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This new project has consumed me. I fill page after page of a legal tablet with notes and scratches and ideas. And in the middle of all the words are songs….just needing to be plucked out and laid bare.

This is the process. This is my song cycle about teenagers. This is how it works. Fast…then slow….then speed limits are ignored. I sit with the guitar….I sit at the piano, searching for the one sound….that one note, that will twist my head around so I can play it again to ensure that it’s real. I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that I’ll jot down. Hours later it seems like gibberish. But something woke me up. Fine tune the gibberish. Something must be there, or waking would have been pointless. Find it. It might never come this way again.

Nobody is here with me. Nobody sits on my every word. This is the last gasp of a prizefighter who knows his days in the ring are numbered. If I can’t make something special now, I never will. But it will be special, and you might miss it ’cause you’ve been ignoring my unorthodox career for years. Giving finely crafted records away. For free. I’ve been ignored by radio since 1998….ignored by producers since 2000, ignored by those I thought were my friends for even longer….none of them willing to work on my schedule….or to pay attention to the things I’ve been saying….tossing it off as the odd ramblings of some long-lost Woody Guthrie distant cousin…..fighting an unwinnable war with a cross pen, a legal tablet, and a Gibson Jumbo with the “this machine kills fascists” sticker on it. The kind of guy you’re happy to see but even more happy when he leaves. He’s not gonna lecture us on our duty as songwriter’s now, is he?

No, those days are over chaps. I won’t name names but there’s 2 people I can think of who feel the same way about things that I do. Just two. Many many others have slipped away into nightclub dream worlds, singing “I am the Walrus” and “Three Little Birds” for drunk college kids for free drinks and maybe a $100 check that won’t bounce if you cash it fast enough. Everybody wants to be a star….settle in Nashville or NYC and crank out radio friendly piffle for fat ladies who claim to have the ears of TV producers near and far. So yea….churn out a 3 minute piece of dross to play over some half-dead lady in a hospital bed dying of a disease that even Dr. House hasn’t figured out yet. Yea, that’s the ticket these days. Pucker up, swap your craft with a “co-writer” from Nebraska already under contract despite cranking out lyrics that might make the guy in charge of the B-side of Journey’s next single run for the hypodermic needle hidden in his pocket dictionary.  Can you imagine crafting a good melody and then being told you had to pass it along to a lyricist in Nebraska? I can see the perfect tree from my window. Now where is that rope? Ah yes…..preparations have been made in case I’m forced to hear it. The mutilation of the craft, overseen by the money person who can’t play a note. Nobody should have to whore themselves out like this. I should know, ’cause I’ve considered it many times. ‘Tis tempting in the same way that after dinner mint was to the fat guy in the Monty Python movie….who ate it and exploded.

We crave acceptance. From anybody. It’s appalling vanity really…but mistakes need to be made so mistakes can be recognized. I’ve made so many. I’m not gonna make ’em anymore. Until the next time. But still…I said it.

The truth is we are all fools at times. The only reason this is worth doing is because I’m doing it for myself. I want to complete it, then file it away….maybe stick it inside a tree trunk like Boo Radley did with the toys he collected. Just put it there for someone to find who might say….”maybe this will help me to understand myself.” A mixed up teen. Jimmy. It’s 2011. He’s 17 years old. What’s in store?

This is not music for you. This is music for me. I’ve invited you to come along for more than 12 years. For the most part, you’ve taken a pass. Fine with me. I don’t speak for everyone for sure. But I do speak for some. As I get older I move on much quicker. I can’t sell anything at this stage. My fingers are too bloody to make house calls, and my sales pitch boils down do a few D chords…..sustained…..the sound of conflict not yet controlled.

So yea….maybe I care a little. But not that much. The songs are what I fret about…..not the fat lady from Nashville who’ll suggest the b-side Journey re-write. I’ve had my fill of these ladies…..lecturing about what “sells” and what “people want to hear”. I have no idea what sells ’cause I steal everything…..and as for what people want to hear, I’m a songwriter. My job is to create something that I want to hear. I don’t give a shit about anybody else. I don’t write for your ears anymore than you pander to my ears when we finally meet in a bar. You go your way, and I’ll go mine. If I die broke……I’ll sleep well dead knowing I never sold myself short to some hack at a desk with a thesaurus.

I’d ask my friends to stay with me as I work on this project…..as it’s become the most important thing I’ve ever created. It will be special when it’s completed. It will be my crowning achievement….perhaps not too hard considering what’s come before it, but still…..shooting for mediocrity sucks. Like having sex with your clothes on.

This will explain this kid. Jimmy. Whatever happens to him. You’ll see bits in yourself. And you’ll wonder.

Was it really like that at 17?

Yes it was.

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