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SGT. PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
I wanted to do the Sgt. Peppers bookend thing on the first record but there were just too many songs to do it. So now's my chance! This song was the first Beatles song I ever heard since I got Sgt. Peppers when it came out in 1967 when I was only 2 years old so it is completely intermingled with my sense of being a child and the surreal possibilities of the Beatles music. Amazingly the beginning sound of the orchestra tuning up was from a totally unrelated recording I made on an accordion and I had not included it until I realized it sounded just like the chord on the record (or at least my memory of it) and it fit perfectly. A nice serendipity moment which is great because the making of the real Sgt. Peppers record was full of coincidences when the Beatles recorded it.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
This was the last song to make it onto the album and I was resisting it for a while because of the "get high" line but then I was at my friend Mark's house and some friends of his were telling me how their kid sang this song in a school choir presentation and the teacher told them that "high" meant feeling really good and happy! They were really insistent that I record it for this album so in that context I decided to record it. Boy am I glad I did. It is pretty fun to have it in the number two spot just like on the original album. Originally Ringo recorded his vocals at 5:45am after a full night of recording other songs. Poor little Ringo!
When I thought about how to make this song fresh I noticed that at it's core it has a church kind of feeling. So I just sped it up and energized it with a sort of gospel explosion. Of all the songs on the album this one was the easiest for me to sing for some reason. It just flowed out so naturally and I did the lead vocal in one take. I was literally bouncing off the walls in my studio as I did the shouting singing celebration at the end! Paul wrote this for John's son Julian so it is at it's heart a kid's song already.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
This is the one that inspired me to make this second collection of Beatles songs. I just could not stop thinking about this song and before I knew it I was in the studio making a new version. It came out so well that I figured I might as well go ahead and make the whole second album! I am happy to present this song also because it is the companion song to Paul's Penny Lane about childhood. Strawberry Fields was a park that John played in when he was little and the song is his tribute to a happy time when he was small and life was simple.
FOR YOU BLUE
I really loved this song when I was a kid. The slinky feeling of the music made me super happy. One day my Dad took me out to lunch at a pizza place called Shakey's and they had a jukebox with For You Blue on it. This was probably 1974 so it was only a few years after the song came out. When I asked my Dad for a dime to play the song he said I couldn't have one because I had the record at home and could hear it for free. I think in the end that experience made the song even sweeter since every time I hear it I remember NOT being able to play it. Thanks DAD!
I have always LOVED this song and the drone like sound of it and the sentiment which is that a rainy day is not a bad day at all and that we create these limitations for ourselves that require everything to be perfect in order to be happy. I just wanted to lighten it up and make the content of the vocals come to the front. At its core this is a super simple song with a super simple message. Be happy because you are alive not because of your surroundings.
ONE AFTER 909
The amazing thing about this song is that although it appeared on one of their last records is among the very first songs that John Lennon and Paul McCartney ever wrote. In the beginning the Beatles played without a drummer for a bunch of their first gigs and because there were four guitars they sold the lack of a drummer with eh phrase "The rhythm's in the guitars!". I decided to see how that theory would sound and just made this thing with only guitars save for the little Billy Preston style piano here and there (and HORNS! oops). Interesting side note is that Billy Preston who played piano on this song on Let It Be also played with and socialized with the Beatles in 1962 when he was Little Richard's organist and played shows with the lads from Liverpool around the time when they wrote this song.
This was one where I felt the original was pretty clear and clean and may not need covering but I could not resist recording it because it is so much FUN to play and sing! It tells a vivid story too which is always a winning quality of a good song for me. I can really SEE the story and atmosphere come to life in my head as I listen to it. So I indulged myself and put it on the album.
THE FOOL ON THE HILL
This one was hard to sing! I had to redo it a few times to get my voice near those high notes and ring out like Paul's does on the original song. But it was worth it. I got the broken baby keyboard to do the bass line here again and got a funny gnome from the garden to come in and play flute. Another example of getting a bit more energy and speed into the performance than the original to bring out the groove of the song.
The word is LOVE! What better sums up the Beatles contribution to our collective unconscious that their promotion of the concept of loving each other. I ramped up the country feel in this version just because I always heard it bubbling just under the surface and it was fun to bring it out a bit. This one did not make it onto the first record and I am glad it didn't because I added a bunch of bells and whistles to this new version.
This is the ultimate song of praise for you exhausted mothers out there! How do you do what you do? It seemed to be an easy choice for a record that is mostly for the parents since it is about the mother of all mothers! It was fun to create the super angelic "see how they run" parts and use my super broke down old Kawai baby keyboard for the bass line. I sure do love a half busted cheapo keyboard.
Singing about pigs has been a little fun surreal pastime of mine since I was a kid. Strange that I have not written a Caspar Babypants song about a pig but I do sing about then as I bop around all day. SO this seemed like a great one to include. I loved replicating the end part with he crisp cellos too. This one was also recorded for the first album but got bumped so it is great to have the chance to get it out here.
Another track that did not make it onto the first album. The lovely and talented Rachel Flotard helps out on vocals and does a great job with the harmonies. I like this one for kids because it is repetitive and deals with opposites. A little bit of an opportunity to think about that stuff. Also the fat luscious chords are so fun to play and listen to.
BABY YOU'RE A RICH MAN
I got to go nuts with the little funny broken baby keyboard and did all the sounds for this song with it! I have played this song live a bunch with my grown up band and originally thought I would do it pretty straight and strummy on a guitar but once I fired up that silly keyboard things just flowed and it all came together. I like turning a groovy song into a new wave binary thing. Plus it has the word "baby" in it so I HAD to do it!
WHEN I'M SIXTY FOUR
I was actually not going to record this one because the original is so clear and clean and it did not really need a new version but I recorded this version with that slide guitar and just got hooked by the prospect of leaning the song into the country direction. When I was a kid I would sing along to Paul McCartney's slightly sped up vocals on this song and match his delivery note for note and feel like I was in the band. They sped them up to make him sound younger since he wrote this song when he was a teenager.
I always thought of this as a song that a parent was singing to a kid trying to get them to get out of the house and explore together. I hope that is how families will hear it when they listen to this version. I treated this one a bit like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds with a clear plucky bass line and a descending clavinet line. I was trying to bring it out of it's drone like state and make it move a bit more.
GOOD DAY SUNSHINE
This was also recorded for the first record but did not make the cut. It is actually the first song that got me thinking about a Beatles cover album in the first place. I was warming up for a show at a library and I strummed an open D chord on my guitar and it sounded exactly like the beginning chord of this song. That got my wheels turning and here we are several years later with two full albums of Beatles songs done! I like the contrast in this song between the flow chorus and the tight bouncy verses. A tiny bit of romantic love in this one but I will let it slide because the music is so good. Thanks to Rachel Flotard for the chorus vocals!
DRIVE MY CAR
When I sat down to learn this one I was immediately struck by how odd the chords were. I had to decipher individual notes and then find a way to assemble the important ones into chords on the 3 string guitar. In the end I played what is really a D7 chord for the G chord in the song but it works. As I learned it I played it slowly since the chords were hard and mellow and it kind of got stuck like that. It works for me as a kind of slinky jazzy little thing with minimal instrumentation.
SGT. PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (REPRISE)
Since this second half of the song is appearing at the end of a Caspar album it needed to be mellow as I always go from high energy to low energy when I arrange an album. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to do a high energy song in a subdued way. I decided to bring out the lush vocal harmonies and keep the same exact groove just slow it way down. It works with the lyrics of the show being "near the end" and all that. I dig it. I hope you do too.
There could only be one winner between this song and Goodnight for the final spot on the BABY BEATLES! album and Goodnight won by a wee little margin. I am super happy to have this recording included here because it makes me very sleepy indeed. Jen Wood brought a beautiful texture to this one. I love how it came out all floaty and misty and I hope it puts your little ones (and you!) to sleep and sweet dreams.
What a joy to add this song onto the end of the album. I had to learn the guitar solo parts one at a time in the original key and then transpose them to a different key and to the piano. It was like knitting a little sweater made of piano riffs! I called upon my childhood experience in a boys choir to make the giant vocal ending feel reverent and sweet. The last decision was do I or don't I add HER MAJESTY to the very end? I decided not to add it in the end (HA!) so that the slow fade out was the last thing a baby or a kid or a mom or a dad will hear. Plus if you let the album repeat then it fades into the beginning bit of SGT. PEPPERS making the whole thing into a circle.
JUST FOR YOU
This song came fully formed out my mind in Austin Texas one day. the chords and the music flowed out and it just felt loving and good so I wrote it down and kept it around for a couple of years before it found its way on to this album. I did change the words though. It was about a variety of things that a baby might need to deal with during the course of it's day like eating peas and taking a bath but when I changed all the imagery to be about the end of the day it felt better.
