A new feature of Jersey’s Journal in which our resident songwriter gives us some insights into the songwriter’s craft. We’ll let him tell us about a song he’s working on and he’ll let us know how he comes up with his ideas, or not.
‘Damn, now you’ve made me cry….’
It seemed a simply reaction to something he said to someone, but then he got to thinking about women and crying and, well, women crying, and he came up with:
‘It won’t be the first time I made a woman cry, don’t think it will be the last.
There always too worried about the future, or picking away at my past.
Trying to get in touch with their feelings, wondering how long things will last.
It won’t be the first time I made a woman cry; God willing, it will not be the last.’
–Untitled and unfinished as yet song, Tyrunn
Now that he had a working chorus, could he build something around it? He had to think about why a woman might cry about something he did, or had done, and when it might have started so he went way back in his past to what might, or might not be true, but then it’s a song, not an auto biography. Wrestling with this he eventually came up with a first verse:
I was barely nineteen when the old man sat me down, said it was time that I knew the score.
He was sick of all my singing about this ‘peace and love’ crap. Time to be heading off to war.
He’d but one leg to stand on, as he’d paid his dues before. ‘Lost the other way back in ’48.
I’d heard the old war stories, seen those grainy black and whites, could sympathize, but I could not relate.
I packed a bag with what the old man deemed was mine, strapped Harmony across my back
Kicked down on the cycle, my face stone straight ahead, not to give him the satisfaction of looking back.
I drove off into that misty morn with anger in my heart; on my lips not ‘so long’ but ‘goodbye.’
Wiped the dew from the side mirror, then I saw her face, couldn’t avoid the tears in my mother’s eyes.
So now he had his mother crying and maybe this could serve as the starting point, so the working chorus evolved into:
That was the first time I made a woman cry, somehow knew it would not be the last.
But I was in no hurry to folly off to war to make up for the old man’s past.
Mom had loved him blindly, too silent and too long, and stood by him too steadfast.
That might have been the first time I made a woman cry, knew it would not be the last.
Of course, now the problem was where to go from here? Would there be a series of women crying, a trail of them left behind? Would this just be some sort of macho romp through the wilds? Well, that he had to decide.
We here at Jersey’s Journal [JJ] asked him [TY] about this first verse.
JJ: Were you 19 when you left home?
TY: Actually I was 20, and before we go back and forth when I did leave it was in a car. It was 6AM one sunny summer morning. The old man was at the kitchen table, smoking and drinking and my mother was passed out from a bottle of vodka, sleeping it off in the hallway. Like an episode of Shameless, neither knew I was leaving. We were a white trash family way before the term became popular.
JJ: Did you even have a motor cycle?
JJ: By ’48, we figure you’re making some reference to WWII?
TY: Yeah, the old man and most of his friends were WWII vets, so caught up in that past. When they gathered for one of their gab and drink fests, or held parties, the stories flew fast and furious. And yes, he did lose his left leg as a result of injuries in Europe during that was. There was this other fellow in a wheel chair. And then there were all the unseen injuries. No, he would never talk about them, he preferred to drink and try and forget. His Purple Heart was in the bottom dresser drawer. On Sunday afternoons we must have watched every black and white war movie ever made.
JJ: OK, now about the Harmony, that’s an entry level guitar, right?
TY: Yep, still got it. I bought it, well, I got my mother to buy it for me, in the summer of ’68. I had a $15 clunker, action so high I had to carve it down with a steak knife, painted on pick guard, real piece of crap. It met it’s end in a college variety show. Got broken over some guy’s head as part of his act. He gave me his old harmony, with a cracked body in exchange. Even with the crack it was better than what I had. That summer I found this new Harmony, but had no dough so I ‘borrowed’ $40 from dear old mom, and, well, never got around to paying her back. Still got it, hangs in its case on a wall in the basement. Take it out ‘bout once a year just to renew and old friendship.
JJ: He tells you that it’s ‘time to be going off to war.’ Was that Vietnam?
TY: Certainly was.
JJ: Did you ever go?
TY: Certainly did not. Had no interest is going to the other side of the globe to kill, or be killed by, total strangers. Fellow I went to grammar school with died over there, guy who lived up the block from me had a bunker fall in on him, and another two years ahead of me in high school got shot up but survived. He eventually became the chief of police. That was as close as I wanted to be. I think I make that point in the first verse, it’s what a number of us felt back then.
JJ: I gather that a lot of this first verse is you, then?
TY: That’s a reasonable gather, but there are always artistic liberties. [grins]
JJ: OK, so the singer has left home, where to now?
TY: That was something I had to decide. Usually when I write a song, I get started with a hook of some sort, in this case the ‘woman crying’ thing, then have to figure out where it’s going to lead. Had to try to see an ending somehow, then maybe work back to it.
At this point Tyrunn took his leave. He promised to share more of the song and his insights with us soon.