I started writing songs at around 26-27 years old Including “Going Homely” about being old. The first ten or so were surprisingly skilled for a inexperienced hack. Then the next thirty became the “Learning Zone” I’m pretty proud of around 25% of them, so I’ve tried to put the best on here with notes. (Of course they have notes, Ninny! they’re SONGS!)
Many of my writings have “punchlines”. This has been a difficult way to go for me personally and performance-wise. If I play them “live”, people don’t listen very carefully and miss the joke, which is sometimes a reversal of the premise. Same thing with the recordings, where people usually tune out after the first 20 seconds. I have posted these songs here for posterity (posterior?) with the probably erroneous idea that the occasional someone might “get it” at a future date. So here are some of my best efforts to amuse myself first, then possibly you.
ACCOUNTABILITY I’m proud of the recording. All about workers passing the buck. I used mandolin and odd drum sounds.
ALL MINE I wrote this for my wedding to Mari. We sang it in Placerville with the kids and Sharon as my best man. Ten years later, I went back to the courthouse there and demanded to know where the “escape clause” was.
ANOTHER DAY (IN MY DREAMS) Reading the paper every day is helpful for inspiring songs, but usually not happy cheerful ones. I love the beat and feel of this song, but it is depressing. Oh, well. It’s how I felt about the San Fernando Valley I was held prisoner and my own lack of ambition.
ANOTHER TRAIN SONG In every bluegrass jam, they sing about trains. So I’m asking why?
APATHY AND IGNORANCE This is an old joke set to music and works well as an instrumental. I like the major/minor shifts.
ASHTRAY Another recording I like. My favorite pet peeve set to electrics.
AMERICA LOST THE WAR Mixed metaphors are many in this unfair diatribe about the Japanese. Mari and I used a koto and recorder to approximate the cultural sound. I’m sure real Japanese would cringe at our attempt.
BEAT THE METER This whole song was written from the title. Many times
a title is enough, be it a dirty joke or a bumper sticker. This one also offered me the opportunity to slam the Post Office. I was going to write another song from a title, “I’m P.O.’d at the P. O.” But I never got around to it.
BEAUTIFUL DAY This was the first song inspired by Mari. We talked about the how overcast
days are supposed to be “gloomy” while big bright sunshine is supposed to be a good thing. It was one of many views of the world we shared, and I made sure it had good music because I wanted to impress her. I’m fond of the fact it ends a half step lower than it begins, yet the melody builds.
BEN GAY This is basically a country song but Mari gave it a rollicking piano that takes it into Dixieland. Obviously a classic because it’s on our album. Originally, I sang it, but we decided it was funnier if she did it.
BIG ASS I love the joke in this, even if people see it coming.
BLIND TEDDY The recording featured toy instruments. I think it’s a great sad children’s song, just waiting for a film to tag it.
BORIS THE SPIDER This is the only song here that is not mine. It’s an old John Entwhistle ditty from the Who. I include it here because my daughter Shauna sang it when she was eight years old. She has been forever embarrassed by it, so I had to include it.
BULGE I used the auto harp and ukes in this. The message beyond the joke is that
women are materialistic. Someone walked up to me and said. “Is that how you feel about us? It’s a joke, lady. I can write from points of views I don’t agree with. Sheesh!
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE Based on the commercials we all remember
BY ITSELF Written as a kid’s song for kids by a big kid. I’d like to write a whole collection and put it out under the name Arco Copperstein with the title “A Light In the Attic But Nobody’s Home”
CELTIC LAMENT I wanted to try out my cello and fiddle chops. Wound up with firewood. Words written in 5 minutes.
CHEAP ROCK AND ROLL Greg Newlon plays lead on this.
CONTROL IS ONLY AN ILLUSION Hey! A serious song. There’s a few here.
CRITIC’S CHOICE Sometimes criticism is a powerful motivation. My strongest musical influencers when I was young was John and Philo. I felt they had love/hate feelings toward my music, and this song was in response to their opinions. I’m singing to John, but I tried to imitate Philos style in the guitar work. I think we’ve all mellowed with age, but many of my songs are knee-jerk reactions. (Emphasis on me being the jerk)
CUSTOM MADE GOD A chicken/egg conundrum. Who came first?
CYNICAL Song for Mary Edith. I like the constant B/C on the guitar in the verses. Try it sometime.
DAMN GOOD THING Nothing like a funny song about spousal abuse. I tried to make it sound 1930s, and really challenge myself on the guitar part.
