Category Archives: Music

Music-related posts. my music, other people’s music. Music I like. Music I dislike.

Songwriting Stories – Bitter Jealousy (song from 2001)

Bitter Jealousy is another oldie I’m pulling from the vault. I co-wrote the words and music on this one, again in California. This time though, I co-wrote was with friend Dan Divanian. If memory serves, this was his first attempt at writing a song. Not bad for starters.

Musically, it has a fixed minor verse form, a pre-chorus and delayed but extended chorus. It plays kinda long and, since the focus was on telling an entire story with a beginning, middle and end, it might feel a bit repetitive by its conclusion. I’m proud of how it makes you wait for the major chorus until 2 and a half minutes in. It’s like a reward for putting up with a lot of story exposition.

The story was one Dan told me that I translated into lyrics. It was a specific situation he went through but I could tell right away that the situation is a common one. It takes a lot to make a love connection between two people. Sometimes, it’s the right time and the wrong place. For the two teenagers in this song, it’s the right people but the wrong time. In hindsight, I feel like the song is also about realizing you are about to miss out on something you took for granted.

I should add that the stuff about drugs was legit all made up. The song kind of had a brooding Sacramento vibe to it and the Weezer song “Hashpipe” had recently been released so I threw it in there. It wasn’t something I actually did. If you listen to the demo recording I did from way back in 2001, you’ll hear a sweet melodic intro riff that I don’t bother with in the video and you’ll hear me talk about freebasing coke or something else equally unbelievable.

Lastly, here are the words and chords to the song so you can all sing along.


Bm A F#m
Maybe it was the way you looked that night
Bm A F#m
Your hair tied high and your eyes burning bright
G A Bm
I never saw you that way before

Bm A F#m
Maybe it was the way I felt that night
Bm A F#m
I had a beer, a few rum and cokes and a puff of my hashpipe
G A Bm A F#m
I never saw you that way before
G A F#m G-F#m-Em
But I saw you that night and I saw more
G A Bm
I saw you that night and I saw more

For two years I owned a piece of your heart
In all that time, I never allowed it to start
Because I never saw you that way before

I don’t know what it is now
That’s got me turned around somehow
I’d never seen you that way before
But I saw you that night and I saw more
G A D
I saw you that night and I saw more

D A
So you say you’ve got a new boyfriend
D A
What’s his name? Does he treat you well?
D A
God, I wish I were him tonight
D A
God, I wish I were him tonight
D A
Tonight
D A
Tonight
D A
Tonight

G-F#m-Em G A

That’s okay. I’m better off without you
Strange to say, you’re probably better off without me too
Because we never saw each other that way

If we’d agreed we could have seen the best of me
But all I’m left with is my bitter jealousy
Because we never saw each other that way
But I saw you that night and I wanted to stay
I saw you that night and wanted to stay

So you say you’ve got a new boyfriend
What’s his name? Does he treat you well?
God, I wish I were him tonight
God, I wish I were him tonight

Songwriting Stories – Intentional (2001)

Here’s an old song called “Intentional” that I co-wrote with Trey Krueger back in 2001. This was written during my time living in northern California.

Meet Trey Krueger

I got to know Trey while hanging out at the Streets of London pub. We would sit outside on the picnic benches when the weather allowed, chatting about music and sports while lamenting our luck with the ladies as gents are wont to do. He also had a wealth of knowledge about American history and politics but I had limited interest in those topics.

At some point, this stranger at the bar turned into someone I looked forward to meeting as we talked about our developing musical goals and exchanged talk of musical heroes.

I don’t remember for sure but I’m vaguely recalling his interest in the Smiths, Morrissey and Joy Division-type stuff. He also hipped me to John Wesley Harding‘s music, which I still love.

He was a singer with a dramatic and emotive delivery, true to his influences. He also had a book full of lyrics, heavy on symbols and suffering. Since I tend to write pretty straightforward lyrics and I was big into comedy music at the time, I found his sincerity appealing. We sat down one night at my place to put some of those lyrics to music.

