BIRD MANCINI Tuning In/Tuning Out
Notes from Ruby & Billy Carl
These song notes will be updated as we write them. Here's what we've got so far...
TUNING IN/TUNING OUT
Ruby: Growing up in rural Missouri, my cousin, Duane, and I attended elementary and high school together and were party to our share of harmless mischief in those slightly more innocent days. A couple of years ago, Duane suffered from sleep apnea for months and eventually was so sleep deprived he fell into a coma. At that time his wife asked all who knew him to write a few anecdotes from our common past, hoping to spark a reaction from him, and this brought a flood of memories back to those days in the Midwest. If you’ve ever been to the country far away from city lights on a clear night, you’ve seen stars as they were meant to be seen.
Billy: I had a melody and a couple of lines spinning around my head. I had some vague notion about tuning in and tuning out because I’m always listening to talk radio with headphones late at night and drifting in and out of sleep. Ruby heard what I was doing and was inspired to write about her cousin. We put it all together and, voila, a song is born.
DIDN'T LAST LONG DID IT?
Ruby: One evening Billy and I were driving home with some classic Louis Armstrong playing. As we rounded a corner, we saw a sunset that turned the whole sky in front of us bright red. But as the sun quickly set and the dark settled in around us, I said, “Wow, that didn’t last long, did it?” “That’s a song,” said Billy. “Hmmmm…” A couple days later, I had this little tune written in a classic 30’s jazz style. Cliff Tetle plays a terrific clarinet on this one.
BECAUSE IT'S DECEMBER
Billy: The song refers to my many memories of December....my Mom, who's birthday was in December ("I see your crooked smile"), the Christmas season ("the Savior is a child"), the stunning month that John Lennon was shot ("The headlights burning bright"), and on and on...The headlights burning bright line refers to a couple of days after JL was murdered and Yoko asked that we all drive during the day with our headlights on as a rememberance. There was little more we could do. It was an unbelievable time in our lives. We were not so young and innocent after that. But, besides all that heaviness, I also was remembering happy childhood times; sledding down Whitcomb's Hill with a light snow falling at dusk...my friends all laughing and smiling and in the moment.
Ruby: This came along about the time that Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was making the rounds. I borrowed a line from the Bible and Billy came up with this rock guitar riff to my gospel style tune. The star of this show is the big rockin’ chorus, played by a few of our singing friends and a little studio magic, and Madeleine Hall’s extra bluesy bits at the rolling rocking end.
BIRD MANCINI Funny Day
Notes from Ruby & Billy Carl
Holly was a young girl in Billy's distant past, unmercifully teased by herschoolmates. She didn't last long at his school, but her mystery remains.
I was heavily into listening to XTC at the time I wrote this one. Don't know if I captured any of that but that's the way I hear it. Even though I wrote specifically about a girl I knew, I also included some personal experiences too. Most of us went through a certain loneliness or isolation as children didn't we?
A Funny Day To Be Alive
We met Mark Green for the first time just a few days before he died from cancer. He was in hospice at home, barely aware of us, but managed a smile even in this state when I whispered in his ear, We'll be right behind you.
And that's what started me writing this song initially but as usual it developed into some of my own experienceslike trying to hold on to the precious times when you're with your friends and having a good time. It all moves so fast and no matter how hard we try we can't slow it down. But we can play it all back in our mind's eye.
I've always been into that sort of British Invasion sound and hoped to accomplish some sense of that in this song. And of course I couldn't leave out the hand claps and cowbell. I actually wrote this song after seeing a local Boston band called Muck & The Mires do their version of Brit rock. The title just sort of rolled out of my mouth before I even had a clue what I was saying. In the end it's about all my arty friends putting themselves out there for all to see..it's a risky thing and can be painful but no sense keeping it all locked up inside.
The Other Side
This came to me shortly after a near-death experience in the ocean, as the currents were pulling me out to sea faster than I could swim back in. Fortunately I was rescued, but strangely, I became much more freaked out after I was back on shore.
