I don’t know if our love can be real anymore
But tonight it can’t be any more real
When you left my life became one bad dream
Tonight I know how good a dream can feel
If lyin’ next to you is too good to be true
All that I would ask is please
Don’t wake me if I’m dreamin’ I can use the memories
©Copyright 1980 Love Gives More Music
Welcome to Songs and Stories from Home. That’s the first verse and the chorus of the song Don’t Wake Me If I’m Dreamin’ I Can Use The Memories. McCoy and I recorded it at a concert in 1980 and put it on a cassette in early 81. In the next few Dear Partner letters I’ll be sharing some of our adventures and misadventures, musical and otherwise, from the 1980’s.
The Lady 80’s Tour with The Brothers Four in the summer of 79 gave me some confidence. It also put me back on my feet financially. Our friend, Gary Drager, had recently gotten married and rented me his place on Eastlake at a family rate. I fell in love. I started seeing a way forward. Although at times it felt like choosing between heating and eating, I decided to focus on trying to succeed primarily as a songwriter. When Bob Dylan’s brother, David Zimmerman, was my manager he told me Dylan spent six hours a day writing songs. I’ll say my quest to follow his example has haunted and inspired me my whole career. I will also say I didn’t fully appreciate the old maxim that says you can make a killing as a songwriter, you just can’t make a living.
Not giving up on the idea of ultimately being considered a singer-songwriter, my normal routine was to write one song for me to sing and then the next one for sale. Back and forth. It would take a while longer to realize it’s better for me to write from the heart than for the market. There are different schools of thought when it comes to presenting songs to publishers. One is to keep it simple, for instance, just voice and guitar. The other is to add instruments and present a more polished and complete demo. In 1980 I decided to try the more complete demo route.
While putting the pieces of my life back together, in retrospect one piece was missing, and that was confidence to go into the studio or on to the stage by myself. You were ready to lend a hand and your voice as well as that laugh of yours when things got too serious. We found a small and obscure recording studio on Queen Anne Hill. Nice guys with hefty dreams. They called their place Big and Famous. They knew a group of musicians for us to work with. Drager, playing the role of producer, added his artistic magic. He’d become well known as a children’s book author under the name Cooper Edens. He loved music and, after working with us, ended up spending a lot of the 80’s working with young Seattle musicians. The way he tells it he was in LA mulling a major label deal for one of the groups when the Seattle Grunge scene took off and left Drager’s group unsigned and Drager trying to figure out what to do next.
A few days before one of my planned trip to Nashville, Drager and I met at Big and Famous. It was Sunday morning, May 18th. We’d mix a song then turn on a small black and white TV to get updates on the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. One strange day. The results of the Nashville trip, like many that followed, were inconclusive. A few doors opened, with one publisher promising to get Don’t Wake Me If I’m Dreaming on to Anne Murray’s desk.
After seeing a show with Pat Sands at the Seattle Concert Theater we rented the place for our own show on Saturday, Flag Day, June 14th. Sell-out crowd. A few days earlier you and I appeared on the Seattle Today show. The other guests were G. Gordan Liddy of Watergate fame and Wally Amos who was promoting his Famous Amos cookies. When he opened a bag and offered samples I quickly scarfed down a few conveniently forgetting I was in the middle of the second week of the Scarsdale Diet made famous by Dr. Herman Tarnower who had been murdered by his mistress, Jean Harris, a few weeks earlier.
You built your log house later that summer with the help of your wife, father-in-law, and a collection of volunteers. I was a part of it for the first six weeks. I even had a nickname, Otto. My last day was as unexpected as it was unforgettable. We had stacked logs one by one till together they reached a height of eight or nine feet. Our job that day was to each hoist a 12 by 12 beam that together ran across the width of the house and then Kate and her dad would place a support beam beneath the two of them. Together they would become the main support beams for what would become the second floor. You and I are standing nose to nose counting to three before giving it all we’ve got. What we hadn’t counted on was that as the walls were rising, the logs had imperceptivity sagged inward making the job of getting the two beams together and high enough to get a support beam underneath them monumental. A few tries into it we were almost there when you stepped into the hole that was destined to become the stairwell to the basement. Your nearly instantaneous jump to safety meant the weight of the beams ended up on my shoulders. Surveying the aftermath there was a lot of relief that we both made it not much worse for wear. And after taking a break we stayed at it long enough to raise high the roof beams with the support beams safely underneath. And when that was done, I was done.
