New Song…

I’m putting the finishing touches on a new song. This one is a disco version of TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” (More on that in a later post!) It’s also influenced by Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” I’m hoping to have the song ready to go sometime this week. In the meantime, here are the two songs that influenced my latest efforts…

A Longish Preamble to My New Song

Between the ages of ten and thirteen, I went to a Catholic school just beyond the city limits of Philadelphia. You knew you were leaving Philadelphia because you had to cross a bridge that spanned a set of railroad tracks and ended at the top of a steep hill that descended into the wilds of suburbia. The school sat at the top of the hill, right next to the railroad tracks.

The school didn’t have a schoolyard per se. But it did have a church, and the church had a parking lot, and that’s where we were sent to play at lunchtime regardless of weather or time of year.

Worth noting is the fact that the church was a long block away from the school, and that the long block ran parallel to the train tracks. What this means in practical terms is that the church parking lot where we played every day at lunchtime was right next to a set of train tracks. Other than a low dirt hill and some shrubbery, nothing stood between us and the tracks — not to mention the trains that roared by every twenty minutes or so.

Also worth noting is that the church parking lot was built on the same hill that the school and the church were built on. Again, if we’re thinking about this in practical terms — or at least geographical terms — it means that if the parking lot was level (which it was), then there would be a steep drop at one end.

So at one end of the parking lot there was a set of heavily trafficked railroad tracks, and at the other end was a twenty-foot drop. Between these boundaries ran a horde of ten-to-thirteen-year-olds who liked to set things on fire and believed that everything they saw on pro-wrestling was not only real but should be emulated. Amidst all of this, there was one person (me) who just wanted to be left alone to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the latest issue of Doctor Who Monthly.

There was also a lamp.

SchoolyardDiagram-01

It turns out that I didn’t get much reading done, largely because I was trying to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of the church parking lot while also trying to avoid the hordes of preteen boys who wanted to use me as a prop in their efforts at staging the latest wrestling moves they’d seen on television. Also, my interest in reading and a tendency to make references to things like “Scylla and Charybdis” did not endear me to anyone in my age bracket. Or anyone outside of my age bracket, come to think of it.

The upshot of all of this is that I ended up getting pounded quite a bit, and once went home with a concussion when my skull slammed against the blacktop. At the time, I thought everyone hated me. I felt like an outsider, and that made me miserable. The books I read and the TV shows I liked to watch gave me a bit of an escape, but what I really needed was someone to tell me to forget about all of the kids who made me feel like I didn’t belong — to tell me they could all go to hell. To tell me, in essence, to fuck ’em.

And that’s where this song comes in…

Track-by-Track: “Waiting for a Signal”

Before Thank You for Holding started to coalesce around a single theme, I tried a few different angles for approaching the album. At one point, I was thinking of recording a series of short punk-rock songs about life in contemporary America, so I recorded a song called “Front of the Line,” which eventually evolved into “Waiting for a Signal.”

The main thing I was trying to do with “Front of the Line” was keep it short. My goal was to keep it under a minute in length but still maintain a traditional pop-song structure — verse, chorus, verse, chorus, instrumental break, verse chorus. Here’s what it sounded like:

Not exactly the kind of music you might hear while you’re on hold, so I recorded a new version with slightly different lyrics once the larger project started to take shape in my head.  The main reason I decided to keep it (and change the title) is that the idea of waiting for a signal fit in with the overall theme of being on hold.

Essentially the song is about suffering an existential crisis — or a whole string of existential crises — while sitting in traffic and realizing that everyone is trying to inch forward on the highway of life (as it were) without making much progress. In situations like that, it’s hard not to wonder what it all means.

 

Waiting for a Signal

Wake up in a panic at the wheel of a car,
Suddenly it hits you that you don’t know who you are.
Waiting for a signal, hoping for a sign,
Everybody’s pushing to the front of the line.

Inch up on the red and lose a mile on the green,
Still you don’t believe that you’re a part of the machine.
Waiting for a signal, hoping for a sign,
Everybody’s pushing to the front of the line.

Somewhere on the road, you find a moment of Zen,
But then you come up short of breath and do it all again.
Waiting for a signal, hoping for a sign,
Everybody’s pushing to the front of the line.