The Lyrics

The lyrics came entirely from Trey. All I can recall asking for was some repetition to ground the song with a refrain.

I don’t recall Trey’s story for the lyric but the words suggest to me a volatile exchange as a relationship comes to an end. I enjoy the lyric to this day because I can identify with the feeling of confusion and sadness. You’re trying to do the right thing but you’re not sure you can or will. Then, things get messy and it gets worse.

The Music

As I recall, I wrote the chords. It’s basically a Cmaj7 – Fmaj7 vamp for the verses and a little 8 – 7 – 6 walk down for the refrain with a big ending on the 5.

Originally written on an acoustic guitar, I had a very simple strum thing at first. As I moved back to Chicago and kept playing it, I made it a pretty intricate arpeggio thing with a pull off the high C to hit that maj7 note and the same thing on the F to hit that E. I think I felt self conscious about the simplicity of the chords so I wanted to make it seem more impressive with some fancy fingerpicking.

The melody was kind of there from Trey singing it a Capella but I remember guiding some of the rising for the second and third verses. I do have a mp3 version of him singing it somewhere but I can’t find it.

The Result

The reaction when I’ve performed this is usually lukewarm. It’s pretty long, the lyrics are a bit vague and don’t advance a narrative. By the end, I can feel the audience looking for a payoff or an ending, which makes me want to speed up to get through it.

It could have been a time and place situation, though. There may be an audience waiting for this song that I didn’t get in front of. I still like it, even if I’m not exactly sure what it’s about.

The Tab

Making small important talk
as the even tide rolled in
Splayed across the sidewalk
makes us see how long it’s been

cast iron smiles and bits of humor
can’t remove the thorny rumor
making small important talk
as the even tide rolled in…

And they say it’s not intentional
But things never really are
Pushing luck at people
F F/E Dm7
Makes me wonder just how far
F F/E Dm7
Makes me wonder just how far
F F/E G
Makes me wonder just how far

Now the chatter starts to wonder
Conspicuously from you and I
The heart has not grown fonder
So we both refuse to try
To pinpoint what it is we’ve lost
And by losing it, incurred what cost
Can either of us pay it?
Do we even want to try?

And they say it’s not intentional
But things never really are
Pushing luck at people
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far

Solo

I’m told speaking with candor
is the style that’s preferred
but our slippage into slander
makes candor seem absurd

And friends pile on the saccharine
In huge and leaping mounds
But still they are not large enough
To muffle hurtful sounds

And they say it’s not intentional
But things never really are
Pushing luck at people
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far
Makes me wonder just how far

Rocky Top Piano & Solo Voice

A few weeks ago, I video recorded myself playing a few songs on piano, including Rocky Top with piano and my solo voice. The family was away at a camping trip and I stayed home to catch up on work and get a mental rest. There was a weekend overlap with their trip, so I chose to use that time for some creative low pressure music stuff like this.

The goal was to look through a book of music, find something I haven’t played in a long while, and run through it. I wanted to see and hear how I handled the mental test of processing info on the page and translating that into music from my hands and voice. In the video, you’ll notice plenty of pauses as I think about melody and piano chords but I’m satisfied with how I did. I think my big nitpicks would be that I tend to get creative in a too repetitive way with the melody. You can take certain liberties with melodic hooks on covers but the moment you’ve repeated that creative alteration 3 times, you’re kind of hammering the listener over the head with it.

There wasn’t any big reason I picked this song, other than I flipped to it in the book after I vetoed “Daydream Believer”. Plus, I’ve always tended to float into higher singing registers and this song by the Osborne Brothers is usually sung pretty high.

In hindsight though, I am pretty interested in Tennessee in general. I went to Nashville for the second time late in 2016 and was super impressed with the food, the music and the hospitality.

Video

Anyway, here’s the video.

Don’t mind the Los Pollos Hermanos T-shirt. I was in pajamas in the acoustic music room.

