The Song

   I had just finished watching the 2007 Irish film, “Once,” and I felt inspired. I really liked the directness
and simplicity of its tunes. I wandered down to the living room and started tinkering around on the piano,
seeing if I could come up with something in the same vein. (I didn’t see the film when it first came out, so
it was probably the end of 2009 or early 2010 when I picked up the video in the half-priced bin). Sitting at
the piano, I tried to stay with singable, simple phrases of five or six notes—going for a hypnotic feel I tried
to see how much coloration I could get by altering just one of the notes in the “answering” pattern. I
really thought that a lot of the tunes in “Once” were structured that way, and I wanted to see what might
come to me. The opening four bars of “Waiting for the Day” were the result. That’s all I had for a long
time.  The song wasn’t ready to be finished so I just put it away for a year or so—sometimes thinking
about the lyrics, jotting things down.

   When I decided it was time to take another crack at it, I wasn’t sure if I should switch to guitar or not—
it seemed that’s what I needed to finish my assigned task since I was still captivated by “Once.” I tried
that, but wasn’t satisfied. I started thinking about how I had actually started writing songs as a kid, by
writing folk tunes on the guitar and I wondered if I could do the same thing—but on the piano.  I didn’t
get too far with that idea either, but soon I started adding a moving left hand—classical, broken arpeggios
and that got me in a slightly different mood—still hypnotic though –and I found myself mouthing the “half
asleep and half awake, waiting for the day refrain”. I liked the words and the feel. I was sure that was the
hook—maybe not the “hook”, but the theme of whatever was inside and wanted to come out.  I had a hard
time with the first verse but soon a structure emerged. But was it “waiting for endless nights” or “waiting
for endless days . .  .” I couldn’t decide, and then I clearly saw the form:  Waiting for a day—waiting for
the day—then waiting for a dream – and finally waiting for a world—all of which might not ever come. The
view was bitter-sweet – my, by now, accepted Weltanschaung.

   Over the next few months I was pretty locked into the second verse and the third verse, but I couldn’t
decide how to deal with the final tag  . . . “like a soldier on his watch, waiting for the day . . . half asleep
and half awake waiting for the day.” The day when there might be no more use for him to be on a “war
watch.” I decided that that was the key theme—waiting for a world that might not ever come—a world
that now turns its back on peace – yet somehow we still hold on to hope: that a world in peace might
come.  (Later when I decided against having a traditional form it struck me that Lennon’s “Imagine” used
a similar, non-traditional form . . . (not that I’m comparing WFTD to “Imagine”) but it did occur to me that
the full-blown idealistic “Imagine all the people living for today” theme would be impossible to write and
would be seen as too naïve in today’s climate of opinion.  So I thought the feel of the repetitive refrain
was right—half-asleep, half-awake—hope but not naïve hope.  A world aligned in peace is unlikely, it might
not ever come, but we can wait . . . and dream. And hope. It might still come.

   I eventually migrated upstairs to the Nord synthesizer.  Using a “split” keyboard I played around until I
got a nice bass sound in the left hand and an altered Fender Rhodes sound in the right hand. The perfect
mood—an ethereal jazz/pop feel.  Then  I had my old Mystic Merlin buddy, the incredibly creative bassist
Clyde Bullard, come over to see what he thought. I was thinking: this might be a great tune for Clyde to
play stand-up bass on. (I’d heard him play recently and he was sounding nice).  I had this kind of Jimmy
Garrison line (using fourths) – something almost out of John Coltrane’s “A love Supreme”.  I played it a
few times and Clyde picked it up and played it on the Electric Bass – but we both knew the “fourths thing”
wasn’t happening on the electric played through his little pig-nose amp. Then Clyde turned the bass
phrases I had laid out completely around—playing the last part of the phrase first – and then he altered a
few more things and we both knew we had something. It felt so good we just started jamming (we played
right through the structure with different lines—then the same line). We liked the groove-feel, the vamp
we had going at the very end of the song so much that we thought of making it a separate tune.  But
again, we just played with it and figured out a way to alter the patterns to fit the “B” section—which we
both really dug. From time to time we thought about adding a bridge and tried different things but it
seemed to break the hypnotic feel that was working so well with the lyrics.

