Friday, April 23, 2010

Speakin' The Queens... Pt. 9

As the release date for my new album, "Queens English", approaches (5/18), I thought it might be a fun idea (if only for me) to try and maybe dissect the record here at the old Blog space. A bit of a behind the scenes look under the hood so to speak. Since I've always dug reading about some of my favorite albums track-by-track, I thought that might be an interesting way to approach. Eleven tracks in eleven installments? Can I pull it off without boring even myself? This week visit Middle Town and find out...

Track 9: "Middle Town" -

Leaving Manhattan and moving back to Queens in the fall of 2001, I
randomly Googled the name of my new hood one evening if for no apparent reason other than late-night boredom; Having grown up within fairly close proximity, I knew a decent amount about the neighborhood but in reading the town's history I came to discover a good deal more. It seems this working-class area situated in central Queens was once considered by it's early English settlers to be the mid-point between the towns of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens on what was then known as the Williamsburg/Jamaica Turnpike (now Metropolitan Ave). Tired farmers often spending the night in this hood during their long, horse-drawn commutes to and from market in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Given the serious middle class makeup of my neighborhood in it's current incarnation, this apropos bit of logistical history kinda stuck with me, hitting home over time, as a pretty cool metaphor.

A few years down the line as the writing of this new album progressed and began revealing it's core theme to me as heavily influenced by my current life in the outer-boroughs, I thought it might be cool to work the idea of my aforementioned 'middle town' into the mix. Springboarding from there, I started to think about a lot of the peeps I grew up with and a lot of the folks I currently live alongside; most of them straight-shooting, hard-working, hard-core locals who have no need for or interest in (beyond maybe their work life) what's going on in "the city" (aka Manhattan) making for one seriously ironic, near-middle American, small-town credo tucked inside one of the largest, most progressive cities on the planet.

As a teen dreaming self-absorbed, bright lights/big city dreams of rock stardom in his Queens bedroom, I judgmentally found this "provincial" mindset to be kind of lame and uninspired - the brightest and most creative minds from all points are gathering 20 minutes across the river and you'd rather hang out on the stoop and listen to the ballgame?!

Life's funny, isn't it? As you make that personal commute, all the square, unimportant stuff your parents filled your head with (if you were lucky) - hard work, family, a sense of place and belonging - it all, somehow, seems a bit less square over time. The act of simply putting food on the table and a roof overhead becoming a more than noble struggle.

Maybe, like every know-it-all teen and twenty-something before me, I needed to teeter on mountain's edge before I could come to value and respect the stability of some solid middle ground.

Middle Town

Hear the bells, hear the sound
Noon is coming ‘round, in this middle town
Took a break from the pace,
Left the rats to race, in that city town

Took the kids to school, I’m still their Dad,
Say hello to Mrs. Leary,
“Sit on the stoop with me lad”

I was born, I was raised
Seven blocks away, in this middle town
I never bothered, never cared,
Never chased the fad, in that city town

Happy just to hang with my boys
Standing around down on the corner
Yeah, you know we made some noise

There’s no shiny towers here
We built them in the city town
Just some kids and they’re running ‘round
Chasing Softee down…

Hear the bells, hear the sound
Evening’s coming down, in this middle town
The working day’s had its say, make your getaway
From that city town

Tired subway rides, half alive
Trying hard just to remember
How noble it is to survive… and hold your ground
In your middle town

In your middle town
In your middle town

Next time on "Speakin' The Queens...", people let me tell ya 'bout my best friend with Track 10, "Ballad of M & LJ".

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