DARK CLOUD Mari used to have a band called Silver Lining. So I had to write this. My old friend Katie sings the middle part.
DEATH IS THE ANSWER A very early song. Still pondering this, 40 years later.
DIE HARD Twisting words again to go in a new direction.
DIET The words come first for me in most of my songs. This started from the one.
DOGDOO! A real pet peeve. Stepped in it it most of my life. Some of it from dogs.
DOWN AT THE OLD SALOON Written as an all-purpose bar song, 3 chords so jammers can follow.
DOWNERS BRING ME UP Back side of my “Flasher” single. One of the first ten I ever wrote.
ELVIS AT THE DINER* After reading in the Enquirer and other rags about all the Elvis sightings, I decided that most of these people are neither deluded nor crazy. They see what they want to see like everybody does, and so what? I felt ashamed of having to invent a diner named “Bip’s”, just so I could rhyme the word “hips”, but for some reason, it always gets as laugh. Must be Mari’s performance, because nobody found it at all funny when I sang it.
EVERYTHING Trying to write a pop hit with a Celtic feel.
EZRA’S ROUND I was doing my darndest to write a “Jethro Tull” song. Failed, but sometime that in itself is funny.
FAT GIRLS I would never write a song like this today, but it’s one of my favorites musically. Dave Chrenko sings with me.
FEAR OF GOD The demonic backwards masking at the end is actually the Lords Prayer, slowed down. Evil!
FEEL LIKE A NEW MAN A Mary Edith song lyrics, music from my unfinished musical.
FLASHER This was my big attempt to impress John and Philo (who sang the harmony) John played it with me live. Was played on Dr. Demento.
FLEABAG HOTEL I worked in Hollywood. Not as glamorous as people think.
FIFTIES SONG Written in my fifties, in the style of the fifties, still waiting for fifty people to hear it.
FORTUNATE FLATULENCE How not to get a job.
FOUL WEATHER FRIEND After Mari left our home for good, I sat down with a blank piece of paper. Two hours later I had this recording. Everything was one take.
FOURTH OF JULY Fourth song I ever wrote. Trying to channel Fleetwod Mac at the time
FUTUREHOOD Third song I wrote. Sped up violins.
GOIN HOMELY LIVE 77 Paul Simon once said that every songwriter has written a song called “Goin’ Home”. He of course wrote “Homeward Bound” and one he changed the title of to “Kodachrome”. So this is my twist on that title.
GRAVEYARD This was maybe my first real song. Just learning to play the piano and get the hang of 4 track recording. I added 2 violins and had Karen play 2 flutes. An amazing 9 tracks ponged around. Many years later I suspected it was influenced by “Penny Lane” Still very special to me.
GRIDLOCK I tried to write a HIT song! Failed miserably but this one was fun.
HAWAII This must be my best song of all time because it won us a trip to Maui. It’s the only one anyone wanted to hear because all L.A. know who Mark and Brian and KLOS were. They were the top “bonehead” rock station. So I was one of five winners and got to go. My boss at work (Pac Hell) wasn’t going to let me go until ALL my co-workers read him the riot act.
HIT SONGWRITER This is one of the early ones, again trying to write a hit. Some artist was interested in it and offered to record it, but all my friends at the time said “Get legal protection, you’ll get ripped off!” So I asked someone their advice and she made up a 3 page contract. I showed it to the “Artist” and he told me to get the hell out with the stupid contract. The lawer then charged me 200 bucks. This, my friends I why I never “Made it”. Over the years, people have told me “Your songs are really good, why aren’t you making money off them?”. I make all of them this offer “If you sell any song for me, I will give you 95% of all the profit!” None have taken me up on the offer, which I am very serious about.
HOLE IN THE OZONE It’s now dated, since the hole has been fixed, but I like the song, and Mari plays great.
I WISH I HAD A VOICE A song about my bad singing without instruments to hide it. Wheeeeee. Thanks for sight-reading so well, Mari.
I’LL SAVE YOU A SEAT BY THE FIRE What to sing when someone tells you to go to hell.
I’M IN LOVE One of the early ones. Doing my Elvis thing.
I’M SO HAPPY I was so depressed when I wrote this, and it was inspired by a very dark humor record from the thirties and the depression.
INSOMNIA Strange things keep me up at night. Like these kind of songs.
IT’S GETTING’ HARD Yes, another tricky title for a country tune. full fiddles, banjo and mando.
IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY Wanted to replace that old Birthday song. Still waiting.
JOHN LENNON Song wrote itself the day after John died.
JUST THE WAY I PRAY I was watching a country video about how you don’t have to go to church if you just appreciate God in your own way. Seems to me that sentiment can be twisted the wrong way. So I did.
L.A. RIVER Mari, Danny, Shauna and I were walking home from Balboa Park along a big gully. I think we were kidding around by telling them some people like divorced dads live in places like that. So we started singing in “answersong” about life in the old wash. After we came home I wrote the rest.*
LABORATORY WIDOW This was a cowrite with Justine Greene, a good friend from my youth I still miss. She gave me pieces of paper with assorted verses and ideas, I just organized them and wrote a woodwind quintette plus guitar arrangement. Mari sang.
LEAVING THE BAD TIMES BEHIND When I moved to Washington, I updated an old song to express my feeling about my move from California.
LEFT HANDED AUTOGRAPH This was my love song to Lynne, and one of the first ten or so songs.
LEGACY Another end of the world song, but this one has some emotion. I liked the feeling of the piano part, so it became the only accompaniment. This had another title, “Greenpeace Blues”, but I decided not to mar the seriousness with a flip title.
LISTEN TO YOU I got tired of people not listening to my lyrics when I played live, so I came up with the most offensive first line I could think of, then tried to get myself out of it. I like the song.
LITTLE BOOKSTORE My buddy Tom likes to sing nostalgia songs about the old town and how it has changed. so I wrote this about another passing of an old iconic business. The song itself is now dated.
LOST YOUR LUST This one I wrote for Mari to overact. We almost got on “The Gong Show” with this.
LOU QUEST THE RUDIST NUDIST I get big laughs playing this live. I told my idea for it to Mari and she said “Great. We’ll never be able to perform it anywhere” We did, except at the nudist place we regularly performed at.
LOVE THIS COUNTRY
MAN OR MOUSE? Tried to cram as may animals as i could into one country song. Can you count them? Kids always get ti right.
MEAT MARKET One of my favorite songs because of the 5/4 and odd bassline. On the third verse, the keyboards are in 6/4 clashing with the 5/4. I love that.
MIXED MESSAGES A song for my Ex, so it’s a bit of a downer, but I like the music.
MOMMA HATES MUSIC Song for my mother that she will never hear.
MODERN FAMILY Boy, it’s hard to keep up with peoples’ sexual identity these days. Who knew there were so many sexes?
MOVING DAY Wrote this 3 months before I had to move. Knew I’d be too busy then.
MY GOOD SON I know all about Mamas’ boys, having been married to a Mamas’ girl.
MY BEST FRIEND My country breakup song
NEW LOVE Trying to be out of my comfort zone stylistically, almost getting jazzy. Mari sings
NIGHT ON THE TOWN Wrote this in the hospital. Almost lost my left eye in that stint.
NO PORT IN THE STORM Really feeling sorry for myself and my lack of love life at the time.
NOBODY’S FAULT Another serious song, even self-reflective. Boy, I hate that.
NORMAL Chris made this comment to me, it was a song a day later.
NOT THE WORST THING My father paid me a great compliment on this one. “I couldn’t get that stupid song of yours out of my head for 3 days!!” Thanks.
OFFBEAT Not one note of the vocal is on the beat. That was hard to do. last recording with Mari.
OLDER BUT NOT UP Still true today. Bumper sticker song.
ON CHRISTMAS EVE I so want this to become a Xmas classic. Please keep plugging it after I’m long gone.
ONWARD One I wrote music first, and I don’t know what the words mean but it’s in 9/8
ORGAN RECITAL I wrote this with a drum set and synth riff going. Afterwards stuck in strummy guitars and organ parts.
ORGY First recorded song with Chris 2019. Hilarious live.
PERFECT XMAS TREE Sometimes bad thing happen because of the Holidays…..
POSTCARD This is one of my best piano performances. Written from the rhymes.
PUT YOUR JESUS GLASSES ON I just tried to write a gospel song, but the one time I played it it offended some. I don’t really see any negative messages, but somehow the sarcasm slips through.
REBOUND WOMAN Obviously about a player on the WNBA…Or I’m kidding.
REPETITION So true..so true..so true..so true….
ROAD KILL CAFÉ 13 This is my update from the one I did with Mari, better recording.
SHE AIN’T THE WOMAN I DON’T LOVE Once I ordered a Coors. The barmaid said “We ain’t got none.” So I said, “Well, then bring it to me.” She said: “Didn’t you hear me? We ain’t got none! We went round and round that for a while.
