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Empty Pages and Lost Songs

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Mike B

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Empty Pages and Lost Songs

Released November 2015

 

1  HUMANITY ZOO 4:33
2  EMPTY PAGES 4:38
3  BOSTON BECKONING 3;43
4  THE UNRUNG BELL 3:41
5  THUNDER MOON 4:27
6  LIFE WAS FINE 2:56
7  THANK YOU 3:36
8  50 YEARS AGO 5:05
9  THE CHAINS 3:29
10 A BETTER DAY 3:50
11 DREAM 3:34
12 HOUSE OF STONE 4:25
13 ONCE IN A WHILE 4:38
14 NEVER EVER 4:28
15 YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU 4:52

 

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All instruments and vocals:  Mike Birch except drums on Humanity Zoo, Boston Beckoning and A Better Day by John Bilancieri.

All songs written by Mike Birch

  

My 3rd album of original songs.  ‘Empty Pages’ refers to the track of the same name (see explanation below).  ‘Lost Songs’ – some of these songs were dropped from the previous two albums for various reasons, or hadn’t got recorded in time for them.  The album title was inspired by Tolkien’s “Lost Tales”.

This was my 2nd album recorded using a computer DAW, and was slowly learning the ‘ins and outs’.  I had done some acoustic treatment in my room (rockwool bass traps – not ‘acoustic foam’) and inexpensive but decent monitor speakers (JBL LSR305s) that at last allowed me to hear the low end of my mixes.

 

Track 1 ‘Humanity Zoo’

 

 

A statement on the current human condition, people locked to their online devices, in cages of their own making.

 

Humanity Zoo

 

Day after day we work and we work

Color dissolves, monochrome lurks

Graffiti and garbage, city of dirt

Strain to see through the grit until eyes hurt

 

Bright colors leech away from the never-ending threat

And we blame ourselves all day, it's so easy to forget

We're human

 

Trudging along like 1984 drones

Heads bent sideways, stuck to iPhones

Don't notice or acknowledge the person next to you

All just exhibits in the humanity zoo

 

Bright colors leech away from the never-ending threat

And we blame ourselves all day, it's so easy to forget

We're human

 

The reflection of our souls can be beautiful

When seen from a stone's throw away

But face to face with the universe's soul

Can make us scared of life's passion play

 

Bright colors leech away from the never-ending threat

And we blame ourselves all day, it's so easy to forget

We're human, we’re human

 

Inside the cage looking out

Outside the cage looking in

We're all human

In this humanity zoo

 

Track 2 ‘Empty Pages’

 

I read a short story where the protagonist describes how people live (and look at) their lives:  one big event after another (births, deaths, marriage, job changes, etc) and tend to forget or ignore the day-to-day living and what is going on all the time.  Similar to a hardcover book, where the chapter always starts on the right hand page, sometimes there are blank pages between the last page of the previous chapter and the first page of the next chapter.  In fact, though, in our lives these aren’t really ‘blank pages’ at all, they are filled with all the things that make our lives what they are besides the big events.

 

Empty Pages

 

Nothing seems to happen

Everything’s bleak and bare

Thoughts and words unspoken

No one seems to care

 

All past times are gone

Written into history

So much going on now

Blinded by what we can't see

 

Seems like life is just a stack of empty pages

Stuck between memorable times

Always trying to fill up space that’s gone on for ages

As if emptiness was some kind of crime

 

The last chapter ended yesterday

All the happiness, sadness and pain

Every day starts a new page

Work, play, sunshine or rain

 

Yesterday's chapter is over

Tomorrow's hasn't begun

Today all we do is hesitate

Thinking of all we have done

 

Seems like life is just a stack of empty pages

Stuck between memorable times

Always trying to fill up space that’s gone on for ages

As if emptiness was some kind of crime

 

Tonight let's do something different

Write our names in the sky

Fill up all the empty pages

With what it is to be alive

 

Seems like life is just a stack of empty pages

Stuck between memorable times

Always trying to fill up space that’s gone on for ages

As if emptiness was some kind of crime

 

 

Track 3 ‘Boston Beckoning’

 

I started writing the original version of this song in the late 80s when a Boston radio station had a contest soliciting a new state anthem.  Unfortunately, they wanted a ‘lead sheet’ submitted along with a recording, so I never completed the song.  Fast forward to the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, as the city and area recovered from this horrible incident, I dug out this old song, and rewrote it. I had already finished the production work for my second album by the time I finished recording this, so could not include it on that album.

