Category Archives: Music

I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

This popular song, now nearly 100 years old, is pretty much a standard in Western musical vocabulary. But have you ever stopped to think about the words? Don’t think about the happy-go-lucky child with his bottle of soapy water, skipping through the park merrily blowing bubbles into the air, watching them lift into the sky, or bounce on the grass.

Rather, think of the aspiring novelist receiving his 200th query rejection. The high school senior denied admittance to the last college on her list. The young man nursing a broken heart after yet another girl passes him by. This is a song about crushed dreams, and opportunities slipping through fingers. It’s the kind of song a worn out and weary songwriter would write when all his other songs have failed to gain an audience. The kind of song he writes when he has lost all hope of success. And, as irony would have it, the song goes on to be one of the most successful songs of the century.*

I guess in a weird kind of way, that’s the message of hope behind “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Don’t give up on your dreams, because even your lament about dreams fading and dying could be the song that makes your dreams come true.

Here are the words:

I’m dreaming dreams,
I’m scheming schemes,
I’m building castles high.
They’re born anew,
Their days are few,
Just like a sweet butterfly.
And as the daylight is dawning,
They come again in the morning.

(Chorus)
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune’s always hiding,
I’ve looked everywhere,
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

When shadows creep,
When I’m asleep,
To lands of hope I stray.
Then at daybreak,
When I awake,
My bluebird flutters away.
Happiness new seemed so near me,
Happiness come forth and heal me.

(Chorus)
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune’s always hiding,
I’ve looked everywhere,
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

Here’s the song:

And if you want the sheet music, click HERE.

*I don’t know if the writers were down on their luck. In fact, my cursory research didn’t come up with anything regarding the story behind the song.

Links and Stuff

I know you’re all anxious to hear the latest in the house-hunting news, so let’s get right to it…

Last week I said we might be honing in on the house we think is “it.” So we prayed, “Lord, if this is the house, remove the obstacles. If it’s not, make them insurmountable.” On Monday, we visited the house for the third time, making notes on things that we would need to change, and things we would like to change if we can afford to. We came away with a consensus: it’s not the perfect house, but it will work for us, and everyone is willing to go for it. Of course, views vary among the kids from “Actually, now we’ve seen it again, and had a chance to really think about where our stuff will go, I like it!” to, “I’m not a fan of it, but I’ll make the most of it.” As I said last time, I don’t expect a ringing endorsement from everyone, but we don’t have a lot of choice. We’re being forced to move, so time is not our friend. We’re simply grateful the Lord has put a house in our path.

So we put in an offer. A low-ball offer. A $12,000-below-asking-price low-ball offer. Our realtor said it wasn’t unreasonable, but he’d be surprised if they took it. He expected the sellers to negotiate hard. Okay, Lord. Here’s an obstacle. Stop us here if you want!

The sellers rejected our offer, but countered with one of their own: a mere $4,000 higher than our offer. That’s $8,000 below asking price. Jaws dropped. We accepted.

Okay Lord, so far so good. There’s still the inspection, and other due diligence things we need to do. Still plenty of opportunity for the Lord to throw in some insurmountable road-blocks. But at the moment, it looks like we have a house! 😀

We continue to covet the prayers of those that pray. And now for some links…

Have you noticed that books tend to publish on Tuesdays? If you’re a writer, or a publishing professional, this is probably no surprise. But why? What’s so special about Tuesdays? Why not publish on Wednesday, or Friday? Well, Laurie Hertzel did some investigating and published her results in a Minnesota Star Tribune article. It seems many in the publishing world have no idea why–it’s just kind of a tradition. But some have plausible reasons to offer.

