Behind The Music

Behind The Music of Recent Singles

Disappearing Man

(released 10/15/2021)
(from The Gordon Michaels Interview with Tom Hilton of Aldora Britain Records)

The melody came first as it does quite a lot—in the car---walking—in the bathtub---then I wrapped chords around it and explored the possibilities of where it might go in the key of G…I think the melody is probably influenced by Sting’s “Fortress Around Your Heart’…the theme may have been influenced by a recent re-reading of Catcher in The Rye and my ongoing fascination with self-actualization…the character in the song—who represents the seeker in all of us.. is disillusioned with his life…goes though the usual adventure/quest/accumulation of wealth/spiritual rebirth attempts…like Buddha, Baba Ram Dass, Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, the Neo-Advaita Vedanta people…and finally realizes everything he was seeking—liberation, enlightenment was right there all the time in the everyday-every moment experience of life…now that I think about it--sounds a little like The Wizard of Oz…”Oh Toto…There’s no place like home”… anyway, the personal identity he was escaping from disappears when he realizes it was just a phantom--an autobiographical self that he himself had created…hence the title, “Disappearing Man”…with the double meaning of leaving home-family and also leaving the illusory self—he has, so to speak, disappeared

Back in The Day

(released 01/04/2021)

I’ve always been a fan of 1920’s style music…”Let’s Misbehave” “Mississippi Mud” “Me and My Shadow” etc. etc. . . .more recently I think McCartney captured this spirit with “When I’m 64” and especially “Honey Pie” so I had this melody bumping around in my head for a couple years and finally gave it some definition by deciding to write about what Boomers would consider to be ‘back in the day”—the 60’s…I wanted a semi-serious quirky kind of attitude that highlighted the good times and de-emphasized the bad times as our memory tends to do, so I included feel good items like Sgt. Pepper, ‘67 Malibu, Timothy Leary, black lights, bell bottoms…and so on. ..recorded at Craig Tabascio’s ThinkTank studio…that’s me on brushed snare, piano, bass, and synth with some deft production from Craig…I think it would make a great theme song for a TV sitcom…

Thanks for Everything

(unreleased as of this writing 01-22-2022)

-a very different adventure…my good friend and fellow songwriter/novelist Wil Nauman “commissioned” me this past November ‘21 to write a “hymn of thanksgiving”…he suggested a title—“Thanks for Everything”…what came immediately to my mind was the style of song I used to sing in Methodist Sunday School and as it so happens I had started working on a eulogy for a beloved pet dog we had who passed away from epilepsy…that song had hit a wall—I never finished it---so I used the melody and chording for the thanksgiving song…originally it was “Bless the child who dies…Bless the windy skies…” I changed it “Thanks for deep blue skies…mountains oh so high” and so on……along with Methodist hymns I was influenced by McCartney’s “Warm and Beautiful” which was also I’m pretty sure influenced by hymnody…as of now it’s just a piano vocal version but I’m sure there will be some future production and instrumentation…

Behind The Music of Jack of Hearts

All the Way

I love the Latin feel and the intense romantic overtones of love songs in a minor key…the nylon guitar really helps to give that feeling...this is a passionate romance couched in a Latin-esque style with a very determined lover who feels that..."If I can't have all of you I don't want any of you because it is too painful not to totally consummate this raging fire inside."...that’s me on rhythm guitars, Ron on lead, Bobby on the fretless, and those nifty reverse piano sounds accentuating transitions…there is probably a subconscious Sting influence and maybe—just maybe--a little Trini Lopez

Tell Me Why

This song started with the first verse accapella—that is, I wrote it with no instrumentation—that came later…I wanted to try and get a hip hop feeling with the drums---Ron found a sample that worked perfectly…although I think it came off with a lot more Stevie Wonder overtones than hip hoppy thing…Ron suggested some aggressive guitar in the chorus and I love the juxtaposition of the hard rock approach with the more R & B verses…and yes!—a protest song!—remember that genre?...I don’t mind a little wealth inequality but America has gotten extremely polarized between the haves and the have-not’s…I sure wouldn’t mind a little evening up of the playing field there…sorry if I left anybody’s favorite gripe out of the lyrics—I like to keep’em around 3 minutes or so…again some nice reverse guitar and piano sounds, a megaphoned protester-in-the-street sound in verse 3, half-step string dramatic punctuation…modulate into verse 4 for more effect…understated synth sub frequency key bass keeps it fat

No Sun Today

…the pain from lost love, unrequited love, love gone bad, love gone dead, can bring about rage or sadness but just as often can bring about a gray non-emotional cloudiness that can linger on…the narrator feel this numbness after a love affair is over….friends with their heart in the right place want to talk about it but in this state he doesn’t want to have to go through the feelings again---or the memories…pull down the shades…let’s keep it cool and dark for a while…soon will be time to move on!...I’m on the rhythm acoustic that enters in the chorus…Ron on electrics…Bobby on 5-string bass…yes!’s real Policey…real Stingish…I tried real hard not to do what they did on their song that sounds similar (you know the one) but nevertheless I think it develops into something all its own…

