Won't You Come Back to Me, 1992
Oy. How about Monday morning? Apologies for the delay, people - this weekend turned out to be jam-packed with stuff, and I didn't want to give this feature short-shrift. Then I realized, well, my next week is going to be pretty jam-packed, too - in fact, there will be jams and they're packed in pretty tight - so I might as well get to it.
Not like it's going to be a big blog of revelations for this song. I have no recollection of when it was written or even what instrument it was written on. That's me playing the Rhodes on that, which would suggest that it was written on piano, but I know enough about my writing and playing style from the time to say with some surety that it was most likely written on guitar - the chord change and structure is just too 'simple' for me to have written it on piano. But why and when did the Rhodes enter into the equation? Fucked if I know.
See, the session these recordings came from was what I would consider my first album. Not that anything was released or marketed or anything, but after about five years of dicking around with all acoustic four-tracks (guitar and piano were all I could play at this point) and going through my entire time in college without getting a rock band together, I felt like it was time to blow a chunk of change and get something I could stand to listen to together.
To that end, I pressed into service the twins, Ansley and Bran Lancourt, and the drummer in their power trio (known at the time as The Good Fall), Craig Rogers. This was a band that practiced every day - Craig lived with them - and were incredibly tight, so the learning of the material went very quickly. I don't recall more than a week or so of practice before going into the studio, but I could be wrong. I didn't end up playing much on the final recordings - some little acoustic here, some keys there - because it was an airtight band and my playing style didn't really fit in.
Frankly, my playing style still wouldn't fit into what that band was doing. White-blues-funk-rock has never been anything that I could automatically sit down and toss off, as should be indicated by the slightly funkier Rhodes-with-Wah pedal part I tried to play on the chorus. Still, my playing on the verse indicates my playing style as contrasted with these other musicians - when confronted with a flurry of complex, aggressive musicianship, I fall back into my default mode of very laid-back comping.
What's particularly interesting on hearing this song and the eight others that were on the album - an album titled Agnostic Love Songs, btw - is that the country-folk angle was there in my writing as early as 1992. Which is odd, because I'd swear I didn't start writing in that vein for another few years, yet. Probably, if I'd had more of a sense of myself as a musician at the time, or a wider library of influences to draw from, this album would have been a much different beast - quieter, more contemplative. Lord knows the more rocking songs on the album - and The Good Fall could rock, let me tell you - show my singing voice and vocal meter in their worst possible light, straining to hit notes and pack syllables in, and failing to do so with depressing regularity.
Today's entry, therefore, is something of an anomaly on the album - a simple, straightforward and tuneful number that's about as heartfelt as I was capable of. Even the weakness of my voice at that point played to its favor, since the pretty basic plea for reconciliation and sense of loneliness aren't too hard to miss in the lyric, written with my college girlfriend in mind. It's an anomaly in that regard as well - almost all the other songs on the album are buried in unnecessary wordplay, and I recall specific comments from the twins to that effect while I was recording the vocals.
True, the songs would have worked better if the band had slowed down the tempos a bit, but trying to get The Good Fall to play in a more Dave style - at a point when said style was a big question mark - would have been a lot like trying to slow the Earth in its orbit by going outside and jumping up and down. When those guys took off, it truly was an unstoppable force of nature. And the playing is great, no denying. The Good Fall arrived at the Dave Matthews Band sound a good four years before that band broke.
Really, if I'd had more maturity as a writer and performer, I would have seen that I needed to simplify my own approach on every song, as I somehow did with this one. I'm making an educated guess, here, that Won't You Come Back to Me was written very late in the game, possibly just weeks before we went to record, while some of the other songs on the record date back as far as 1990. Perhaps not coincidentally, the older songs are the ones most in need of a syllablectomy, so at least I was working it out.
But it's recordings like this that help us all work things out. When you're a young musician, developing your style - and a young writer, developing a voice - the largest influence is going to ultimately be yourself and how you react to what you've done. and hopefully, you regard it as a challenge to improve, whittling away at the extra crap you think you need, until you find the songs within.
1992 - Recorded at Kevin Lacy's Freudian Slip Studios, on 1" 8-track.
Mixed directly to Analog cassette tape.
2008 - Imported to Logic Express, added Compression and EQ.
Addendum: I'd be remiss if I didn't point out Ansely's rather nice harmonica solo at the end - thanks for reminding me.