Trigger

Songs of Serenity



© 2017 by Gordon & Scott Perry

Just about the same time
We’ll wear out us two
Just about the same time
No more ballads, no more blues

At least we’ll always know
Just where we started from – Whatever comes
Whatever comes

Yet awhile we’ll linger
Our melodies and song
With our faces floating
Before the happy throng

At least we’ll always know
Just where we started from – Whatever comes
Whatever comes

After all of the things that we’ve seen & we’ve done
& the places we’ve been and the fun
The only time that everything was perfect
– is when I’m
Playing up on the stage with you
Though the pages will turn & we’ll one day be through
– but till that comes
We’ll just keep on strumming

Just about the same time
We’ll wear out us two
Just about the same time
No more ballads, no more blues

At least we’ll always know
Just where we started from – Whatever comes
Whatever comes

After all of the things that we’ve seen & we’ve done
& the places we’ve been and the fun
Still the only time that everything was perfect
– is when I’m
Playing up on the stage with you
Though the pages we’re turning will one day be through
– but till that comes
We’ll just keep on strumming

Others come along to — carry on the show
Just about the same time
We’ll take our act —
— and go.

Though I had looked at several more of my dad’s published poems to set to music while getting ready for his service (where I ended up playing “Cariboo”), this one came about a little differently. I had already chosen the songs that would go on the album and was working them up to record when one day at home going through papers I came across a poem written in my dad’s hand called “An Ode to Willie Nelson.” Not in one of his books, not even among all the papers he left behind, which I have gathered in one place for future review. This was in a stack of my own stuff, lyrics and songs and various sheets of random writing, ideas, or plans – it just sprang into my hand while I was looking for something else.

The best stories of artistic creation happen that way. Unexpected. Sudden. You have to go with it!

I couldn’t recall when he had given me that hand-written page, it was many years ago no doubt. I’m sure he grinned as he passed it to me, said something like “see what your old man has been up to,” knowing that this was an idea that I would like. He might have even thought it could make a good song and gave it to me to see if I thought so too, if it sparked anything. I don’t remember; and it’s unlikely he would’ve been that forward about it. He just liked the concept of that old guitar, beat up as it was, going right on strumming with the old guy who had owned it since 1969, the two of them an inseparable pair.

Except we all get separated eventually, from what we love and from life itself. Dad figured (quite rightly I’m sure) that Willie and his guitar would keep kicking until there was no more kicking to do, and bow out gracefully together, “just about the same time.” Looking back on this poem now, I realize that he and Willie Nelson were born close to the same time, and anything he wrote about the red-headed stranger riding into the sunset applied just as much to himself. He’d even had the same acoustic guitar since 1973 (nowhere near as beat up since he didn’t tour with it for decades!), a Yamaha FG-300, a damn fine Japanese copy of the Gibson Hummingbird and the first guitar I ever touched or played.

Like I did with “Cariboo” I went straight to my trusty old open C-chord and started strumming; that first line and whole first verse fell right into place, they were meant to be a song all along. But I ran out of poem fast, there are only 12 lines total, and I’d be 8 lines in by the time I could think of scaring up a chorus. Even the verse was a little short as is, I needed something more at the end of it, so the first thing I added was a kind of bridge with the line, “At least we’ll always know just where we started from” to fill in some space. The next verse didn’t automatically transpose to my musical structure, the phrasing was off, so I had to tweak that a bit; and the third and final stanza also needed a little reworking to make it in as my final verse (after repeating verse one, because it was so good). Along the way, I decided the song was more of an ode to the guitar than Willie himself; I ditched the “Ode to…” and made the title simply “Trigger.”

I was truly stuck for a chorus though, when I first tried breaking one out it was too similar to what I had grafted on to “Cariboo.” For a while I thought maybe I’d do without words there, instead of a traditional chorus I’d just speed up the tempo and go nuts instrumentally, maybe some soloing, some whoops and fun sounds from the band. But it felt empty, a song really does need a chorus. Different approaches went nowhere until I surrendered to the upbeat tempo and started cramming in words as fast as I could spit them out. That turned into an extended reflection on all the years of playing together Willie might sing to Trigger (or maybe it’s the guitar singing back to him!). It really clicked when I landed on the line, “the only time when everything was perfect / Is when I’m playing up on the stage with you” – that’s a feeling every performer can relate to, no matter what level they’re at. When the music takes over and an audience is in on it with you, well, there’s no place we’d rather be, the rest of the grind of making music (touring, slaving away in a studio, all the behind the scenes work and frustrations) falls away. The music is what matters, and the show always goes on.