Ten years ago on April 10, I asked Alison to marry me…on her birthday. Fortunately, she hadn’t had coffee yet and obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, so she said “Yes.” That very night, I backed my friend Christian Beach on organ, accordion percussion and vocals for his CD release party. Ten years ago on April 13, the Phillies lost their voice, Harry Kalas. Here is a look back April 2009, a recap of this year’s Phillies Opening Day with Graham, another new song from me, and a few more odds and ends…
“Time Takes Over” is the first complete song I ever wrote. I was 17 at the time and it was strangely inspired by a co-worker of mine at the time who was only a year older than me, but had the personality and outlook of Archie Bunker.
Anyway, we worked at what is now a long-gone Pizza Hut in Point Pleasant, N.J. It was summer 1988 — in between my junior and senior years of high school — and the older sister of one of my classmates got a summer job as a cook/server/hostess with us. I had known her brother for years and knew her a bit, and never would have imagined her wanting anything to do with my overtly racist, sexist co-worker. But they wound up hooking up that summer.
Of course, she went back to college in the fall and since our business dropped like a stone when the summer tourists left, that left a lot of downtime for my co-worker and I to talk. And, for the first time, he sounded human. He really did care for her.
Shortly after she returned to college, my co-worker went to visit her. He expressed to her how he wish they had more time together, and — this is what he told me — she said to him, “Well…time just takes over.” And, at that, she suggested to him they just stay friends.
So, that’s the story behind this song. And it’s weird that one of the most stoic people I have ever known opened up his heart to me and inspired what I think is a pretty emotional song.
Anyway, the following summer he hooked up with another summer Pizza Hut employee and wound up marrying her (even though my classmate’s sister also came back to work with us that summer…which was awkward). I’ve Googled the guy in the past — and just did before posting this — and it appears he’s living in central New Jersey and married to the woman he met at Pizza Hut in 1989. But I haven’t seen him since the early 90s…well, except for one time when I drove by him when he was a cop in a Jersey Shore town a few years later.
Regarding the song itself, most of the instrumentation you hear on this track is from a cassette of the original instrumental demo I recorded in October 1988 using sounds from my old Roland U-20 synthesizer. It wasn’t until a year or so later that I got around to recording the vocals, but by then the arrangement had changed a bit (so I spliced and rearranged this a bit to fit the finished version). I recently added the vocals, wind chimes/shaker track and augmented piano/bass parts to this version, so I would have a complete recording of the original version in time for the song’s 30th anniversary in October.
Now, obviously, this milestone means nothing to anyone but me. My music career went nowhere, and I’m not really a musician anymore except for when my friend Christian Beach* needs me to be one or when I’m inspired and motivated to compose/record something. But I’m still proud of this song. I’m not sure how many 17-year olds were writing songs like this in 1988, but it couldn’t have been many. I mean, at its base, it really is a bubble-gum song about young love that is ultimately unrequited. But it sounds and feels so much bigger than that.
*Speaking of Christian, during our time in a band together from 1989-91, we actually played “Time Takes Over” in one of our live shows. Here is video of that performance (from 1990?), which features my trying — and mostly failing — to sing with a terrible head cold.
A compilation of some of my favorite songs celebrating Christmas and the holiday season, in general. The playlist starts with the latest “demo” version of a Christmas song I originally wrote in 2011, “It’s Christmas Time Again.” Enjoy…
When I was a teenager in the late 1980s and still had dreams of becoming a professional songwriter/musician, I wrote and recorded a song I called “Time Takes Over” in October 1988. It was probably the first complete song (with words and music) I ever wrote.
The subject matter was based on sentiments expressed by a former co-worker of mine who was describing how he visited a girl at college after having a summer fling with her. He thought it was more than that, but she didn’t see it that way. Anyway, that was the basis of the lyrics, which—for the first time in my musical life—flowed out practically simultaneously with the music.
The original 1988 version below, written when I was 17, does not include the vocals, but you will hear them later on in this post in other forms. Please note that I transferred this from an old cassette tape so that accounts for the audio artifacts.
In 1989/1990, I was in an ill-fated techno-rap outfit called TMC+The New Generation and—after a few arrangement tweaks by my friend and then-bandmate Christian Beach—we performed “Time Takes Over” during a very poorly structured live show at the ol’ Green Parrot Rock Club in Neptune, N.J., which you can see below.
Finally, a few years ago, I recorded an updated version in GarageBand on my MacBook that includes vocals. In 2012, I re-recorded the vocals and made some additional tweaks. That is the version you can hear below. Enjoy.
I’ve gone ahead and updated another song from my old band days in the late 1980s/early 1990s. But this is a bit different because I didn’t write the music for “How I Want to Embrace You”…that was composed by my longtime friend/former bandmate/singer-songwriter Christian Beach. I only wrote the lyrics and I seem to recall playing the bass part into the sequencer. Actually, after I had written the words, Christian had a lyrical idea for the first chorus so that was swapped out. As usual, we managed to make a very rough cassette recording of the song, but that was about it. And since I never played any of the piano/keyboard parts, I basically had to do my best to reconstruct it all. This is about as close as I’ll get and I don’t really have the time to really go any further with it.
A little bit about the song itself…this was written somewhat in the early days of the techno/rap combo Christian and I were in with Asbury Park, NJ-based rapper TMC (Tariq Muhammad). Just prior to meeting Tariq, Christian and I had been working together on some electronic, instrumental music influenced by the so-called “new age” music of the time as well as progressive artists like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Even though we were now working with a rapper, we still tried to work some ballads into our set. This actually wasn’t a good idea when you’re playing New Jersey bars like the greatly missed Green Parrot in Neptune, but we did it anyway because we were teenagers who didn’t know any better. It got even worse when we started adding elements of industrial music to our set…while still also performing ballads. That was just weird.
Anyway, I never really asked Christian about it, but I always thought of this as a pop song infused with some ideas he had from our new age/progressive days…and I always liked that about this song.
I also liked the idea for the harmonies we had back then and did my best to replicate those. I’m not the strongest vocalist in the world, but I do what I can.
As an amateur songwriter*, I’ve always wanted to write a Christmas song. And since Christmas songs are usually filled with clichés and my songs seem to always have their fair share of them, I probably should have been able to write one prior to last year.
Anyway, “It’s Christmas Time Again” was originally written and recorded on my MacBook (with GarageBand) in late 2011. I posted it to Facebook, where it received some positive comments. I recently updated it a bit and uploaded it to Soundcloud. And, yes, it is obviously influenced by Christmas songs from the late 1970s and 1980s, including a nod to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with the closing segment. But I’m a huge Midge Ure fan and never feel he gets enough credit for his role as the primary writer of that song, so that’s my tip of the hat to Midge.
Since it’s now officially the 2012 Christmas season, here is my Christmas song…
(* While I really am an amateur songwriter, I always have to remind myself that my friend Christian Beach used lyrics I wrote for a song we worked on during our techno-industrial days in the early 1990s as the chorus for “What Does It Mean to You?” by his mid-1990s band Slave of Id. That song did receive a fair amount of airplay on WHTG 106.3 FM in New Jersey in 1993/94. So, thanks to Christian, I have been able to enjoy hearing lyrics I’ve written on the radio…and that’s pretty cool. I think that’s why my favorite scene in the movie That Thing You Do is when all the band members—The Oneders!—and Liv Tyler’s character get excited about hearing their song on the radio. I can totally relate to that.)