UP ALL NIGHT
There was a plan to make a TV show about animals and I was in line to be the host. Each show would be about a couple of specific animals and the idea was for me to improvise a song about each animal at the end of the episode. We did a little pilot episode at the Woodland Park Zoo and one of the animals was a snowy owl. This some was the bit that I made up about the owl. that was about 5 years ago and the song has finally found it's place here. I hope it does not encourage your kids to stay up all night! I think it is more about that desire than a suggestion to do so.
TAKE IT EASY
I was watching a special on TV with my Dad about the music from the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and there was one particular performance that stood out. It was an elderly man on stage singing a song all by himself with no musicians. His voice had a lonely quality that was sweet and haunting at the same time. I tried to make this song occupy the same space but I got excited to put instruments on it so I made it about playing music so I could justify the added parts and music. This one is dedicated to my late great Daddy.
WONDER WHY YOU HIDE
I made up this riff while sitting in the sun on my porch one day and it always reminded me of Nick Drake a bit so I kept playing it as an instrumental. then I saw little creatures running away to hide for the night in my mind. Musically I worked very hard on this one to make it move from part to part and not get monotonous. Lots of weaving guitar bits coming together here. Getting that lead vocal to sit right took a while. It was challenging but I love the results!
DAY IS GONE
Just a simple song about things shutting down for the night. No big story here. Just a sweet little turn of phrase that made me smile. I do like the stop and start quality of the arrangement and that came about over time. That effect makes me sleepy.
THROUGH YOUR WINDOW
Long ago I lived in Boston and I went through a period where I did not write very many songs at all. From time to time I would just improvise and try to push out a song. I was in my room and sang about the view from my window and that was it. That song sat around for 20 years unfinished then I read a book about the psychology of children's books and why some work and some don't. In the book they talked about "Goodnight Moon" and why it was successful and the iconic, romantic relationship we humans have with the moon and how that fires children's imaginations. When that song floated back into my mind I focused on the idea that image of the moon is about fantastic distance and possibility for adventure and made the verses about the crazy things that you might do out there under the moon.
BENEATH THE WATER
After hurricane Katrina a friend of mine was working on songs based on stories of survivors. He sent me some movies and testimonials and I was struck by one guy who told his story of loosing his family in the water. That sparked a song called "My Mother Is The Water" which I gave to the project but it did not get used. So I changed the theme to be about fish and how they sleep under the water during storms and stay cozy despite the tempest above.
This song is dedicated to a good friend and amazing chef named Christina Choi who passed away a few years ago suddenly. I had a dream about her in which she was a big blue dragonfly in a twighlight swamp and I was going to visit her. When I told Kate about the dream and told her the song was called "Dragonfly Blue" she said that was so weird because the color of the paint on the walls of Christina's restaurant was called "dragonfly blue". That coincidence made the song really come alive. Originally this was a little song called "My Dolphin Blue" that my daughter Josie wrote with her cousin Claire. But try as I might I could not make the dolphin imagery work for me. When the image of a blue dragonfly came along I rewrote the words and the song was born.
DEEP IN THE DIRT
Originally this was called "Deep In The Middle" and it was about being in the middle of a strange dream that you could not get out of but it was too weird and scary! So I made it about all the wee critters that live in the dirt hoping that thinking about them would make little brains tired. Hope it works!
THE LAND OF SHUSH
This came out of playing at a library in Olympia one day. While I was setting up I was talking with the librarians Sara Lachman and Mary Rulewicz about how librarians have to go around saying "SHHHH!" to everyone. they said they really didn't have to do that very much but it made me start to play a riff and make up a song on the spot called "The Land of Shush". I ended up playing it that day at the show and a few years later here it is on an album. Thanks for the inspiration Sara and Mary.
I found an old old recording of me singing a song to Augie when he was very small called "Sick Puppy". I liked the melody and the phrasing but when I thought about is for a Caspar song I didn't want to have the word sick in there. On the recording you can hear Augie asking "Sick puppy?? Why is there a sick puppy??" and it is really cute! So I turned it into Sad Puppy then Sad Monkey then realizing I had 4 monkey songs going at the same time it became Sad Baby for this album. No matter how sad it feels to be left alone to go to sleep you will feel better after a good nights sleep I promise.
The first version of this song was recorded in 2001 for an album of songs for kids that I donated to PEPS (Program for Early Parent support). It was called "Close Your Eyes Little Sister" and I changed the title to be a bit more universal in case you don't have a sister. Originally it was written for my daughter Josie as a lullaby that I sang to her as she went to bed. This thing has SO many chords in it that it is pretty fun to play on piano.
Augie made up a song with no music that he called "Sliver Moon" when he was SUPER little. He had another song about the moon as well (supporting the romantic connection to little minds with the moon from the book mentioned above!) and he saw the sliver moon one night and just started busting out a song of love. I only remember the title and turned it into my own song. There is something interesting about this recording. There is another Caspar Babypants song that uses the exact same chords as "Sliver Moon" but is way more up beat. Can you figure out which one it is? Contact me if you think you know. That happened because I liked the chords to this song but had too many slow songs so I turned it into a whole new song using the same chords. Later I found this original recording and it fit on this album so here it is.
DRIFT OFF IN TIME
This started out as a Christmas song about Santa and Christmas trees and stuff but I gave up on making a Christmas record and the song lay around unfinished. I got rid of the specific Christmas stuff and made it about being cozy inside as the cold world freezes outside and all you have to do is drift off in time. The original theme was about not being able to go to sleep on Christmas night.
UNDO YOUR MIND
I had this basic fragment lying around for many years unfinished and it was called "Fingertips" and did not have the "undo your mind" line in it. Somehow it felt half baked and when I put that idea of shutting off your chattering mind in there it felt right! The long trippy outro part is one of my favorite moments on the album.
MADE OF LIGHT
As I do more meditation on a daily basis I have reached states of mind where I see the material world as made of light. It is hard to describe in words but that is the best way to talk about it. This is the longest Caspar Babypants song ever and it may work well to put it on repeat in a sleeping babies room on low volume and see if it lulls the little thing to sleep. I wanted to have a song that is not about anything specific to going to sleep but is about a universal energetic sensation that is an abstraction of losing consciousness and drifting off to dreamland.
GOOD MORNING (RISE AND SHINE)
What a long strange journey this song was to put together! Originally this came from hanging out with my fiend Dave's daughter Katherine in the early morning in Ohio just talking about the day starting up and what we might want to do. I had a guitar and started turning some of our conversation into a song and that was the seed. Then it got recorded and went through many changes and editing. The last part to be added was the beginning quote from a piece called "Morning" from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg. I quoted him before in the song Skeletone. I love the HUGE ending on this song. I think that is the biggest moment on any Caspar Babypants album!
THE LITTLEST WORM
This is a camp song that gets sung around the campfire by campers at...wait for it...CAMP! Originally the worm gets stuck inside a soda straw but I didn't want soda pop anywhere near my song so I changed it to have the worm be lost in a huge pile of straw. I also gave it a bit of a gospel feel with good call and response opportunities. So sing along!
This is just about a bird that builds all kinds of modes of transportation for himself. I don't know if he forgot how to fly or if he is just an industrious little thing. I wonder if he is the same bird that shows up in the song BIRD IN AN AIRPLANE SUIT later on the album? I had a blast recording this one and it came together really fast. It is a riff off of a traditional song called Red Bird that I heard Ledbelly play on an album one time.
CREATURES UNDER MY BED
One day I was walking around in Roanoke Virginia many many years ago and I saw a poster for a show that was happening in town and the band that on the poster was called "The Yams From Outer Space" and I immediately started writing a song about them using my imagination to make them really from outer space. Years and years later I changed it to be about a band of creatures that plays under my bed because the other version was just too weird! I like that the band is not scary just really catchy.
HUSH LITTLE BABY
Oh my goodness. This was an EPIC effort to find a way to do this song that is fresh and true to it's roots. First of all I tried doing it the classic mellow way but the lyrics are so full of random images and "if this then this" that I found it to be very ineffective as a lullaby. Also it was always about what Mama would give you. Where was the Papa? I tried doing it Chuck Berry style but it just sat there. I tried it with other singers. I tried it with new verses but the lyrics were always a bit materialistic with all the disappointment and BUYING things for the kid. FINALLY I found the source of this song which is an old work song called HAMBONE. That version has energy and swagger. I rewrote the lyrics to include both Mama and Papa and put it to the original higher energy feel and solved the puzzle. Rachel Flotard came in and helped with the Mama voice and BAM! it was finished after only four years of trying!
There is an old often played folk song called John Henry about a legendary train tunnel construction worker who beat out a steam engine in a contest to drive holes in rocks for explosives. So naturally I thought it would be perfect for a Caspar Babypants reincarnation! I changed it to be about a mouse that makes a name for himself by learning how to grab the bait out of traps without getting trapped. I wonder if he will ever get caught?
