Adolescence was not kind to my songwriting career.
“I Am A Cow” showed real promise, but as the years dragged on, every other song I attempted to write was crap. The problem was that I was trying to be soulful and get chicks, so my songs were all about how deep and sensitive I was. Except that I wasn’t deep and sensitive – I just wanted to make out. So I wrote songs that I was too embarrassed to actually sing.
I found these lyrics in my journal to one travesty called “Alone,” which includes the couplet:
I want to share my hopes and fears
But I keep crying silent tears.
Or there was this one, from the song titled “I Still Care:”
The world is always giving us new love songs to sing
But each one fails to express the loneliness love brings.
There’s more, but you can’t read them, because saccharine has been known to cause cancer in rats. All I wrote during puberty were self-pitying, whiny little screeds that still make me itch, almost three decades later.
In fact, the next song in my repertoire that doesn’t give me hives wasn’t written until 1985, when I was Senior Class President at Calabasas High School. I was in charge of the Homecoming Dance, and, given the fact that I had never attended a school dance, I was somehow at a loss for how to go about the planning process. That’s a story in and of itself, but the song came into play when we needed to select a Homecoming theme.
Usually, themes were based on preexisting music. My middle school graduation theme was “Don’t Stop Believin’,” despite inappropriate lyrics about the smell of wine and cheap perfume, and long before we knew it would be the most downloaded song on iTunes.
But what should be the song for Homecoming?
Well, I’m not sure how it happened, but the theme we chose was “Color Your Dreams.” I think the class secretary thought that would help with the décor. And since there was no song called “Color Your Dreams,” I volunteered to write one.
Stepping back for a moment…
The summer preceding my senior year in high school, I was in a show called The Video Zone, where, on closing night, I was part of an improv where I was making up lyrics to a blues riff. So I started singing randomly about some fat guy named Irving who used to bounce up and down a Laundromat.
Several of my early songs cruelly make fun of fat people. I don’t know why. I guess I just thought fatties were an easy target. Now that my own gut continues to spread, I realize just how unfunny mockery of lard really is. So much for my deep sensitivity.
So when it came time to color my dreams, I went back to Irving and fleshed out his story, so to speak. He was in love with Matilda, who was 105 years old. That gave me the best line of the song – “at the age of 105, they mistook her for mold.” Matilda rejects Irving, but in the third verse, he catches a girl named Lucinda on the rebound. She’s freakishly tall and “used to trip and fall across the Chinese wall.” It was stupid, but it was supposed to be stupid. Then there’s a chorus about coloring your dreams that’s insipid and has nothing to do with the rest of the piece.
The song makes no pretense of being anything other than moronic, which is probably why I still like it. The one thing I can’t stand more than anything else is pretense and sanctimony. That’s why all of my songs that I enjoy are asinine.
I debuted the song in a pep assembly for the whole school, and it was a smash hit. I had male dancers in drag throwing flower petals at the audience, and the school band joined in at the end and segued seamlessly from “Color Your Dreams” to the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” It probably helped that the lyrics were impossible to hear in the echo of the gymnasium, but it was still gratifying.
Surprisingly, I didn’t have a recording of this. It’s not my best stuff, but I think it ought to be recorded for posterity. So I slapped a demo together this morning.