   When we had the form down, we went to Ray Naccari’s wonderful home studio in Brooklyn. I played the
tune for Ray a few times – he scribbled down some quick charts and added his own unique feel and we
were off—ready for his wife Dakota MaCleod to sing the lead. Wow. She killed it.  On the playbacks we
stumbled onto the background parts by my singing riffs off of Clyde’s classic bass line. Then Clyde started
goofing (we thought) like he often does during playbacks. The “day-ay-ay –ay” stuff that sounded a little
like Harry Belafonte –I didn’t like at all at first. It was just something we inserted in the vamp out.  Later,
we later moved up front as part of a false “hook” as well as Clyde’s whispering “I’m Waiting.” Ray’s ears
and suggestions we also key to a tight arrangement. A lot of this was pure “Mystic Merlin” – collective,
collaborative song writing. And I have to say it was fun.  

   When it was time to shoot the video and add a featured vocalist, I thought of Carolyn Leonhart who had
demoed a tune for me a number of years back.  I knew she had a great voice and studied lyrics and was so
flexible that she could project the vulnerable, fragile, yet soulful quality I thought the song was aching
for.  I sent her the demo we had made, and she said she REALLY dug it! I explained that I planned to
shoot a video too – and once I explained the concept, she was on board with that too. Carolyn suggested
that her brother knew how to record her voice better than anyone—so we went to Michael’s home studio –
and she wasn’t wrong. Once we had a take we liked, Carolyn added those wonderful riffs that complement
and lift the song’s hypnotic atmosphere to a place it wanted to go.  And soon that’s where we all were--
listening to a final playback: “Waiting for the Day.”

The Video

   I went through a couple of different “video” persons—it just wasn’t working out-- for one reason or
another-- until I met Helen Lalousis, who was suggested to me by Clyde. We met several times, and had
an extensive exchange of ideas I had for the song. Helen too had studied the lyrics and the tune. She had
strong ideas but is a collaborator too. I had written out the idea for the first verse at her insistence and
brought it with me along with a broad outline of the arc of the story. Father – probably a retired 60s guy,
professor-type—who has a hobby of stargazing—waiting for the day when the stars align—and his
“discovery” is complete.  But he is also waiting for the day when his little girl grows up and establishes
her life. (It was great fun working with Steve Rowe, a wonderful and accomplished actor, because Steve
and I had been in bands together, and I had even acted in a high school play with Steve in Pennsylvania.)

   In the first scene, his young daughter mimics him looking through her kaleidoscope as he stargazes.  (I
had hoped to include in the film a kaleidoscopic/mosaic image of “Imagine” that exists in Central Park in
Strawberry Fields. We actually shot the mosaic down there—I had dreamed of having the father/little girl
then “grown up girl” appear in her kaleidoscope in mosaic form:  perhaps pieces of her life--difficult,
expensive and time consuming. But we did salvage some of that film that shows where we were going
with that idea.

   When we were ready to shoot “Carolyn” as a little girl playing with her next door neighbor whom she
has a crush on (and would eventually marry), the young girl who was to play the role—decided she didn’t
want to do it after all. The day would have been killed had Helen not scrambled to get a suitable
replacement who turned out to be a perfect ”Carolyn” as a young girl.

   At this point we had a detailed storyboard and Helen guided us through the dreamscape of the little girl
capturing her past, waiting for her childhood crush to comeback from the war, the scenes on the beach
and so forth. Sometimes keeping things simple works the best. Using different hues and different effects
we kept close to the lyrics—yet the final storyline in the video is but one possible reading of those
somewhat elliptical, haunting lyrics.

The Evolution of a Song and Music Video