BIRD IN AN AIRPLANE SUIT
Ever since my kids were little I have been telling them that some of the airplanes you see in the sky are not big and far away but close and little and actually are birds dressed up like airplanes! They are grown up now but I still like to pretend that it is true so I turned that idea into this little song. I had wanted to write a song about this idea for a long time but had to wait for years for the right melody to present itself. I am glad I waited. I love this song.
This one started out as a really abstract song called PRETTY SPARKLE that was a variation on an old folk song called BETTY LARKIN that I heard Pete Seeger sing on a record. I was trying to capture the wonder of being alive in a song. It turned out to be too abstract so I gutted it and made it about this wee crab that I met on the beach on an island a little while ago. It seemed like it was having a bad day and wanted to get me but it was also an amazing creature with its intricate shell. In the end you can listen to this song if you are feeling crabby and maybe it will cheer you up!
THE RUNAWAY SHOES
I wrote this little ditty with my little friend Daniel who is a huge Caspar fan and has come to many many shows. One time I was doing a sort of hang out songwriting session at Camp Long in West Seattle and Daniel came and helped me come up with this song. I wrote two versions with totally different music because I was not sure how best to capture the fast and slow thing. In the end this is a unique song because of the speed changes and the funny idea that your shoes would want to run around in the night without you! Thanks for the help Daniel!!
We have a little cabin in the woods on an island and there are fiddlehead ferns all around the cabin. I noticed that they go to sleep in the winter and look like they are going to never come back but when spring comes they uncurl and dance around in the wind. So I wrote this song for them. It feels like an old song but it came right out of my little brain. I am excited to write original songs that could sound like quotes from old tunes.
The obvious companion to the song about the rain a little later on the album is a song about mud puddles! I tracked the percussion for this song for a song I did for a Woody Guthrie tribute album and I loved the percussion so much that I put a bunch of music on it and expanded it and just out of nowhere started singing about puddles and mud and imagining all the chaos that happens when you step in a puddle. Tread lightly next time you splash around on a rainy day kids!
RIG A JIG JIG
A classis left over from he very first recordings I did for PEPS back in 2001. I rerecorded this one from scratch with a new part and new verses too. Jen Wood is back singing the lead vocal too just like the original. She has the perfect simple innocent little voice for this tune. It's just a simple bouncy number. Grab your baby and dance dance dance.
THE GIRL WITH THE SQUIRELL IN HER HAT
I completely dreamed this song. It was fully formed in a dream and the only thing I changed was that in the dream it was a rocker and it sounded better in the end as bit more of a folk feel. I also changed the animal that is living in the girls hat from a snake to a squirrel because after I recorded it I didn't like the sound of SNAKE and squirrel rhymes with girl. It is not often that a song in a dream turns out to be any good at all. Usually they are so nonsensical that even if I remember them they are too abstract. I am super glad that this one worked out.
ROCK A BYE BABY
Of course this is a classic but I wanted to not do it the old fashioned way and make it a lullaby so I gave it just a touch more energy and turned it into a sort of lilting rock and roll number. I guess the word ROCK in the title made me want to make it ROCK a little bit! Rachel Flotard came in and really concentrated on an amazing vocal performance. Her harmonies MAKE the song come to life. Thanks Rachel!
RAIN RAIN COME TODAY
The old chant of "rain rain go away come again some other day" always seemed a bit harsh to me. That poor rain has no choice but to fall and we NEED it to fall. I used to love to go out in the rain when I was a kid and I still do. I always say there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothes. Once when I was super little I was in the rain and I sang the old traditional version and it stopped raining immediately when I finished. I guess I remembered that and it made me want to do a song that praises the rain a bit.
I dedicate this song to the memory of Earl Anderson. He was the father of the mother of my kids and a great human being. Unfortunately he passed away. I used a term of endearment that his wife Jani used to call him for the title of this song. I wanted to remind all of us that lost him that he is still around in the stillness of a quiet morning if you get up early and just listen. We all love you early bird.
HOLD FAST BABY BARNACLE
I heard an old Irish drinking song one day and wanted to maybe turn it into a Caspar song but it turned out to be a dead end. So I made up my own from scratch in the same feel as the one I heard but with all new chords and lyrics. I love the idea of a wee barnacle being scared in the night with the crashing waves and storms and al the other barnacles singing encouragement to hold on tight.
This is based on an old work song recorded by Alan Lomax out in the field in the deep south of America. Originally it was titles SATISFIED but I changed it to SLEEPY EYED and made it a sort of trance like chant about not wanting to go to sleep. So the lyrics are protesting going to sleep while the music will hopefully make you drowsy. I wonder if it will work to actually make kids feel relaxed? Sing along then sleep along...
BYE BYE DAY
My friend John Roderick has a young daughter named Marlo and one night as they were getting ready for bed they were standing at the window and it was quiet and the light was fading out and in the silence she said in a super cute and tiny voice "bye bye day". He told me the story and I immediately could hear the song to go with that phrase. It changed a bit as I wrote it but mostly it is the moment of joy at hearing that story that is in the song. Hope it makes you go to bed and dream.
HERE COMES THE SUN
When I was little I would put Abbey Road on the turntable and put the speaker in the window of my bedroom and run around all day with the album on repeat as we played in the sun. To me this song says "get out and be in nature and feel the seasons change" and I thought it would be the perfect first song for the record. I sped up the original tempo and gave it an energizing feel so that you can move and groove to it. This is the only use of synthesizer on a Caspar Babypants record!
ALL TOGETHER NOW
I thought it would be fun to put tension into this song. The original is loose and ragged but I thought that the theme of being all together would be illustrated and supported by making the recording tight and very together. I was not going to do this one originally because it seemed obvious and over done, but when I found a way to make it my own it became one of my favorites. Sing it.
EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT FOR ME AND MY MONKEY
This was and still is my number one tippy top of the mountain favorite Beatles song of all time! I used to put it on at full blast and run around the house naked refusing to take a bath! I ended up making the energy small and tight and making it feel like a soul groove tiny little plucky thing and I LOVE IT!! that oddball beginning was really fun to dissect and understand too. I figured out the secret of it....but I'm not telling! Fysah sings the lead here and I chime in from time to time. She sounds soul-tastic!
YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW
I promote the idea that old fashioned music is worth listening to and getting into and I quote music from many years ago in my own songs. I certainly raided my own parents record collection for inspiration when I was a kid and found some amazing bits that still influence me. Plus this song is a call to get up and move to the beat so I like it near the beginning of the record to keep the dance party moving along. And mother's usually know what is what!
A simple rocker that I wanted to strip of all of it's noise and make it funny and little. SO I DID! This good time little celebration thing gets a boost from Rachel Flotard on backing vocals doing the Yoko parts. The inspiration for this song came from an improvisation in India that The Beatles did for Mike Love from the Beach Boys on his birthday. It kind of stuck and turned into this song from there.
It's Ringo's turn to sing folks! With this song I noticed that the call and response at the end was always my favorite part. The song seemed to open up and get really fun at that point. So I took that dynamic and made it the whole focus of my version. To take it a bit further and make it simple I took out almost all of the music to make the story and images really clear. Dust off your signing voice and join in! Rachel Flotard and Jen Wood are doing the responses. Jen had to sing EXTRA high to do her part. THANKS JEN!
OB LA DI OB LA DA
The story goes that this was the first song that the band tracked for The White Album and Paul ran everybody ragged with many many takes and attempts at getting the feel right. I love the family as a rag tag band of fun lovers feel to the lyrics and thought I would push the envelope on tempo and see how fast I could get this thing to move. I also cut it down by half almost to make it a quick burst of energy. Jen Wood plays the part of Molly and does a great job with the bubbly bouncy sing along attitude.
LOVE ME DO
This was the FIRST song the Beatles recorded as an original composition with George Martin and the LAST song that I recorded for this project. What I love about this song is how the skiffle influence is still apparent in the feel and rhythm of the original. I thought I would bring that out by turning it into a bit of a hillbilly vibe. I think it works really well as an old mountain song don't you? I can just see the Beatles sitting around on the back porch of a busted old shack in the swamps.
A great nostalgic stroll through the idyllic memories of a childhood neighborhood. I drive around in my old neighborhood every so often and soak in the atmosphere of my super happy childhood and can hear this song echoing around in the air. This song captures that feeling so well that it seemed like a natural fit for the album. It was extremely fun and even though it was a bit hard to replicate that French horn solo on the clavinet I finally nailed it!
MOTHER NATURE'S SON
This was one of the most delightful songs to record of them all. Someone suggested I take a look at this song when I was choosing which to try and I did and it just worked so well. Thanks for the idea! It turned out to fit exactly into the open tuning that I use on my 3 string guitar (D/A/D). I am not sure if Paul recorded this in a drop D tuning but it sure worked for me. A pretty faithful version but with a bit more energy. It is also hard to NOT do this one with the words "mother" and "son" in the title!
