A Recipe, A Song & Some Whine

Jumpin’ J-Lo, I haven’t posted in an entire month.

Quite frankly, I’ve had the blues. We’ve been struggling with struggles lately. Nothing huge—just the mundane, day-to-day worries that plague the semi-poor, like home repairs, taxes, allergies, bed head and the future of humankind. Worst of all, I seem unable to write much more than the words, “I can’t write.” It’s been an awful cycle—I can’t write because I’m blue, and I’m blue because I can’t write. Blue’s one of my favorite colors, but holy hell, this isn’t even a pretty shade. My writer’s block is the color of mold. 

It’s been weird, because usually when I’m down, creativity is what brings me out of it. But these days, I’ve created little more than a new recipe.

New Recipe:

8 Ritz Crackers

1 glob of peanut butter

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup

Directions: Smear peanut butter onto four of the crackers. Pour one drip of syrup onto the remaining ones. Smush each PB cracker together with a chocolate cracker and enjoy.

I have written a couple of songs, but I’m hesitant to post them because it’s hard to get the entire picture without the tune. It’s like handing you a mug and asking you to imagine coffee. Tragically, my singing usually sounds like Mercedes McCambridge with a head cold, and even if I did record it, I’d never figure out how to get the thingamajiggy into the whattayacallit to transfer it the Internet. The one song I did post here was thanks to a patient friend, who burned it to a CD.

But it bothers me that I haven’t posted for so long, so I’ll share some lyrics anyway. I’ll have to do it from memory, because I fried my laptop a few weeks ago and lost most of my work. Stories, poems, books-in-progress, photos, videos and rough recordings of songs I’d saved on Audacity–poof! Frizzled like a squirrel on a transformer. A friend of a friend is trying to perform lifesaving CPR on the motherboard—if you’re the praying sort, please commence.

Have I mentioned I’ve had the blues?

Back to songwriting. Amadeus and I have this habit of throwing out lines to each other, spontaneous prompts that we think might fit into a song. If it grabs one of us, little cogs in our heads start squeaking and turning, and sometimes we create something we like. To outsiders, conversations at our house would sound insane. Example:

Me:  I need to figure out what to make for dinner.

Amadeus: Bird on a telephone wire.

Me: Oooooh….(starts writing)

One night, he said:  “If I had to do it all again.” I waited for him to finish the sentence, then realized it was a song prompt. Immediately, my head filled with images, like a scene from a movie. I saw a sad, wealthy woman in a New York penthouse. She stood in front of a glowing fireplace and her living room was all done up in shades of red. Her sofa was a cream color, with printed pillows and a decorative throw draped in a tasteful-yet-casual way over the back. She was tall, beautiful and terribly lonely. Her jewelry and shoes were amazing. 

It’s the weird way my brain works (when my weird brain’s working). Amadeus says something that sparks something and off we go.  I picked up the guitar, plinked out the first few notes, then started writing lyrics. Amadeus fine tuned the tune and we debated back and forth over the mechanics of it. Within half an hour or so, we’d given birth to a little baby song.  It’s a downer, but I like it. We performed it at an art gallery event a few weeks ago, and I’m proud to say that no one vomited and no one fled. 

If I Had To Do It All Again

If I had to do it all again,

I’d do it differently,

If I knew how this was gonna end,

I’d never have agreed,

to put aside the part of me,

that wanted love so desperately,

‘cause even though you live with me,

you’re never really here with me,

and though I did it willingly,

this lonely life is killing me,

If I had to do it all again,

I’d do it differently.

 

Flames can turn to ember

but they’re burning just the same,

why can’t we remember

the beginning of this game?

We blazed with love, so dazed with love

at night you called my name,

our paradise has turned to ice,

what happened to the flames?

If I had to do it all again,

I’d do it differently.  

(break, repeat verse 2)

© 2013 Moonbeam McQueen

That poor, poor penthouse woman.  And I thought I had problems. 