 

Boston Beckoning

 

I can see you in my mind's eye

Shining in the morning light

Golden rays of sunrise

Making you look so bright

Watching Bruins and Red Sox games

Dancing to the latest tunes

Partying all night long

Under a New England Moon

 

I can hear Boston beckoning

In my mind, in my heart

I can hear Boston beckoning

All the miles can’t keep us apart

 

I remember your sparkle

Like a night of a thousand suns

I remember all the good times

The excitement, all the fun

When I'm away

All the miles bring me down

When I'm away from you

I just can't wait to get back to Boston town

 

I can hear Boston beckoning

In my mind, in my heart

I can hear Boston beckoning

All the miles can’t keep us apart

 

When things go bad, people are put to the test

Boston's people have proved they're the very best

Always aiming to put things right, no matter what's gone wrong

Boston's proud, Boston's Strong!

 

I can hear Boston beckoning

In my mind, in my heart

I can hear Boston beckoning

All the miles can’t keep us apart

I can hear Boston beckoning

In my soul, in my heart

I can hear Boston beckoning

All the miles can’t keep us apart

 

 

Track 4 ‘The Unrung Bell’

 

The idea for this song came from a guy at a meeting I was attending.  Basically – if you don’t ring that bell, you have wasted the opportunity to do something.  It represents potential.  Of course once you ring the bell, you can’t ‘unring’ it.

 

The Unrung Bell

 

Opportunities go flying by

Chances missed, no logic applied

Worries abound, a mind that’s scared

Retreat to shadows, no one cares

 

Hear the silence

A call for help

Hovering unheard

An unrung bell

 

From the dark a quiet voice

Defining need to make a choice

Concerns still linger – where to begin

Strength will come from deep within

 

Hear the silence

A call for help

Hovering unheard

An unrung bell

 

No pasts return, no regrets

Live for now, never forget

Today is the day, live it well

Listen to the ringing of the bell

 

Must step up, take a stance

Forget doubts, one last chance

Make it right, truth to tell

Raise our hands, ring that bell

An answered call for help

Hands together tell

Of the ringing bell

Hands together tell

Of the ringing bell

Hands together tell

Of the ringing bell

 

 

Track 5 ‘Thunder Moon’

 

One of the Native American names for a seasonal full moon, this song is about the craziness that is happening around the world due to global climate change.

 

Thunder Moon


Remember winter, just a short while ago
Snow Moon glows above ice and snow
Now summer's here, cities aflame
Warnings unheeded,  are we to blame?


Ominous future is hovering near
Panicking people shaking with fear
Times are bad, things are getting worse
Fury unleashed under the full moon’s curse

Hot July night
Under cold stars
Where are we now
Has it gone too far
Will the answers
Come to us soon
Waiting in the light
Of the Thunder Moon

El Nino, polar vortex, what does it mean?
Iron Eyes crying over what might have been
Drought and wildfires, devastating floods
Inhuman violence leads to rivers of blood

Dark clouds tower up far overhead
Lightning strikes down, lives torn to shreds
Monsoons and tornados across the land
How much more can we stand?

Hot July night
Under cold stars
Where are we now
Has it gone too far
Will the answers
Come to us soon
Waiting in the light
Of the Thunder Moon

 

 

Track 6 ‘Life Was Fine’

 

This song started as a nostalgic look to the past, but then it became about a friend who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident on July 4th of the year we graduated high school.  The song was used to memorialize deceased classmates in youtube videos for the Sandwich (Massachusetts) High School Class of 1974 and Class of 1975 for 40 year class reunions.