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
One of the best little uplifting songs the Beatles ever did. This was the first song I recorded for the album over three years ago. I wanted to contrast the verse and chorus by making the verse really sparse so the message of the song could come straight through. I chopped the song down to it's essential parts and kept it short and sweet and simple. It turns out that love IS all you need! Those mop tops were smart like that.
This is a classic example of changing the context of a song for this album. The original is rocking and loud and obviously about the object of the singers affection and desire. I just made it musically innocent by sprinkling some Buddy Holly vibrations on it and the meaning changed to be literally about a child. This was a fun chemistry experiment! AND I got to play my little harmonica. I was glad to sneak another early career Beatles song in to the mix as well.
Of course Ringo has to have at least one song on any Beatles album (and I gave him three!). This is one of the obvious choices that I resisted at first again because it has been done many times, but found that once I broke it down to the basics and simplified the layers a bit it stared to feel more like a Caspar tune. Since I love songs that allow you to travel to places that normal life can't take you I had to include this ticket to the bottom of the sea! The beginning part was really hard to figure out but I stuck with it all afternoon and finally got it!
ANY TIME AT ALL
This one was FUN! I started out with a crazy drum machine thing on a little cheap keyboard and built it up from there. In the end I got rid of the messy drum machine sounds and let the song breathe. The sentiment of unconditional love seems to make it a really good parent to child love song. Jen Wood helped out here with a sweet high harmony too.
CRY BABY CRY
Well it has the word BABY in the title right? John's original lyrics were from an advertisement he saw that said "cry baby cry, make your mother BUY" but he changed it a bit. I did a pretty straight forward version of this song just because it felt really good to play it that way. This one unfolds like a classic children's picture book and has that timeless nursery rhyme vibe to the images of kings and queens. My favorite part is the "séance in the dark"...spoooky!
LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS
Written about a drawing that Julian Lennon did with the same title this one seemed like a great addition to the album. I had to record this song twice from scratch because I had such a hard time getting the images to really pop out of the music. I tried it in the original key at first but it was too shrill for my taste so I lowered the pitch and changed the sound of the main instrument to be softer. Finally the images began to come to life and I think the extra effort paid off. I used to sing this one along with the record over and over when I was a kid matching John Lennon's vocal inflections word for word.
BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR KITE
When I was a kid I loved the circus atmosphere of this song. It completely transported me to another place and that sensation became very important in my own songwriting later on. I found out later that John Lennon told their producer George Martin that he wanted to "smell the sawdust" from the floor of the circus tent when the recording played back. This was written about a circus poster that John found in an antique shop. Almost every word is from the poster! John loved to make lyrics out of found materials and I think that is very childlike.
This one was an interesting experience. I thought it would be great to change the main instrument away from that iconic guitar part so I figured out a very simple way to play it on piano. The trick is that you have to have a 10 note reach to do it! Luckily I can do that and have been able to since I was a kid. I never had a reason to use that skill until now though. I like the way playing it on piano makes it feel like a Bach piece and almost makes it a lullaby.
I'M ONLY SLEEPING
As I was researching for the record I found a demo version of this song that was just the first verse and chorus and was an instrumental track with a jazzy feel. The choice of vibraphone and a light drum beat worked perfectly and I thought it made a lot of sense since it is about being all groggy and sleepy. I made it even MORE sleepy by adding space and removing the drums. A great pre-last-song-lullaby lullaby! Time for a nap now....
I kept this one in the original key and same tempo but removed the heavy sugary strings and tried to make it light and airy. I must say that I get very sleepy every time I hear this recording so I think it will work well for your baby in the night time. The last whispering bit was fun to do too. It took one take and I just nailed it. Then I fell off my chair and napped for hours.
I FOUND YOU
This is the first time that I have had a song on an album that is also the title! This song is a song of joy at having found Kate and also having found my voice as a songwriter. It started with Kate chirping the tune and words from the chorus from her studio and me overhearing her and finding a song in her little random chirps. the west side of our house was called "eyesore alley" before we cleaned it up and fixed it so that was the first lyric to come along for the verses. Just a song about the joy of being connected to the one you love and creativity!
Kids (and grownups) always have questions about how things came to be. How did that animal get that funny trait? I have been reading Darwin lately and thinking about evolution. Somehow it related to the Buddhist teaching where the first Buddha held up a flower without speaking. Disciples faded away as time went on except for one who finally smiled. The revelation was that the flower implied a long chain of events and conditions to allow it to exist and contemplating that mystery is the flowers message.
ALL THE FISH
I had recorded a version of this classic song for the second version of the PEPS record and really liked the simple "bubble bubble bubble pop" lyric. I wanted to push the music a bit and get it to be a bit more groovy and it ended up with this almost Andrews Sisters feel. One kid who is a friend of mine has made up dance moves to each verse but she is not sure what to do for the pig part!
This one started out as a slow song called "Sliver Moon" that had the same chords but did not find it's way on to an album for a few years. I just decided to shake things up and use the same chords but turn up the energy and when I did the music made me think of a kangaroo jumping about. Then I imagined that the kangaroo was in a zoo and could not hop as freely as it wanted to. I gotta get that poor thing outta there.
BABY OF MINE
What a funny journey this song was! I started out making a version of "hush Little Baby" as a lullaby. But the problem with that song as a lullaby is that the lyrics offer all sorts of confusing contingencies that did not feel relaxing to me. I found out later that the song started out as a more high energy work song. So I tried a fast version but I made it too fast and the lyrics buzzed by in a blur. So I just took the very end of the verse and made an entirely new song out of it. It is so fun to chop chop chop songs up into bits!
TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR
I have already recorded two version of this song but I felt like I had not pushed it quite enough either time so I decided to try one more version.
I love the 60s feel that I ended up with and Rachel's voice mixes with mine really well. Plus I added the do wop breakdown which was the missing puzzle piece I think. I had to change a few lyrics from the old poem because they were a bit awkward to sing but I kept the feeling true to the original.
THE STUMP HOTEL
This song began it's little life as a song called "The Hotel Dumb" after a hotel that my niece stayed at in Europe someplace. She told me about the name and I wrote a song about this dysfunctional hotel. I found the old recording and suddenly an image of a rotten stump as the hotel popped into my head! It was the perfect way to reimaging the old song.
YES AND NO
Years ago there was a TV show about music in the Pacific Northwest called The Local Music Show. The host was John Richards (from KEXP) and he made each guest write a custom theme song at the end of the episode. Mine was based on the demonstration song on a Casio VL-tone keyboard. remember those? It was like a fancy calculator with instrument sounds. The song had him saying "no it's not" to my "yes it is" and after reworking the lyrics considerably I had John into the studio to be the NO voice again. The first verse is an homage to my favorite comedian, Mitch Hedberg. He used to say that an escalator can not be broken...it can only become stairs!
Originally a lullaby I felt like it would make a better rocker and did it in sort of a early 80s new wave style. You can sing this to your kids that don't want to get out of bed in the morning (or afternoon!) and see if it helps. I hope it does.
My daughter Josie came home from camp last year singing a song called "Farewell to Carlingford" and I loved the rowdy chantey drinking song quality to the tune. I looked it up and found it to be available for interpretation and turned it into a song about how parents have to eventually say goodbye to these kids. Of course I couched the message in lyrics about slugs and flies and snails for good measure but the idea is that you parents have to be ready for these little things to be independent. I love thinking about my kids out in the world standing on their own two feet!
TOO DIRTY TO LOVE
This one was a crazy odyssey! So Kate came in from gardening in the rain and sang "I'm too dirty to love!". Of course my song radar went nuts and I logged that melody she sang and the words into my brain. Later I was conversing with Steve Turner from the amazing Mudhoney and put out an invitation to collaborate on a song. He immediately replied with 3 music ideas one of which fit with Kate's proclamation as a verse. BAM! A song was born. Steve came over to the shack and we tracked it and later I got Rachel Flotard to sing on it since I always heard a female voice on it. This might be my favorite song on the album because of how it came together and the result of all that collaboration.
My mom took me to the symphony a lot when I was a little kid. That influence is still there in my music and in what I listen to at home. This song is a sort of homage to her influence. I incorporated two of my all time favorite pieces "Fossiles" by Camille St. Saens from the Carnival of the Animals and "In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg from the Peer Gynt Suite. Both of those pieces made me scared when I was a little guy so I decided to make a spooky song about a skeleton who plays his own bones like a xylophone. I hope it gives you some CHILLS!
ROW ROW ROW YOUR BOAT
Here is another one that I have tracked and released before but felt I could push the arrangement a little more. I added 3 new verses and made an unusual A - B - C arrangement. I was thinking of early rock and roll piano blues feelings when I tracked it. I hope it relaxes and grooves you!
CRICKET THE KING
This one was originally about a fashionable tarantula but it was about 15 years old and had never been released so I determined that it needed a redo. The story is about a love between a cricket king and a ladybug peasant and how they happen to meet one day and fall instantly in love. A classic fairy tale.
