Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 15


Prophet 15

The courtship of my father and Nelson’s mother continued for a few more dates over the course of the next week.  I kept a low profile so as not to seem like a lonely pervert who needed to live vicariously through my stud friend.  Checking in on Mom and discovering more revelations of her revolution helped me bide my time.  I also watched quite a few high school football practices at the field behind Dad’s house, studying the players for any sign of a future superstar.  Unfortunately it seemed that this small town just didn’t breed them.

    It was at this field that I eventually met up with my father again.  I was lying on the sidelines (no danger of being hit by a ball for me) when he came running up and kicked me.

    “I’ve been looking all over for you.  Aren’t you cold?  It’s freezing out here.”

    He tightened up his jacket and put his arms around himself.  I’d been so worried about avoiding crowds and keeping my feet on the ground that my immunity from temperatures had slipped my mind.  It was October after all, and one single day where Dad could mow the lawn shirtless and flexing did not constitute a heat wave.

    “Don’t worry about me.  I’m cold blooded.”

    “At least come up to the house with me.  I need your help.”

    “You need my help?”

    “She told me about the boyfriend.  She goes for musicians.  He’s a classical pianist.”

    “Musicians?”  I asked in confusion.  I could hardly believe that the stuck up woman who yelled at us after the wedding was a groupie.  Though I suppose ending up with a classical pianist may account for some of her arrogance, stereotypical as it was.

    That train of thought came to a screeching halt with my next realization.

    “You play the guitar,” I stated, excited to see this come full circle.  “So what’s the problem?”

    “How do you know I play?”

    Oops.  “I saw a guitar.  I mean...I saw your cousin with one.  He wasn’t all that good though.”

    “No, he isn’t.  That’s my guitar.  He just fools around with it when he hangs out here.  Drives me crazy.  At least he tries.  I can play, but just cover songs.  She wants me to write a song for her.”

    I laughed.  “A battle of the bands for the hand of the fair maiden?”

    “Something like that.  What am I going to do?”   

    “Why not use your suave charm?”

    “Charm has gotten me this far, but I’ll need to show some skills to keep it up.”

    “We could just call the whole thing off right now,” I bluffed.

    “No way.  I’m gonna win this one on principle if nothing else.  I told you, I don’t care about the money.  You have to help me.”

    I knew I had him.  “Let’s go write a song.”

Dad had perched himself on the edge of his bed, guitar in hand.  I stood in the corner trying to keep my feet obscured.  He wanted to play in the basement, but I made some excuses about mildew and allergies and a desire to peek at the football game through his window so as not to have to explain my true inability to go downstairs.

    “Don’t you want to sit down?” he asked.

    “It’s fine.  I prefer to stand when I hear live music.”

    “You can at least come a little closer.”

    Actually I couldn’t, as I needed to stand behind the pile of laundry on the floor to distract his attention from the fact that I was ankle deep in the floorboards. 

    “The acoustics will be better from this angle.”

    “What do you want to hear?”

    “I don’t care.  Play whatever.”


    “Anything you want.  Just play.”

    And play he did.  His setlist that afternoon:

            People Are Strange

            We Can Work It Out


            Piece of My Heart

            All Along the Watchtower

    All cover songs, each one with a distinct treatment and pop sensibility that made it his own.  His guitar playing was very skilled, and his vocal style comfortable yet oddly hypnotic.  After hearing this much raw talent from my young father, it amazed me he hadn’t become a professional musician.  Maybe his inability to write his own songs held him back, but even a session musician could make a decent wage and obtain a little bit of new found glory.

    I beamed when he was done.  “When I asked you to ‘play whatever,’ I didn’t expect that.  That was fantastic!”

    I should admit here that even though I’m a musical connoisseur of sorts, I’m not a songwriter.  I’ve tried, but it’s a very difficult craft to perfect.  I know a great song when I hear one and understand the basic concepts behind a solid hit single, but authoring one just isn’t a skill I have.  Let the critics critique, the artists create, and the singers sing.

    Dad blushed.  “Thanks.  It’s not all that special.  I’m just copying.  What’s so funny?”

    He had caught me in the middle of some laugh, as I thought to myself it would have been amusing if he had actually played the song “Whatever” by Oasis when I invited him to “play whatever.”  But he couldn’t have, since it wouldn’t be recorded for another twenty-five years.

    But maybe we could borrow it, and a few others…

    Teaching the song to Dad was much easier than expected, mainly because of his remarkable mimicry skills.  We started with the lyrics as a poem, letting him get a feel for the language.  Then I’d hum a few bars of the melody for him to play back.  By the second or third try he had the chords and rhythm down.  The process could have gone much faster if I was able to play him a tape, as my humming wasn’t what they call pitch perfect.  But this turned out to be a good thing, as it made the song one step closer to his own.  The same was true for the delivery of the lyrics, as my lack of melody also allowed Dad’s “cover” to deviate from the originals. 

    Wanting more, I threw “Lounge Act” by Nirvana at him next, trying to emulate Unplugged but ending up somewhere between Nevermind and Rubber Soul.  Kurt would have been proud.

    The whole scenario brought back memories of nights spent with my former college roommate when he would write songs in my presence and I’d give an immediate thumbs up or thumbs down as he tried various sets of lyrics and chord progressions.  Inspired, I taught my Dad one of his unreleased numbers that I always loved, but my roommate thought sounded “too ‘60s.”  I’d even come up with the clever title of “Won One” as a play on a repeated homophone in the chorus, my one claim to songwriting (ok, song titling) fame.  It also took away some of my guilt in this plagiarism exercise, as my friend always refused to play it at his shows in college even though I insisted it was great.  That argument would be ended soon enough.

    As I recited the lyrics for Dad to transcribe, it struck me for the first time that they seemed to eerily foretell my current situation.  Was the author a prophet of sorts?  Or possibly from the future?  Probably not, but you be the judge:

        Come on in you might as well hear this too

        One day your mind took flight and it flew

        Around the trees you thought were waving at you

        No things just don’t seem like they used to

        So turn up the rain and turn down the sun

        As I lift my hand from yours girl I assure you no one won

        Turn up the sun and turn down the rain

        The clouds they came but they were not the same

        Come on in you might as well hear this too

        Well it’s slipping away but hey it’s just a part of you

        These are all things I thought you knew

        Oh things just don’t seem like they used to

        (Great solo here:  duh doo doo doo doo doo, di doo doo...)

        So turn up the rain and turn down the sun

        As I lift my head from yours girl I assure you no one won

        Turn up the sun and turn down the rain

        The clouds they came, swelled with their pain.

    Dad paused briefly after finishing his first full run-through of our trifecta.  “You wrote these?”

    “With a little help from my friends, but they won’t mind if you use them.”

    Dad took my lyrical bait and had a glow in his eyes when he made his next proposal.  

    “You and I should become a songwriting team.  Like Lennon and McCartney.  It’ll be great.”

    “Let’s just see how these three songs go over first, okay?”