 

Life Was Fine

 

Something sparks a flood of memories

Those childhood days full of energy

Everyday life hoping for so much more

The whole world waiting just outside the door

 

It's been said that you can never go back

Can't change the past, alter the facts

Forget bad things, learn from the times

When things were so much easier and life was fine

 

Hey old friend it's been a while

So many ups and downs, frowns and smiles

Have to admit I hadn't thought of you

Too much going on, too much I've been through

 

I know it's said that you can never go back

Can't change the past, alter the facts

Forget bad things, learn from the times

When things were so much easier and life was fine

 

Wish we could talk together again

I wish the good times hadn't come to an end

But you were gone in the blink of an eye

I look up to the sky and I wonder why

 

I know it's been said that you can never go back

Can't change the past, alter the facts

Forget bad things, learn from the times

When things were so much easier and life was fine

 

Life was fine ... life was fine

 

 

Track 7 ‘Thank You’

 

A song prompt from the monthly songwriter circle I co-facilitate, suggested as Thanksgiving approached.  Definitely a ‘thank you’ to my wife!

 

Thank You

 

Every day things

Tend to be ignored

Unacknowledged

Never explored

Easy to go through life, eyes half-closed

Just go with the flow, nothing opposed

 

Life’s too busy

Hard to stay focused

Bleary eyes

What matters goes unnoticed

It’s easy to decide just to get by

Better to take the harder road and try

 

Thank you for doing what you do

I just want to say thank you

 

Light the dark

Chase monsters away

Sometimes forget

What’s done every day

It’s not easy to try and remember

All the things that become part of forever

 

Thank you for doing what you do

I just want to say thank you

 

 

Track 8 ’50 Years Ago’

 

I wrote this on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles playing the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, in 1964.  At 7 years old, it had a big influence on my life.  The audience cheers heard in the second and third choruses and outro of the song are actually pulled from the tv show’s soundtrack – all the screaming girls in the audience.

 

50 Years Ago 

 

It was a different time, it was a different place

Men in suit and ties, the first man in space

Women wore pretty dresses, took care of kids and homes

Cleaning up the messes, talking on princess phones

 

50 years ago, shots heard 'round the world

Flags at half mast, all flying unfurled

Wasn't it just yesterday, no it was a long time ago

So much has come and gone, time moves fast and slow

 

It was a different time, it was a different place

Selma to San Francisco, Martin's dream for the human race

Fighting in Asian fields, destroyed so many youths

Students wouldn't yield, trying to expose all the truths

 

50 years ago, music heard 'round the world

Rock and roll, long hair, the screaming of the girls

Wasn't it just yesterday, no it was a long time ago

So much has come and gone, time moves fast and slow

 

Where did the time go

What happened to innocence

Where did our minds go

Nothing makes any sense

 

50 years ago, music heard 'round the world

Rock and roll, long hair, the screaming of the girls

Wasn't it just yesterday, no it was a long time ago

So much has come and gone, time moves fast and slow

 

Where did the time go

50 years ago ...

 

 

Track 9 ‘The Chains’

 

Lyrics were originally penned by another songwriter, who ‘gave’ them to me to use unconditionally.  Incidentally, he’s the limo driver who inspired the song on my 4th album, ‘Mr Limo Driver’.  When he posted these lyrics on a music forum I commented that I’d like to try something with them, and he gave me permission to use them without crediting him.  So, thanks again Mike (14music)!

