Stories Behind the Songs: “Small Name, Big Ego”

Posted by  Grand Poobah  May 6, 2016  •  No Comments  • 

Johnny BravoJohn: Continuing my Steely Dan-esque attempts.  Like the others, it started out as a chord progression (though I did have a melody in mind), and turned it over to Wendy for lyrics.  Also like the others, this one just came to me one day, though not in its final form.  I’d had the verse for quite a while, but couldn’t figure out where to go with it.  My older daughter Emily actually contributed both the chord progression in the chorus, and little chord progression at the end of the bridge.  She was a music major at Mt. Holyoke College, and we frequently talk and email about chords and chord progressions (we have our own names for some chord types… ask her about the “Bella Notte” chord and the “omega” chord).  I had shared my early version of what was to become Paragon with her, and she was messing around with those chords, but with different rhythms and alternate keys, and I realized that those might fit into “Small Name, Big Ego”.

Wendy: John provided me with a demo, complete with a vocal melody, in June of 2012.  He also had a couple of lines of lyric: “She tried to tempt me with her tangerines/Outside a tent in Bonnaroo”.  Try as I might, though, I couldn’t seem to come up with any additional ideas that would that fit that couplet’s meaning and rhyme scheme and that were not completely stupid.  In reading a web page on slang terms, I happened upon the term “Ms. Taken”, meaning a ring some single women wear to give the impression that they’re married.  I thought it was an interesting idea and fit the chorus melody, so I attempted to write a song around that.  It didn’t work.

Weeks later, I hit upon a new title: “Small Name, Big Ego”.  This one was from the TV Tropes web page as a term for someone who has a “comically inflated” self-image.  This concept was much more fruitful, conjuring up images of American Idol divas and bad karaoke.  I wasn’t able to work John’s lyric in as is, but at least got “Bonnaroo” in there.  Flemingtown (originally the lyric was “tiny town”) is a small community near where I grew up.  The “through a mirror, darkly” line paraphrases a well-known Biblical passage, 1 Corinthians 13:12.

When we recorded this song, it originally ended at the end of the last chorus.  However, that seemed a strange way to end the song; after some discussion, John and I agreed that coda would be appropriate.  He came up with the chord progression for the coda and we tacked it on the ending of the original recording.  However, now it seemed like the coda was making the song go on too long, so I ended up making some strategic cuts to shorten it significantly.

Pleased To Meet You…

Posted by  Grand Poobah  April 22, 2016  •  No Comments  • 

Wow, it’s been quite a while since the last post.  In between then a now there have been lots of changes happening, accompanied by a bit of a lull in band activity.  But we got together recently to take some new pics to reflect who we are at the moment, especially as *ahem* one of us has changed quite a bit.  Thanks to Amy Kinley for the photos.  Stay tuned–our next show is coming up in about three weeks!

Chameleon Red Photo 1 Chameleon Red Photo 2

Stories Behind the Songs: “Moment”

Posted by  Grand Poobah  September 4, 2015  •  No Comments  • 

“Moment” is a very personal song for me. The initial germ (verse and bridge chords and melody) of the song arrived in August 2005; two years later, just after Transposition was finished, I had the beginning of the chorus melody. A month after that, on the night before our wedding, my fiancée received some test results that indicated she had cancer.

She began chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the end of October. Meanwhile, I had committed to providing music for the church service prior to Thanksgiving, with the theme of gratitude. Despite all that was going on, it was a beautiful, warm autumn, and my wife and I were newlyweds. Life seemed so valuable and precious, and I really felt I had a lot to be grateful for. I finished the song about a week before the service.

I knew that the odds were not in favor of my wife’s survival. When I performed the song at church, I nearly broke down while singing “Don’t want to say goodbye”, but somehow I held myself together. Unexpectedly to me (I don’t know why), there were lots of tears in the audience afterward. My wife did beat the odds and survive the cancer, but succumbed to other health issues in the spring of 2015.

Stories Behind the Songs: “Burning Down Both Sides”

Posted by  Grand Poobah  August 22, 2015  •  No Comments  • 

“Burning Down Both Sides” is one of those songs that forced itself into my brain when I wanted to be asleep. One August night in 2012 I tossed and turned in bed with the 7/8 guitar riff going round and round in my head; finally, at 2 AM, I decided to get up and record it so it would leave me alone. By the time I did that, the beginning of the melody and the first two lines of the lyrics came to me. After that I was finally able to get some sleep; I finished the music later in the morning, and the lyrics in the afternoon.

