The White Window Files

Here are three versions of a song I wrote in my head late one night while walking home from work. It’s called “White Window.”

How the song started

Walking out of Pies and Pints, where I used to work, for those fuckers, I had exited the back door, and was walking thru the alley that always used to be my short road home. Passing a small, white house I had seen a millions times before, I noticed one of its  windows. There was nothing special about it, but it reminded me of a window I had seen in my adolescence, or high school years, or something.

This instance was so long ago that I can’t recall the memory it triggered. Over two years at least. But the memory was so strong that, not only did several visuals start coming back to me, but I remembered how I felt as a kid. And not just on that day, either. It was, like, my mindset had come back to me, and a little more than briefly. It was an encompassing feeling that came over me. I remembered the newness, that brazen self-confidence, and the drive to discover the world and bring beauty to it, though I had no idea how the world worked and people really made money, or even what college was truly for.

Point is, I was happy then, in a way I can never reclaim. The memory is important. So this song is sort of a tribute to memory itself–how affecting it can be, how accurately it can take you back in time, and help change your entire mindset.

Anyway, I was still walking when all this shit was coming back to me. And I was probably high, drunk and tired. I started singing in my head, “The white window as I passed it by….” and I heard the guitar line in my head under it. I knew how it had to sound.

That’s how it started. I think I either played it that night before bed, or I remembered it the next day. Because its conception certainly took place late at night–I used to get out of work just after 1am at the earliest. I knew that this was a melody I had to hang onto.

Closing in on a final product

So–the version of White Window that you want to hear, if you want to skip all this mumbo-jumbo, is the last one. It’s closest to the definitive version.

Listening to the old versions will take you at least 15 minutes, but they show the evolution of the song.

First is a demo from August, 2011. It’s got the two main themes–the verse line, which started the whole song, and the jazzy, seventh-chord theme.

Second is something I played thru my amp and picked up with a mic, last Wednesday. Oh, man–you should see this video. I talk about how the song was revived for me early one morning, laying in bed.

So after I recorded that video, I went downstairs and recorded the second track of this set, the long-ass one that needs editing. I could put together something from it, but I knew that it all wasn’t right. It would be better to record a completely new version. Sometimes trying it again is better than polishing a turd.

That’s what I did–I tried it again. Yesterday. And I came up with something similar to the second track above, but after much editing, I pared it down to the almost-final-demo version you see here.

I was talking to Megan about it this morning, telling her that it’s over 8 minutes long, and she goes, “Jeez, you write the longest songs!”

It’s true, I do. She helped me recall that, over the years, I’ve gotten good at translating all these myriad musical ideas in my head into guitar and vocal lines. And it’s precisely why this song exists.

The man in my head

I hear music in my head. My head makes it up without my permission, and just gives it to me. It’s like, there’s a songwriter in my head who hides in a soundproof studio, records this shit on the sly, and just doles it out to me whenever he feels like it. And he’s my twin, but just microscopic. With microscopic instruments. And if I catch it, great. If not, there’s always another idea waiting in the queue.

I’ve always heard music in my head. I notice it’s all got a similar style, too. That’s why I think there’s one songwriter–me. I make my brain do it. Or my body’s personality makes my brain do it. Or my brain, which has developed into a personality my body expresses and conveys, uses that personality to concoct music. All the fucking time.

But I’m not complaining. Oh no. Bring it on, brain. Give me all the music that you like. I’m a willing recipient, and I’m always waiting for more. More. Bring more. Give me the music.

What has yet to be done

The lyrics are unfinished, obviously. They’re the most embarrassing part. I just knocked them off quickly, didn’t like how they sounded, got discouraged, and that discouragement was all the impetus I needed to succumb to my tiredness, my boredom with the song at that ending point in the day, and the responsibility I have of putting my kids to bed at night so that Megan can go to bed early to be well-rested for work the next day, … what was I saying? I turned everything off and called it a night. So it’s got unfinished vocals, but I’ve got some ideas I need to flesh out.

Want to hear them? No? Good.

Firstly, I have to write better, more descriptive lyrics. I have to make them interesting, and not just the same thing repeating over and over again, boring me and the listener. Like, “The white window as I passed it by/ it took me to a younger place in my life/ I was surprised to see that it was still alive/ though it had degraded and diminished with time/ it was Crono’s trigger that brought me back to life/ it was the answer to the question of why/ I feel that I have lost my confidence and drive/ I just got older and it’s just a part of life/ and I’m smarter now anyway but how do I make that rhyme?”

Secondly, I want to add a Shatner-esque opening to the intro, speaking thusly:
“Come with me, on a journey — thru your own mind.
You can use mine as the vehicle.”

Cool, right? It’ll have to be expanded. I can turn this song into a sort of theatrical piece, with characters, an abstract setting, the theme of memory and backwards time travel, and … spoken-wordness. Progressive rock at its philosophiest.

Wow, did you really read this far? Wow. Thanks.

About Glenn Smith

Twitter @GlennSmithPR
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