Jack of Hearts

I had the nine songs for the album but I thought it was missing an identity…a persona…daydreaming and free-associating on my deck and sipping a pinot grigio I thought, “Hmmm…Jack of Hearts…hmmm” I did a Google search for Jack of Hearts and liked what I found---the card started in the French Middle Ages as the ‘’Knave” of hearts…changed later to the “Knight” and finally slang-ified to “Jack”…he is the underdog…fights for the King…but remember the Lancelot legend—he was in love with the Queen—hence the line “keeps an eye on the Queen”…the old saying “Jack of all trades—master of none” popped up and voila!—a personality…a real person with a role…subordinate to the rulers….but accepting that fact…constantly on the road fighting battles for the King…lonely—not able to engender a permanent relationship because of his role and yet always always looking for a love—looking for “the one”…the arrangement is influenced by Paul Simon’s Still Crazy after All These Years as far as not really having a chorus per say but instead having a repeated tag line after the verses with two bridges ...I think the feeling—instrumentation—overall sound is influenced by James Taylor and Eric Clapton…

The Other Girl

…the chorus-the island feel…all came at once while driving…sometimes that happens…and it’s wonderful!...a song about the genetic predisposition for males to be uncontrollably drawn visually to attractive women….sometimes followed through—this time-not…what appears on the surface to be an musical exposition about promiscuity is really a tip-of-the cap to fidelity…nothing happens in this scenario…the male narrator has given his vow and stands by it!!—wow!-old fashioned fidelity! I wanted to keep it light-hearted so I wrote the party-feel-intro before I got semi-serious in the verses…the chorus is probably influenced by the Chiquita banana commercials I heard as a kid…”I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say…bananas have to ripen in a certain way…”...probably one of the first island-genre feelings I heard maybe along with “Harry Belafonte’s “The Banana Boat Song” (“Day-O”)…I asked Ron to play a clean Stratocaster solo over the party-feel intro and then the lyrical more-island-like nylon solo during the outro…that’s me on acoustic and some nylon fills…I really loved Bobby’s bass line going into the chorus so I doubled it an octave higher on Strat…a little reverse guitar going back into the verses…

Can’t Put A Reason

…an answer to the age-old question, “Why do you Love me?”….I was working with the rolling-rollicking shuffle feel in the verses and was thinking about how many of us go through a period of dropping or just plain growing out of our belief systems and conditioning and just being in the moment---maybe a combo of my experiences with est, LSD, zazen, and reading Alan Watts/U.G. Krishnamurti/and some authors in the neo-Advaita school…about a free-falling-free-wheeling transcendence of emotion and intellect beyond reason but nonetheless fairly reasonable…and worked those ideas into the verse lyrics…sometime while this was in my head I heard “Mr. Blue” by ELO on the car radio and was really impressed with the breakdown part with quarter note piano chops and vocals….I used that production approach and wrote a Beatle-ish melody---added harmony-on-the –sweet-side—Bobby undergirded and balanced it with some staccato bass and voila!...a pretty cool sounding chorus…the ending is pure Lennon-esque Revolver era suspension between A7 and G7 chords with those glissando strings from Glass Onion…


…this song has a very interesting history… original melody written mentally on plane flying back from Hollywood visit to A&M Horizon offices April ’79 thinking about a woman who reclined on a chaise lounge every afternoon by herself wearing huge dark sunglasses by the pool at the Chateau Marmont where I stayed…I created a narrative for her that went “She’s haunted/obsessed by a something bad that happened many Autumns ago…depressed/lonely/incommunicado…she hums an old song…the narrator finds her melancholy aura irresistible but realizes nothing will ever come from the relationship until she gets over and gets off of whatever it is that eats at her…it’s always overcast and raining in her soul…lI always liked the melody and during my so-called “Christian Period” I changed the lyrics to “Calvary”-- a topic to reflect the heavy/draining/tragic tone of the chord changes and resigned helplessness of the melody…demo’d at Hyacinth mid 90’s…my mom liked this one…she said it would also be a great instrumental…fast forward to recording the Jack of Hearts album—I changed it back to Marjorie and reworked the lyrics a bit….Ron and I spent a lot of time on orchestration to give it a wide expansive symphonic feeling after the acoustic intro…that’s Ron on acoustic….modeled in part, I think, on the Beatles’ Because as far as using 3-part harmony in a minor key and on Donovan’s Lalena as far as truing to capture that hauntingly beautiful feeling about a sad lady with a tinge of tragedy…I tried real hard to avoid going into a happy ending or some kind of pedantic advice…just leave it as a portrait…glad I did