Literary Agent Jessica Sinsheimer recently announced the launch of The Manuscript Academy. This venture seeks to bring the benefits of a writer’s conference to your home and your digital device. By using high-quality video instruction, along with internet forums, and other online technology, Jessica and the faculty of The Manuscript Academy want to make writing and publishing industry education affordable and accessible. It’s a bold venture that reminds me of WriteOnCon, an online conference that ran for a few years. Indeed, it was at WriteOnCon that I first met Jessica Sinsheimer. She hosted a one-hour forum that ended up going for three hours because we were all having such a good time. The Manuscript Academy isn’t free, but it’s cheaper than most conferences, especially if you factor in hotel and transportation costs. They also aim to eventually raise enough money to be able to provide scholarships to people who want to intern within the publishing industry. Many internships are unpaid, which, given the cost of living in NYC, makes the prospect untenable for many otherwise well-qualified people. Anyway, check out the link and see for yourself what it’s all about!

Finally, I discovered this week that former Wings guitarist Henry McCullough died this past June. He was 72 years old. Henry joined Wings in 1972, and left in 1973, just prior to the recording of the “Band on the Run” album. He continued to play for a variety of artists, as well as recording his own material, right up through 2012, when he suffered a major heart attack from which he never recovered. Of the Wings songs McCullough played on, the most notable are probably the James Bond movie theme, “Live and Let Die,” and the classic song, “My Love” which goes something like this…

That’s all from me for this week! How has your week been?

Music Monday: Senses Working Overtime

XTC - Senses Working OvertimeXTC* were one of those British bands that had some successes, and had a following, but were never on the mega-star level. The first song of theirs I heard was “Making Plans for Nigel” back in 1979. That song gave them a reputation for quirky, catchy tunes with thoughtful lyrics, usually written by singer/guitarist Andy Partridge. But “Senses Working Overtime” is by far my favorite of theirs. Again, there’s a quirkiness to it, but it’s incredibly catchy, and very creative. More about the song in a moment.

I don’t really have a particular story to share about this tune, but listening to it does conjure up a particular time in my life. It’s 1982, somewhere around February, and I’m in my first year at Hereford Cathedral School. I’ve settled in at my new school, I’ve made some good friends, and I’m managing to keep my grades decent. Mathematics is a struggle, but Divinity (i.e., Religious Studies), History, Music, and English are fun. My senses are working overtime…

I see my form room (“home room” in the US?), Room D. This is where we gather for morning roll call, and hear announcements before going to chapel in Hereford Cathedral. It’s a ground floor room with a bay window that looks out over a lawn. I remember gathering with other “freshers” the previous summer for orientation on that lawn. As I sit in my chair, the large door is in front of me. The white board is over on the left-hand wall, and our lockers are on the right-hand wall.

I hear the bell for end of the lesson. Classes are about 40 mins long, and we have seven of them each day in different locations around the school campus. This must have been either English or Divinity, because our form teacher, Mrs. Howard-Brown, teaches those in our form room. She’s still talking as we close up our books, but we wait to be dismissed, even though the bell has sounded. It must be lunchtime because…

… I can smell the aroma of cooking from the cafeteria, which is next door to our building. I don’t get my lunch from the cafeteria often–hardly ever, actually. I bring my lunch to school, which saves us money, and, quite frankly, the smell from the cafeteria is not particularly appetizing. Somehow it always smells the same, no matter what’s on the menu: a kind of bland cabbage mixed with the sharp tang of ammonia. But the most memorable smell from Room D is the carpet. Over the summer they laid a new carpet, and the smell of the glue is still strong. To this day, whenever I smell that carpet glue, it takes me back to Room D.

I touch the wooden desk, feel the scratch marks of previous occupants, the varnished wood splintering under my fingers. I get out my lunch box, which has a matching flask containing coffee or tea–I don’t recall. Then I taste my lunch. Sandwiches. Possibly chicken spread (a kind of paté that comes in a jar, made for spreading on sandwiches) and a Mars bar. Ugh–Simon brought sardine and onion sandwiches again. Nasty!

