Friday, April 6, 2012


It’s interesting to look at someone’s bookshelf.  You can tell a lot about a person by knowing what they read, that you might not be able to see otherwise.   In our home we have three main sets of shelves with some nooks and crannies here and there with smallish stacks.  We also have baskets of books – mainly mine – that are on the “to read” list.  I have one basket that is just from my mom’s house, the last few books left around there since she gave away her books almost as fast as she read them.  There is the smallish stack on the nightstand (and under it).  There is a magazine rack next to the sofa. 

The same is true when you see folks’ music collections.  Do they like Sinatra, The Talking Heads, Taylor Swift?  Nine Inch Nails, The Doobie Brothers, The Doors?  The Beatles, Creed, Linkin Park?  Of course, these days a lot of people keep their music collections privately tucked away on their ipods.  No longer can you browse a record collection and even CDs are becoming a thing of ht past.

This morning I was cleaning out a file cabinet drawer (the detritus of many years that I couldn’t bring myself to toss).  I found some old writer’s notebooks with snatches of songs I wanted to write, short stories I wanted to complete, some original songs that did make it to their playable stage, outlines for letters I wanted to write (some I probably did).  And lists.  I used to play out a lot at this coffee house in southern Indiana.  Sometimes I played with my buds in a band called EMERALD.  Other times it was just a loose connection of friends who sat in with each other whenever we played and they would show up with their instruments.  A lot of times I just played by myself.  I played a mix of originals and cover tunes.

Before playing at The Daily Grind in Nashville, Indiana, I would create a list of possible songs to perform, songs I knew by heart.  I knew lots of songs back then but, of course, could only play about 25 or so in an evening.  I had the list there for comfort.  I didn’t want to draw a blank on what to play next.  So I kept this little notebook with me with my current playlist, tunes I wouldn’t screw up too bad if I had the notion to play them.

I think a person’s playlist says a lot about them – in the same way that their bookshelf does.  This particular one was dated May 3, 1986.  It was probably one of the last times I played at The Grind.  Depending on your age and stage, you may not recognize many of these.  There were only a few top 40 songs in the mix and those are old folky songs.  I don’t remember exactly what I played that night all those years ago, but more than likely – the set came from these.

Heart of Gold – Neil Young
Mercedez Benz – Janis Joplin
You Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine – Kristofferson
Sugar Mountain – Neil Young
Fish and Whistle – John Prine
Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young
Paradise – John Prine
A Love Song – Kenny Loggins
Till The Morning Comes – Neil Young
Cripple Creek Ferry – Neil Young
Moon Shadow – Cat Stevens
Father and Son - Cat Stevens
The Boxer – Paul Simon
April Come She Will – Paul Simon
House of the Rising Sun - Traditional
Summertime – George Gershwin
That’s The Way The World Goes ‘Round – John Prine
Illegal Smile – John Prine
Teach Your Children – Graham Nash
My Heroes Are Cowboys – Willie Nelson
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
I’m Not Saying – Gordon Lightfoot
Friend of the Devil – Jerry Garcia
The River – Dan Fogelberg
There’s a Place in the World for a Gambler – Dan Fogelberg
Lookin’ Out My Backdoor – John Fogerty
As the Raven Flies – Dan Fogelberg
Tequila Sunrise – The Eagles
Don’t Cry Blue – Jonathan Edwards
Sometimes – Jonathan Edwards
Desperado – The Eagles
Peaceful Easy Feeling – Jack Tempchin (Eagles)
Simple Twist of Fate – Bob Dylan
Colours – Donovan Leech
4 and 20 – Stephen Stills
Redneck Friend – Jackson Browne
Something Fine – Jackson Browne
Ready or Not – Jackson Browne
Rosie – Jackson Browne
The Captain and the Kid – Jimmy Buffett
He Went to Paris – Jimmy Buffett
Never Been To Spain – Hoyt Axton
Boney Fingers – Hoyt Axton
Inch by Inch – Dave Mallett
Carolina On My Mind – James Taylor
Hey Mister, That’s Me Upon the Jukebox – James Taylor
Right Between the Eyes – Graham Nash
Little Boxes – Malvina Reynolds
I Know You Rider – Traditional
Black Cat Blues – Bill Wilson
Flowers are Red – Harry Chapin
Carefully Taught – Rogers and Hammerstien

I can’t play a lot of these any more.  I’ve forgotten how some of them go and I’ve lost my chord sheets for others.  But just typing out the list brings back those smoky evenings in that wooden space with the sounds of cappuccino machine and clinking silverware and laughter and conversations.  And it brings back those old friends – most of whom I have lost touch with. 

I still play out at church and in the classroom with my young friends, I still jam every once in a while with my friends Dave and Chris.  I swap songs with my son Colin occasionally.  We have a few sing alongs ‘round the campfire every year.  But I miss those evenings playing for ten-bucks-and-tips and free coffee and the precious moments of having someone call out the name of an original song or when folks would sing along to an old familiar tune.  

1 comment:

Chris Hass said...

That's quite a list. Many I know by title, others by artist. A few moments ago I went to youtube to find the Indigo Girls playing Get Together. The first, and maybe only, one to come up was from their early days. They were standing on a low wooden stage, not unlike the one on our playground. As they were tuning, talking, and singing there were random kids running around. At one point one of the kids walks up on the stage and just stares at them. It's pretty funny what these types of shows can bring.

I never practice consistently enough to remember much of anything. I guess that's the importance of the chord charts. Even the songs I've written with my kids at school get forgotten. Just last week the kids had to sit quietly for a minute or so while I tried to remember the chords from a song we wrote only a few months ago.

I was thinking when I was checking out different versions of The Youngbloods tune that it'd be cool to make songs a significant part of a study of war - maybe something early in the year to set the stage for what we'll want to look for when learning about the AR and CW. Maybe instead of thinking about this in a traditional sense, studying the AR and CW, we could view it as a study of what war is, how it's depicted, and what different groups feel about it. There are so many songs that speak to this. Maybe you could come in and sing one or two?