The Great Golf Monkey Giveaway–Oh, And a Song

***WARNING! *** WARNING!

I’m about to sing.

Here’s the thing. About a month ago, I sat in one corner of our living room and wrote a poem. At the same time, Amadeus sat in another corner, working on a tune. We spent the rest of the evening merging them together, tweaking and smooshing until we’d turned it all into a song. We’re pretty self-critical at times, but we love this one. I think it’s our best collaboration. It has our hearts in it.

I posted the poem here immediately, and ever since, I’ve been dying for you to hear the musical version of it. The problem, as we saw it, was delivering it. Neither of us are singers. Oh, sure, Amadeus plays like an angel and sings beautiful backup vocals in bands, but with few exceptions, our melodies  stay confined to our living room. The same goes for Amadeus’ guitar playing, since he’s a bassist by trade. But this one we want to let out. This one we wanted to do for you. We could have asked someone to perform it for us, but in the end, we decided to do it ourselves. It’s kind of the main message of the thing–to just be your imperfect self, and not worry what others may say. But honestly? I was a  little worried. I’m still a little worried.

We went to a friend’s house and he recorded it for us. He and Amadeus were happy with the version we ended up with, but I’m off-key in places, and it makes me cringe. But it’s a wrap. We ran out of time, then our friend’s mom got sick and he’s going to be tied up for while. So here it is, glitches and all.

We want you to hear this. We want you to share it with as many people as you can, if you’re moved to do so. More than that, we want to hear YOU sing it. So, we’re offering incentive. We’re having a giveaway. A unique contest, to celebrate your unique contribution to this project.

Here’s how it works:

1: First, give a listen to “You Are Who You Are,” posted below.

2: Record your own version. We want you to do this however you’d like. Amadeus isolated the guitar part (also posted below), and you can sing over that. You can do it acapella or play your own music. You add harmonies or invite the Harlem Boys Choir to sing it with you. You can make a video to go along with it (in fact, we’d love it). But you have to sing it. We want to hear “your beautiful song.” Don’t worry about perfection. We love rank amateurs.

3: Send us an MP3 or the link to your audio or video. We plan to post all of the versions we receive onto one or two sites–YouTube and BandCamp, most probably. By sending it to us, you agree to let us use it however we’d like.

4: On August 15, 2013, we’ll hold a random drawing. Everyone who submits an audio or video will be entered to win. In other words, this is based on effort–not popularity or musical ability. The prize? This gorgeous pair of antique golf monkeys.

No, you’re not dreaming. You read it right. These attractive, useful, one-of-a-kind golf monkeys (circa 1920) could be YOURS!! Imagine the pride you’ll feel, seeing them on your shelf, knowing they were a reward for your contribution. Contest ends at midnight.

5: If you post this song online yourself, please credit Moonbeam McQueen and Amadeus Rockerfeller. No commercial use without permission. We retain all rights to this song. We aren’t completely sure of what we’re doing with all of this, but we know we’re supposed to say that.

Honestly, we have a two-fold purpose here. Fold one is that we really do want to hear everyone in the universe sing our song. Fold two is that we hope someone likes it enough to buy it. We have loving hearts, but we also have empty pockets. If you like it, please share it far and wide, link to this page and tell your mother.

Hang onto your earbuds and give a listen. I apologize again for my veering voice, but only sort of.

Love,

Moonbeam

The guitar part can be found here.

Update: I posted chords and lyrics for those who might want them. You can find them here.

Little Wonder

Collaboration. We are not this cool.The closest Amadeus and I come to arguing is when we’re writing a song.  It’s stupid, I know. We aren’t professionals-we’re doing it for fun, and most of the time it really is fun. I love the flowiness of the whole process, the way we work together. I’ll be deep into a writing project, he’ll be deep into playing his guitar and sometimes the stars align and things will merge. We mentally float toward each other–our separate projects are put aside and we start collaborating. Before you know it, we’re sitting beside each other on the sofa, singing something that hadn’t existed an hour before.