Hamilton Camp’s People in a Hurry

Hamilton Camp as a musician
Performer and writer Hamilton Camp. (courtesy of setcelebs.com)
I first came across “People in a Hurry” by Hamilton Camp on Slacker radio. I was probably listening to some crusty old folkie like Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk or even the big kahuna (Bob Dylan) when Slacker threw this cryptic little ditty my way. This was probably around 2007, because it coincides with the heyday of digitally downloaded music. This was the second mp3 song I bought (after Steve Goodman’s “Videotape”) on iTunes.

Welcome to Hamilton Camp LP sleeve
courtesy of hamiltoncamp.com
I always liked the song and felt like it should get some more recognition. The lyrics to me suggest an awareness of people wasting their lives saying and doing things of little consequence. Of course, the interpretation of consequence is the part that makes it interesting. Is political activism (anti-war, civil liberties, or otherwise) a respectable use of your days? Is the creation of art, for that matter, a good use of your time? Or, would we all be better off if our time was spent less on thinking and talking about existence and more on building things and pushing science to its limits? To that, I do not know.

What I do know is I like to hear this song and I wanted to share it when I play, so I wrote up the chart and the lyrics. I’ve shared them below if you’d also like to learn to play it. If you do, please share a link to a video or audio of your performance in the comments here. Would be great to see it someday.

Miles

The Chords

The chart is pretty straightforward but lacks a chorus. It’s more of a strophic verse thing with a slight variation for the intro.

Intro

C | Em | Am | F G |

chord chart


C | Em | Am | G |
F | Em Am | F | G |
F | Em | Am | C |
F | Em | F | Em |

Lyrics and chords

C Em
People in a hurry
Am G
Going nowhere in a hurry
F Em Am
Talking on of this and that
F G
Having nothing much to say

F Em
Smiling smiles that have no meaning
Am C
Outward laughing inward screaming
F Em
Devil take the one behind
F Em
And damn the one who's in my way

============
C Em
Give our children education
Am G
And we'll build a mighty nation
F Em Am
Teach them war and competition
F G
Pride of nation, race and kin

F Em
Dollars are the only measure
Am C
Dull the heart with empty pleasure
F Em
Fill the mind with thoughts and chatter
F Em
Never let the silence in
============
C Em
We have lost our sense of being
Am G
Seeing all yet never seeing
F Em Am
Grasping much and touching nothing
F G
Tasting nothing always filled
F Em
Racing hard with war and sorrow
Am C
Scheming for that sweet tomorrow
F Em
While today goes by neglected
F Em
Now is ever unfulfilled
==========

C Em
People, people in a hurry
Am G
Going nowhere in a hurry
F Em Am
Talking on of this and that
F G
And having nothing much to say

F Em
Smiling smiles that have no meaning
Am C
Outward laughing inward screaming
F Em
Devil take the one behind
F Em
And damn the one who's in my way

If you want to take it to go, grab the People in a Hurry by Hamilton Camp – Chords and Lyrics PDF.

More about Hamilton Camp

In addition to writing this song and having a great voice, Hamilton Camp enjoyed a stellar professional acting career. A tribute site with his music and career accolades has been built at hamiltoncamp.com.

Why Musicians Don’t Like Going to Concerts (Unless They Are Performing)

A co-worker of mine knows I’m a musician. This morning, she asked me if I heard about the Lollapalooza lineup that was just announced. She seemed surprised when I mentioned that I generally don’t go to concerts.

Giving you an accurate and well-rounded answer deserves a long conversation but here’s a bunch of thoughts. Basically, the biggest reason is… I don’t enjoy them. I love live performances (theater, obviously) but the concert format rarely pays off for me.  I’m not the only one, either. A guitar teacher of mine quoted a famous musician (whose name I forget) that goes, “Concerts? I wouldn’t cross the street to see myself play [a concert].”

blurry concertThere are a myriad of reasons why I don’t enjoy them as an audience member (correlation with drinking and smoking, lots of standing, crowds, waiting in lines, not being able to talk, not being the center of attention, subjecting myself to OPC (other people’s cleverness)).