Never Had A Love

…playing around with some James Taylor-like finger picking with E7 and Bm7 chords came up with the melody never had a this…never had a that….kind of a aw shucks underdog narrator…that opened up a wide array of things aw shucks underdog shy boy wall flowers have missed in their life…and then suddenly their heart opens up wide like it never did before with their first REAL love affair…I think the chorus is influenced by McCartney especially the falsetto ad libs…maybe that chromatic change G# G F# F is influenced by the acoustic guitar in ‘Til There Was You??? maybe…hard to tell where stuff comes from at times…I really like the electric guitar harmonies Ron played-- they keep it from becoming too “loungey”…I love using sidestick for verses and snare for chorus as a build up technique

Gonna’ Love You Tonight

…this started out as a quiet folky love song-the kind I write in my bedroom at night playing and singing softly…but I wanted to raise the energy and commerciality level so I actually used a template to arrange and produce it…as it happened, I was rehearsing on bass with my brother’s band, The Riverdogs, and we were learning Ten Million Hours by Dan, Shay, and Justin Bieber….my brother noted that it was the number one song in America---hmmm…I thought…a good model!…I used the same approach for up-front kick, squashy snare, 3-part harmony in the chorus, complete music stops for transitions, and the jingly jangly bell-like electric guitar lines from that recording…The reggae chorus was inspired by a similar arrangement in Kenny Chesney and Uncle Kracker’s When the Sun Goes Down—another song we were working on…those ae reverse kick drum hits that get you into the chorus…I love that kind of stuff…

The Sound Goin’ Down

…written on piano…I was playing around with the G7 to F7 chord figure and fantasized about a fan in the audience for a concert of a fusion type band—a little rock—a little jazz---a little r& b…definitely with horns…maybe inspired by Steely Dan’s “Mr. Parker’s Band” as far as concept…further into the song you can hear some S. Dan-ish chords—major triads using the 5th note in the scale as the bass—D/G…C/F …I also tried to use some unexpected bass notes in other chords as you will notice……so as the song progresses we see that narrator is a big fan of the band’s sound and uses a semi-hip semi-beatnik lingo to express himself…we used Kim Gravatt on saxes blended with synthesized saxes on the main rhythm figure and also on the melodic lines played with guitar over the …Ron does a Jeff Beck-ish fusiony solo w some technical finger magic and liberal use of the vibrato bar to get that wavery pitchy guitar sound

Behind The Music of Tune Rider


...just a glorious ode to romance and physical attraction!...lots of fun with the litany of similes and metaphors...we began with an electric rhythm guitar over the synth percussion figure...when Ron was testing out the drum samples I liked the fragmented random sound pattern and we worked on finessing that a little for the opening and its return in the 2nd verse...the piano figure sets up the verse so that it doesn't need much else as far as rhythm instrumentation... Ron suggested some vocal ad libs in the pre-chorus...I wrote the chorus first and everything followed from there...I enjoy going into half-time reggae-like segments here and there and you hear that in the pre-chorus and you will in some of my other songs...a little heaviness sneaks in at the end...


...ever just want to just give it all away?...I mean really GIVE IT ALL AWAY?...possessions, psyche, personality, everything??? start over again? day my wife was under a lot of pressure and said, "I just wanna go..."...that stuck in my mind as I worked with the A C G progression on acoustic guitar...images of hobo culture from the 1930's...believer baptism down by the river...contemporary woes and pressures of modern life...seeking total release...backward acoustic guitar in verse...I always start with a "scratch" vocal and then re-do it but this time it was better than the re-do so we kept it


...played around with the bluesy-rock riff in A for a while...a country rock feeling wafted through me for the verses and chorus...played with the double-entendre for "moonshine"--the actual shining of the moon and home distilled liquor-hence, "moonshiny".....put them together and you've got a whopper of a romantic evening...some real nice blues rock country-ish riffs from Ron…


…One of my all-time favorites…sorry I didn’t get this on my 1979 Stargazer album…on piano in Dagsboro, Delaware late one night mid 70’s…feeling lonely imagined someone trying to get in touch with friends via telephone (pre-Facebook days)…but everyone is married, busy with kids, no longer at that number, or dead!!..How melodramatic!! I exaggerated the melodrama until it became tragicomic….the dirge feel with scat duo between me and Mr. Armstrong…Who is Mr. Memory?—maybe all the accumulated schemata and memories of important relationships—mainly friends that we carry around…


..has an interesting story...started out as a Christian song entitled, "You Are The One" in the mid 1990's...secularized it for the album...(a la Ray Charles) into a romance...played around with the flattened fifth of an A9 chord to get that spooky quality...stole a lyric from Irving Berlin---can you tell which one?