Now let’s talk about the song. For starters, here’s the lead sheet. Click on the picture to download a pdf of the words and guitar chords:

SensesWorkingOvertime_lead

A few notes on the lead sheet. The sections in square brackets [like these] were edited out of the single version. I believe they are on the album version. Also, guitarists, don’t feel compelled to play the bass notes on the “One, Two, Three, Four, Five” part–that’s covered by the bass guitarist on the track. Finally, the G#m-F# and C#m-E chords at the beginning and through the verse are actually implied–they don’t play the full chords. The acoustic guitar seems to be doing this for those chords (click to enlarge):

SensesWorkingOvertime_Guitar

The “x”s mean “don’t play.” For this section, the strings you do play should be muted. If you listen to the track, you’ll hear what I mean.

I’m not sure what Andy Partridge intended the song to be about, but it seems to juxtapose the darker things of life–greed, poverty, injustice, death, etc–with the richness of the world around us. Despite all the negative stuff going on, this world is full of beauty and wonder that we often struggle to take in through our senses.

Here’s a video of XTC playing the song:

Any questions? Don’t forget, if you have any Music Monday song requests, just mention them in the comments, or email me.

*Do you get it? XTC = Ecstasy. Clever, huh?

Zoo Gang

ZThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. Today is the last day of the challenge, so let’s finish up with…

ZOO GANG

Joe passed the beans to Amy.

“Where’s Rob tonight?”

“Working late,” she said, taking a spoonful. “So, tell me more about your squad. Rob hardly mentions it.”

“Not surprised,” said Bill through a mouthful of steak. “Iraq was tough.”

“But we bonded,” Joe said, nodding to Bill.

“Remember our gang?” Bill smiled. “You, me, Rob, Pete.”

Joe laughed, “Yes! We even gave ourselves code names. Who were you?”

“I was Gorilla,” said Bill. Amy smiled. Given Bill’s physique, it fit. “Pete was Monkey—that laugh. And you were–?”

“Panther,” Joe said. “Obviously.”

“What was Rob called?” said Amy.

“Cheetah.”

That’s it for this year’s A-to-Z Challenge! Thanks for reading, especially if you’ve been following my flash fiction for the past month. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

“Zoo Gang” was the B-Side to Wings’ 1974 single “Band on the Run” in the UK.  It has subsequently appeared as a bonus track on CD re-issues of the albums “Venus and Mars” and “Band on the Run.” The piece was originally composed by McCartney for the short-lived UK TV series, “The Zoo Gang,” which ran for six episodes between April and May of 1974.

Here are the opening titles to the TV show:

Young Boy

YThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. So let’s continue the fun with…

YOUNG BOY

“Do you think William will be okay?”

“Yes, dear, I do.”

“Did he pack a change of clothes?”

“I’m very sure he did.”

“What about underwear?”

“Yes, even underwear. And his toothbrush. And toothpaste.”

“Does he have enough money, you know, for snacks and stuff?”

“Yes, I do believe he’s okay for cash.”

“That boy,” Tom said, smiling. “They grow up so quickly.”

Mary echoed his smile. “They do.”

“It seems only yesterday he was playing with his trucks on the carpet.”

“I know. And now he’s driving one of his own.”

“He’ll always be our boy, though, won’t he?”

Check back tomorrow for the last day of the challenge, the letter “Z”…

“Young Boy” is a track from Paul’s 1997 album, “Flaming Pie.” It was released as a single that same year, reaching number 19 in the UK charts. He is joined on the recording by Steve Miller, who plays electric guitar and supplies backing vocals.

X is for Heather

XThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song.

Unfortunately, Paul has yet to write a song beginning with “X”, so I’m going to have to improvise a bit here. Those who are acquainted with McCartney’s life have probably already guessed what I’ve done. For the rest, let me explain. Paul was married to Linda for 29 years until her death in 1998 from breast cancer. In 2002, McCartney married Heather Mills, but this union ended in divorce four years later. Paul is currently married (happily, so it seems) to business woman Nancy Shevell, so at the moment, Heather is Paul’s ex. Hence, X is for Heather!