The polite and true answer is I genuinely prefer to be a part of music making. The impolite answer is, in most cases, you end up judging the band for their shortcomings in skill/style/approach/equipment. If the act does somehow exceed the impossibly awesome vision a musician has of themselves, it would no doubt be a depressing experience. Of course, I wouldn’t know. It’s never happened to me.

Either way, once you’ve been the one up there, it’s kind of ruined from the other side.

I tried to deny the reality of how I felt about going to concerts for years. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts. I’ve seen big name festivals and artists I admire, even musical heroes. Spent thousands of dollars, collected ticket stubs and road tour t-shirts. My feelings about who I really am were just confirmed with every attempt. Of course, not everyone is supportive. People assume I’m agoraphobic or a cranky old man. As I’ve said though, it’s not all events. Just concerts.

I do make rare exceptions though. The size of the venue or crowd is inversely proportional to the likelihood that I would willingly attend. In other words, the smaller the better. Second, if I personally know someone in the band. I will try to support people I know within reason (and reasonable distance).

So, I’ll close this post the same way I closed the email wrote to my co-worker. I’m glad she asked and I hope my readers can enjoy an honest answer.

“Old Man River” on Instrumental Acoustic Guitar

Ol’ Man River – Instrumental Acoustic Guitar

I have to admit: I love the song, “Ol’ Man River.” Always have loved it, even though the subject matter leaves me a little unsure of whether I’m allowed.

It’s an old song from Show Boat made famous by bass vocalist Paul Robeson and his version is my favorite. Read the wiki for the details but, without knowing much about the context, you can pretty much guess that there is some exploitation involved and white guys probably aren’t the good guys.

Anyway, about six weeks ago, the Robeson version came up on random shuffle on my phone during the walk to work. Listening affected me in a way I didn’t want to end. The way good art delivered with unavoidable pathos puts you in the performer’s shoes. Feeling their desperation.

So, I put it on single repeat. Listened 5 or 6 times in a row. Each time, I rode the wave of emotion as the melody builds into the minor 8 section, resolves back to the main theme and roars into the final notes.

Afterwards, I decided I wanted to do something with the song. I wanted to recreate the emotional connection as the sender instead of the recipient. Really make the song my own somehow. Of course, I realize it may not be received as a sincere tribute to a beautiful song but what the hell. Can’t let how someone else might interpret it from standing in my way.

So, I decided I would learn to play it. I googled for the lead sheet and found it  on Political Folk Music. I learned it as written first, then started to arrange it as an instrumental.

Initially, I thought of doing chords on guitar and the melody on a bass guitar. I tried it on banjo and mandolin too. Any of those could have been pretty interesting but I eventually opted for this single guitar arrangement.

In the month after I decided to learn it, I went digging for other versions and found a bunch of white guys singing it. Frank Sinatra, Jim Croce (very good version) and more so I don’t feel so bad now. Still, I like how my little arrangement turned out. A beautiful song, entirely inappropriate for me to perform. Sounds like the start of a series.

December is the month of music for Miles Maxwell

The month of December started just yesterday but I’ve already seen enough to know that it will be a music-heavy month.

I’m planning a gig or two at the moment and did a little rehearsal last night. Spent some time reviewing old songs I used to know (Tom Petty, John Prine, etc.) but also learning a few new (to me) songs. I tackled “Just What I Needed” by The Cars and “Surf Rider” by the Lively Ones.

Excited to keep learning new tunes. Hoping to notch these before the end of the month.

The Faces Stay With Me

Thin Lizzy boys are back in town

Led Zeppelin The Ocean

Van Morrison Domino

Thin Lizzy jailbreak

Cream White Room

Steppenwolf Magic Carpet Ride

The Hives Hate To Say I Told You So

Blur Song 2

REM What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

Mission to Burma Academy Fight Song