Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Whatever You Want

There's a few formats that my songs generally adhere to. One is the comedy rocker, like Big Ass. This is usually a jaunty tune based, however circuitously, on blues changes. Then there's the country number, represented by "Trucks in the Sky" and, more recently, "Take This Life". These are usually love songs based on country-like changes and featuring an identifiable central guitar motif. The song "Whatever You Want" is my first attempt at a format I would struggle with over the years: The Grand Romantic Statement.

The album Won Out was originally set to be titled Whatever You Want. Steve Hanamura was working - or at least talking about thinking about working on - a screenplay called The Attack of the Police Helicopters. I really don't think he ever wrote a word of it except the title, but in those days we were always coming up with grand creative schemes that never achieved liftoff. This song was intended as the theme song for the movie, hence the recurring helicopter references. In fact, the song's working title was "Theme from The Attack of the Police Helicopters". After hearing the song in all of its glory, Steve rejected it outright as the theme for his nonexistent movie, which immediately called the title into question. I remember asking him: "Well, what should I call it?" and his dismissive reply: "Call it whatever you want."

The text - 5 verses and two 'middle eights' (no real chorus, just a repeated two-chord motif between verses) - deals with tracking down an ex-lover (the same woman referred to in the lyrically and musically more direct "Fall On Me") and discovering her in a new life that has no room for me. Written during the early '75 recording sessions at Chris's, probably in February, it is clearly - like "Love Is All Right" - written in my new Hanamura-influenced style - trying to use more poetic imagery and pack more meaning into my verses.

The song was originally recorded as a simple ballad, a vocal over an simply-played electric piano (Arlene's Wurlitzer 200-A) with an overdubbed bass. I don't remember why, but Chris and I decided to scrap that version and record a new one from scratch. Version two featured a more complicated arrangement - switching back and forth between waltz time and a thumping rock beat using acoustic guitar, drums, lead and harmony vocals and some tricky backwards cymbals and heavily echoed tom-toms.  This is the version that was mixed and mastered for the album. Why, in the end, I decided to leave it off is a complete mystery to me. It did finally see the light of day in 1980 as the flip side of the "Wa" single. A few years ago, when Won Out was being remastered for CD, I pulled out the original piano-led version out, hoping to include it as a bonus track. To my dismay,I discovered that the tape had been damaged at some point over the years and was not usable.


D                                      G      E    D                                              G         E
I saw you standing with an older man down on the corner where the 'copters land
D                                              G             E
And as I stood and watched he took your hand
        D                                         C
And waltzed with you through the intersection
              D                              C
And you smiled at him with sincere affection
              D            C                 G
And he waltzed so fine for someone so old


I saw you talking with the boy next door comparing notes on what you had in store
I thought you saw me but I wasn't sure
I turned away feeling changed and older
The sun had set and the night grew colder
And I'd always thought you were made of gold

You caught me telling my reflection lies - I could have seen it if I'd only tried
And after reading off a list of sighs
I forced a smile and I found the staircase
I climbed the stairs and I went up to space
And the stars came out just to see me home

G             Am  C                           D
I can't protect you 'cause I can't protect myself
G                      Am         C                       D
It leaves me convinced that I won't make it by myself
C                    D                  E
Out there with someone else alone

The 'copters landed as I drove away - the men in blue had come to save the day
But I'd stayed long enough to hear you say
You couldn't leave 'cause it wasn't easy
Your plans were made and you didn't need me
And I realized that you'd never known

I can't forget you 'cause I might forget myself
It leaves me convinced that I can't make it by myself
Out here with someone else alone

If I'm still living in a year or three the helicopters will have taken me
And from my vantage point up high I'll see
The city steeped in restless worry
Machines and men in constant hurry
But you'll be a sky I can call my own

As I said, the movie The Attack of the Police Helicopters never had a plot - never really had anything more than a title. But I do recall discussing an opening sequence involving a helicopter landing on a baseball field as a dixieland band plays in the stands. I don't remember much more than that. And ultimately Steve did have a point - the song "Whatever You Want" for all of its many charms, probably wouldn't have worked as the theme song.

("Whatever You Want" was released in 1980 as a single b-side)

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