I had written a song for my grownup rock band way back in 1992 called "Fuzz" but it never made the cut. I only took the idea of a wandering piece of fuzz from the original song and changed all the music and came up with this story of an unlikely friendship between me and a sweet little lint ball. In the end I gotta set her free but we had a great time while it lasted!
I became aware of this song called "Get Along Home Cindy" and loved its simple little tune and message of longing. I played around with the melody and came up with this variation where I imagine a little baby as a hobo wandering about. I researched hobos and found an amazing amount of information about the difference between hobos and tramps and bums. Hobos travel from town to town doing the work that no one else wants to do and they are very careful not to overstay their welcome and leave the town in good standing so that the next hobo will be welcomed and given work. They had their own language (some of which I incorporated into the song) and code of ethics. Just imagine that little baby out in the wild making it's way through the land.
WOODS BEHIND MY HOME
this tune is based on an old traditional song about the gold rush of 1849 called "The Days of Forty Nine" that I discovered through the always amazing Spider John Koerner. The original is about all the people that the singer panned for gold with back in the days of the rush and how they all met their demise. I kept a bit of the spooky feel by making the song about a cast of abandoned junky things that are scattered in the back yard of my home (not me real home!). In the same way that the original song recounts all the long gone gold seekers my version recounts all the old things in the yard and how they got there.
IF I WAS A
I believe this cam about one day when I was having a conversation with Mindy from XM Radio's Kids Place Live. I was talking about songwriting with her and about how I might write a song about wishing to change shape. This little ting popped out after I hung up the phone but it was musically and lyrically different and took quite a while to work itself into this current shape. Maybe we all think that it would be great to be someone or something else but in the end the only way to be at peace its to accept who and what you are and enjoy it!
Another song that I have had for years and years but it was not a lullaby before but a kind of rocker. I realized that the music did not fit the feeling of the lyrics so I mellowed it out and tweaked the old lyrics to fit the lullaby mode a bit. I am very happy with the poetic lyrics in this song and the way it evokes the end of a fun day. Time to chill out and feel satisfied by a day well lived and see that sun going down and drift off to sleepytown...
This one came out of watching these little tiny black ants invade our kitchen every summer and hunt frantically for anything sweet that we may have left out to chomp on. They seemed to be so intense and funny as they scurried around that they made me start singing a song to them and it turned into this little tune. I love the way the keyboard solo pans around from right to left just like a scurrying little ant.
CRAZY BLUE BEETLE
Originally I had played this as BABY BLUE BEETLE and it was quiet and peaceful. Somehow I felt like it was not living up to it's potential. I started reading some books about the Beatles and their experiences as a band and how crazy things were for them and I changed it to CRAZY BLUE BEETLE and sort of made it about a little beetle that might be in The Beatles. Musically I decided to make it feel like an early Beatles recording so that the theme and vibe would fit together. I love that way it turned out!
THIS OLD WHALE
I started to imagine a bunch of old man whales retired in a whale retirement home and I could see them sitting around telling tales and swapping lies. I like to imagine going to visit them and how funny they are! This is based on THIS OLD MAN which is a classic that always kind of scared me when I was little. What is "knick knack on my knee" all about? It seemed like a good candidate for a classic that I could make my own with a new theme.
The Black Keys have been on my turntable for a while now and I was inspired by their recent sounds to make something that had that jumpy swamp thing that they are so good at. Originally this was about riding a pony around to a bunch of different locations but it didn't really make any sense. When I got the image of going around with a baby in the summer it just felt right! I love it when the baby sings from the mountain top. I also love the solo section in this one. I played a clavinet in the room with a wah wah sound.
BOOT GOT GROUNDED
This one was all finished for the last record but couldn't find a place in the running order that made sense so I held on to it. I saw in my mind a boot that was forgotten and left outside until it got so grown over with weeds that it could never be a real functioning boot again. Kind of sad I know but I like to sing about sad little things.
When my son Augie was really little his mom and I used to sing a song called "Tongue Nose and Eyebrows" while we cleaned up his little dirty face after a meal. This tune was released with that title in 2001 on an album I made and donated to a parent education group called PEPS here in Seattle. Something about the idea of cleaning a tongue never say right with me so I redid it from scratch with a more rockin feel and changed it to MESSY FACE to make it clear what the song is about. I hope this new version becomes the soundtrack to clean baby faces everywhere!
STOMPY THE BEAR
I love this one. It is about the confusion over this bear that stomps around the countryside. Some people think he is nice some say he is mean some say he is yellow and some say he is green and everything in between. The only thing everyone is sure of is that he just wants someone to boogie with! Have fun stomping around the room during the choruses.
ELEANOR THE ELEGANT ELEPHANT
I was driving with Kate and we stopped at a light and I misread an awning on a nail salon that said "elegant nails" and I thought it said ELEPHANT NAILS! That set in motion a whole image in my head of an elephant in a fancy dance outfit trying to impress the king and queen as she spins about in a dainty fashion. She does manage to impress the king and queen in the end and gets to dance all she wants!
This one is based on an old song called PRETTY POLLY that has a pretty dark theme but a great hook and feel. I took all the original words away and made it about the classic tortoise vs. hare story about the famous race. I had such a good time recording this one. I love imagining the turtle running in place as the middle part plays.
ALL THAT I HAVE GOT
I just wanted to have a song about living as simply as possible even if that means living in an airplane made of clouds! I was thinking of the feeling of old ska and reggae as I made this and I hope it makes you feel like you are relaxing on a beach someplace on a wee island with nothing to worry about at all.
THE ANIMAL LUNCH
I heard an old traditional song called NO MORE PIE and loved the lazy call and response feeling of the song. The original lyrics are all about food so I started to change them to be about a bunch of fancy animals coming for far and wide to eat a big feast. I know the lyrics are not all about food but I wanted to paint an abstract picture in this one rather than just tell a story. Have fun singing the responses in this one with your kids!
I DON'T MIND
Long ago in 1986 I wrote this little song and didn't know what to do with it. I was many years away from finding my voice in kids music so I just filed this one away for later and a year or so ago I remembered it and it fit perfectly with the Caspar thing. Basically it is all about unconditional love that parents have for their kids no matter what. We parents can take a bunch of abuse and still love our kids like crazy.
SCARED SCARE CROW
This song started out as FELL GOOD CROW and was ready to go for the last record but I felt like it was not finished growing. Sure enough I let it sit for a while and the lyrics shifted in to SCARED SCARE CROW about a poor scare crow that can't be scarier enough to actually scare any birds! He comes up with a genius plan to keep his relationship with the crows working. Good problem solving skills!
Kate and I were on a walk when we saw a yard all chewed up my moles. That old army chant popped into my head and we started to riff on MORE MOLES! as we walked. Later I put the story in place of capturing the moles then feeling bad about it and setting them up out in the country where they could be happy. Rachel Flotard from the Seattle rock and roll band Visqueen came in with her big pregnant belly and sang the response vocals so that Kate's original response vocals would be in the same range. She did an amazing job and really made the song come to life.
A song about a scared little spider that becomes friends with a fly in the bristles of a broom. This kind of thing happens every day but nobody sings a song about it and I decided to end the silence and bring this issue into the news with this tell all tune!
What is up with those single gloves in the street? You know the ones right? They are all over the place and I have noticed that most of them are left handed for some reason. Well you know how much I love to sing about little lost things so I just had to tackle this lonely glove thing! This one went through many many variations actually before it settled on this simple approach. It was about socks for a little while too but I don't see very many of those lost in the street so that didn't work.
SNOWMAN IN THE SUMMER
How strange is this? A snowman just comes walking down the beach and lays out his towel and suns himself until he is gone completely! I have never seen anything like it. But it happened so I had to get it all into a song. Well, OK, It did not really happen but I saw it in my mind so that counts right? This one started out musically as a song of appreciation for the radio show Greasy Kids Stuff and the hosts Hova and Belinda. that's why the lyrics talk about the radio in the chorus. I love this one.
A THOUSAND TINY DOUGHNUTS
So I have a friend named Mark Klebeck who is part owner of a great doughnut chain called Top Pot Doughnuts that makes delicious things. When I did my CD release party at the main branch of the Seattle Library for THIS IS FUN! Mark brought a thousand tiny doughnuts to give away to al the people. That was so cool and fun that I immediately wrote a song for him as a thank you called (you guessed it) A THOUSAND TINY DOUGHNUTS. It is a dream about looking for the ultimate snack. Mark did a great job playing surf guitar which is not surprising since he has his own surf band called King of Hawaii.
EVEN BUGS ARE SLEEPING
The story behind this one is kind of a secret actually. If I told you the real story you might think I believed in ghosts and could write songs with them! But I have said too much. The story I can tell is that I was walking the wet fall dew through the woods and pictured all the bugs tucking themselves in for the night under covers made of leaves. It could be a good thing to say to your kids when they don't want to go to sleep! "come on and go to bed. Even BUGS are sleeping!"