 

The Chains
 

Tell them old stories
And how it was wrong
Make sure they remember
It’s never been gone

Tell them the mountain
Is so hard to climb
It’s ok to dream, but
It may not be time

Preserve the fears from long ago
It’s not the same, but don’t let them know
You need to justify the blame
Always remind them……of the chains
 

Live in resentment
No reason to try
The past is their anchor
You keep it alive

Preserve the fears from long ago
It’s not the same, but don’t let them know
You need to justify the blame
Always remind them……of the chains

 

They crawl because you tell them they can’t walk
Then you comfort them and say it’s not their fault

Preserve the fears from long ago
It’s not the same, but don’t let them know
You need to justify the blame
Always remind them…..of the chains
Remind them of the chains

Remind them of the chains

 

 

 

Track 10 ‘A Better Day’

 

Trying to be hopeful, after a depressing start.  No idea where the lyrical inspiration came from (except the obvious Monty Python line), but the overall feel and music have some Kinks influence.

 

A Better Day

 

It's always darkest before the dawn

A better day will always come

 

The sun comes up on a brand new day

Last night's darkness is swept away

Can't change the past, don't even try

Keep moving forward, keep your head high

 

Always look on the brighter side of life

Forget what's wrong, do what's right

Looking back won't help anything

Look ahead, smile and sing:

It's a better day, a better day

 

It's too easy to sit and dwell on the past

Regretting every decision you made too fast

Morning gives the chance to start again

Embrace today, yesterday was then

 

Always look on the brighter side of life

Forget what's wrong, do what's right

Looking back won't help anything

Look ahead, smile and sing:

It's a better day, a better day

 

Here's knowing the sun will always shine on you

Here's wishing all your friends will always be true

Here's hoping you will never lose your way

Here's wishing you a better day

 

You never know when your time will come

Better enjoy everything no matter where its from

Don't say 'it's not your style'

Enjoy your life, laugh and smile

 

Always look on the brighter side of life

Forget what's wrong, do what's right

Looking back won't help anything

Look ahead, smile and sing:

It's a better day, a better day

It's a better day, a better day

It's a better day, a better day

It's a better day, a better day

It's a better day, a better day

It's a better day

 

Track 11 ‘Dream’

 

An old song lyric that sat unused for many years, rewritten and recorded for this album – and never played again!

Dream

 

A needing plea, a hopeful tear

Hard to believe it’s another year

Gone by

Wishing away a lonely day

Hoping for a bright sunny ray

From the sky

 

Trying to put all the stupid things from the past behind you

Hoping against hope that someone will try and find you

Thinking you’ll never find someone to remind you

What it’s all about

 

Dream yourself a dream

Of how it all could be

What do past and present mean

When you’re waiting to be free

 

A quiet time, then a hopeful sign

A pair of eyes that sure catch mine

So deep

More than black and white, feels so right

Maybe tonight I’ll see the light

When I sleep

 

Trying to think of everything I can do to find you

Thinking of how I can get some kind of sign to you

Hoping against hope that I can remind you

What it’s all about, what it’s all about

 

Dream yourself a dream

Of how it all could be

What do past and present mean

When you’re waiting to be free

 

Track 12 ‘House of Stone’

 

 

This is one of the ‘lost songs’ from a few years before, originally titled ‘House of Glass, House of Stone’, about people who either put their whole lives out there for all to see, or those who do the opposite and hide their life’s details from others - a comment on the internet and social media.  I completely re-recorded it from the original version.

 

House of Stone

 

Shut off from the world behind walls of cold stone

Never reaching out to others, always so alone

Can't see the people as they walk on by

They can't see you or hear you cry

 

Won't you come out of your house of stone?

Life is too short to be living it all alone

Open up the door, spread your arms, open your eyes

Life can give you such a wonderful surprise

 

Smiling at the world behind a wall of glass so clear

Never hesitating to show the heartache, and the fear

People staring in at everything they can see

Every little detail as open as a book can be

 

Won't you come out of your house of glass?

Life is too short, you got to make each moment last

Stop catering to the world, think what you can do

When you stop living for others and start living for you

 

Won't you come out of your house of stone?

