Friday, August 20, 2010

Lend A Hand

<a href="">Lend A Hand by Sparky Grinstead</a>
Recorded in January of '75, probably right after "Fall On Me" (it uses the same instrumentation had has a similar feel), this song, like "Whatever You Want", was completed but did not make the Won Out album.To this day I don't know why. It's a good recording of an energetic performance - and it's an actual message song, full of pithy observations like: "People change so much once you've known them / And feelings change so much once you've shown them" (In fact, looking back on the lyrics now, I'm amazed at how fatalistic they are!).This song was written too late for the Mills College show, but not by much - I remember teaching it to Dennis in my (and Arlene's) new apartment in a security building near Lake Merritt in Oakland (after the first burglary we decided to move up in the world) in December of '73.
After the Mills show I had continued to write - in fact, it was like I had turned on a tap and couldn't turn it off. Songs were pouring out of me - good, bad and indifferent. I can't even remember a lot of them now. Sometimes I'll be going through an old notebook and a song will jump out at me: "Oh my god! I remember this! This is terrible!".

Mills College was, as I mentioned, a women's school with nothing but college-age females all over the place - in classes, on the sports fields and socializing in the campus coffee shop. Since my own class schedule at the J.C. was minimal I spent a lot of time on the Mills campus waiting for Arlene, dropping her off and picking her up.

Arlene's best friend at school was girl named Melissa, who came from a wealthy family in Menlo Park. A trained singer with a fine voice, she was briefly attached to the Bonkeenies (along with another Mills student name Mary who couldn't sing at all ) as a back-up singer. Melissa and I were briefly involved (ditto Mary, but that's another story. Mary was crazy about Tom Jones and used to go to his concerts with her mother and actually throw their underwear in the general direction of the I said, another story...) and "Lend A Hand deals, however obliquely, with the rapid deterioration of that affair.

In 2003, when I took the Won Out tapes to Mike Cogan (the first time we'd seen each other in 25 years!) for digital remastering, we found the original mix of "Lend A Hand" from 1975 and, after a little spiffing up, went ahead and used it for the CD as a bonus track. In fact, the CD features all of the original mixes from the album. Here's a picture of the first CD version of  Won Out. In 2009, we did a special 30th anniversary version that more closely resembled the original artwork (thanks, Ian!).

Mike had moved the Bay Records studio from the old Times-Star building in Alameda to a larger, more luxurious space behind a storefront on the Oakland/Berkeley border. It was a real pleasure to work with him again. During the remastering process I was able to hear the music in much finer detail. For example, "Lend A Hand" was recorded on an intermittently rainy day - just as we finished the drum track it started pouring outside and the storm is just audible at the end of the track.

E                            A                                E
I was born with the promise that I'm gonna die
E                            A                                 E        D
I was raised understanding that I'd have to get by
                                                           E                D
But Life changes so much while you're living it
                                                            E                          B
And love changes so much once you've given it - so come on
       E        A     E         A       E        A
And lend a hand, lend a hand, lend a hand
 B                   A                  E
And life won't be so hard to understand

I was taught that the future's not ours to decide
I was taught that we'll never return once we've died
But people change so much once you've known them
And feelings change so much once you've shown them - so come on
And lend a hand, lend a hand, lend a hand
And life won't be so hard to understand

A                                          E
It seems like yesterday I was crying
A                                                    E                                  B
And now I'm trying to find a way to deny it and it makes me sad

Because I'm too scared to decide
Just what I've got left that I'll be able to hide
And love still stands so tall next to worship
And freedom costs so much it's not worth it - so come on
And lend a hand, lend a hand, lend a hand
And life won't be so hard to understand
B                   A                      E
And life won't be so hard to understand

Around the time I wrote "Lend A Hand" the Bonkeenies ever-changing line-up took a big step towards solidifying when I asked my sister Olga to sing with me. At this point - '73 was ending and the great adventure that would be 1974 was dawning - the band consisted of me, Arlene and Dennis. Drummer Don Whitworth from the Mills show had vanished (although we found out later that he was telling his wife he was off to Bonkeenie rehearsals every Sunday). I remember telling Dennis that I was bringing my sister in as lead singer. Dennis looked up from his beer and said: "Can she shake it?". Now we just needed to find a drummer.

("Lend A Hand" was released in 2004 as a bonus track on the CD version of Won Out)

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