First of all, I've firmed up full band gigs in Phoenix (Sat., March 8, Last Exit supporting Dead Hot Workshop) and St. Louis (Sat., March 29, Lucas School House with John Austin). With any luck, we'll be adding more confirmations this week, so keep an eye on my website for up-to-the-minute gig updates at the events page. I'll announce them here, too.
Also, only TWO WEEKS until you can buy Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory at my website. The date is February 4th. This is the biggest release of my life. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.
Finally, you can now hear, along with "You," "Riverboat Captain" at my MySpace Audio page, both tracks from the forthcoming Songs from Memory.
"Riverboat" is a very special song for me. I credit it with making me a songwriter again.
In December 2003, I'd all but given up on music. It had been five years since the Refreshments had broken up, and I was content to write novels, plug them where I could, and ride off into the sunset. There are worse ways to get from A to B in this life.
But a funny thing happened. I found out that promoting a novel wasn't as easy as scheduling readings at bookstores and waiting for people to show up. In general, people needed a more compelling reason to leave their homes and their TVs and their Internet. (My Phoenix area readings were the exception.) People wanted more, and I had to figure out how to give it to them.
My acoustic guitar and bass were in the closet, so I broke them out, blew the dust off the cases, and started practicing again. I needed a gig, so I booked a happy hour show at Long Wong's in Tempe and cajoled a group of friends to kill an hour or two onstage at Wong's with me, play some old songs, ham it up, and promote Stuck Outside of Phoenix. This became the infamous "Friends of Betty" show in January of 2004, a couple of months before Wong's went kaput.
So, it's December and I'm rehearsing for the show. I'm playing "Carefree." I'm playing "Birds Sing." I'm playing a bunch of other songs I almost forgot I wrote, and I'm having a pretty good time.
Then, my wife and I rented Charade.
It's a movie made in the 60s starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and it turned out to be one of my favorite movies of all time. It has all kinds of silly scenes in it, like Grant and Hepburn, in formal evening dress, playing that game where you try to pass an orange from your neck to your partner's without using your hands. I loved the dialog, and I got that excited feeling I get when I see a movie that really resonates with me.
And then it passed through my head:
We'll pass oranges with our necks just like Charade
And with our drinks we'll all make lemonade
Words and melody. Waiting for the movie to finish would've been intolerable, so we paused the tape and I ran upstairs, picked up my guitar. In 30 seconds I had:
And if you think it wasn't, well it was
And if you need a reason, it's because
I'm the riverboat captain
In another few hours I had the whole song, beginning to end. I was a songwriter again. Take a listen to the finished product here.
I guess it's a song about my life at the time, the riverboat captain some kind of take-charge image, but to me it will always be about that scene in Charade, Audrey and Cary balancing an orange between them, trying hard not to use their hands.
For the story of the recording of "Riverboat Captain," go here.