Promises

Promises is another blast from my past.

I wrote it around 1972 or '73, as part of a project that was supposed to change my life. I was playing in Top 40 bands, clubs and bars, with a lot of weddings and parties to make the rent. I determined that I was going to fulfill my destiny, live up to my potential, pursue my muse - whatever it's called. The point at the time was to break out of the club band business and into the recording business. I was still young enough to think that I had a future there, and in fact that turned out to be true, although not in the way I was hoping.

Promises is a pep talk to myself. In it, I tell myself to stop procrastinating, to stop pretending, to get up and do what needs to be done. I forget to do that sometimes, and in this song I acknowledge my forgetfulness and try to make myself take the first step. Others have told me since that this song speaks to them, so maybe I am not entirely alone in my inertia.

The first recording of this was done on a circa 1969 TEAC quarter-track tape recorder, using a technique called sound-on-sound to overdub. This method produces a lot of tape hiss and effectively takes away your ability to mix the track. So the finished product was very noisy and the balance of instruments and voices was not exactly optimal. Plus, when you are doing sound-on-sound you have to do complete takes. The two fingerpicked guitars were played by me and my brother Rick (thanks Rick!) one long late-summer evening, and it seemed as if we were never going to get a usable take. If Rick played it perfectly, I'd screw up, and if he made a mistake, that was the perfect take for me. Also there were dogs barking in the yard and motorcycles in the alley, so that ruined a few takes.

Finally, grim-faced and determined, our fingers almost bleeding from the repeated attempts, we both played our parts well from start to finish. Triumphantly we hit the last chord and held it, though our fingertips were screaming for a break. And before that chord had died naturally, the phone rang, loudly. Never mind who forgot to turn off the ringer - I thought Rick would kill me if I asked him to try the song again, so we kept that take, and for thirty years, as telephone bells disappeared from real life, I heard that phone ringing.

It became so much a part of the arrangement that I almost added it back in to the new recording, which was completed on March 26, 2006 in the home studio, with Rick again playing one of the picking parts, and me doing all the rest.

In the end I decided to leave the phone out.

I may try this vocal again. I'm not satisfied with my singing on this version. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the song.

PROMISES

You can't pretend any more. You've got to make your move.
It's not the same as before, when the sun shone down on you and you alone.

This killing time is killing you. We'd love to hear your song.
It's not so very hard to do. Raise your voice and we will sing along.
La la la la la la la. La la la la la la la. La la la la la la la.

We've been trying to live on promises. We've been trying to live on
time.
But promises have their own ways of fading into yesterdays.
And yesterday's only a game that we play with today.
And time works upon us to break every promise we made.

Sometimes I find myself alone with a daydream and guitar.
And then I know I should stay home, but the crowd is never far away.

I can't depend anymore that promises lead to songs.
It's such a complicated score, but I swear I'll carry, I will carry on.
La la la la la la la. La la la la la la la. La la la la la la la.

I've been trying to live on promises. I've been trying to live on time.
But promises have their own ways of fading into yesterdays.
And yesterday's only a game that I play with today.
And time works upon us to break every promise we made.

© Larry Jones 2006

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