BAD BLUE JAY
I love this one! It is based on an old work song called "Did You Feed My Cow?" where the singer asks after the cow and the crowd lets the singer know that the cow died! I was looking out the window one day when a blue jay came and sat on the fence and complained and yelled for a while. I started to sing "Are you a bad blue jay? Yes sir!" and the old song fell into my brain. I had the blue jay decide to be good cause being good is more fun!
WILD WILD TIME
I based the melody for the verse in this one on a piano sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven called Adagio Cantabile. I just love that melody and always have and it is so fun to use it this way in an upbeat song about animals having a party! I can just see Harold the horse and Patty the pig walking Daniel the dog at the end. AW poor tiny Daniel.
A lyricist from the North East named Keith Mackler from a rap duo called Rhythm Ruckus wrote this one for me to a little drum beat. He was just inspired to write something for the littles! I just changed the “I” he wrote to “you” and put it to music. Hope it inspires some crib dwellers to get out and MOVE IT!
I WANNA BE A SNOWMAN
I was inspired by an old tune called "Who's Gonna Be Your Man?" that I came across in my song hunting. It has such a funky celebratory swing with a minor key twist and I loved the melody. I imagined a snowflake falling from the sky and HOPING that it would be used in the making of a snowman. Seems like a nice dream for a snowflake to have I think.
A long time ago I made up a song that didn't make ant sense called "Funny Bone" and I found it in a pile of song one day and decided that it would be a good "parent tickles kid" tune to get a tickle party started.
MY FLEA HAS DOGS
Oh my! I love this one. This is one of those last minute things where the songs are chosen for the album and BAM! along comes another song that is too good to pass up! I was tuning up a ukulele in the kitchen to sign and give away at an auction when Kate heard me tuning and tried to sing the famous "my dog has fleas" thing that people use to tune ukes and she instead sang "my flea has dogs" and that huge light bulb that goes on above my head when I hear a great song idea went on! I wrote this one twice with different lyrics and ended up using some of both versions in the final song.
BA BA BLACK SHEEP
Another example of a classic that has so few lyrics that it was begging to be expanded. The verse about the three bags already existed but what about the first, second and fourth bags? Now you know the REST of the story.
This song is dedicated Spider John Koerner who is to one of my musical heroes. I have always loved his style and it was his repertoire of interpretations old public domain folk tunes that really turned me on to the entire genre. He came to Seattle last winter and played an opening set for my grownup band The Presidents of the United States of America. I was lucky enough to pick him up at the airport and we got to talk and exchange some notions about music and story telling and life in general. His laid back ways inspired this metaphorical song about an actual spider that makes his way around the globe singing and playing for his supper.
Originally title "PILLOW" this was about finding a pillow in the woods and sleeping on it but it just didn't make any sense! So I changed it to be a love song for my shadow. I really do love how my shadow is always there for me and changes shape as the sun goes down. The middle part of the song makes me see a shadow that has left my side and is running free by itself in the dark woods. CREEPY!
LOUD AND QUIET
Well this is pretty straight forward isn't it? I am the loud voice and the great Frances England (children's artist extraordinaire) is the quiet voice. My favorite is the loud cow. MOO!!
MISTER WINTER BEE
Kate and I were taking a winter walk in the coldness and frost when we saw a single gigantic bumble bee float by on the cold winter wind. I just burst out singing the chorus to this song and we worked on it as we walked around. The multi talented Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam came over later on and played the slappy flappy bongos on it. This is a sort of beatnik sound for me.
LONG LONG DREAM
A friend of mine taught this one to me as a round but with very different much darker lyrics and a different melody. It is an old old old English song from the middle ages I believe but it was hard to find any information on it. Of course I thought I could lighten it up by changing the words but not the melody but in the end I changed EVERYTHING about it and made it my own. The amazing "Weird" Al Yankovic plays a super satisfying accordion solo on this one! Basically my way or saying "row row row your boat"!
RING AROUND THE ROSIE
We all know this one as a traditional round. It first appeared in print in 1881 but there is evidence that another version was around in the 1790s. Again I noticed the limitations of only one verse for this little thing and brought in a whole bunch of different flowers and activities to make it have more variety. Frances England did the little vocal break and the last part to be added was the funky bass line which I love!
Another old classic originally title "Dem Bones" and it was used to teach basic anatomy to children through song. I prefer to think about a skeleton building himself up and taking himself apart! This is meant to be a little dance number for the dancers out there. My good buddy Mike "Outtasite" Singleton does a turn here as "THE SKELETON"!
Another classic that I wrote new lyrics for. This one back to 16th century England. One of the waiting ladies of Queen Elizabeth the First had a cat which wandered free in Windsor castle. One time the cat ran beneath the throne and its tail brushed against the Queen's foot. I wanted to let the pussycat have a little more adventure than JUST going under the Queens chair and brushing her foot. Although that would be pretty amazing for the average pussycat! I figured if it got that far it might as well get into some trouble and WOW does it ever!
ME AND MY ECHO
I got really excited about call and response songs and wanted to have a few on this record. I made this one up just to have fun with the kids at the shows and have them (and you parents too!) sing along with my words. I love the idea that the echo wonders where I am too. Poor hollow little echo thing.
BUTTERFLY DRIVING A TRUCK
My amazing friend Tad Hutchison's daughter Mia came up with this title for a song and that is all she had. Tad and I got together and made this tiny ditty from that idea. With just ukulele and vocals and one little low clavinet I love this minimal simple little image of a butterfly driving a huge truck down the road! What a tough guy.
This is based on an old work chant that I came across somewhere out there in the world. I combined the feeling of that old public domain song with the joy I felt one day when I looked up in the sky and saw the CUTEST little yellow helicopter in the entire world. I was so insanely happy to see that little thing up there that I started singing in this rhythm about it and the song was born. There is something about a tiny yellow helicopter that makes me SO happy.
Long ago there was a time when I could not write songs. I had no ideas and no clear vision for what to sing about. I made music anyway and just sang gibberish over the grooves. I had one called "Sun Yo" that I found one day while sifting through my old recordings and it reworked itself into this end of the day love song for the sunset. Frances England sing this as a duet with me and she added that perfect high harmony.
This is based on an old African American fiddle tune called "Ballad Call and Response". I was listening to the recording of that old tune as a thunderstorm approached on a wide plain in a rural part of New York State and I started singing about a baby cloud coming over the land and moving over slowly raining. I feel like it is a metaphor for a baby feeling sad and being lulled to sleep by a reassuring parent. AHHHH....relaxing. Rachel Loshak sings beautifully and Jacob Lawson does the real strings on this recording. The final touch is Pete Droges amazing little guitar solo that we recorded out on Vashon Island. Thanks to all the payers that helped bring this song to light! It was a long ride with many many versions.
ALL YOU PRETTY BABIES
I found a fragment of a song idea on an old cassette and it was the basic idea for this song. Written way before I decided to write for kids it felt like a natural fit. It is a good little counting song and I love Fred from the live Caspar band as the "mom"!
This was an old song I had that was really sad and funky and I just changed all the music to be more upbeat and funny! I can almost hear all those little feet running around in the music. I wanted to have muted horns on the solo but when I did a rough version with my voice I got attached to it so it stayed.
THE LEGEND OF THE BONE
The story of a little bone and its crazy journey from something for a soup to a home for a crab! One day I just tried to write my own cause and effect type song where one thing influences another and so on and this image of a bone traveling all over the place came to mind. The response vocal things were the last part to be added as I listened to it one day they just started coming out of me.
BABY’S GETTING UP
My friend Tad and his wife Tami came to visit and Tami was warm because it was summer and she had on a sweater! We sang “Tami’s getting warm, Tami’s getting hot hot!” and the little riff was so sticky that years later I remembered it and made it about a baby getting up and down. Its a silly little activity song that you can bop to in your crib!
WHERE DO YOU GO?
My wife Kate and I were walking in the woods in Ohio when she said "lets write a song!" and we looked around at the flowers and vines around us and stared singing about how we wondered where things went in the winter and this wee song was born. Its the closest Caspar Babypants will ever come to being a rapper!
We love googly eyes around our house. I will often come into the kitchen to find a sweet potato with eyes staring at me that my kids or Kate has set up. One of them ended up being named Larry the Lemon. He might get his own song someday. For now this is a love song for the googly eyes and their amazing power to make things come alive.
a nice little galloping tune. I figured I would expand it beyond "morning star" and "feel like" some other things (you know me and expanding the classics!). Fred plays a mean washboard on this one. Josie and I wrote an alternate version about our favorite pie place in Seattle called Shoofly Pie Company that you can hear on my site and theirs. (http://www.shooflypiecompany.com/)
TIGER THROUGH THE TREES
I was just struck one day with this vision of a tiger playing guitar and a line of really thick green trees and tiger after tiger coming out with new instruments and playing along and making a tiger band. It is so clear in my mind that I just described the scene and a song was born.