Life is too short to be living it all alone

Open up the door, spread your arms, open your eyes

Life can give you such a wonderful surprise

 

Come out of your house of stone

Come out of your house of glass

Come out of your house of stone

Come out of your house of glass

 

 

Track 13 ‘Once In A While’

 

Another ‘lost song’, this one dates back to my high school years.  I recorded it twice before, including a version for my 1st album, but didn’t like how it came out, so scrapped it and started again.  This is a much simpler version (the first version had 16 guitar tracks alone!)  After playing a solo version of this song at a songwriting seminar I attended, I came to the realization that all songwriters have different ideas on what makes a song ‘good’, and how songs should be crafted – and there is no one ‘right’ way to do it. 

 

Once In A While

 

Once in a while I like to sit by myself

And think of you

It took me a while to realize

You're a part of all I do

 

Then when I see you again

It makes me feel so good

Oh I hope it'll never end

I'd make time stand still if I could

 

You came into my life

When I needed you most

You made my life fresh again

Oh I hope you know

 

 (That) when, when I see you again

It makes me feel so good

Oh I hope it'll never end

I'd make time stand still if I could

 

Once in a while I like to sit by myself and think of you...

Once in a while...

 

 

Track 14 ‘Never Ever’

 

A love song for my wife and life as it was developing at the time.

 

Never Ever

 

Sleepless night ends with a tired dawn

Lonely day the sun just can’t warm

No ambition, nothing to focus on

Head is hurting like a nearing storm

 

At a loss, can‘t figure what to do

Then hope arrives, a bright light that is you

 

Never ever thought of what I missed

Never ever believed that a kiss

            Could lead to such bliss

Never ever thought love could be like this

            Never ever like this

 

Colors return, more than shades of grey

Don‘t have to hide my head inside

No fear of what happened yesterday

Whatever I decide, I’ll know I tried

 

Aim to win, I know what I must do

Find the light, the light that is you

 

Never ever thought of what I missed

Never ever believed that a kiss

            Could lead to such bliss

Never ever thought love could be like this

            Never ever like this

 

Can’t guess about tomorrow

The future I can’t control

The one sure thing I do know:

Today feels good, good right down to my soul

 

Never ever thought of what I missed

Never ever believed that a kiss

            Could lead to such bliss

Never ever thought love could be like this

            Never ever like this

 

 

Track 15 ‘You Can’t Take It With You’

 

The last of the ‘lost songs’ on this album, this one was a fictional ballad I wrote in the mid-80s. the open ‘cowboy’ guitar chords and twangy Telecaster and slide lead guitars give it kind of a ‘country music’ feel, although that was not my original songwriting intention.

 

You Can’t Take It With You

 

We all remember Mary
Back in those days wild and scary
Riots in the street, the Vietnam un-war
Mary kept pushing us for more

She said our band could change the world
Just four guys and one determined girl   
So we worked and tried, sweated it out
We'd listen to Mary as she sang and shout

You can't take it with you
You got to give it what you can, when you can
You can't take it with you
You got to try, try the best you can

When calmer days finally returned
We'd been lucky, no one got burned
Kids doing drugs, we just kept working harder
Doing songs about nukes and Jimmy Carter

Mary pushed us on, hour by hour
She said, 'we've got the power
Can't take the time to sit and rest
Cause you know we can be the very best'

You can't take it with you
You got to give it what you can, when you can
You can't take it with you
You got to try, try the best you can

It was just a few years ago
After a long Saturday show
A car cash - Mary was lying there
Bright white sheets, blood in her hair
She looked at me and said 'give me your hand
And promise me you'll never break up the band'

You can't take it with you
You got to give it what you can, when you can
You can't take it with you
You got to try, try the best you can

 

We keep playing our songs                              
Trying to right all the wrongs                                                     
Like Mary taught us, so long ago                                              
You've got to give all, but go with the flow
You know that we still believe
That Mary's still with us, there’s no need to grieve 
Somewhere out there, amongst the crowd
Head held up, standing proud (she's singing)

 

You can't take it with you
You got to give it what you can, when you can
You can't take it with you
You got to try, try the best you can

 

All of these songs can bought/downloaded at Bandcamp, or iTunes/Apple Music or streamed on Spotify

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