Stories Behind the Songs: “Your Doll”

Posted by  Grand Poobah  August 7, 2015  •  No Comments  • 

“Your Doll” began in 1999 as a Nirvana-esque grunge song during a moment of pique with my then-girlfriend. I wrote down the words and chords, feeling sure I would remember the melody. I hadn’t yet learned that I never remember the melody for very long if I don’t record it; needless to say, I forgot it. Discouraged, I put the song aside.

Every once in a while, I would flip through my songwriting notebook and see the abandoned song there. Ten years passed. I was on my way back home from Asheville, North Carolina when, willy-nilly, a new melody popped into my head, along with new chords and the idea to remake the song in a reggae style. Even more astonishingly, I managed to remember the melody long enough to get home and record it.

The new melody did present a problem, though; whereas before the song was complete with two verses, now the two verses would have to be combined into one, necessitating that I write another. I took another six months to come up with the additional lyrics. Now, I thought, the song is complete.

I was never quite satisfied with the end result though. Finally, in April 2012, I took another look at the song. I ended up changing the key to make it easier to sing, modified the chorus to include new chords and backing vocals, and a bridge/solo section. I brought the song in to add to the Mother Zephyr repertoire, but that band ended before we could spend much time on it.

Still Alive…

Posted by  Grand Poobah  July 31, 2015  •  No Comments  • 

Things have been quiet here for a while, due to some personal life stuff superseding everything else.  Rest assured, we’re still alive and rocking!  New songs are percolating, and plans for world domination are still in place.  Look for us on the live stage next month!

Stories Behind the Songs: “Ace of Blues”

Posted by  Grand Poobah  February 20, 2015  •  No Comments  • 

“Ace of Blues” first appeared in the spring of 2005 when I was trying to come up with an optimistic song for the slot in Transposition which was ultimately taken by “Could Be Me”. At that time there were no lyrics, and the feel was much more 60’s folk-pop, similar to “I’m Into Something Good” by Herman’s Hermits. Also there was no chorus, or “B” section.

Six years later, while taking a Desktop Music Production class, I choose the song for my class project. I still had no lyrics, so the melody was played by a synth sax. At that time I introduced the harder-rocking feel that ended up in the final product. A few months after that, I came up with the second section and a working title, “You Know You Should”.

In July of 2012 I changed the title to “(Happiness is) Out of Style”, finished the music and the lyrics, and recorded a demo. I previewed it for my wife, who didn’t think the lyrics worked. I ultimately agreed that they seemed contrived and resolved to come up with a new title and a new concept. The phrase “Ace of Blues” popped into my head one evening, and the lyrics followed soon after. Incidentally, I resisted making the trump card the Jack of Hearts; I thought it was a little too easy. But after wracking my brains in vain for a while, I succumbed.

New Old Video

Posted by  Grand Poobah  January 2, 2015  •  No Comments  • 

Happy new year!  And nothing ushers in the new year like video footage from last year.  Here’s an unplugged version of “Paragon” from January 2014, recorded live at the Acoustic Coffeehouse in Johnson City, TN.


An Appeal…

Posted by  Grand Poobah  December 19, 2014  •  No Comments  • 

TranspositionSkeleton CrewI don’t normally do things like this, but I would like to ask you, if you’re reading this, to consider supporting Chameleon Red by buying our music.  We are independent musicians.  We don’t have record companies lavishing money on us (such things are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur, anyway).  We don’t have swimming pools or limousines.  In fact, we literally don’t make any money at all from our music.  You see, we are still in the red for the productions of our two albums, Transposition and Skeleton Crew.  In additional to the countless hours we spent in writing, recording, and producing them, we also shelled out the money out-of-pocket to make CDs and for digital distribution.  We are still thousands of dollars in the hole from that expense alone.  We also have expenses to maintain our online presence.  This doesn’t even count all the equipment and software we have purchased (and kept in repair).  Now, we’re not in this for the money (obviously).  We love making music, plain and simple.  But it would be nice to at least break even.  So if you like our music, please help us cover our costs by buying it.  We sell physical CDs and digital music, too.  Where ever you normally buy music online, we are most likely there.  And if you’ve already bought our music, bless you!  Enough said.  Thanks, and happy holidays!

Empty Spaces

Posted by  Grand Poobah  December 12, 2014  •  No Comments  • 

You may have noticed the blog entries have slowed to a trickle recently.  Life intervenes sometimes, but Chameleon Red is still alive.  We’ve begun writing new material for the next album and exploring alternatives for live performance.  Meanwhile, here’s a nice recent review of Skeleton Crew–you’ll have to scroll down toward the bottom of the article.  And happy holidays!

Chameleon Red (Goofy)

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