portland

Release Date: 6/02, 9/04, 3/08

Album: 232 DAYS ON THE ROAD

RARITIES VOL. 2

DAYLIGHT KISSING NIGHT

Writer: ADAM MARSLAND

Audio:

Video:

 

Lyrics:

Eleven hours and counting in the blowing snow

Fire and brimstone Christians on the radio

Coffee in styrofoam

Warm in my hand, like a postcard from home

Isolated alone and lost

Turn the ignition and scrape off the frost

 

But when I get to Portland

When I get to Portland

When I get to Portland

It'll be alright

 

I can see the bridges on the Willamette

Misty midnight streetlight on her silhouette

Pressing against the door

The sleeping blankets unrolled on the floor

Crackers and wine and cheese

And the only person who can put me at ease

Adam sez:

Sometimes I just sit there and look at a blank piece of paper and go, "how the hell do I write about this, and what do I write?" It is the easiest thing in the world to write a bad lyric. Most of what's worth writing about has already been written about, and the minute you start saying something the same way someone else has already said it, you've made the listener's eyes glaze over. OTOH, overcompensating can be just as bad, gumming up genuine emotion with a lot of extra verbiage (I've been guilty of that) or worse, poetic pretensions (which is my basic issue with a lot of prog rock). And man, if there's one thing I cannot deal with, it's bad poetry. Not for nothing did Bob Dylan once call Smokey Robinson America's greatest living poet, and not Jon Anderson.

One thing that works for me is to just visualize in my head the physical environment of what I'm writing about, then describe it. It's a good way to make clear what's going on without spelling it out too much for the listener, because then they stand where you stand. I think "Portland" is one of the best examples of this. It's one of my more popular songs, surprisingly since until now there's never been a proper studio recording of it. I took a freeze frame moment of my life -- stopping to fill up for gas in Roseburg, Oregon on a freezing cold and lonely night on the road, on a grueling drive to safe harbor with my Portland-dwelling then-lover Chizuru. I have bittersweet and rosy memories of both her and the time spent in the city (or at least did until my most recent, disappointing visit there after an interval of five years), and those ideas are intertwined in the second verse.

I wrote this during the tail end of the LUDLOW 6:18 sessions (along with "Thanks For Everything" which wound up on YDKM, and which is more or less the companion to this song, looking at the relationship in the past tense), and did a rough demo of it then, but it didn't seem to fit in with that album. I started doing it live, and it would up on 232 DAYS ON THE ROAD, but that version didn't have the cool Beach Boys harmony that the demo had.

For the 2007 version, Teresa, Evie and I enlisted Alan Boyd (and John Perry for a few lines) to help get that vocal right. I wanted it to ring a certain way and I sorted through something like 50 vocal takes to get this one four second phrase but man, I like the way it sounds. Yeah, it's totally a Beach Boys ripoff, something I don't ordinarily do overtly, but if you're gonna do it, do it right, that's what I say. We nailed it, baby! Again, I was really happy with the vocals although the scratch vocal done with the band had a thing too. