Now I Am a Songwriter

While I was at Dragon*Con, I got a really pleasant surprise. I had been hanging out with Randy Chertkow all through the weekend but I had no idea until I got an email late Sunday (early Monday, really) that Beatnik Turtle had posted the song I wrote with them for their Song of the Day, a tender jam called “Drunk Man’s Junk.

Here’s the story behind it, which actually is two stories in one with a nice sitcom plot twist in the middle. Last year, I was hanging out with Randy, Jason and Tom from Beatnik Turtle on the balcony of a party that was well out of hand. As we were talking, we heard a girl utter the phrase “I can see that drunk man’s junk!” Apparently one of our bekilted brethren had had the one drink too many and hit the deck but in a state of disarray. While we were in the vicinity, I never actually saw the money shot which is probably best for all.

I turned to the guys and said “If you don’t turn this into a song, by god I will!” They thought that was a funny idea. I had already arranged to do an interview with Randy and Jason about their book The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician . I decided to try hard to get the lyrics together and when we did that interview (published here and here), after it was done I sang my song into their portable recorder and they took it back to Chicago. A few days later after a generous assist from Ewan Spence, who corrected a few things no Scot would actually say, I emailed them a copy of the updated lyrics. That was September 2008.

Fast forward to this year’s Dragon*Con. Randy is there but the other two guys are not, and I have meals and drinks and generally hang out with him. Either he did not know this song was going to be posted Monday or he was playing it really close to the vest. Back in Chicago, Jason and Tom and the rest of the band were taking advantage of not being at the con to finish it up.

Here’s where the story turns into an episode of Three’s Company. I would be more vague to protect the guilty, but Evo Terra has been gleefully spilling these beans (so to speak) so it’s out of the bag now (so to speak). I might as well talk about it. As it happens, earlier that evening I was invited up to the intimate room party of the Scotchcast guys, who gave me tastings of several varieties and talked me through the nuance of the experience. It was really interesting and educational and I had a blast with it. I didn’t actually know these guys very well before this but had a great time with them, and was very appreciative of their hospitality. Turns out that one of my hosts was the guy from the inspiring incident. I didn’t know that for sure at the time as I had forgotten a lot of the specifics from last year and wasn’t that familiar with them before sitting down for a visit. I thought there was a good chance of it but my memory was a little shaky as I too was on less than best behavior at said party last year.

Not until I saw Evo tweeting about it today did I know for sure that was the case. I had a sinking feeling when I got the email about the song and a worse one this morning when I saw the tweets but the gentleman in question is being a ridiculously good sport about it. Unlike Evo I’m going to not name names just to help a brother out in staying off the Google page rank for this topic. There you have it. I threw the song over the wall last year, they threw it back about 2 hours after I got to know the guy that triggered the whole thing. Who can figure? If I wrote a song about the writing of the song, it would be silly and unbelievable.

I love listening to this song. It makes me laugh. It’s both very different from what I expected and very much like what I thought it would sound like simultaneously. It’s different in being a rocker when I always thought of it like a drinking shanty kind of song. A few words in the chorus are different (for the better), and a new bridge exists (for the better) that puts a bow on the whole thing and I really like that. However the weird part of how much of my original idea is there. The tune and meter of the singing are really close to what I sang into their digital recorder last year. Almost all the lyrics are straight from the 2nd pass after Ewan’s feedback. I’ve never written a song that ever propagated beyond my own head before, and especially not one that made it to a full production recording like this. It makes me insanely happy and I’m going to put it as the lone song in my Dragon*Con wrap up episode. Fun times in my podosphere.

Thank you Beatnik Turtle for working with me on this and for a great song. Thank you to the fine gentlemen of the Scotchcast – Jeff, Chip and Michael – for hosting me and my friends. Who’s the guy who inspired the song? To paraphrase the Doors: “Three to one, baby, one in three. No one here gets out with dignity!” Good times, people. Good times. Maybe one day I’ll tell the stories of the multiple times my underwear were found around the Georgia Tech campus in the mid-80s. I too have been the drunk man with the junk.