Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rollin' Home

I wrote this song while walking home from school in 1969. It was originally part of a medley - the second song was called "I Miss You" but it sounded way too much like Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" from Nashville Skyline. Back in those days, although I was writing tons of songs, I didn't own (or know how to play) a guitar, so I just kept the melodies in my head. Later when I finally started playing I went back and started picking out those old songs. Some were quite terrible but some, like this one, stayed with me.

After "Wa" I wanted to make a record that was a little more commercial and after going through my songs Arlene and I decided that "Rollin' Home" had potential. I cleaned up the lyrics a bit - and in doing so it officially became a Nancy song - and made it into a (somewhat generic, truth be told) piano ballad. We went into the Bay Records studio in May of 1981 to record it. Arlene played the grand piano that was in the studio and I played Young Neil, my '76 Martin D-35S. We cut the vocal, piano and guitar live and then I overdubbed the simple, but quite effective, drum part. Mike Cogan, who was engineering the session, was unhappy with the ending so we recorded the last part of the song a few more times and he spliced on the best ending. At that same session I overdubbed drums on the recording that became the single's b-sde "Major Networks".

At the time of this recording I was deeply involved with Dianne but still pining for Nancy, who had managed to disappear. She had moved I had no idea where she lived. I knew she still worked for the phone company but she had changed departments and was now working at another location. When I reworked the lyrics for the recording it was with her in mind.

G                                                Em
Last time we talked you said you loved me
             C                                                                     D
But you couldn't go on that way - not seeing me every day
G                                   Em
It left me just this side of crazy
       C                                                                        D
In a room with an open door and the telephone on the floor

My sister said I must be dreaming
It was much too long ago for anyone else to know
I thought I'd call you in the morning
But I knew if you were home you probably weren't alone


               C              Cmaj7
And now headlights, taillights
That's all I've been seeing these last few nights
                 C                     Cmaj7                             G
I've got a head full of directions and I know what to do
C                                                           G
Don't tell me 'bout your love, I know it's true
                        D      C            G        DC       GDC     GDC  G
That's why I'm rolling home to you

I had a job in Monster City
Where everybody sounds the same - just a voice without a name
And I got lost as I was leaving
You know I didn't have a face but now I think I've found my place

And now back door, front door
All I'm not seeing is you anymore
I guess I did everything you told me that I would do
Don't tell me 'bout your love, I know it's true
That's why I'm rolling home to you

repeat chorus

The "Monster City" verse is clearly referring to my time at the phone company. I worked there for about two years before I literally couldn't take it anymore. Nancy made it her career and worked there for the rest of her life. When I recorded this song I had no idea that she would be back in my life in a little over a year. At that point I thought she was gone for good. I had written a song around this time called "Monster City" that at one point was in the running for the album, but I decided that it was too dark. But I liked the phrase and it turned up in a few other compositions from that time. I think I may even have considered calling the album Monster City.
Rehearsing drum part for "Rollin' Home" at home

I brought the recording of this song to a West Coast Songwriters gathering (I am a member of this association off and on) and played for an "industry representative". He dismissed it right away as an ordinary ballad that didn't go anywhere or do anything new with the genre. Duh. That was the idea. It was designed to be the opposite of  "Wa" - an unchallenging, easy listen. I succeeded all too well.

Recording was finished and the record was ready for release by the summer of 1981, but the record was not released until the following year. I was furious with myself compromising my musical vision for the sake of getting radio airplay (and getting people to buy my records and maybe becoming successful?). I put the recording aside and released the extremely uncompromising Le Bonx instead.

Just before we released the record we took some pictures of me in front of a house that had been chopped up and prepared for moving - it was on a couple of trailers (get it, rollin' home, heh heh) but decided it was too corny. Don't know where those pictures are now.

(The single Rollin' Home / Major Networks was released in July of 1982)

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