Thursday, October 7, 2010

Trucks In the Sky

<a href="">Trucks in the Sky by Sparky Grinstead</a>

I'm not sure what year I wrote this song. I've always had the romantic notion that it was the first thing I composed on my new Martin D-35, which I purchased in 1976. But I have a clear recollection of performing it the previous year in the break room at the phone company building where Nancy (Matt's mom) and I worked. The last half of the 70's are kind of a blur, so I really can't be sure. I do know that the version that appeared on the Won Out album was recorded in 1977 during the same session that produced "You Know Me Blues" and, of course, "Big Ass".

Most likely it was written in '75 because it deals with the beginning of my relationship with Nancy. I've always considered "Trucks.." my first real song - the first time I was able to combine a little Bonkeenie silliness, country-pop musical sensibility and still pass the Hanamura lyrical content test. Plus it's got that nifty little riff - the first time I'd written a song around a guitar motif. I can't remember where I came up the idea about the trucks themselves, but the rest of the song is pretty straightforward - it's clearly a "this thing is just starting" song. At he phone company we worked odd hours - graveyard shifts, split shifts, swing shifts, etc. - and further down you were on the seniority totem pole the less say you had in when you worked. For this reason I would sometimes find myself coming to work when she was leaving and vice-versa. That's the complaint at the heart of the song's chorus. The songs also formalizes one of my most prevalent lyrical conceits: "Look at me - the victim of love".

Including this song on  the album was a forgone conclusion the moment it was written even though it was actually recorded a few years later. Arlene and I took another crack at it at the Xandor session with her playing a Fender Rhodes but it didn't work as well as the '77 cassette version (on which she's playing a Wurlitzer 200). In the later, unused version - and pretty much every performance of the song since - the lyrics are slightly altered. On the record in the last verse I sing "I'm not Rumpelstiltskin but I'm still pretty tough", but I always liked Greg Reznick's line: "...but I still know my stuff" better. But that line hadn't been written at the time of the first recording.

(opening riff is played over the first two lines)

I'm really a mess now - she made me that way
                            Am                           G
Sometimes I'm so high and then I'm so down
                              Am                          G
Should I take the next exit or get out of town
I'm feeling so bad


                          G                                          Am                
But she's working nights now and I'm working days
                         G                           Am                          
I don't get to see her but what can I say
                         G                               Am
And I had a vision that the harbor was dry
                                 G   Am                          G
And the ships were all flying like trucks in the sky

I'm feeling so helpless. What if she knows?
Would she understand me if I came out and said
That I really love her or would she just shake her head
And say I'm a fool?


I'm watching a newsreel that shown (sometimes "thrown") through a wall
I smoke and that's dangerous, I drink and that's rough
I'm not Rumpelstiltskin but I'm still pretty tough (or "still know my stuff")
And I'm still a fool

But she's working nights now and I've got the blues
Butterflies in my stomach and rocks in my shoes
Oh, if I could just see her without straining my eyes
When the stars are like headlights of the trucks in the sky

Sparky and Greg perform together in '74
I've always been fond of this song and I still like to perform it. Greg accompanied me recently to a radio interview where we reminisced about the early Bonkeenie days and talked about Won Out and the Backorders. At the end we pulled our guitars out and sang this song.

..and together again in 2008 with the Backorders
Greg and I have been 'guitar brothers' since almost from the moment we met. Olga and Greg met at Stanford and fell in like. I think she brought him over to meet us at the end of  '73 and by the early part of '74 he was officially in the band. The reason he's not more of a presence on Won Out is due to fact that the album was recorded after he and Olga had been Arelene'd out of the band (the first sessions in '75) and then after they had gone their (temporarily, it turned out) separate ways (the later sessions in '78 and '79). He's like my Danny Whitten or Frank Sampedro (and if you don't know there they are I'm not gonna tell ya) - a totally sympatico musical buddy that I just don't have to worry about - I know he'll get it. He knows my stuff so well that when I bring a new song in he pretty much already knows it and what to play on it (it might help that I use the same 5 chords over and over).

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