Nasty Girl Meets Patchouli Babe
by Donna Z. Falcone
As luck would have it, this very issue had come up at a songwriter’s circle a few months earlier. The musicians there were saying it can be really hard to remember a song when it’s still brand new. Thanks to them, my first reaction to losing my song was neither sadness nor panic, but, calm acceptance. Take my word for it. Calm acceptance was new for me. Not that I am incapable of accepting difficult things, but the path to get there is rarely calm.
I figured that if the tune was right it would get back to me later. Maybe it was off finding itself. Maybe it needed some marinating. Maybe it was on a beach somewhere, soaking in the sun. Who knows? All I knew for sure was it was gone and forcing it back was not going to work. I also knew that if I tried a rewrite I might fundamentally change it, and if the song was going to be changed I wanted full awareness of the whole process. No. Waiting was the best option.
In the middle of that same night, I woke up with music rolling through my head. Feeling groggy and thinking hey, that’s a nice tune, and then hey, that’s my tune. My half asleep thoughts were divided between doing the responsible thing and going downstairs to at least record it on my phone and going back to sleep. But I was tired and had a sore ankle and… 3… 2… 1…. zzzzzzzzzz
The next morning, when I tried to sing it, nothing. Gone again. How could this happen? My brain kicked into high gear and it was like a crowd gathered in my mind to see what would happen next. Rubberneckers. A nasty-girl voice rose above the crowd. “You should have gotten up, Stupid. You should have taken the time to record it. Now it’s gone forever. You had a chance and you blew it. You are your own worst enemy.” The crowd sighed – ohhh it was very sad. I blew it. Pathetic.
Cue a newcomer to my mind, all peaceful and whatever (I’d know her anywhere in her gauzy purple dress, flowers scattered through long curly locks, reeking of patchouli). She said “Hey, don’t worry. If it came back once it can come back again. If it doesn’t, well, maybe it’s not ready. You will cross that bridge when you come to it. You'll know what to do. You are your own best friend.”
I decided to listen to Patchouli Babe this time. Nasty Girl only gives me grief.
Later that day, while vacuuming the house, a song rolled through my head, over and over again – a catchy little tune that I was barely aware of. It seemed faint and unfamiliar at first, but gradually strengthened and came back around with a big smile on its face as if to say “I’m ba-a-ack!”
I left the vacuum cleaner mid floor, quietly pulled out the scratch pad lyrics and picked up my guitar, just to see if it was really back. Sure enough, there it was, easy-peasy, I knew what to do. Capo 1 - chords A, E, and D. I jotted them down over the right spots in the lyrics. The tune was country style. I turned on my iPhone to record the melody for a baseline going forward. I knew the lyrics needed tweaking, but they were a good beginning. Every time I ran through it a word didn’t fit and needed changing, or a phrase seemed out of place and needed moving. It was as if I was a sculptor. All of the clay was there and now I needed to shape the thing.
I kept going. All day. Even when I wasn’t with my guitar and pencil, the song was bee bopping along inside. The floor got mopped. Towels folded. Dinner made. Every now and then I’d stop and run the song again, making a new recording with each pass, and I couldn’t tell if I was working the song or if it was the other way around.
When my husband came in from work I sang it for him and, here is the really crazy part- no sooner did I sing the last note than Nasty Girl reared her head and out of my mouth came “Oh, it’s probably a chick song, huh? You probably don’t like it.”
Then, just as quickly, another thought came out of my mouth “Well I’m a chick! And I like it.”
Is that patchouli I smell?
He grinned and said he really liked it a lot, and, maybe it was girly - it was really good.
“Well this line is terrible” said Nasty Girl. “A river of tears! Too much drama. I hate it. That’s what’s wrong with this song.”
My confidence withered just that fast. I put down my guitar and walked away from the whole thing, but Patchouli Babe followed and I’m pretty sure she was whispering in my ear saying things like “Honey, what are you doing? Don’t you read your own lyrics?” and “That song is about honoring your spark! It's about Wildfire! Why are you going to listen to Nasty Girl?”
She had a point, but I still hated it. That line. River of tears. No one will like that line … too melodramatic I thought.
Patchouli Babe gave me the look and I couldn’t argue with her anymore.
“What the Hell?” I thought. “This is my song and it was a river of tears and the wildfire can't be put out now. I won’t let that happen. Not after all this!”
Patchouli Babe smiled. She was having a very good day.
Next thing I knew I was seated in my makeshift studio, painting. With fire. Not painting fire- paiting with fire, burning ink on ceramic tile. It seemed the perfect medium for this whole day. First the embers formed, then the wildfire, strand by strand like a flaming head of hair, all the while holding one piece of the song in my head: Wear that wildfire like a crown!
This one is going on the wall to remind me: This is my fire and it wants to burn. Nasty Girl? She’s just a ripple in the wind left over from a long ago storm. I’m so done with her.
The lyrics are on my poetry blog. The title: Wildfire!
Or, you can hear it on Soundcloud.