So right after writing "Le Macrabre Cafe" during my two week quarantine it was time to write the last song for our record, which was no doubt, our biggest challenge. The album "Merseyside" is in the style of the albums Rubber Soul, Revolver and Abbey Road so we needed an "Elenor Rigby" of course! Yeah, right! Wow, not an easy task. You have to have the lonely woman aspects, the tuneful melody and an a double quartet sting accompaniment. Totally insane but hey, Rhesa and I were determined to fit the last piece of the puzzle into the record.
When we write together, which in its self is a miracle as he lives in Indonesia and I live in the USA, we network. We've yet to meet face to face, but will one day. We have written together going on 20 years now and we fit our separate strengths well together. Songs are started with either me hearing the melody in my head with word themes and singing them to Rhesa with musical arrangement ideas like guitar counter melodies etc. while Rhesa...he will take a style and wait for inspiration and then write music and send it to me. Then I listen and sing a melody to it with words and we work back and forth fixing it up until we are happy with the arrangement. Anyway...
I asked him to start "Emily" as I had once sang cello, violin etc. before in my head for Alabaster and it was really hard! haha! I knew Rhesa could play the instruments on his keyboard with midi and boy did he give me something to work with, wow! He had it mapped out with piano and we worked on it in simple form as we could not develop past strings. I took what he gave me and tried to create the melody, but it was not easy as the opening chords were the same progression, so I had to change melody with my voice and not rely on different chords. We had to have the striking mood of violins and viola so I was limited melodically but pulled it off finally. Then the second part of the opening of the song was far from easy to get a good melody. I finally did by singing in my iPhone and working it for hours it seemed, and also knew the song would be a challenge to sing later.
But this song could not just be a verse/chorus than repeat kind of song, so I asked Rhesa "hey dude, can you totally change music right after the second verse? We can't have the same thing!" Well he asked a lot of me on Macabre, so it was my turn to say, "hey, here is a next to impossible task of making a moodful new musical score to end this song". Good luck with that! :-) But he did it, and quickly, and when I heard it I was amazed. The difficulty of continuing a haunting melody was ridiculously hard as I had to make it beautiful with hope and longing and the songs vocal went way up in melody where I would need to stretch my range.
In the end we did it, so I shipped it off to Andrew Joselyn, the brilliant arranger, who has also worked with Nancy Wilson recently and countless others. So blessed to have him involved in this record. Anyway, it's not an easy thing to achieve a double quartet like Rigby from what we gave him, which was our skeleton arrangement but he so nailed it. My gosh, such beautiful strings. But I did not like the ending of the song as it didn't have punch like "Rigby"had as it ended (our fault as he used what we gave him), so I called him from half way across the world and said, "hey Andrew, can you make the ending, da da da da da" which I sang to him, and he did! haha! He is so great and it's the only place on the record he played much of that I had him change. Job well done, we have us a musical masterpiece, but oh yeah, great lyrics are now critical...
I thought, ok, Elenor Rigby perhaps was inspired by the grave at Saint Peters Church cemetery where Elenor rests. So let's start there. I went through pictures and listings of those buried there and looking for someone who passed on during the Beatles early days with the same initials as Rigby of E and R. I found Emily Riding, so yay, I had a title which I changed later as it didn't fit the song. But I wanted a song that really was like Elenor Rigby, so going to Saint Peters for inspiration might have seemed a bit insane, but it worked! :-)
Well a title is a good start but Emily had to be introverted and sheltered from the world and full of hope and joy of one day finding her soul mate. How do I write that? The album is called Merseyside and I wanted Emily to live in Liverpool in the 1960s, so I found a chat from a couple of decades back from those who lived on Harrowby Street back then and spoke of the Princess theater on Granby Street. Perfect. But Emily is a introvert who does not want to leave her home, I can't have her leave...or can I? I learned that the theater was a very short walk from Harrowby where I envisioned Emily living. If she went when she was younger and not as afraid of the world that would work. haha By the way, that street now no longer exists where it was in the 1960s and is now a much smaller street close by.
Emily was afraid of the world like many of us, so I envisioned her finding joy in her garden and used the marigold and rose flowers as the symbols of her life and hopeful love. Did she find love? I ended the song in question, that is up to the listener, the tone implies no, but lost love can be found in the end if someone has faith and hope. Wow, did we really write this song? Rhesa and I have asked each other that many times since September of 2021. I get shivers just telling you the story behind writing this.