A very personal one…very autobiographical…wrote mentally first 1983? while swinging son Derek age 2?3? on the swing set outside our townhouse in Middle River, Maryland…I was getting tired of the music biz and contemplating a move into another line of work or at least a long healthy leave of absence from music…it seemed as if all of things I had tried and different bands I was in all ended up disintegrating into nothingness and being broke…I was father/husband for the first time and was looking for stability…autobiographical touches—flashback to garage bands in the mid-60’s with Silvertone (from Montgomery Ward?)amps… learning Beatles and Rolling Stones cover songs a few years after the emotional cataclysm of President Kennedy’s assassination…reverb and tremolo were the hi-tech of the day…flashforward to feeling like this could be my last band right around the final months of the first Gordon Michaels Band…third verse moves into late 60’s early 70’s Vietnam/student unrest/Civil Rights Movement…we had it right in our hearts but generalized and stereotyped those who disagreed with us just as wrongly as they generalized and stereotyped us (‘grew our hair til we could not see”)second verse moves us into the 70’s…disco craze—separating our hip little crew from the larger population of thrill seekers (Quaaludes) we wanted something more psychedelic-mind expanding (hashish)…Bridges: solo, duo, 3 pc., larger bands-tried just about everything ended up finally sticking with the oldies in little smoky bars...regardless of personal finances always and still enamored with being successful and at least a little famous…last verse—the social/artistic commentary— JFK transitioned from inspiring leader to merely a name for an airport---musicians still don’t make money (It goes into the pockets of club/bar owners and alcohol distributors (original lyrics “We push some booze and make some noise”)—“just another show” a comment on the phoniness of it all “show” here has a double meaning…and basically the music business structure doesn’t change much although the sound does due to technological inventions and progress—(see David Byrne’s excellent book about music—he’s from Baltimore by the way…has a reference to Frankie and The Spindles—a Baltimore soul band from mid 60’s and the Bluesette Club in his book)…killer guitar solo from Ron


...was exploring F chord figure in verse that rises with nuance chromatically and came up with melody and lyrics that actually stay away from saying anything too direct and specific about romance...trying not to be too cliche...asked Bobby to play fretless to give it a different feel...asked Ron to play the solo on acoustic--he doubles it on acoustic and nylon...obvious Beatles influence...can't get them out of my head...never will...don't really want to!


This line-up is the last Gordon Michaels Band circa January 2020 (at least as of today). I wanted to write something that would give all band members a chance to demonstrate their skills and to highlight the tightness of our little unit...had an idea for a blues-rock tune where the narrator is smitten but not getting the same level of devotion from his icy lover...flip flop gender opposite of "I Put A Spell on You" from Screamin' Jay Hawkins...


I wanted to have a title track so I worked this up based on the E to D progression...the theme is of course the unpredictability and sometimes fickleness of the "Muse"--the ancient Greek demi-goddesses in charge of inspiring artists...I started with the idea of "Tune Writer" but changed it to add some verbal playfulness and double the focus is not on the writer but on the Muse as she "rides' in on another song inspiration...sometimes she is generous--sometimes not...although the verb "muses" can mean to think or ponder I use it as the inspiration/influence of the Muse in inspiring a song...


...genesis of this song came in that wonderful half-dream half-awake state...I heard a slightly distorted rock guitar figure against quarter note kick drum as a kind of hybrid between dance music and rock...the lyrics are inspired by the neo-Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy (exemplified by Jan Kirschott, Toni Parsons, Wayne Liquorman, and especially Alan Watts) where it is accepted that nothing exists outside of the experience of this moment and that THIS is all there is and all there needs to be.and it is all ONE writing progressed it took on more of a romantic flavor so you have a guy becoming enlightened and falling love at the same time...risky adventure!


..waking one morning my dog, Mazie, was murmuring, wining, and quietly barking in that muffled way that dogs do when they dream..."If dogs can dream" came into my mind as a kind of 20's folk jazz style reminiscent of Leon Redbone..."If dogs can dream and fish can fly"...the narrator argues, "why can't I fantasize about this attractive woman who is utterly out of my league? because it's only gonna happen in my dreams."


I began writing a suite of songs for a concept album about a "Tour of the Solar System" that never materialized...anyway, finished one called "Planet of Love" about Venus, one called "Life on Mars" and thought as a humorous interlude (comic relief) to be harassed by a ship of drunken aliens might be funny and interesting....that's where this song coms from...the theory here is superior transportation technology also breeds superior inebriational technology...that is to say, "Wouldn't superior beings have superior ways of changing their states of consciousness for fun and adventure?...this is a joy ride of drunken rogue aliens out for fun and plunder much like pirates of old...oly this time they have the technology to take home something really quite alarmingly personal…
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