Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Breaking Point

"Breaking Point" started off as a poem by Arlene. She would sometimes write poetry - always on Sierra Designs notepaper - I guess it soothed her troubled soul. No, really, I never knew what she was on about in her little poems. They never made any sense to me. They didn't rhyme! The verses weren't always symmetrical! They drove me crazy. When she'd show them to me I'd always say something like "That's great!" or "You should keep doing this!" - you know, bullshit. I'm not really sure how it happened - she may have shown me the first verse and asked me to put music to it, or I may have read it and offered to finish it - but the way it ended up was Arlene wrote the first verse and I took it and ran with it. It's pretty obvious when you read it - I turned it into a "comin' home baby" type love song. The central riff that the guitar and piano play together was loosely based on Frank Zappa's "Willie the Pimp" and the piano riff in the middle eight was lifted from "Speed of Life" from David Bowie's Low album. It's a jaunty tune and was always fun to play. We recorded it at Xandor, but I couldn't get the harmony vocal right. In the end, we took the tape to Mike Cogan at Bay Records and he solved the harmony problems by slowing the tape down a bit. I sang my harmony part to the sl
<a href="http://sparkygrinstead.bandcamp.com/track/breaking-point">Breaking Point by Sparky Grinstead</a>ower, lower version and when the tape was sped back up to normal I was magically in tune! An interesting side effect was that my harmony vocal, slightly sped up, made me sound not unlike my sister Olga.

When I wrote my part of the lyrics I was thinking about driving back and forth to L.A., which we did quite a lot in those days ('78 - '79). Olga was attending graduate school at U.C.L.A. and we would often hop into one of our Volkswagen bugs (we had two: "L'il Keenie", a red '69 automatic stick shift and "Tony" a brown '68, both of which we kept in tip-top running condition. I'm not kidding. We really doted on those cars) and visit her for a weekend. It was always a big adventure for us. I'm a homebody and not well-traveled so going to L.A. was a big deal for me. I didn't visit Disneyland until I was in my 20's. Arlene and I went with Olga and Greg. I was smoking then. My brand was - get this - "Tramps". There was a picture of dear old Charlie Chaplin on the pack. I remember walking down (up?) Main Street wearing my jeans jacket with a pack of tramps in the chest pocket. I quit smoking in '82.

Arlene and I tried a few times to write together, but it never worked out. Our styles were simply not compatible. She couldn't write melodies - something I simply could not fathom because she played piano and knew all about chords and music theory - and for some reason I could never find a decent melody for her words. And if I had a melody floating around I never liked the lyrics she would write for it. "Breaking Point" - even though it was 80% mine - was the one exception.

guitar capo
G                                     C
Breaking point along the highway
G                                     D
Comin' at you like wild weeds
Am                             G                       Em
On a cold, gray open morning my machine
G               Em
Machinin' clean
          G                    Em
Like you ain't never seen

The first time that I met you
You didn't notice me
But I knew we could have something with style
And you could make me smile
Well it's just a few more miles

F                C             G
What am I doin' in L.A.?
F                 C             G
I ain't seen sun in 14 days
F                    C                             G        Em        
But don't you worry none because I'm okay
         G                   Em
I just had to get away
            G                     Em
But I'm comin' back today

Breaking point along the highway
No time to stop and eat
I've got the 8-track goin' and ah, look at me
I'm as high as I can be
I need you to talk to me

Ah, look at me
I'm as high as I can be
I need you to talk to me

Yeah, I know it's not my greatest set of lyrics, but it sings well. I was intentionally trying to keep it simple - just a sweet little uncomplicated love song. When this was written, 8-track players were already obsolete

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure you wrote this earlier than 78-79, given that you taught it to me well before that. I've got a copy in your handwriting on the back of a copy of Trucks.