A month later I came back to see how things were going. You were on the roof making wearing a tool belt look somehow cool pounding in shingles moving with ease. Seeing you there, the sun behind you, you appeared somehow different, as if in the course of that summer you had grown into a part yourself; a part of you that these days builds guitars and gives them away to kids that need them. At that moment it was enough to look up, to see you, and to know not only were you putting a roof on your house but, at that moment, you were on your way home.
In 1981 I established a relationship with a small publisher in Nashville that would last for more than ten years. The first weekend in April you and I did two sold out nights at the Seattle Concert Theater. We wondered whether the shows would go on after President Reagan was shot earlier that week. Unusual times. John Lennon, the President and then the Pope.
Our musical collaboration got more serious when we signed a record deal. A small label, but a deal none the less. Bob Flick agreed to produce it. One of these letters is going to talk more about Bob and how important he has been to my life and career, to both of our lives and our careers. Back then besides singing in The Brothers Four his other ventures and adventures included writing and producing award winning commercials. He discovered and worked with the best musicians in the Northwest. He would be bringing them in to play on our album, one we would end up calling Between Friends.
The recording was scheduled for three days in early September. The plan was to do the recording in Studio A at Kaye Smith. Big time. There would be a day of rehearsal and two days of recording that would include a group of friends there each night as a live audience.
We chose twelve songs to put on the album. At rehearsal we bogged down on the seventh song. A decision was made to go home without running through the remaining tunes. That uncertainty added a certain level of anxiety. Earlier in the day my dad had called. He was flying into Seattle from Europe on his way to Spokane. While his arrival was totally unexpected I told myself it could be a gift to have him there for this big moment. My older brother picked him up at the airport and dropped him off at the studio just as the rehearsal was finishing up.
When my dad and I got back to my place it was clear he was in distress. Over the next couple of hours, he talked about all that he had built financially before he and my mom left for overseas was crumbling. He was likely to lose everything. In so many ways my dad was and remains my hero. A role model on how to be a good and decent man. He loved to laugh. He seldom cried in front of me. This was one of those times.
Around midnight I offered him my bed while I took the couch in the living room. Several times I heard him get out of bed and pace. One time he let me put my arms around him and hold him. It was the only time in my life that I held him in that way. I shared his despair as best I could.
Early the next morning we walked the few blocks to Lake Union as the day awakened. We found a bench. I have little memory of how the rest of the day went. My dad was there for the first half of the recording session that evening, sitting in front of me. The band was as good as promised. Yours and my rehearsals of the songs paid off. We were going to have our album. On a break I said goodbye to my dad who would be flying into Spokane and an uncertain future. A good friend took him to the airport. I would be driving to Spokane to be with him in a couple of days.
At that time Pat and her husband, John, owned a restaurant on Capitol Hill. They closed the place early that night so that we could invite everyone up there to celebrate. It was, as my father would say, great. Toward the end of the evening you and I ended up on the back porch. John had given us each two bottles of Heineken beer. I quickly drank one down, put it down, held the other while all that had happened over the previous twenty-four hours came pouring out. For the first time in my life I knew what it was like to laugh as loud as I could while at the same time crying as hard as I knew how. Such joy and such sorrow alive in that moment. A moment we shared. And then we rose and turned toward the door and to all that was going to happen.
Thinking back now to the fall of 1981
When we recorded Between Friends
I remember all those fears and doubts
When it was over looking back at what we’d done
As far as my dad what I couldn’t do
How the emotions came pouring out like mad
The back steps of that restaurant sitting there with you
And I’m laughing as loud as I know how
While crying as hard as I can
The joy and the sorrow are so close together
Don’t know where one stops and the other begins
Life suspended in that one moment
As it waits to be defined
It’s all over before we know it
The falling and the flying, the falling and the flying
©Copyright 2010 Live Gives More Music