Monday, December 21, 2009

River of Time

For the Black and Blue 2009 Christmas Single, we ended up recording a re-roast of an old Munson chestnut called “River of Time.”

Matt wrote and recorded this song solo with the TASCAM four track, way back in the first year of the band’s existence – no one really knows exactly when, because Matt mostly kept it under wraps. Why? Matt never seemed happy with his creation. To the contrary, over the years he seemed slightly embarrassed whenever I mentioned it.

I suspect it was the lyrics that really bothered him. It was kind of a stream-of-consciousness blank verse thing, a bit resigned and philosophical, with loads of nonsensical lines and disconnected phrases. Possibly the Michael Stipe influence was too overt. While admittedly not a GREAT song, I always found the music charming, and used to bug Matt to dust it off and finish it.

So flash forward to 2009. While racking my brain for a Christmas song idea on Thursday December 10, I hit upon the notion of rewriting “River of Time” with Christmas lyrics. I was fighting a cold and felt miserable, but Matt was due to arrive in town for a recording session, so I put on my songwriting hat, and later that afternoon I had a clutch of verses ready to try out.

As it turned out we didn’t turn our attention to the song until the weekend. When we did, I dropped a couple of hints and Munson guessed what I was up to pretty fast. Frankly, I am surprised that we ended up recording it, but we didn’t really have any other promising concepts. So, after some perfunctory editing and arranging, we emerged from my garage with a new Christmas song. The recording turned out pretty decent too. Not amazing, but workmanlike and fairly entertaining.

A few days later, I experienced a sudden insight which may reveal another angle to Matt’s distaste for the song.

My big insight into “River of Time” was that the rhythm seemed similar to one of my own songs “Above You,” which was written and recorded right around the same time.

Don once pointed out that my songs often have a quasi-shuffle rhythm to them (not very well suited for radio play), and that “Above You” was a perfect example. After recording Matt’s old song, I could suddenly see a kinship between the two, at least in terms of rhythm.

So, maybe after all these years I can figure out when Matt created “River of Time!”

It would seem to me that all the pieces were in place by early December 1992 for Matt to write and record “River of Time:”
• By Halloween, Matt had acquired his Ovation acoustic guitar which sounds to have been used on the recording of “River of Time.”
• By the first of December, Matt and I had recorded “Above You,” which Matt mixed down and played for his coworkers over the loudspeakers at the Wherehouse, where the track was reportedly praised. Matt had not been familiar with “Above You” prior to the recording – and in fact that song was not actually completed until the day of the recording. The rhythm of “River of Time” may have been inspired or subconsciously influenced by “Above You.”
• Sometime during Autumn 1992, and possibly as late as the band fight in mid-late December, the band had rehearsed “Penthouse Pauper,” which contained elements that Matt has cited as influencing the lyrics in “River of Time,” specifically the use of the word “pauper.”
• The TASCAM seems to have been in Matt’s possession for most of December 1992, and then sporadically with me during late December and early-mid January. Matt may have taken it home to record vocal overdubs during our “Month of Recording” in December/January. He also did a solo Ovation guitar overdub for Better Off Alone during the “Month of Recording.”
To me, the most likely scenario involves a December writing/recording session for River of Time by Matt at his Brentwood apartment, probably during early-mid December.

So now, I have refined my best guesses at session dates for the three known Munson solo TASCAM recordings from 1992-3:

Trials and Tribulations – late September to mid October (after the “Drive My Yaunch” songwriting session in September, but before Matt’s Ovation guitar acquisition in late October). Probably a follow-up from the songwriting session and recorded while I was in the Sierras doing dam research.
Even When You’re Gone – late October to November or early December (after acquisition of the Ovation, but while this song still retained currency – after the fifth of December concert we basically stopped playing the song). Possibly inspired by the Ovation purchase.
River of Time – December. Probably spurred by the “Above You” recording session. Could also have been January. It may make sense to lump “River of Time” with the “Month of Recording.” Seems doubtful that he would have done it later, when we started getting near another band breakup.

So here is the revised list of Classic Stickmen recordings from the late 1992 period:

Trials and Tribulations TASCAM session – Sep/Oct 1992
Halloween concert video – 31 Oct 1992
Even When You’re Gone TASCAM session – c. Nov 1992
Comic Quest practice tape – c. late Nov 1992
Above You TASCAM session – 1 Dec 1992
December 5 video – 5 Dec 1992
Harvey Mudd video – c. mid-Dec 1992
You’ve Got the Look TASCAM session (lost) – late Dec 1992
Month of Recording TASCAM sessions – late Dec 1992 – mid Jan 1993
Don’s Wedding Reception video (lost) – c. Jan 1993

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