Tuesday, July 8, 2008

from here to iowa and back

Someone who played the guitar once asked me asked me if I would write lyrics for some of his songs. I said yes, and for a while we tried to work together. We soon found it was a constant, see-sawing struggle. He liked to experiment with melodies and -- as long as I stuck to the themes of broken hearts, crushed hopes and shattered dreams -- I had no trouble coming up with lyrics.

But if I wrote the words first, he struggled to fit the music around them and if he wrote the music first, neither of us were nearly as happy with the lyrics I produced. It reminded me a little of that Oscar Wilde aphorism about why it's so hard to choose music for parties: if you play good music, people don't listen, and if you play bad music people don't talk.

The other day, I opened a long-forgotten file, and found a few of the songs I'd written, including the one below. And, I suppose fittingly enough, though I know he set the words to music, for the life of me, I can't remember how it went.

Got my eyes closed tight with kisses
And with promises of more
Got three postcards signed with Xs
That I keep inside a drawer
Got a ring set with a blue stone
And a book of sonnets too
I've got daisies by my bedside
What I haven't got is you

[chorus]
And from here to Iowa and back
Is really not that far
Though I guess I never blamed you much
For staying where you are
And it's not as if I'd stop you
If you tried to reach my heart
But I know it's not the miles
That are keeping us apart

And sometimes that phone rings late
When I'm still half-awake in bed
And you talk to me so softly
Have to guess at what you've said
Pretty sure your pretty words
Don't mean much of anything
All that's clear is what I hear is
Just the whiskey whispering

[chorus]
And from here to Iowa and back...

Can you see that day last summer
Daisies swayed beside the barn
Ice cream melting through my fingers
Like I melted in your arms
And we tried to skip stones on the lake
Til it was almost dark
And you drove home to your family
And I walked back to my car

[chorus]
'Cause from here to Iowa and back...

15 comments:

Tash said...

Wow. Honestly, I can almost hear it. I wish I could write music, I'd love to do these justice.

thailandchani said...

I like it!

thirtysomething said...

Very good!

Julia said...

Multitalanted Niobe-- metaphors in prose, verse, and photographs. I can almost see an exhibit... maybe an online one at least.

slouching mom said...

so...what CAN'T you do?

Bon said...

this needs Kirsty McColl to sing it, i think...in her best fake American accent. except, um, she's dead.

i like it, Niobe.

Monica H said...

What a great drinking song- I love it!

niobe said...

Slouching Mom: Um, sing, ski, sew, sail. In fact, I'm untalented at a rather wide range of activities.

Awake said...

I too can almost hear it. Very good.

cinnamon gurl said...

That's awesome! Ode to the drunken love call...

passingwindows said...

That's beautiful. There is a dearth of good song writers out there. I wish you were still writing songs.

Bea said...

It's amazing how I can hear the melody on that chorus (all but the last line, which I can't quite make out).

Aurelia said...

If you didn't already have a career, I'd say that you should be a writer, a photographer or a songwriter, and here you are.

Very impressive.

Road Blocks and Roller Coasters said...

Love it! Now I wish I could hear it with music! :)

Magpie said...

Um, you're a country & western songwriter? Who knew?

You might should be in touch with the Flatlanders.