Since we’re playing fast-and-loose with the rules, let’s play fast and loose with the theme too. Paul wrote a song for Heather called “Heather” (his creative genius knows no bounds), so we’re good there. But I’m going to stray from the 100-word flash fiction and give you a poem I wrote about my cousin Heather when I was nine. My teacher, the amazing Mr. Cobbett, read us a poem by some famous poet about a family member. He then tasked us with creating our own little poetry books called “My Family,” in which we were to write poems about family members. I don’t remember any of the other poems I wrote, but somehow this one has stuck in my head for over 35 years. So I present to you:

HEATHER

My cousin Heather’s as light as a feather

Her arms are as thin as a pin.

She has long legs like clothes pegs,

And every race she would win.

(The accompanying illustration was of a giant feather with arms and legs crossing a finish line.)

Check back tomorrow for “Y”…

“Heather” is a track from McCartney’s 2001 album, “Driving Rain.”

Interestingly, “Heather” is also the name of a song Paul wrote for his newly-adopted step-daughter, and recorded with Donovan and Mary Hopkin in 1969, but never released. Here it is:

Waterfalls

WThis is my fifth April A-to-Z Challenge. The past couple of years, I’ve written 100-word flash fiction each day. This year I’m doing the same, only with a twist: each day’s story will be inspired by the title of a Paul McCartney song. So let’s continue the fun with…

WATERFALLS

The water cascaded like a thin net sheet, its wet strands forming cobwebs over the rocks. Masami sat on a bench listening to Yasu fall into Yoneshiro, the one giving life to the other.

She felt a presence beside her and at her back.

Masami breathed steadily as a hand started on her leg, and another slid over her shoulders.

She focused on Yasu’s strength.

Barely a flick of the wrist, her white stick connected with the head behind her. Her elbow found seat partner’s chest, and the stick found his crotch. She heard feet running.

Peace again to meditate.

Check back tomorrow for “X”…

“Waterfalls” is a track from Paul’s 1980 album, “McCartney II.” It was released as a single that same year, reaching number 9 in the UK charts.

Here’s the music video based on the radio edit:

This is the complete album version of the song:

A to Z Catch Up #3

April is just flying by with less than a week to go on the 2016 April A-to-Z Challenge. If you don’t know what that’s about, click the link to find out. Those of you who have been visiting over the past few weeks know I’ve been posting 100-word flash fiction stories inspired by Paul McCartney song titles. Yes, there are enough Macca tunes to cover the alphabet… well, almost. Were you surprised by Q? There are some tricky letters coming up, so stay tuned!

Here’s where we’ve been:

This Week Last Week Previously
One of These Days
Pretty Little Head
Queenie Eye
Rainclouds
Stranglehold
That Day Is Done
I’m Carrying
Junk
Keep Undercover
Live and Let Die
My Brave Face
No Words
Another Day
Backwards Traveller
Coming Up
Distractions
Every Night
Fine Line
Girlfriend
Hope of Deliverance

There won’t be another “catch up” next week, but there will be a “Reflections” post sometime in May. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these stories. They’ve been fun to write. This blog will return to normal programming in a week.

Here are some other A-to-Z blogs I’ve enjoyed:

  • Word Wacker: Celia Reeves has been posting haiku puzzles.
  • TheArtOfNotGettingPublished: Susan Brody has been providing examples of 16th century (and older) predecessors to modern inventions. Her purpose is to show that we moderns are not as clever as we might think.
  • Jen Seriously: Jen’s posts have been inspired by the International Spelling Alphabet (you know, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta…)
  • Maybe it’s just me…: Andrea has been blogging about movie soundracks that matter to her.

Tomorrow’s A-to-Z post will be… a 100-word story based on a Paul McCartney song that starts with U. And that’s all I’m saying for now. If you want to know what song I chose, come back tomorrow! 🙂

A to Z Catch Up #1

We’re in the midst of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge here on the blog. Since there are no A-to-Z blogs on Sunday, I thought I’d take this opportunity to get you caught up on where we’ve been so far.

