Stories

IN MY MINDS EYE

Silent rain…there is such a thing and it took me a year and a trip to New York to find out. In a large cold city you can’t hear it.

Peek into the window of Lonnie’s creative imagination through his storytelling and his behind the scenes explanation of select lyrics.

1300 Miles Explained

I love the “human friction” concept. In songwriting, I sometimes use the “sand in the oyster” approach. It’s the irritation that creates the pearl. To use one song as an example, I was once in a long distance relationship with a woman in Utah. We had had a short relationship in the 1970s and found each other again some 30 years later. She flew to Chicago on business, I drove there to spend a couple days with her. We spent the last night at the home of some friends of hers just west of the city. In the morning, I drove her to train station, we had coffee on the platform, she caught the train to the airport, I got in my car and drove home. I had those images in my head…

 

“This train runs to Chicago, this highway’s headed west,

There’s coffee ‘cross the street, better get some for the ride”

 

…and i was stuck. i had an idea and à specific image, but nothing to hang a song on. We had browsed a few museums, had great pizza, etc. (pizza doesn’t rhyme with much)…so I stuck a few allusions to the 30 year gap between the first piece of the relationship and the second.

 

“It’s funny how a little thing like 30 years can simply disappear

I look into your eyes and I know why I live and breathe”

 

Now they’re back together after all this time, but there’ no friction. So far, it was heading for sappy love song territory. It needed tension, so 1 turned the train station moment into their last good-bye, rather than “gee that was fun, have a safe trip, see you next month.” That was the sand in the oyster that made the rest of the lyrics come pouring out.

 

This train runs to Chicago, this highway’s headed west

There’s coffee ‘cross the street, better get some for the ride

Tell me ’bout the weather darlin’, hold me to your breast

‘Cause I can’t look too deep at what’s inside

 

It’s funny how a little thing like 30 years can simply disappear

I look into your eyes and I know why! live and breathe

If I could hold you here forever there’d be no room for fear

But the coffee’s gettin’ cold, my car’s warmed up,

Your train’s about to leave

 

Some folks only get one chance, so far we’ve had two

But time and tide are funny things

No one can tell what they will do

Summer left and winter called across the miles and through it all

One thing, just one thing rings true

 

I’ve loved you like no other, they can put that on my stone

I may never love another, you’re always in that part of me

That wonders at a starry night and cries up to the moon

When I don’t know the answers to this mystery

 

So many doors have opened, so many doors have closed

You and I, we travel on down paths we never chose

The pundits always tell us

“Things happen for a reason and a purpose”

Well… I suppose

 

I saw you just the other day on a street not far from home

With a smile upon your lips and a teardrop in your eye

And if you wonder why I didn’t stop to say hello…

It hurts too much to have to say good-bye

 

1300 Miles Explained

I love the “human friction” concept. In songwriting, I sometimes use the “sand in the oyster” approach. It’s the irritation that creates the pearl. To use one song as an example, I was once in a long distance relationship with a woman in Utah. We had had a short relationship in the 1970s and found each other again some 30 years later. She flew to Chicago on business, I drove there to spend a couple days with her. We spent the last night at the home of some friends of hers just west of the city. In the morning, I drove her to train station, we had coffee on the platform, she caught the train to the airport, I got in my car and drove home. I had those images in my head…

“This train runs to Chicago, this highway’s headed west,
There’s coffee ‘cross the street, better get some for the ride”

…and i was stuck. i had an idea and à specific image, but nothing to hang a song on. We had browsed a few museums, had great pizza, etc. (pizza doesn’t rhyme with much)…so I stuck a few allusions to the 30 year gap between the first piece of the relationship and the second.

“It’s funny how a little thing like 30 years can simply disappear
I look into your eyes and I know why I live and breathe”

Now they’re back together after all this time, but there’s no friction. So far, it was heading for sappy love song territory. It needed tension, so 1 turned the train station moment into their last good-bye, rather than “gee that was fun, have a safe trip, see you next month.” That was the sand in the oyster that made the rest of the lyrics come pouring out.

This train runs to Chicago, this highway’s headed west
There’s coffee ‘cross the street, better get some for the ride
Tell me ’bout the weather darlin’, hold me to your breast
‘Cause I can’t look too deep at what’s inside

It’s funny how a little thing like 30 years can simply disappear
I look into your eyes and I know why! live and breathe
If I could hold you here forever there’d be no room for fear
But the coffee’s gettin’ cold, my car’s warmed up,
Your train’s about to leave

Some folks only get one chance, so far we’ve had two
But time and tide are funny things
No one can tell what they will do
Summer left and winter called across the miles and through it all
One thing, just one thing rings true

I’ve loved you like no other, they can put that on my stone
I may never love another, you’re always in that part of me
That wonders at a starry night and cries up to the moon
When I don’t know the answers to this mystery

