Sunday, May 24, 2015

Song #25: Strychnine (2015 52-Song Project)

This is one of the many songs I wrote in the wake of my longest relationship.

In 2008, I recorded an entire album of those songs, called Love Bites. And then I wrote an entire second album worth of songs. That album has not yet been recorded, but in my mind it is entitled "(un)Mutual Street".

This is one of the songs that will go on that album, if I ever record it.

The idea for this song comes from two true stories: the story of Lorena Gallo Bobbitt and a amazing true story that one of my dear friends told me about one of his university friends who was actually poisoned by his girlfriend. She put strychnine in his coffee after she found out from someone else that she was not his only lover. He almost died, but did not. He did not stop having multiple simultaneous lovers, but he did switch from a don't-ask-don't-tell policy to a full-disclosure policy. She sought professional help.

Combined with these ideas, this song explores the difference between using our angry feelings to create art and using them to inflict pain on another person. What this song is trying to say is that there is a big difference between wanting to kill or harm someone and actually doing it. And that creating art can provide the type of catharsis that enables us to resist the urge to harm another person.

Another theme explored in this song is the merit in deciding to leave a difficult situation.

This reminds me of one of my favourite stories. Years ago, I used to play squash at the St. Lawrence Community Recreation Centre. There was an after-school program there and one day, as I walked up to the counter to pay for my court time, I overheard the recreation worker at the desk and a pre-teen after-school participant talking:

Preteen: But she said–

Rec Worker: I don't care what she said. When–

Preteen: No, but she started it. She was–

Rec Worker: I don't care who started it. I know you know what you're supposed to do when something like that happens. I know you know that you are supposed to Remove Yourself From the Situation.

Preteen: But, she was–

Rec Worker: No. I know you know enough to Remove Yourself From the Situation, and you didn't.

Preteen: You don't understand.

Rec Worker: Yes, I do. It doesn't matter what she said or did. You hit her and that's why you are up here with me.

Remove Yourself From the Situation has been one of my mottoes ever since. When something is really getting my goat and making me angry, I know that I have to remember what that preteen was struggling to learn:

If you can't do or say something nice, get outta there.

P.S. I can't believe that in 25 songs, this is only the second one that I have felt I have to age-restrict because of inappropriate language. Who knew I had so many "PG13" songs?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Song #20: Falling Apart (2015 52-song Project)

This is a very sad song about some of the many different sorts of things that can drive a relationship into the ground.

I think this songs is mostly self-explanatory, but I'd like to say more about one of the lines:

"We don't want to fall apart
So we'll use anything as glue."

The "glue" is a direct reference to alcohol and the trap that one can so easily fall into when living with an alcoholic – the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" trap.

From what I've seen, it isn't a solution for a troubled relationship – just the cause of more problems.

Here's a link to my 52-song project playlist:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Song #19: Black & Blue (2015 52-song Project)

My dear friend Chris Kay Fraser (fantabulous Founder and Writing Coach at Firefly Creative Writing) requested that I include this song in my 52-song project.

In 2006 (or maybe 2007? Or 2005?), Chris invited me to play a house concert at her home, colloquially known as Pape House. I was just starting to get back into performing and Chris' invitation was an important confidence-builder for me at a crucial moment (thanks, Chris!)

Apparently, I played my song Black and Blue at that concert and Chris has always remembered it. Which is more than I can say for myself. This is one of those songs that I stopped playing entirely; I had forgotten all about it until Chris' request.

The reason I stopped playing it is because I saw a Canadian Stage production of Ain't Misbehavin', which contains the Fats Waller song (What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue. The performance of that song moved me so much that I didn't feel entitled to my Black and Blue song any longer.

Isn't that funny? As it there isn't room for more than one song written around the same phrase – although the racial dilemma of Waller's song makes it a much more compelling use of the phrase "black and blue", in my opinion.

I had to hunt through my journals to find the song and re-learn it, since I could only remember the hook when Chris requested I include it in this project. It took me a long time to find it! I thought I had two boxes of journals and this song was nowhere to be found in either of them.

Then, this week, I unearthed a third box of journals! Sure enough, this song, along with a number of other forgotten favourites, was within. 

This song was written on February 4, 1999. That was a period in my life when I really didn't know what I was doing with myself. I had been to cooking school, but didn't think I wanted to be a cook. I had not yet started to learn to be a graphic designer. 

My Journal pages for this song. These journals pages were
Kraft paper, which accounts for the quality of the images.

I did some work that year covering vacations at the job I had held in 1993-1994, right out of university. It was a reception job that I had left telling everyone that I was going to become a folk singing star. Something that had obviously not happened. I fielded a lot of questions about my grandiose plans.

And to make matters worse, my partner at the time had finished his engineering degree and was well on his way with his professional career. Hence the line "figuring out seemed so easy for you, but for me it's a choice between black and blue."

I suppose I stopped singing this song because I stopped feeling it. I became comfortable working as a graphic designer and eventually found the courage to perform as a singer. 

I wonder sometime if I'm headed back into another period of career transition. Perhaps this song will come back into more frequent rotation. Anyway, I'm very happy to be reminded of it. Thanks, Chris!