, always pinch from the best..... Till the next time. And thank you for listening.