Never much of a reader, I have an odd collection of books. My collection is probably as laughable as when I visit a friend with a casual affection for collecting music and finger flick through their LPs and CDs. My bookshelves have plenty of non-fiction, some classics I’d meant to read, and then some books I’ve read more than once. Hemingway’s 1927 Nick Adams Stories hold a special place with its simple writing style (I know it’s far from simple), from a setting long ago, and characters drawn in straight bold lines.
I saw the words, “How lonesome have you ever been?”
“Bad black lonesome. Awful.”
Imagining a pool of darkness, this stuck with me. I had a piano in our Russian Hill flat for a while, writing not so many songs on it, but came up with this one. My brother Erik was living in SF for a year or so, and at the time had essentially taken over my room. He was sitting across the room while I made the demo on a Fostex X-15, and contributed a finger snap between my count-off and the first note, I guess cos he wanted in on the action. That was Christmas 1988.
Flying Color played “Bad Black Lonesome” briefly after Hector left the band, along with a handful of my new tunes from that period. When the band eventually broke up in 1990, our producer Tom Mallon cut me a bargain on making a four song demo. Paul Collins produced the session where I made a new version of the song, which I include here after the piano demo. I imagine it was Paul’s idea to play faster, since that’s his thing!
I find that if one attempts a newer, improved recording of a song, something gets left behind. It’s that “two steps forward, one step back” idea. I prefer the tighter brighter guitar version over the lo-fi dirge that is the piano demo, but I miss the slow, soaring, “bad…” backing vocal. It’s also referred to as demo-itis.
Bad Black Lonesome remains one of my standby songs for my solo live set. I played it last night.