ALL THE GREAT SONGS
This was in the 70s, in times just as happy for me as now.
Dave didn’t appear too happy just then. He accepted the cold beer without comment, but then just stared at me with a mournful expression. He was usually full of energy and excitement and stories and conversation.
I knew it was up to me. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
He gave me a disgusted look and turned his gaze to the garden outside the sliding door.
I wondered if it was something I had done. I couldn’t think what.
Dave was a daily visitor to my mobile home. We were an odd couple, I suppose, he being 20 years younger than me, but we hit it off.
I waited him out and finally he turned to me and said, “It’s the damn Beatles.”
Whoa! That was almost sacrilegious. He worshipped the Beatles. “What did they do,” I asked.
“They wrote this song I wanted to write.”
Dave was what you’d call a natural musician. He played both the piano and guitar without ever taking lessons. He was a wannabe singer-songwriter.
“What song is that?”
“That song about the long lonesome road. I wanna write that song but they already wrote it. I’ve always wanted to do a song about walking down a lonesome road.”
That was my opening. I knew how to bring him out of it. “Are you aware,” I started, in my best lecturing voice, “that the long lonesome road is a metaphor for life? Are you aware that a young man making philosophical references to the tribulations of life might seem out of place to some people? Are you aware---”
He held up both hands to stop me. His head was tilted to one side and he had a half smile. His eyes were sparkling.
“Are you aware,” he mimicked my delivery, “how full of shit you are?”
He knew I was setting him up for that. We both laughed. He was out of his funk. But just as quickly he went right back into it.
“I’m serious, man,” he said. “They already wrote the song. That’s the song I wanted to write.”
“Write another song. Every 18 year old rock singer writes about the long lonesome road. Chicks go for that crap. There are more songs about long lonesome roads than there are long lonesome roads. If everyone who wrote about ‘em would actually go on one, the lonesome roads would be pretty crowded. There’s be rock singers marching down ‘em 5 abreast. A guy could make a fortune renting out a long lonesome road for rock singers to walk down.”
His withering look told me he was not amused. He took a long gulp of beer and said, “It’s not just that one, man. They wrote everything.”
“Look at the Beatle song book. Every song is on there. They already wrote everything. There’s nothing left.”
“You’re crazy. They didn’t write everything.”
“No. Not just them. I know that, man. They didn’t write ‘em all. But all the great songs are already written.”
“How do you figure that.”
“Well, you think about it. You name me one great song that’s not already written.’
He had me there. That was tough one. I decided to fake it. “How about Dancing in the Dark?” I was pretty sure he wouldn’t know that one.
He stared at me suspiciously. “Oh yeah?” he said. “How does it go?”
Without thinking, I whistled a few bars.
“Hah!” he chortled. “You bastard! If it hasn’t been written, how come you know how it goes?”
He had me there. He was too smart for me. “You caught me,” I said.
“See?” he said. “Go ahead. Name another one.”
I tried but I couldn’t think of any. Finally, I blurted out, “Holding You in the Moonlight.”
I got that suspicious stare again. “How does it go?” he asked.
“I don’t know how it goes. It hasn’t been written yet.”
“Hah!” he chortled again. “Then how do you know it’s great?”
He had me again.
I got us a couple more cold ones.
We drank in silence.
He was right, all the great songs had been written.
Suddenly, I was depressed too.