Spring in Boston comes a lot later than it does to New York. When New Jersey is yellow with forsythias and daffodils and stuff, up here we’re still looking at gray skies and piles of dirty snowplow snow. We’re talking way into March, sometimes April. People still have ski racks on their cars and snow shovels in their trunks at Easter.
The nice days we do get are like Mother Nature saying “sike!” (or is that “psych-“?) and just make people like me even more pissed when we get up the next morning and its shitty out again. Oh yeah what do I care, I spend all my time indoors, right? If only. Even Jordan remarked how crappy the weather was when we were getting ready to wrap. He’d been with us two and a half weeks and was Fedexing tapes to Mills every other day. We’d done nothing but work during the day, eat in restaurants, and then go back to work–except for a few times when we’d gone to see a show, some band we knew or that Jordan wanted to check out. That’s how I got to meet Tom Petty, and David Knopfler (Mark’s brother). But I spent most of these shows backstage, half-there, my mind still in the studio trying to get some kind of perspective on the whole thing. (Though I admit, meeting Petty was cool.)
The more Jordan told me not to worry about perspective, the more I worried. The more he told me Mills liked what he was hearing the more worried I got that maybe *I* didn’t have any idea whether *I* liked what *I* heard. I just couldn’t tell.
What bothered me the most, maybe, was that Ziggy and I didn’t exactly put aside our conflict in order to work together. We dug in and cooperated less. There were some songs that were “my” songs, some that were “his.” I felt like we’d been more collaborative before, when I was writing almost everything and he was adding lyrics and putting his own spin on stuff, which meant we could be more collaborative as a band. Now, it was competitive, even if we never said that aloud.
“Okay Jordan,” I said one night when he and I sat in the stairwell and shared some grass while the other three went off to pick up some take out. I didn’t fake toking; I figured I needed to be as calm and quiet as I could get for this. “If you’re Mr. Perspective, can you tell me something?”
He passed the pipe back to me–a weird carved job made of some kind of stone he said he’d picked up in New Orleans–and held his smoke for a bit before answering. “Sure, what.”
“Can you tell the difference between the songs Ziggy wrote and the ones I wrote?”
He thought about it a moment while I fired up the bowl. Then he said “Do you mean, can I tell the difference, or is it you want to know what the difference is?”
“Okay. I’m hearing a more, I don’t know, exotic sound from the stuff he writes. But sometimes it sounds like he’s reaching. He pulls it off because he can really perform it, and because he comes up with hooks. With you, you give yourself more room to write a complete texture, it’s not just the lyrics, it’s the total surface of the music with lyrics and lead. But hey, what else would you expect from a singer-songwriter and a guitarist-songwriter?”
“Yeah,” I said. “But does this make some kind of difference in the grand scheme of things?” Grand Scheme of Things was a Bart phrase he’d been using for years but for some reason all of us had started to use it with frightening regularity.
Jordan played with his goatee. “I shouldn’t be telling you this.”
“Telling me what.”
“That I think Ziggy’s got the pop pulse right now. He’s just weird enough to bring it above bubble gum. I think it’s his songs mostly right now that will be singles, if that’s what you’re asking. The stuff I’m hearing from you right now is, what, the stuff that gives the overall album its ballast.” He held up his fingers like he was counting. “Of say ten songs we end up with on this record, three have Ziggy written all over them. And I’d bet money those three will be the singles. Provided the thing does well enough to spawn three singles of course.”
“Yeah, so…” He gestured for me to give the pipe back, which I did. I think it was carved in the shape of a snake’s head, or something like that. I didn’t look too closely. “Yeah, anyway. But the other seven songs I see as you.”
“Please tell me it doesn’t sound like we wrote a couple of hit ready songs just for Top 40 and they are totally obviously like, not part of the rest of it.”
“I promised I wouldn’t tell you anything just to make you feel better.”
“Yeah so, and what’s the answer?”
“What was the question?”
In that marijuana kind of logic I had to wait until he packed the bowl again and we each took another hit before I could retrace where we’d gone astray. “The question is, does it sound like we wrote a couple of hit ready, yadda yadda?”
“Ah.” He looked like a man chewing a cud. “No, it doesn’t. For what it’s worth, if you’d just sent me the tape and I’d never seen you play, I wouldn’t have known some of the songs were yours and some were his. Your average Joe Listener isn’t going to have any clue. Do you know what percentage of people actually read the liner notes of albums, and look at stuff like songwriting credit?”
“No, what percent?”
“I don’t know man, I thought you would know.” We both laughed even though I think we were both a little depressed by the fact that probably not a heck of a lot of people gave a damn. But cheer up, I told myself, that was the point. You wanted to know no one would be able to tell the difference.
A few days later we had all major tracks in the can, and Jordan went back to New York and suddenly I had a tour to think about.