Thursday, August 23, 2007

Basement Songs - "Stay On" by The BoDeans

Inspiration comes at you from all places. Sometimes it is the actions of another person, sometimes it is the encouraging words from a friend or loved one. And sometimes, inspiration comes in the form of a random discovery like a song on a cd you find in the $2 bin. Thus is the case with this week’s basement song, “Stay On,” by The BoDeans.

Just before The BoDeans achieved their most commercial success by supplying the theme song to “Party of Five" back in the mid 90’s, their 1993 album, “Go Slow Down” was released and went nowhere. Luckily for me, Los Angeles had an Adult Alternative radio station that favored the BoDeans and their song “Idaho”. When I discovered “Go Slow Down” in a $2 bin at the once famous (now defunct) Aaron Records in Hollywood, I swooped it up and slapped down my hard earned cash for it and three other cd’s I no longer own. With T Bone Burnett on board as executive producer, the entire album is full of heart, charm and the touching harmonies that are the trademark of Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann, the guys who write the songs, play the lead instruments, and break your heart every time they open their mouths to sing. That’s how damn good they are and it’s a shame they’ve never achieved the type of success they deserve. For the number of records they put out, these guys could have given up at any time, but they did not, which leads me into the song, “Stay On.”

If I’m reading the liner notes and the lyrics correctly, the song was written at a point when they were soul searching and pondering reasons to continue with their music career. And that seems to be where this song came from. For me, the opening verse is what lays out the whole song for me. “I fear, I fear I’ve gone too far/ Yes I fear I’ve led you astray”. In a nutshell, those have been the feelings that have haunted me since the day we moved to California. Did I drag Julie out here? Did I lead her astray? Whenever I have expressed these fears to her, Julie has made sure to point out that she chose to come with me. She puts those fears to rest. She supports me and is my greatest champion. Perhaps that is why this song chokes me up so much when I listen to it. It’s not just that the BoDeans are encouraging me and all the dreamers like me to keep on keeping on, but it’s Julie’s voice I hear when they sing. Those are the words she has told me so many times since we met back in 1992.

“Stay On, stay on, steady on/ Stay on stay on, don’t you stray.”

As we have grown, her words of encouragement are not as direct as this song. It is her tone and the look she gives me. If I’m having trouble with a script (as I have been for a year) she is the first to say “If it’s making you miserable, maybe you should ditch it.” And when someone dismisses my work, she’s my champion, my true defender. “What the hell do they know?” To hear her support, to see that she still believes in me keeps me going every day. And it’s not just about the writing. Man, that’s pretty damn lame if it was just about the writing. It’s so much more. It’s about being a decent husband. It’s about being a good father. It’s about being a good soul mate and friend.

This past year has been tough. We’ve struggled financially and somehow managed to keep afloat. We’ve dealt with the pressure and stress of Jake entering school and how it may effect his health and he continues to be strong and healthy. We’ve worried to death about Sophie and how all of this crap is bearing down on her. Lord knows there are things she sees and fears that she is not telling us. And we have dealt with our own depressions, mine getting to a dreadful low point back in the spring. I can honestly say that I had never felt so awful as I did back then. I thank God that Julie was there to hold me up and I thank God that Steve made his unexpected visit. Those two kept me sane and I am so much better today because of them. Throughout this past year, we have had to stay on and remain steady.

Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing the song justice. Sometimes, it’s pointless to analyze a song and break down what it means to you. So often, music just hits you in the right place at the right time and whether it’s an entire album or a single song (or perhaps two notes of a song) the emotional effect it has on you isn’t supposed to be broken down for twenty or so people to read about on a Friday morning. We’ve all been there, though, haven’t we? We’ve all been so down, ready to throw in the towel on this shitty world and we’ve found someone singing about the same crap we’re going through. That feeling you get from a good basement song, the feeling that you’re not alone, that’s the glory of music, whether it’s a Copland suite, a Bryan Adams power ballad, the hillbilly yodels of Hank Williams, the inane gobbly gook of the Wiggles, or the acoustic glory of the BoDeans.

With that, I send out my offer to any of you out there who aren’t getting the songs each week to email me and I’ll send it your way. Join the rest of us dreamers and blue eyed devils in the basement for a little soul searching and good music.

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