So many doors have opened, so many doors have closed
You and I, we travel on down paths we never chose
The pundits always tell us
“Things happen for a reason and a purpose”
Well… I suppose

I saw you just the other day on a street not far from home
With a smile upon your lips and a teardrop in your eye
And if you wonder why I didn’t stop to say hello…
It hurts too much to have to say good-bye

Lonnie explains So We Jumped”
February 2008

It’s one of the most thought-out songs I’ve ever written, but I’m perfectly happy to have other people interpret it any way that works for them. Unlike “Treading Water” with some imagery that evolved simply because I liked the sound of the words. My friend Ken Duvio (songwriter, guitar player/singer), who is originally from New Orleans, has learned it. He says it’s the best song for the survivors of Katrina that he’s ever heard—and Katrina never crossed my mind when I wrote it. I was working on a song for Katrina, but “first came the wind, then came the water” was a lyric that never went anywhere.

My quarry in “So We Jumpedwas in Edina, if memory serves… somewhere near where Southdale, the library, etc. are, but I could be completely wrong. I do remember as a little kid swinging out on a rope and plummeting into the thing…no clue how deep the water was, except we knew that other kids had done it and lived to tell the tale. So…I was thinking about the insane things that kids do around puberty and pimples…”I hate girls, yuck… so why is my body doing this? … and what am I thinking now… and who is this alien taking over my brain?…” “So We Jumped” in the first verse is very literal, hormones raging, no way to express the emotions and feelings that come along with them, so here’s an adrenalin-pumping experience, a release.

Jump becomes a metaphor for the rest of the song.

2nd verse is about a young girl, small town, strict chaste upbringing, presented with her first “big city” encounter with a man… does she ignore the little voice of her mother in her head? Or does she back away from the experience?

3rd verse is actually about someone I know… in a relationship she knows she should get out of but is compelled to stay in (no abuse or anything like that, it’s just a safe relationship that does very little to stimulate her mind, her spirituality, etc). Can she walk away and face the unknown? Should she stay? Will it be better tomorrow? Will he finally understand the depth of who she really is?

In the last verse, George Bush is the specific; anyone who has created an empire of power that has possibly gotten out of their control is the general.

The metaphor is the inexplicable action, be it good or bad… We simply never know what’s inside a person, what wars are being waged. We rarely know why people do some of the things they do and, perhaps, neither do they. The action might be shooting 10 strangers in a town square; it might be jumping off a bridge; it might be eating 10 gallons of ice cream in one sitting; giving your last $20 to a street beggar; throwing oneself into work with deprived children or moving to Africa to study gorillas.

On A Greyhound Leaving Chicago

This is not a poem, really, just some memories from last spring that I wrote down.

I’ve been there many times, but only tonight did I find the emerald city.
The lost underland of a dirty town told of to me as a myth that had no reality
But is, and a perfect farewell to the city of the wind

I sat alone
Lonely midnight, Chicago bus station and my wooden stringed child sang a song for an Italian cowboy truck driver
And I found a lady Marcia
Soft, even there,
(among the half-dead sleeping sleepless,
Feet black and blue from billy club awakenings,
Exchanging private dreams for
Public nightmare upon their
Wooden bus station beds)

And she smiled.
And we spoke,
And laughed
And it came time for me to go
And we kissed
And I found the emerald city

Now, riding behind the props
Of the giant electric ant hill village
(the back doors and alleys seem like movie sets, unreal, able to be toppled with one hand)
Now, as I leave from behind Chicago
I wonder, just a little,
Where will I find me?
So I’ll go on, and remember the emerald city
As it slides back into the myth that is America.

Magnetic to Digital – Sound 80 Memories

Once upon a time, there lived a bunch of happy musicians who worked at a happy place called Sound 80 in the middle of a happy city called Minneapolis. These happy musicians were starving artists by night, but well-paid professionals by day as they strummed and plunked and pounded and blew out splendidly happy melodious odes to conspicuous consumerism. On the random Tuesday when there was not a lick of conspicuous consumerism to be pandered to, the starving artists would overtake the well-paid professionals, and they would write songs. And the happy piano player would play on the happy guitar player’s songs, and the happy guitar player would play on the happy piano player’s songs, and so on and so on…And the happy place called Sound 80 was so happy that it opened its doors to the starving artists and said “Come in, boys, and play your songs into these happy microphones, and we will put them on magnetic tape for the whole world to hear!”

But, the whole world didn’t hear them, and the magnetic tapes lay in the basement for many years. Sound 80 stopped being a happy place, and eventually stopped being a place at all, and darkness covered Minneapolis like a non-union accordion player’s hat. Magnetic tape went the way of the dodo bird (and nobody knows where the dodo bird went, because it was last heard on magnetic tape), and evil digital recording stuff filled every basement and rec room of every child and grown-up alike, all over Minneapolis…and it wasn’t pretty.