But this story if far from over... Before I left for Asia I told everyone I will write these two great songs even if it kills me. I probably should have reworded that sentence. After writing the two songs I was noticing I was coughing quite a bit, I have allergies to dry climate so I hadn't thought much about it. I was in a closed environment that was very hot and humid so needed air conditioning. BUT, the air conditioning had bacteria and not recently given a good filter cleaning. So for two weeks I slowly developed a Legionnaires Disease type illness which is basically very bad pneumonia with a couple dozen abscesses that surrounded my lungs and heart. I work out daily so have a very strong immune system, but hey bacteria killed the aliens on War of the Worlds, so, it was not a good situation.
After the two weeks I got out and went out to eat and came back and lay down on the bed as I was feeling weak, then all of a sudden I could not catch my breath and it was nighttime. I knew I could not get to the elevator as I had to control my breathing, I was alone. The only way I could keep my composure was to stand with my head in the sink and turning on the cold water occasionally so I would not pass out. I thought, if I get out to the hall they are monitored with cameras and if I lay in the hall perhaps someone could get me to the hospital.
It did not come to that as I very slowly took back control of my breathing, but during the frightening time I did what maybe most do, I thought of my wife and children and thought of happy memories they'd want me to think of in my perhaps last minutes of life. But also one other thought hit me, "you have two songs that are incredible what will never see the light of day!" I prayed God, please let me live to get these songs out to the world. He did his part and I in turn did mine, but yes, there is more...
I spent two weeks in the hospital where my wife and family could not come see me as they'd have had to have come and spend two weeks in quarantine. Serious bummer, but after clearing my pneumonia from my left lung, I talked the doctor into letting me fly home to get the right lung cleared in the USA, I had antibiotics with me, and used up all my strength and was so weak at the airport I fell down while in line to board the plane from Japan. They immediately rushed over to me and I thought, "oh no, if I don't get on that plane I am going to die alone away from my family." I did not want pulled from the manifest, so thought quickly and said "stupid clumsy American!" haha. Everyone laughed thinking I tripped and I staggered up on the plane and flew home!
When I landed in Seattle I went home and soon after checked back into the hospital for a few more days to finish clearing me up. All good, but was still very weak. So when I got home, what did I do? Rest like you should, right? Nope, I with my medically trained daughter drove three hours to the recording studio in Portland to record the lead vocal for Emily. Not good head work, and I did a good, but not great vocal because you need good breath control. Dummy, I still did not have full lung capacity. But I honestly thought I might not live much longer and wanted the song out even if was after I left this world.
Some of that vocal still exists in the song on this page, but I went back again and fortunately had my upper register falsetto voice in a range that may be hard for me to ever reach again as I get older. Just a very lucky day where it worked and Jeff was very pleased with my performance. We did it! So I guess the moral to this story is, "do not go half way across the world to write a Beatle like song that already exists!" :-). Looking back I am glad I did and the song will live on past my lifetime, so thank you God for letting me finish it!
Flashes in the dark
Teapot screaming out
You hide behind your door
Bracing for the storm on Harrowby
It seems you can't escape
Your time is running late
There's so much left to do sweet Emily
You need to go outside and tend to your English garden
You better hurry now
You watch the evening rain through the window pane
You try to reach out, yet all you do is hide
One day you'll find love among the marigold
You'll find a single rose and hold it to your heart
Watching in the dark
Memories of a child
Just sitting all alone
Sunday movies on Granby Street
Is nothing ever real
Oh can you trust this world
Tell us what you've learned Sweet Emily
You want to stay inside so safe behind your curtain
Do you see anything, anything at all
We hear your voice love, but there's nothing in the dark
But empty shadows that turn away
They turn away and in your heart there's nothing left to say
Sweet Emily, you need to go outside and tend to your English garden
from Merseyside (2023),
released February 14, 2023
Words and Music: Paul Gentry & Rhesa Siregar
Producers: Paul Gentry & Jeff Stuart Saltzman
Engineer: Jeff Stuart Saltzman
Mixing engineer: Jeff Stuart Saltzman
Mastering engineer: Adam Gonsalves
Arrangers: Paul Gentry & Rhesa Siregar
Strings Arranger: Andrew Joselyn
Lead Vocal: Paul Gentry
Background vocals: Ellen Osborn
Violin & Viola: Andrew Joselyn
Cello Eli Weinberger
Azimuth A.D. has enjoyed airplay in all fifty states and one hundred forty different countries on close to a thousand
different radio stations before todays radio of Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music etc where we can be listened to currently.
Additionally, if you enjoy piano music,Whisperings solo piano is rotating 11 of our songs. They have one million listener hours a month!...more