What’s Up Buttercup?

22 Dec

I tinker. I’m like an obsessive-compulsive tinsmith.

I hammer, polish, recast, hammer, polish, recast, over and over.

It’s what I do.

I do it at work, with ad copy (just ask any marketer who has ever worked with me). I do it at home, in the basement shop. And I really do it with songs and lyrics.

But this song was different.

It started with a little Van Morrison-esque melody seeping into my brain, while I was sitting on the couch with Nate watching TV. I hummed it out loud a few times. Then the words popped in there, too – but just the first refrain: “What’s up, buttercup? You’re looking…”

What Buttercup was “looking,” I had no idea – at least to begin with.

That was all I had.

But it seemed to be building toward a melody so simple, I just wanted to get it down.

So I sat down and did the rhythm guitar in a single take, pretty much.

Then I threw down the vocal – and everything that came out after the first “What’s up, buttercup? You’re lookin’ strange…” was improvised.

So I went back and tried to rework the lyrics and perfect them a little. And every time I tried, I kept liking it less than the very first take.

Realizing that this entire exercise stemmed from my obsession with Van Morrison and, to a lesser extent, R&B music… I decided to let it go. Just leave it as-is.

I don’t know for sure, but half of Van’s lyrics seem like riffing. That has led to extreme virtuosity and beauty, like with every song on Astral Weeks. It has also led to some lyrical repetitiveness, etc., as you get with one or two of the tunes on T.B. Sheets.

I’m not sure where this falls – certainly it’s not perfect. But I have listened a few times now, and it doesn’t sound quite like utter crap either. (I’m biased, of course.)

In the end, the song seems to be about meeting an old flame on the sidewalk, unexpectedly, and the stuff that can stir up.  And please note: it came out impromptu, so any similarities with persons alive or dead is purely coincidental.

So with humble apologies to Van, here it is.

Happy holidays. I hope you enjoy it.

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