I wrote the middle section one day when I was trying to play this tune on piano. Of course I can't play piano but sometimes playing an instrument you don't know how to play yields new musical avenues. The words were easy..I just remembered how alone, scared and helpless I felt watching Ruby floating out to sea.
Through Your Eyes
I wrote this one from the viewpoint of being Ruby and being married to me or something like that. We were probably having disagreements about music and life. Of course my own views are there too since I am what I am. The title also works well with the artwork on the cover.the eyes. That was just a happy coincidence. This one sounds a little bit secret agent-y with Ruby's addition of vibes.
Rest of My Life
This is one of those songs where I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. You know, wondering what it's all about. Thinking that maybe I'd be the only one to ever hear any of the songs I'd written. And who cares anyway right? I went through a period of writing songs about this subject but try to keep most of them out of sight. This one has a nice crunchy yet melodic sound. And, while in the studio recording the song with our rhythm section du jour (Rick Calcagni & Jim Clements) we just kind of spontaneously broke into an extended Latin groove at the end that I really dug.
This is about being in a band. Any band.
I didn't write this one but I sure had fun playing it!
No Saints Can Say
The first part of this a cappella tune was written by Billy about 20 years ago and the second part just in the last few months. Good to finish what you've started once in awhile.
Can you tell that I've spent a lot of time listening to Todd, Brian Wilson and The Beatles? The title of the song refers to the Jane Smaldone painting on our album cover. Jane has a series of paintings all inspired by the story of Saint Lucy. It was originally called No Words Can Sayî but Saints seemed to work nicely too.
Yeah, the story of Saint Lucy bears repeating. The short version is that she stabbed her own eyes out in protest of being forced to marry, rather than being allowed to live her life devoted to God. Legend says that her eyes actually grew back, leading to her eventual Sainthood.
Like many songwriters I have tapes and tapes of half written songs..mostly melodies without lyrics. Once in a great while I'll torture myself and play them back. Sometimes a melody or chord structure will hit me and I don't even remember writing it. This was the case with Somedays. Lyrically, I just wanted to convey the way I felt about not really being able to change the world or my friends or my wife. It all goes on with or without me. I can only change me. It also refers to conversations I've had with Ruby about being happy. If I think about it I'm not sure but if I don't think about it I might be. Oops..I'm thinking about it.
What exactly do you mean by change my wife???
Heart of the City
The intro to this song was originally supposed to be city noises, or at least conjure up city noises. I'm not sure if it does that or not but it goes from calm to tense sounding and back. It's kind of a soundscape thing that I learned from working with people like Mr. Curt (who plays ebo on the intro) and listening to the more experimental sides of Lennon & McCartney. The main part of the song moves into Americana sounds. As Sven Larson said (who graces this tune with his fretless electric bass) It's a rocker! The lyrics just reflect what I see all around me in the city: violence, noise, fear and the need to escape it all.
Long Road Home
I'm still on the city theme with this song. Basically just about keeping your eyes open and keeping your guard up. We got kind of a rock-a-billy groove on this one. Even included a washboard track after seeing Clifton Cheniere's son play at, of all places, The Museum of Fine Arts.
Not This Time
I wrote this one way back when I was a teenager. Hence the sort of simple love song that it is. I used to write lyrics while working in a deli (on deli paper) while waiting for the next customer to order a pound of ham salad. The music somehow always stayed with me but we never recorded or played it out until now. Ruby felt that the lyrics sounded like a conversation between two lovers though it wasn't originally conceived that way. So we have Ruby & I switching off vocal lines and finally singing in harmony. Our studio drummer Mike Ahrens thought the slow middle part of the song sounded like Pink Floyd. Odd because I don't actually own a Pink Floyd album I'm embarrassed to say. But I still tried to conjure up David Gilmour when I played the solo. Billy Carl
Just for the record, in a previous life I had a Pink Floyd album, and dug it.
My grandmother wrote beautiful, funny poems as was fitting for the beautiful, funny person she was. Red Geraniums, though, had special poignancy and was recited at her funeral. While reading this poem for the hundredth time, a tune came suddenly and sharply to mind, too strong to ignore. So I put them together. This song is dedicated to her.