But I’m persnickety about words and he’s persnickety about music theory and I wanna jam things in and he wants to yank things out and I wanna sing it this way and he wants to play it that way and we have moments of testiness that we never experience at any other time. I’ve come to believe that some of the world’s most beautiful love songs had to have been written by people who wanted to beat the holy shit out of each other. I imagine Ashford and Simpson glaring at each other while penning “You’re All I Need to Get By,” Dozier and Holland getting into fistfights while writing “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.”

Amadeus: “You just need to take the word ‘moonlight’ out of there.”

Me: But it’s important to the theme. It’s painting a picture.

Amadeus: You can’t cram all those syllables into it.  It won’t work with the tune.

Me: Sure it will.

Amadeus: No it won’t.

Me: Uh huh. Here. Let me sing it for you.  (sings)

Amadeus: (Winces) No it won’t.  

They’re tiny little road blocks, and as time goes by, we’re learning give and take, how to listen to the other’s musical point of view.  Sometimes I win my case, sometimes he wins his, but usually within a few minutes a little lightning bolt will hit one of us. We reach a compromise, make a change or two and all is right with the world.

My husband popped out of his mother’s womb with, I think, a viola in his hands, and he’s been involved in music professionally since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  I have to defer to his knowledge a lot of the time, and I want to hug him each time he defers to mine. He taught music for more than twenty years, and he understands more about these things than I ever will. Solo, he’s written some sweet, stirring songs, but when we write together we’re two sides of a coin. He’s logic, I’m emotion, he’s technical, I’m all about the feeling of the thing. He’s rhythm, I’m…I don’t know–a ceiling fan. But wonderful things sometimes happen when the left side of his brain and the right side of mine link up and click together like space modules.

Amadeus is also much more subdued about our songwriting than I am. Don’t get me wrong– he loves it as much as I do. We’ve written several tunes he’s proud of. He’s just a lot more realistic about our limitations than I am, and deals with things in a more mature manner.

Example: A musician pal of his just moved back to town. They’ve played together for decades, and once recorded a CD together. He came over a few weeks ago, and played us a new tune he’d been working on. Amadeus picked up on it within about three seconds, heaved out his upright bass and began playing along.  He began making a few suggestions, and creativity started bubbling. I tell you, I can’t keep the smile off of my face when this type of thing starts happening. My brain chemistry goes into some weird mode that feels like a combination of starlight and queso dip.

As I sat listening, words began twinkling in my head. I grabbed my laptop and started writing. They looked at what I’d typed, and they liked it a lot. Encouraged, I went on, and before too long, an entire song had popped out.  Amadeus and his friend were looking at me as though I were some freak alien songwriting machine, but for some reason, that tune just happened to make lyrics appear in my head. We set about tweaking and rearranging, moving words and sounds until we’d finished.  It was lovely. “Why don’t we start meeting once a week?” the friend suggested, “You know–just to see what happens.”  

After he left, I  jumped up and down like a popcorn kernel. “Wasn’t that fun???” I squealed. “Wasn’t that amazing???” “A songwriting night! Wow! Won’t that be great???”  

Amadeus does not jump up and down. He does not squeal. He has dignity. He is a bass player, and he is cool.  

“Mmm hmm. We’ll see.”

We’ll see? What the–

I have to look at it from his point of view. He’s been involved with enough musicians to populate a small country. He’s hauled more amps than Mötley Crüe’s roadies. He’s played more gigs than…You get the idea. Obviously, he looks at music much more pragmatically than I do.

So far, our musician friend has performed that new song twice, and Amadeus accompanied him on bass both times. The friend very sweetly told the audience that the three of us had written it together. I sat in the audience, snapping pics on my camera phone like a new mom, beaming at the baby we’d brought into the world. To those two guys, it’s just another kid. To me, it’s a little wonder.