But one day, the once happy guitar player was rummaging around in his decidedly analog basement, when he stumbled upon box after box of magnetic tape. The tape was goopy and vile from 20 years of sitting in the analog basement. The guitar player had until recently been pretty goopy and vile himself, but having finally made peace with God and digital recording, he concocted a plan. Taking the magnetic tapes to a friendly necromancer who knew the scoop, he cooked the tapes and incanted many incantations until the cauldron bubbled and lo, the tapes were whole again, if only for a moment. The music was transformed into digital bits and bytes and sent scurrying through the air to a dark device known as a computer, and with much rending of teeth and gnashing of pulleys and steam whistles, it became music again, each guitar chord, each piano flourish, every bass note and drum thump on its own track, every vocal line exactly as it was sung years and years ago.

From the evil computer, the music moved to the mutant child of the unholy coupling of analog and digital, the NTSC 120 Hi-8 tape cartridge, where with the help of the friendly necromancer and several smaller, less feral computers, the music was mixed. This was the moment when the lure of the digital sirens almost overtook our once happy guitar player…”we could change this, we could even redo that, we could go back in time and make different notes…we could defeat the Gods of music at their own game…we are digital, we have the power…” but from somewhere inside the  music itself a still small voice said “don’t” …and so he didn’t. And at the end of many days of mixing and remembering, remembering and mixing, the guitar player and the necromancer sat back, put their ears to the groove, and all was as it had been.

A Dayish Story In No Time

I awoke (this morning) like a star sometimes does when the sun slips itself over the last of the horizon and dunks its entire head in the waters of darkness –

I awoke (yesterday) like the moon sometimes does later when the stars come and call it out and it is, then, sometimes whole and sometimes crescent upon the night the sun left when it went swimming in that vast pool beyond the horizon –

I awoke (several days ago) like the moon sometimes does when it trespasses upon the dayish domain of the sun and looms like an out of place child white against pale blue, a cleaner spot upon the cleanest thing there is – THE SKY –

I trespassed upon you silently and small, like a pale spot upon your beauty, and as a trespasser I came to love you, and now I am in your spirit, and I have dunked my entire head in the waters of you, and I am a star upon you –

And when you love me I am whole, and without you I am crescent, and lie upon my crescent back in the darkness that is the rest of me then –

4-20-1972
El Paso, TX

Musical Icons
April 29, 2017

Two little anecdotes, million dollar memories for me.

In 1966 my dad was transferred to Detroit. It was my senior year in high school. We lived in Warren, I was miserable. Discovered a coffeehouse a few miles away called the Chessmate. They brought in a lot of regional folksingers and quite a few national acts. Tom Rush comes to mind. I think it was February of 1967, I was there to hear David Blue, a sort of Dylan clone with his own twist. Midway through his set he invited a young woman up to do a guest set. Beautiful long blond hair, a Martin guitar. She did 30 mesmerizing minutes. Two years later her first album came out. It was Joni Mitchell.

February, 1969. I was with Jokers Wild. Our manager also ran the Labor Temple, a psychedelic paradise, not the Fillmore Midwest, but close. Jeff Beck, Grateful Dead, etc. We got comped to see all these acts. One night I was there to hear Minnie Ripperton and Rotary Connection with an opening act no one had ever heard of. Snaggly looking bunch of guys led by a maniac in a frock coat, tights and knee high moccasins…playing a FLUTE. They tore the house down. It was supposed to be their debut album release tour, but due to a label snafu and poor promotion, the release was delayed and they were playing all these shows as virtual non-entities. Yep. Jethro Tull.

It is an interesting and enlightening experience to hear a couple of musical icons before they become icons. No hype, no preconceptions.

April 22, 2017

Having come face to face with my own mortality, I’ve ridden that train a number of times. I’m learning to restructure everything I do. Until a year ago there were endless days stretched out in front of me. Now there is uncertainty. I can’t undo my past, the regrets (and there are plenty) will always be there. I’ve had the opportunity to make amends for a few of them; the rest will have to lie, and that train will keep running. So I try to find one thing of beauty in each day, no matter how small, and I cling to it. If there is one thing I can do to make someone else’s day a little better, I do it. The other day I was running some errands. With one stop left I knew I’d bitten off more than I could chew. My chest was aching as I approached the man and woman at the cash register. I just wanted to be done. The computer was acting up, they were frustrated and apologetic…so I sucked it up and made jokes with them. It took ten minutes to complete a simple transaction, but the three of us were smiling at the end. I carried those smiles with me for the rest of the day.

Everyone carries great burdens. I don’t need to know what they are, I just need to acknowledge the truth of that and it helps. Fewer train tickets…

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