Cast Your Magic Spell (1st chorus)

I sort of already made this public (in a late-night Facebook conversation about good-love and bad-love, or it might have been real-love and fake-love). It’s the opening number from a show I’ve been writing. There is a dramatic context to this which is revealed in between the first and second choruses of this song, so I won’t post the remainder of it here, as I don’t want to explain the whole conceit of the (as yet unfinished) show. But I think this bit stands nicely on its own. Enjoy.

Cast your magic spell right over me,
Kiss me through a veil of night,
Tell me that you want my body,
Say you’re gonna treat me right.

Drive me to the gates of Hades.
I’ll bring a lunch; I’ll meet you later on.
I’ll buy you something stupid from the gift shop
Or an homunculus to torture when I’m gone.

And when we make our vows, high on glory, just a vessel,
We’ll be dancing, we’ll be spreading fire and light.
And when we go to bed, silk and roses, sweet and holy,
Hot and sweaty, we’ll ascend into the night.

And love will make us gods inside our bodies,
And tame the very thunder-rush of time,
And solder over every long-gone heartbreak.
Oh love, my love: your body next to mine.

I’ll let you decide what type of love is going on there.

Jean-Pierre (Miles Davis) lyrics

I sketched out some lyrics to this minor Miles Davis funk classic yesterday.

They’re sweet and light and definitely old school – a little bit “Tisket A Tasket”, but then so is Miles’ tune – but at least nobody dies in them. (I took that verse out.) An acheivement. Enjoy.

Old man, Jean-Pierre,
I like the way you comb your hair,
I like your eyes, I like your smile,
I like the way you drive me…

Wild man, Jean Pierre,
I’ve heard you dance like Fred Astaire.
How ’bout a kiss? Something like this?
Maybe one day you’ll show me…

How you live your life.
I think I’d like to be your wife.
One cup of yours, two cups of mine.
We’ll grow old like finest Burgundy wine.

Lonely Woman lyrics

For no reason in particular, I recently decided to put some lyrics to the Ornette Coleman tune “Lonely Woman”. Of all of Ornette’s compositions, it’s the most naturally singable (though you’ll need quite a large range and a sympathetic key), and I wasn’t aware of any existing sung versions. (I believe there is a fairly obscure one out there, but I’ve refrained from listening to it.)

So here is my stab at it. I’ve interpreted the title fairly literally, with an anonymous, single female protagonist. Where the two horns play lines in harmony on the original recording, I’ve put this in a narrator’s voice. Where the sax plays solo or takes the lead, I’ve switched to direct speech, which felt like a natural interpretation of the music to me. There’s an improvised break at the end of the bridge, where I’ve let the singer improvise their own fill on the syllable “oh”.

I’ve fallen into the old habit of writing in a slight Southern States period dialect, and setting the song in that world by implication, but I hope it doesn’t come across as hackneyed as a result. I hope the lyrics contain as much truth, is what I mean, as if I’d written about my own world.

Here is Ornette playing the original piece, with Don Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums), from the album The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959):

Here is a transcription, so you can play along at home.

And here are my lyrics. Enjoy.

On her way to church one morning
She hears her mother’s song
Rising like heat from the ground:
“Little honey bee,
Seize ev’ry sweet day softly
And hurry back to heaven.”

In that tender voice, unfolding,
Fresh as the summer corn,
Dark as the sleek nevermore,
“When they buried me,
Nobody cried like you babe,
Oh nobody looked so frail,

Thinking of your life,
With all of your bright lights,
And all of your blue nights.
Oh, oh, oh…”

In the greasy heat of evening,
Up from the earth below,
Devilment tightens her jaw.
“Who will walk with me?
No one to hold my cold hands.
Oh nobody to save me.”

The words are copyright obviously, but don’t let that stop you. If you’re a singer or a student and you want to have a go at these, be my guest, and please send me a link or let me know how you get on. I’d love to hear the results. My friend Aisling is going to have a try as well, I think. Results will be posted here soon, maybe.

If you want to record or release them commercially though, then sure, let’s talk. And good luck to you.

A cowboy song

This is just for fun. Seven years ago I came to Paris. I was travelling alone and had a country and western song stuck in my head, originaly sung in Luxembourgeois by an outfit called the Eschville Ramblers, which had been playing in the restaurant where I’d been working in the South of France. I started writing my own English words to the tune, imagining a lonely would-be cowboy wandering the streets of Paris. After a couple of days I met some really cool people, started having a lot of fun and largely forgot about the song.

I’m back in Paris now (sitting in Café Delmas in Place de la Contrescarpe as I type this) and I decided to finish the song. It goes like this, a kind of Jacques-Brel-meets-Johnny-Cash pastiche, maybe. The first two lines are phonetic approximations of the original:

Down and Out

I haven’t been to Nashville,
I’m still sleeping by the Seine,
But every time my luck’s run out
It’s run right back again.

I have walked the road from Vicksburg
Down to Tenessee
Up and down this lonely river
Chained to old Par-ee.

  Oh come you rhapsodies,
  Storms and symphonies,
  Come the morning calling out my name.
  On the western breeze,
  From the balconies,
  Won’t somebody holler out my name?

I was high-brow to my first wife,
I’ve been low-brow to the rest.
They bought me books and cowboy boots
Now they’re all that I’ve got left,

And a suitcase full of memories,
And a wilderness of dreams,
And faith that life won’t leave me here
After what it’s done to me.

  Oh, it’s no good for me,
  I need company,
  Just to hear somebody call my name.
  On the western breeeze,
  From the balconies,
  Won’t somebody holler out my name?

When my wandering days are over,
When the whiskey starts to burn,
I will strap myself to a big balloon
Straight out of Jules Verne,

And if they don’t arrest me,
By God I’ll try my best
To unlive everything I’ve done
And dream myself back west.

  Oh come you rhapsodies,
  Storms and symphonies,
  Come the morning calling out my name.
  On the western breeze,
  From the balconies,
  Won’t somebody holler out my name?

The tune is quite jolly, a bit like “Flowers on the Wall” by the Statler Brothers. There’s a website where you can download it, but it requires signing up, and as it’s been in my head for seven years anyway I’m disinclined to fork out for a subscription.

If you’re a country singer yourself, or you know someone who is, and you think these words could be put to any use, please feel free to get in touch. I’d love to hear them sung, silly though they may be.

Comments are welcome.