Me and this old guitar

Herbie was stolen in Michigan City, Indiana, somewhere around 1978. (I don’t remember why I named my first guitar Herbie.) I left him in the Firebird, along with my leather coat and some other items, when we stopped at a motel overnight, and in the morning Herbie and the coat and I-don’t-remember-what-else were gone. I think of Herbie from time to time, and I have four or five cassettes full of songs I composed and multi-tracked with that nylon string guitar, as well as three or four others where he shared duties with the 12-string I bought in the summer of 1975.

One of my sweetest memories is not long after the theft, when I was visiting my best old New Jersey friend and sharing his nylon-string guitar. He finished playing, looked at the guitar and then at me, and held it out to me and said, “This is yours.” Or maybe he didn’t say a word and the look and the gesture told me he was giving it to me. Come to think of it, I remember it the second way. It’s one of the best gifts I ever received and one I still use to this day.

Friday morning I did something I have not done in literally 13 years: I hooked up a microphone, picked up this guitar, and recorded songs. I marked the files “demo” so I wouldn’t be tempted to share them in this form and to remind myself that I want to create more polished recordings of the songs. I have only recently started playing the guitar again — I have not even raised callouses on my fingertips yet — so these recordings feature only the most rudimentary strumming and thus do not represent the best possible versions of the songs. The main purpose, other than to recapture the fun of recording music, was to preserve the songs and a snapshot of the morning of Nov. 17, 2023.

In case this session someday becomes legendary (my goodness, I have an overblown vision of myself), let the record show that the songs were “Song for My Daughter” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” the first two songs I’ve written in a decade; “Alcohol Alcohol” and “Cozi Won Chu,” two songs I wrote in 1985 during an especially fertile and feral time; and a cover of “Sweet Cherry Wine,” which I consider one of Tommy James’ most underappreciated compositions.

These five are the first nominees for a new album I’m beginning, working title “Songs for My Daughter.” Songwriting has always been a hobby of mine, and I always enjoyed piecing albums together with multi-tracking — 20 distinct albums between 1973 and 2010, which I inflicted on family and friends who patted me on the shoulder and said, gently, “That’s nice.” But I had fun, so I kept on doing it until one day I realized I would never be a star singer-songwriter, which is the silliest reason to stop having fun.

I imagine myself throwing a few dozen new recordings against the wall to find 10 to 14 that stick, which will form my 21st album — w.p. bluhm’s “Hackney Diamonds,” don’t you see. For today, I enjoyed my make-believe recording session, I was pleased that my singing voice still can occasionally hit the right note, and I made a recording of my new songs for posterity in case of the unexpected — I am still arrogant enough to believe posterity would care, believe it or not.

Leave a Reply