BOUNCE YOUR BABY
I was at a family party and all four of the new babies in my family were being bounced by their moms in unison. I started bouncing in place along with them and used that rhythm as the backbone for this song about traveling around helping little babies bounce around. So theoretically you should be able to hold and bounce your little baby in perfect time to this hillbilly tune!
BABY AND THE ANIMALS
this song was originally written as a prize in an auction. I give away a custom song in auctions around the Northwest and one of the winners wanted a song for her daughter Evie who loved music, giraffes and movies! I concocted a song for her called "Evie and the Animals" and then years later I mutated it into this more universal version for ALL babies! I love that they try to be famous but end up back on the island living the simple life. It MIGHT be autobiographical!
What a fun song to play! so simple! I played at the Seattle Art Museum on the day that a show dedicated to Kurt Cobain opened and we did this song as a nod to Kurt. It is a song about being little and wanting something you cant have. I like the repetition of the demand to be taken home. Little kids love to sing this at the shows and Krist from Nirvana was kind enough to play bass on this version.
An old song from the hills that I have brightened up for the babies. The original is kind of minor keyed and scary and about gambling (as so many of those old songs are) although I don't know what a bird has to do with loosing at cards! I just made it about a real bird and added a whole new chorus of "cuckoo"s!
ITS GONNA RAIN
Kate and I were walking back to our friend Audrey's house in Nantucket and it looked like it was gonna rain so we just started clapping and singing and making this song up to pass the time as we walked. I got the ideas for the atmosphere sounds from Charlie Hope and her great album "I'm Me!" That is a Casio VL-Tone on the solo (the only keyboard that doubles as a calculator).
In 1986 on my to work on the roller coaster at the amusement park where I worked I found a crumpled up piece of paper with a poem on it by a little kid. The first few lines of the song are directly taken from that scrap of paper then I just expanded it (and changed a couple of lines about SMASHING the frogs!). I wonder where that kid is now?
Another old folk song that I gave a little face lift too. Charlie Hope sing with me on this one. She is awesome. Please check her out. I discovered this song from a version by Paul Westerberg (ex-Replacements) that was on a compilation CD that my neighbor lent me! I heard it and hoped it was old and I could mess with it and it was! YAY!
This is a collaboration between Frederick Babyshirt (Fred Northup, Jr), the percussionist in the live Caspar band, and me. He wrote the words while singing to his daughter, and I put them to music. It flowed so naturally and easily. His friend, Andrew Sigler, helped with some well-placed horn bits. Just a simple little ditty really.
Elizabeth Mitchell plays this song on her album "You Are My Little Bird" and I loved the way they made it sparkle and feel so dreamy. Burl Ives did a famous version as well which shows up in the movie "The Fantastic Mr. Fox". In Elizabeth's version they do a little kalimba thing and I used that little melody and expanded it around 1:07 in my version because it reminded me of the opening music of Peter and The Wolf by Prokoviev. The chorus part is also new musically although those lyrics are in the old version I found but not in Elizabeth's version. So many fun ways to stretch old songs!!
LOOK AT ALL THOSE ELEPHANTS
Charlie Hope has a couple of songs on her record "I'm Me!" that are so simple and I admire that so this is my nod to her bravery at having songs be so clear and simple. Audrey Sterk from the band You Scream I Scream and I wrote this together on a lazy day in Nantucket (after the "Its Gonna Rain" walk! Wow, that was a good songwriting day).
One day when things were so busy and crazy that I needed a break I just sat down on the front porch and took a second to breathe and relax and this melody came out. I put it to some lyrics I had written ten years earlier about a tree that was outside our kitchen window of my house that always held onto one little leaf all winter until May then it would fall. It happened every year and I marveled at the tenacity of the little leaf. I thought it would make an evocative lullaby of sorts about letting go of the day and tumbling off to sleep.
DARK OF NIGHT
when my son was 5 years old he wrote a poem called "the Viper" and we recorded him saying the poem to a beat. It ended up being used as a hip hop thing that I did with another band then we rewrote the lyrics to expand them and make them a little less scary and made the music more groovy and chill. The final touch is my hero Elizabeth Mitchell singing it with me as a duet trading lines. I get choked up when I hear how cool this song finally turned out and how honored I am to have Elizabeth closing out the record with her "ooooooooo"s.
TAKE THE SUN
This could be a good activity song for stretching up and down. I wrote this after reading a great book about classic picture books for kids. It talked about the sun and the moon and how they are a big deal to a little baby. SO I wanted to make a song that just talked about the sun and the moon. SIMPLE!
DOG GONE GONE DOG GONE
Spider John made this one famous as the original old folk tune called Black Dog. I changed it to just be about the exploits and adventures of a lost dog making his way in the world today (it takes everything hes got!).
ROBIN ON A WIRE
One day the sun was shining and I was feeling really GOOD so I decided to take a walk. As I headed to the beach I saw a robin on a wire and sang tot he beat of my walking feet all the way to the shore and back to the house into a wee tape deck. The song takes the robin through the cycle of a year if you listen carefully to the words too.
Suddenly...out of nowhere...the chorus to this song came into my brain fully formed! I saw a little bear all tattered and sad on a store shelf just waiting to be loved by some special kid. Poor little guy! Hes has had a rough life. I used to “rescue” old dirty stuffed animals from the free store at the dump on an island with my kids. The song is inspired by that good feeling of saving a lost toy.
ROCKS AND FLOWERS
This is a take on the classic melody to “Sittin in a High Chair” but written about my favorite pastime...LOOKING AT BUGS! What else would any human being rather be doing on a sunny afternoon than LOOKING AT BUGS! When you are down and your frown wont turn upside down just LOOK AT BUGS!
RUN BABY RUN
Augie and Josies mom wrote this one when Augie was little to keep him happy in the car when he was sad in the car. The original version had “run” and “jump” and “box” and “swing” but I added a few more. When I do it live I even add more...like POOP and CRY! Its always fun to sing this one for a room full of littles. This song is the seed for all of the music that followed in a way. It was the first time I saw how powerful a song could be in a way that could help parents cope when things were stressful. Little Augie was always happy when we sang this tune.
I was in an airport in Japan and going through the security line when all of a sudden I imagined what it would be like to have a dust mite on a lease for a pet. DONT ASK ME WHY!! I dont know. I wrote the song in the waiting area and recorded the demo in the bathroom in the airport.
COTTON EYED JOE
Another old tune that I became aware of through Spider John Keorner. This one is traditionally played really fast and crazy but Spider John did a mellow fragment of this song on his album “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Been” as an intro to the album. I liked the mellow feel and expanded it and wrote a bunch of my own lyrics to fill it out cause I thought it would be fun to expand on that and write my own lyrics about this little guy and how I wonder what his deal is....and that ragtime breakdown for fun!
MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB
WOW! did I ever struggle with this song! The nursery rhyme was first published as a poem by Sarah Josepha Hale on May 24th 1830 and was inspired by an actual little girl named Mary Sawyer who actually brought her actual lamb to school. Apparently is was her brothers idea!I tried it with the original melody two different ways to start with a rock and roll feel ( I played around with “Chuck Berry Had A Little Lamb”!) but the melody got so stiff after a while that it just didnt go to that fresh place I try to achieve. Then I sat at the piano and played that groove and tried a soul feel and it clicked....THEN my daughter came up with the idea of changing the lyrics to be about Mary and ALL HER FRIENDS! genius! so I have mutated that old Mary into a swinging part of a crown of kids with their odd pets!
IM A NUT
This was FUN to re-write!! It is an old campfire tune I found that people sing at camp (around a fire!) and I wrote a ton of new verses. It was an engaging challenge to come up with all these activities that you need two people for that this nut character thinks they can do alone. Kate is working on illustration for this one to be turned into a book.
After a super long day in the studio recording and mixing songs I needed a break and I lay down in the shade right out side the door in the grass and immediately after lying down I looked up at the sky and a CRAZY series of events happened. A bunch of animals flew through my vision in the sky...a dragonfly..a humming bird...a seagull...a butterfly...a starling...a fly...and eagle being chased by crows (eagles try to eat their babies!!) a finch a big big bee a chickadee and then it stopped and I noticed a cloud that really did look like a squid and then the deep blue sky and beyond it....space....and the song SPILLED out...
ITSY BITSY SPIDER
Another case of the poor spider not getting to do that much in this old song. He climbs up. He gets washed down. And thats it! So I wanted to give the spider a bunch of other things to do! Nick Drake and the song Pink Moon inspired the feel for this remake. I would love to come up with a bunch of hand movements for the new verses and make a video out of that! Hmmmm...I think I will!
BOLD LITTLE BIRD
This one is also very old but made fresh. I had the chorus and music back in the early 90s but didnt have a clear idea for the words in the verse. Then I gave away a “custom song” at an auction and the winner talked about getting out of her shell and getting into life and being bold about it. I took her feelings and mixed them with the images of the bird and BAM! a song is born!
