SONG SPOT: "Ravens" (2019)
Many of the songs on Emerge are written on piano. Dale from our 80’s band Flying Color lent me one of the few pianos he would find at the Salvation Army. It lived in my home office long enough to write some songs, entertain friends, and ruin my relationship with the neighbors who would stomp on my ceiling. A piano is as loud as a drum set when I play it.
I found B-flat, E-flat, and C minor to be good-sounding key signatures for that piano matched with my fingers. So for the most part, that’s where I spent time endlessly learning how to write and play something I could get through to the end without messing up. The neighbor's stomping continued, notes in all caps were taped to my door.
As the “concept” of Emerge came together, I had followed a chronology of my life, focused on the memorable events that led up to where I am now…and that would be just about everything. So I picked things one at a time and hoped to edit them later. Some songs are about childhood traumas, some mid-life reflections, and for some lightness, an unrelated pop tune about a cat.
In “Ravens,” I am leaving Syracuse for San Francisco in 1985 with $800 to my name. I cast my lot with two older pals who knew two other guys who went out there before us. Marty talked me into it with the enticement that we’d all have bands. We pared it down to the bare essentials- three guitars, a bass, vintage thrift store clothes, garbage bags full of cassettes, and thousands of Bob’s records. We drove most of the day and shared cheap motels at night. In Denver, I neatly hung all my shirts in the closet, where they stayed after we left.
I dropped my toothbrush in the parking lot of a donut shop in Topeka. We drove through the rising rock forms of Moab. We had cheap breakfast in the warm asphalt morning sleaze of Las Vegas. As we passed over the mountains toward L.A., someone put on Big Star, and then as the Pacific came into view, The Beach Boys.
I thought San Francisco was warm, with palm trees and sunshine. I had given away my houndstooth wool winter coat. We arrived late in the day, as the fog was creeping in over The Richmond. Then we drove straight to a record store in North Beach where our welcoming committee was gathered.
Meanwhile, back in Syracuse, they posted a calendar and projections on when we’d come crawling back home.
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Chris von Sneidern is a musical artist living in San Francisco.