monday song #2: nadine


the second monday song.

when i was in junior high there was a girl named nadine in my wood shop class. at some point, the boys started taunting her: “nadine, nadine, the header machine.” i never discovered the background, but, though she disappeared before high school, she was forever etched into my brain. years later, she’d occasionally come to mind, and I’d wonder what happened to her.
the main chords in the verse are stolen from the opening of my billie burke estate song “skin”: a sort of modal jazz sensibility that suggested a kind of hypnotic stasis, a sad comfort. from this point of equilibrium, i slowly pushed at the boundaries, exploring a few different harmonic possibilities.

the original vocal hook was “nadine lives in a dream, phone bills and sleeping pills, lost in between.” the character was cemented in this line, and I then drove myself crazy with rhyming couplets in search of further details, until the shape of the narrative fell into place. i got the “god bless the trees” line fairly early, and much of the work of writing and editing was to find a clear path from beginning to end.

the varied paths by which people find god has long fascinated me, and I thought of pursuing a song cycle around the subject at one time. as with most abstract concepts, they inspire an idea or two before the inspiration wears off. the most fertile organizing themes are usually the ones i discover after the fact.
i exploited the piano as guitar motif in the solo.

no clear influences on this one. (at least nothing conscious.) maybe a modest nod to the jazz-pop vets steely dan, or mark almond’s “sausalito bay suite.”

6 replies on “monday song #2: nadine”

  1. I’m digging this one AL. The sound reminds me of what Linus (Peanuts) might play after he grew up and got married.

  2. I’ve always been a Linus fan. I guess it is coming out in my music. And I will keep delivering. Thanks for keeping me honest!

  3. Very nice. The layering of meaning in the lyrics is very nice. She feels trapped between the love (and responsibility) she has for her kids and the ugly thoughts in her head (could be as severe as contemplating suicide or just a strong desire to get away).
    She views her situation as a ‘forest of despair’ and turns to the only One who could truly understand what she is going through. She asks God’s blessing on the trees — even though they are the very forest she is trapped in. This echoes of Jesus’ admonitions to love your enemies and bless those who persecute you — bless and do not curse. Another layer of meaning here could be that she views the children as the trees — of course she loves them and wants them blessed (she dare not ask anything else), but she also feels trapped by her responsibility to them.
    The layers are revealed in her question, “How do I make it through / to You?” The question can be viewed several ways. Nadine is at once asking God (much as David did), “Am I getting through to You? Can you hear me? Are you listening? If not, what do I have to do to get you to hear me?” She is also asking, “How do I get out of this forest of despair to where You are? How can I make it through [this forest] to You?” A third perspective is to turn it around and suppose that Nadine’s prayer ended with the blessing request. She asks for a blessing on her circumstance and God responds, “How do I make it through to you?” In other words, “What more do I have to do to show you that I love you and that I have all of this well in-hand?”
    Instrumentally, I really like the piano work on this one. Kind of reminds me of some of Vienna Teng’s slower pieces and I’m a Steely Dan fan too. Might have to up it a few bpm to really evoke their energy through it… which would probably destroy the mood. Nice work!

  4. this one really pulled me in, a rich, evocative portrait. I was just today suddenly “haunted” by a little girl from elementary school — third grade? — who I haven’t thought of in decades. Kara Lawler. I even went so far as to Google her.

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