SORRY Story of my life, but I like the way it turned out. The song, not my life.
SPORTS AND BEER Only song of mine to feature violin, cello, and clarinet. adds to the drunken quality.
STACCATO I wanted to write a song where the verses were in seven and the choruses in five. And the review of the song is in that chorus! Sta-ca-ca-cato!
TALKING TALKING TALKING Every performer has had the experience of a drunken audience ignoring them. This ditty is a favorite of mine, because it’s so true. I played drums on it. The background audience noise is actually the track from “Hollywood Redneck”. Amusing because the alternate title for this one is “The Talk of Tinseltown”.*
THAT’S WHY I GAVE UP DRINKING Semi-true story with my buddy Jane playing violas
TINNITUS TONIGHT About deafening concerts and bands
TOMBOY Lynne was the inspiration and the singer
VALENTINE’S DAY Didn’t realize until years later this song has 14 chords.
THE VOYEUR This one changed my life. It was number 39 of forty in 1979 on the Dr Demento show, and became the first record I ever made. There were two. The first had “Futurehood” after it on the same side. (Because it was cheaper) I still have the pressing plate. The second had “I’m In Love” on the flip side because Dave Chrenko worked in a record store and said that kind of music was selling. It was recorded in four tracks with me playing with a drummer whose name I cannot remember. Somehow I fit nine parts on there, with John Clancy playing the synth solo I wrote out for him. Because of this record, John and Philo did “Gimme Cigarette” and “Oh Oh Oh”. And because they did that one, I did “The Flasher” which they also helped on. Anyway, I did not write “The Voyeur” alone. I overheard Philo singing the up and down melody idea, only his lyrics were about driving down the road masturbating. Later I was in a band with a guy named Mark Albin, a real Peter Frampton type. He and I we jamming with that drummer I can’t remember, and he suggested we play on a three minor chord riff as an intro to the song I had based on Philo’s riff with my new words and chorus. That band went nowhere, but later, when Dr D. was playing “The Voyeur” on his show Mark walked up to me and said “Hey, that’s that song we wrote together!” Such is rock and roll. I also later offered Philo co-writer credit on the single, in case it went anywhere, and he told me, “No, Rick. You wrote it.” But to this day, I’ve always tried to give him credit to anyone who cares for his considerable influence on my music. As an added amusing story, I played this song live just once. Dave and Karen and I went to an open mike where first prize was four hours of free studio time. Besides this song we played “Cigarettes” and “I’m in Love”. Dave was so nervous he didn’t even give me a chance to introduce the song, but yelled out “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR….” And we were off playing a difficult song to sing way too fast. We were awful. We won.
WAY I AM One of my first dulcimer songs. And first real autobiographical.
WAY TOO MANY TIMES Greg Newlon played great guitar on this also.
WE’RE COOKIN’ NOW This was supposed to be a “Company Promotion song” I tried to make it an all-purpose booster comparing any company to a great restaurant. Trying for the jingle again. Nope.
WHEN I WAS A KID I got this from a Playboy cartoon with no caption. Just Santa, The Easter Bunny and Jesus all at a cocktail party looking at each other. Song wrote itself from that.
WHIZ There are no hit songs about this basic human condition. After this, there still aren’t. But I like the deceptive opening.
XEROX COPY I noticed I didn’t have a song with an “X” as a first letter. So I corrected and copied it. I once went to a Xerox corporation office and was amused that they had two identical buildings. So I went in the first one and asked the receptionist: “Why is the other building blurrier than this one?”
XMAS CAROL A nice little naughty play on words.
I want to thank everyone who has been on my recordings throughout the years. For the musical influence, the importance to my life, the love/friendship/ and frankly the patience to be around a surly road apple like me. When you think outside the box, the people inside find you hard to see.
You people are in no particular order:
John Clancy, Philo Cramer, Alita Cramer, Karen Peters, Lynne Tinsley, Ellen Brown, Mari Aranoff, Dave Chrenko, Greg Newlon, Mark Courter, Irene Brennick, Justine Greene, Kathy Duncan Potter, Michelle Tinsley, Tom Scharf, Mary Edith Ingraham, Jane Moorman, Elizabeth Christina, Doris Williams, Suzy Cardell, Sharon Jenkins, Erin Jenkins, Chris Storey and especially Brooke Bradford, who keeps this site going.