Jim Carroll Workshop – 7 (American Express and Shape Shifter)

Jim Carroll’s Writing Workshop continues

See here. hereherehere here, and here

JC: It (“Sherlock Holmes) – has a real long fade I don’t want to subject you to it, you know…. But this one is a regular…this is not the same song now – obviously, but this is called… no.. wait a minute.. this is called…”Shake”? – no, this is called “American Express”

This is a better mix, it’s an engineer mix, and I think it’s just…

[to Student/Technician – Is it going yet? – No, no, wait a minute. Let me… Shake..   do the lyric, you think?..Okay, I’ll do the lyrics]

This is kind of..  This was kind of a fun thing too. We wrote it at the last minute, because he (Ray Manzarek) had the music for… for all of these. I gave him the lyrics first and then he wrote the music (which is unusual for me). This one, we kind of worked at together which I found is much easier when you’re working together than three thousand miles apart.

But, how does this start? – oh –

“In France, I’ve been to France,/ lots of rude people and tongue-tied romance/ I met artificial punks into artificial junk/and a bunch of Anglo Harvard-educated Buddhist monks/ They all shaved their hair/in France, no, I didn’t find much there/ Amsterdam, in Amsterdam,/ it could make you believe that The Second Coming’s at hand/With those blonde kids smoking hash/And the red-light district trash/Let’s go down to the Milky Way/It’s surrounded by the bay/The drawbridge down with busted hinges,/get over-the-counter fresh syringes/ Too much sweat, too much blow/Down at the Para-dis-io/That’s where Herman and the wild boys go” – And then, there’s a little break there where it gets melodic, and then it says, “Except for Van Gogh’s chair/and his mad Self-Portrait’s stare/No, I didn’t find much there, I didn’t find much there/ And it’s too much foreign food , my sound-man’s wearing a dress/Lord, this tour, this whole tour is a mess/ – I’ve got.. I’ve got..the something.. I’ve got the something xenophobic stress/I love writing care of American Express/My dear, please write me care of American Express/and I love writing you care of American Express'”.
So, it’s got a pretty good swinging sound to it, actually, I think.

[To Student/technical assistant] – Which one’s this? -[JC plays recording of the Manzarek-Carroll composition,  “American Express”]

Ray Manzarek

jim carroll

Jim Carroll

Student: Did you write the tune for that one?

JC: No, actually, I wrote that when I was out there, when we were rehearsing for the demos. Actually, I think those two songs we wrote, you know, within a day, when we had all the other songs ready. Let me see, there’s another (one)..  Is it tiresome to listen to these?

Student(s): No

JC:  I mean it’s easier than talking about them, for me, I think.

(To Student/technical assistant) – Do you have that tape? Oh good..

Student: It’s a transfer from.. –

JC: Well, fuck that!… do you want a hand?

This is an interesting lyric. It’s kind of ambitious but it doesn’t have the band, well, it has a Linn Drum and (Ray) Manzarek’s playing all the parts on the synthesizers. It’s called “Shape Shifter” but I..  It’s “Shift to crow hear the carrion cry..” – (You know that movie Wolfen, I liked a lot, where they.. (where) the guy could shape-shift into not just a werewolf, but anything) – “Shift to crow hear the carrior cry/Shift to driftwood smooth and dry/Throw me on the fire/I shift to flame/ I’ve got ten thousand shapes/I’ve got shapes that have no name” – Then, let’s see.  “Shift down to stone/Feel the water’s danger” – and then there’s a pause there – “I’m so alone/Every change a stranger” “I’m a shape shifter from the Lower East Side/Up on the bridge I dance, beneath the water, I slide” (and then it’s got this little “beneath the water I sli-ii-de”   And then “Shift on..” – I think you can hear the lyrics after that, but you got the gist of it there – shifting to different objects, in various forms…

But, actually, I’d rather play this song “Cops Talk”, which is a more minimal song and does have some guitar on it but..  No, I’ll play this one, what the hell…

[JC plays a recording of  Shape Shifter (at approximately sixty-three minutes in)]

The thing I noticed about that (I thought about this before ) is that part “I’m part wolf, I’m part dove, I’m the horror, I’m the horror of.. – and then  I hold the note – “love” – and  I fucked up – like, I did… like, I could do like I did in the other song and get back-up singers to hold it with me, like “paradis-i-o” – But I think it’ll be much better like – there I could hear right now the idea of.. you know..  I can extend, like, instead of going “I am the horror of (love), holding that, that’s not what I could do. I mean I could say “I-am-the-horror-of… love!”, you know, like, just let the pause.. I think could do a lot more, you know. “I am the horror of..” and then let the synthesizer… That’s the good thing about working with a keyboard player like..like on the albums I’ve always worked mainly with guitar music (which I like more in a way, but more… I mean.you can sing better with a synthesizer or a keyboard because you can, of course just, like, hang your vocals on that steady, you know, like, riseit’s like a control, and so it’s easy to stay on key, but I think the phrasing, like, that’s an example where the phrasing would be just intuitively better if you, like, paused instead..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-nine minutes in]  

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