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Month: October 2018

Thirteen Chord Songs

by Rob Wynne
TTTO: “Secondhand Songs” by Jonathan Turner

Sharing songs in the filkcircle
I hear a tune that’s quite new
And I know at first listen
It’s one that I’d like to do
But I cannot decipher
Just the way it should go
So I ask for the chords
And he looks at me bored
As he says “Well, you know

I write thirteen chord songs
Songs in tunings bizarre
I don’t expect you to play them
You won’t know what they are
The patterns aren’t simple
It’s 7/4 time, it’s long
Oh your fingers will burn
If you sit down and learn
one of my thirteen chord songs.”

I’m not much with an instrument
I guess I play well enough
All my strumming is simple
Sometimes my changes are rough
And this song that he’s playing
Remains just out of my reach
But if i’m put to the test
I will still do my best
As I battle with each

Of these thirteen chord songs
Songs with rhythms complex
I don’t know why I try them
They always leave me quite vexed
My fingers are cramping
But still I soldier along
As I struggle to wrest
Some kind of tune from this mess
Of a thirteen chord song

So I went to my best friend
He plays much better than me
He said “This song’s not as tricky
As he’d like you to believe
Half these chords are for colour
And these two just for show
Put a capo on three
Now the whole things in G
And you’re ready to go

With this now four chord song”
The arrangement is spare
It is slightly less nuanced
But I don’t really care
Because now I can play it
And it doesn’t sound wrong
You can keep all your tricks
and your riffs and your licks
In your thirteen chord song

You can keep all your tricks
and your riffs and your licks
In your thirteen chord song

Although it’s down to four
I still need stamina more
’cause it’s an eight minute song

I wrote this song years ago, but somehow never got around to posting it, and then came across it again while putting together my OVFF 2018 Toastmaster concert setlist, so I saved it to include there before putting it out into the world.

I should note that while the original idea for this was based on a true story, no one was has ever dismissive and rude to me when I’ve asked for chords. I just thought it was funnier to imagine someone who was. ūüôā

The original song, by New England area filker Jonathan Turner, is terrific, and I recommend seeking it out if you can.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

by Rob Wynne and Jeffrey Williams
TTTO: “First, We Take Manhattan” by Leonard Cohen

They sentenced me to twenty years of vaudeville
I am a world-renowned amphibian
Well, now I want my picture on a playbill
The Muppets take Manhattan…Kermit rides a Schwinn

I’m guided by a voice beyond the rainbow
That lovers, dreamers, and I all attend
I’m guided by the search for the connection
The Muppets take Manhattan…Kermit rides a Schwinn

I’d really like to sing beside you, Kermie
I love your humour and your deadpan and your care
But you see that name in lights up on the marquee?
I told you, I told you, Moi told you: Moi should be up there!

Ah, we’re moving right along, and now we’re ready for the Great White Way
We’ll make a show with our friends, just like we did in our heyday
How many nights we’ve played for this, to let the show begin
The Muppets take Manhattan…Kermit rides a Schwinn

We’re going to get the whole band back together
Doctor Teeth, the Electric Mayhem
The Animal unto the drum is tethered
The Muppets Take Manhattan…Kermit rides a Schwinn

I’d really like to sing beside you, Kermie
I love your humour and your deadpan and your care
But you see that name in lights up on the marquee?
I told you, I told you, Moi told you: Moi should be up there!

And I thank you for the varied friends you sent me
The dog, the bear, whatever Gonzo is
We rehearsed every night, and now we’re ready
The Muppets take Manhattan, Kermit rides a Schwinn

Ah, hear me now, it’s time to play the music
To light the lights, and let the creatures in
And the two old men who make sure we are heckled
The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit rides a Schwinn

This song had a very long gestation period.  Many years ago, we had that refrain line, but couldn’t quite figuring out what to build around it.  And one day, it wandered through my head again, and suddenly I knew, and between us we knocked it out in quick fashion.  So it took either two days or two decades to write, depending on how you look at it. ūüôā

I performed this song for the first time at OVFF 2018, where I was the toastmaster.  Special thanks to Merav Hoffman for playing Piggy to my Kermit.

This song appeared in the Gafilk 2019 songbook.

OVFF 2018

Seventeen years ago, I went to my first OVFF. It was a magical experience, and I met many of my dearest friends that weekend, and started a relationship which has become the foundation of my world, so I have a lot of strong feelings about it. I haven’t missed one since, and I was thrilled last year to be asked to serve as Toastmaster for this year’s convention.

I kept trying to figure out a way to write a more comprehensive con-report, but there was so much going on and so many people to see and spend time with (and never enough time with any of you) that I fear leaving something or someone out. But in true awards show fashion, I’m going to try until the orchestra plays me off.

Much thanks to the entire concom for the invitation, to Eric and Lizzie, Julia and Lady J, Cam3, Twill and Osiris of Wreck The System for being an awesome group of folks to share a bill with, and with whom to judge songwriting contests. Thanks to Steve, Erica, Trace, and Kathryn for late night Pegasus shenanigans. Thank you very much to Bill for the wonderful and humbling words in my program book bio, and for the years of friendship that made it possible.

Special thanks to Steve Macdonald and¬†Merav Hoffman¬†for implausibly last-minute assistance with my concert set. Those last two numbers couldn’t have happened with your help, and they’re both songs I’ve been wanting to do on stage for a long, long time.

My concert set was as follows.

0. The Folsom Connection
1. Anthem (cover)
2. The Madonna of the Midway (cover)
3. A Con Spent In A Circle
4. Thirteen Chord Songs
5. Son of a Son of a Vor Lord
6. Pass the Sage
7. The Ironforge Song
8. Party Of Four
9. Lawyers Guns and Honey
10. The Muppets Take Manhattan

(Lyrics for all songs by me except as noted: “Party of Four”, “Lawyers, Guns, and Honey”, and “The Muppets Take Manhattan” lyrics by myself and¬†Jeff Williams. “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. “The Madonna Of The Midway” lyrics by John M. Ford, music by Emma Bull. Tunes to all the parodies by their respective original composers; see my website for credits to specific songs. As always, these songs and others I’ve written can be found at¬†

Thank you to everyone who attended my concert and who told me afterwards they enjoyed it. It was an honour to sing for you.

Thanks to Andrea and Lauren for the late night ice cream run, to Eric Distadand Jen for many long conversations, and to Elise for endless kindness.

Thanks to Kat for unexpected magic.

And finally, always, thanks to Larissa, who is my rock, my foundation, and my partner. You make everything possible.

OVFF 2018 was a blast, and I’m already looking forward to seeing everyone next year.

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