MADE UP MY MIND
My friend Tad and I wrote this one together years ago but it sounded really different. We changed some chords and the feel and wrote verses which the original did not have and had a blast doing the thick harmonies on the chorus. Another love song from parent to child.
On the way to my house there is a super broken down little shack of a house and my daughter Josie said the single word “RAMSHACKLE” every time we drove by. It didnt really sink in for a while then one day I was alone in the car and when I drove by the house I started just singing the song right out loud! Thanks Josie!
When I was a kid I had a parakeet named Birdie and he loved it when I recited the Fuzzy wuzzy rhyme to him. He puffed up and got all crazy eyed and bobbed up and down like a nut! So in the grand tradition of not being traditional with old rhymes I wrote a bunch of new verses to the classic. IT WAS HARD!!! there are so many interlocking rhyme schemes to this thing that it took me forever to come up with the new ones. so...ENJOY!!!
SITTIN ON THIS ROCK
This one came on me while I sat on an actual rock waiting for a ride from a friend a few summers ago. I think it is about being alive for the first year of a babies life and feeling safe and unconditionally loved. The “rock” in the song is the planet earth....get it? hee.
LIGHT IT UP
I was plucking away on my new baritone ukulele when the main riff for this thing came out and the song just pooped out! Its my idea for a new happy birthday song. Maybe you can sing it to your baby at his or her next birthday.
GOT A LITTLE GHOST
My little neighbor Max who is 5 years old was walking through the yard and I said “Hey Max! Lets write a song!” He was not feeling like writing a song so I just started playing this song out of thin air....maybe I was sad that Max was not into writing a song so he is the little ghost...I dont know but it just sounded good and I liked the thought of a tiny ghost instead of a big scary one.
My update of the classic Brahms Lullaby. I was on my way out to my studio one day when I paused on the little back step porch that leads to the grass and saw a thousand SUPER TINY spiders that had just hatched running all over their moms web. Then I thought about her trying to get them all to go to sleep later that night and the idea for the adaptation came to me!
SMALL BLACK ANT
I wrote this one using a melody that my mom used to sing to me when I was little about how she found my brother and I in the woods. It was sort of a creation myth that told the story of feeding us in the woods and discovering us under stumps. The melody used to give me the chills for some reason. My mom is not doing well these days and I wanted to honor her with this song that uses her melody in a new way. I love you Mom. Here is a song for you.
LITTLE BROKEN TRUCK
I was on a road trip with my girlfriend Kate and we were on an island driving around and saw all these rusted out trucks. She said “poor little broken truck” and before you knew it I was writing verses on the back of a book I was reading. My daughter Josie and her cousin Claire are the little voices in the chorus. This is a great one to get the kids to sing along with. I wonder how that truck found itself in that field in the first place? Who owned it before?
BROWN AND LONELY WORM
The original song that this uses as inspiration is called “The Leather Winged Bat” and is an old old folk song. I became aware of it through an artist named Spider John Koerner. I always loved it but thought that the words needed to be a little more baby-centric. So I rewrote them all!
FREE LIKE A BIRD
Written by my daughter and her cousin and me this is a dance number for the little babies to boogie to on a warm southern California beach near the water while the parents make lunch so the babies dont have to. The recording process for this one took a long time. It went through many feels before I settled on this one. I added the acoustic guitar at the last and loosened it up a bit. Just a good time dance party song!
Just another love song from parent to child. Sing this to your kids while you jump around or excercise your babies legs in the crib. This one went through a bunch of revisions while I was making it trying to make is sipler and simpler. Originally it had drums and all this stuff so this is the bare bones version!
THREE BLIND MICE
This is a case of those mice needing to have more adventures than JUST getting their tails chopped off! So I wrote new verses and messed with the feel to make it upbeat and kind of 1960s. The original lyric was written about the daughter of King Henry the Eighth, Queen Mary the Frist. She is the “farmers wife” because she owned a bunch of land as queen. The three blind mice are three noblemen who were plotting against her and she dealt with them pretty harshly.
BABY IN A CORN TREE
My friends child Petra wrote this ditty. Her lyrics are so surreal and fun I had this song stuck in my head for years before I even started this project. It was an obvious choice for this record. She originally used a very famous song as the melody and I had to mutate it so that it would not be a problem. I love the imagery of a baby in a corn tree (whatever that is!) doing all these funny things that barely make sense!
HEARD A BIRD
My friend Tad from The Young Fresh Fellows came up with this title a while ago and we tried to write a rock song to fit it. Eventually I started writing it as a kids song about simple love and it clicked. I wonder how little birds know so much stuff and why they go around telling all their secrets!? Those crazy little things need to keep it zipped.
BABIES LITTLE SELF
This is an original song that I wrote for parents to sing to their child to illustrate the parts of the body and times of the day and year. Its a good one for just hanging out with the baby having chill out time together. Jen Wood is the singer.
This was written by a little boy named Griffin Lang. I brought this one to life using his lyrics live in front of an audience at a show in Detroit. I was handed the lyrics before the show and it just popped out while we were playing. Then I recorded it at home with some additional lyrics and Jen Wood singing back up. I love how it makes no sense but makes PERFECT sense at the same time!
THE ISLAND HOP
I sang this little thing to my daughter when she was really really little as we packed for a family vacation to Hawaii. She was sitting there with her yellow pyjamas on and a big binky (pacifier for those that dont know that word) in her mouth sucking away unaware of the pleasures of the islands that awaited her. The original used her name (Josie) so I switched it out for “baby”.
UNDER A ROCK
This is the last song I wrote for the record and it just fell together as I imagined all the fun stuff you can find under rocks. Turning over rocks is still one of my favorite things to do but you gotta make sure you put them back real gently so the critters dont get sad! Even the spiders with bright yellow hair. I put a little Bo Diddley beat underneath the keep it snappy.
BUG IN THE CUFF
I wrote this one in the 80s about finding a bug in the cuff of my pants after a walk in a field. Pretty much what you see is what you get. I really was not sure what it was but I lost it so I will never know! Dont kill bugs kids!! Be friends with them...its better.
My friend Fysah Thomas was in the studio doing another song and sang a couple of bars of this song and we found the lyrics on the internet and immediately recorded this bouncy version in 10 minutes. Easy and fun. We had to modify some lyrics that were to weird to sing so you may hear some different words in there. I like the babies pretending to be sick and then suddenly getting all better when the shortnin bread comes out of the oven! Tricky babies.
LET THE S GO
When my daughter was little she did not say the “S” in words like spider and sparkle. She said “_pider” and “_parkle”. I thought it would be fun to have a song that plays with parts of words. Its fun to sing and good for little brains to play with parts of words so there you go! It might be a little hard to get at first but after you do you can sing your own version with whatever replacement letters you want...have fun!
This is an old English folk song that I found while I was searching for lyrics on the internet. I still have no idea how the original melody goes at all but I just started playing it this way one day and it stuck. It is sort of a minimal mowtown feel to me!. A little sad in the lyric department but sometimes things go wrong in life I guess and poor Billy Pringle found that out the hard way!
POOR DUST BUNNIES
Originally written for a play about a vacuum cleaner a sock and a lamp that start a band. I thought the lonely little dust bunnies were a great image to play with. It is sad but sweet. Those poor things cant move and they need to be protected. We need to start a dust bunny protection service! They could be rounded up and protected in little shelters away from the evil vaccuum cleaners. I found one under my couch once that was 5 inches wide!
I love a good round and this one is a classic. A good opportunity to have some French on there. I want to do more songs in French since I can actually speak it! I put the english words in there too so you can hear both at the same time. I wonder if he really is sleeping?
You can sing this to your wee one while they get cozy for bed. I just wanted to make bugs all cozy. Did I do it? I think so. This was one of the first songs I wrote for this project back when the idea was to make a book of collage by Kate and songs about birds and bugs. The project blossomed into this CD and some of those songs are on this record. I like the slight sadness in this one. But it is sweet and loving too.
When I was a wee child I wanted desperately to jump into the monkey exbit at the seattle zoo and live on the island in the middle with the monkeys. There is old super 8 footage of me trying to climb in over and over! My mom eventually convinced me that I would be better off with her at home so I gave up on that but put all that wanting into this song. This version is an adaptation of the original. We also did a version on the Presidents record Love Everybody that we put out in 2004. I have chopped off some lyrics and changed the music completely to feel more country and little and groovy and more smokey and like the memory I have. I might like this one better than the original!
CALLING FROM CLOUDS
This is an original about a bird migrating into the winter. Its just a lonely little song that is maybe a little spooky. Just lay back and imagine the barren winter landscape and the little bird making his way. Thats what I did when I wrote it! Poor little guy all up in the clouds and stuff.
I wanted to try to write a very very relaxing simple lullaby for bedtime. I like the idea of a baby floating over the land while the parent watches the baby in its bed...sort of like that sensation of falling asleep when you feel like you are in two places at once...awake and drifting...where are you?