My theme for this year’s challenge is “100 word flash fiction inspired by Paul McCartney song titles.” These flash pieces might be complete stories, or they might be scenes, vignettes, snatches of dialog, or any number of things. Whatever they are, they are short (“flash”) and made up (“fiction”). So if you have a few moments to kill while waiting for the kettle to boil or the bathroom to free up, take a read!

So far we’ve had:

Another Day

Backwards Traveller

Coming Up

Distractions

Every Night

Fine Line

Girlfriend

Hope of Deliverance

Do you have a favorite so far?

Music Monday: Shades of Green

Today I’m featuring possibly one of (if not the) greatest guitarists alive today: Phil Keaggy. Never heard of him? I’m not surprised, especially if you’re not a Christian, or don’t move in Christian music circles. I’m not going into his whole bio (that’s what Wikipedia‘s for, after all), but suffice to say, he was already a stellar guitarist and turning heads back in the early 70s when he became a Christian. When he gave his life to the Lord, he gave his music too, and what a gift to the church he is! Phil has been releasing albums and touring churches for the past 40+ years. His skill on both acoustic and electric guitar has garnered him wide praise–including a Grammy nomination at one point. He’s also a fine singer/songwriter, whose voice has been compared to Paul McCartney.

In fact, that’s how I first encountered Mr. Keaggy. It was my first year at Hull University, and I was just starting to get involved in the University Christian fellowship. Some of my new friends noted the absence of much Christian music in my tape and CD collection (this was 1988, so we had CDs–I’m not that old!). Plenty of Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, and The Beatles. But not much of a more spiritually edifying nature. I would shrug my shoulders and tell people I haven’t found musicians of the same caliber in Christian music, and my local Christian book shop didn’t have a wide range of Christian music to choose from.

Fast foward to March 24, 1989–my birthday. My friend Julie gave me a gift. A tape. “Phil Keaggy and Sunday’s Child.” It looked something like this:

I heard the McCartney influence right away, and even some Beatle-style harmonies. The songs were good too, and the musicianship was exceptional. I was impressed. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really started paying attention to Keaggy, both as a songwriter and a musician. The more I listened, the more of a fan I became.

That’s as much as I’ll say for now, since I’m sure I’ll be featuring more Keaggy music in future Music Mondays. This Monday’s Keaggy track is from a set of CDs he released back in 1999 called “Music To Paint By.” All the tracks are instrumental, and this particular one has been a concert favorite of Phil’s for the past 17 years.

My guitar skills are not nearly good enough to offer any performance tips. I’m trying to improve my manual dexterity, but my coordination has always tended toward the klutzy side, so it’s an uphill battle. This much I can tell you: the piece is in the key of G major, though largely around a C major chord. Phil uses a drop-D tuning (i.e., the lowest E is tuned down to a D), and then the whole guitar is tuned down a whole step (a full tone). If this wasn’t enough, he also uses TWO capos. One capo covers the first five strings on the fifth fret, and the second covers all but the fifth and sixth strings of the seventh fret, with, I believe, a notch cut out for the second string.

Here’s a video of Phil playing “Shades of Green” from a concert in Philadelphia back in 2001. Some things to notice aside from the two capos. First, when he does solo acoustic performances, Phil loves to layer sounds using digital looping (his favorite piece of equipment is his “JamMan” which Chet Atkins introduced him to). This allows him to lay down chord progressions over which he can solo, or add percussion, counter melodies, even vocal harmonies. Second, you’ll notice that Phil is missing a finger on his right hand (i.e., his picking hand). He lost that finger in an accident when he was four, so he has never known what it’s like to play with a full set of fingers. Guitar Tip: If you want to be as good as Phil Keaggy, lose a finger on your right hand. Just kidding. No, really, don’t.

PS: Keep an eye on Phil’s concert schedule. If he’s playing at a venue near you, do yourself a favor and go see him. You won’t be disappointed.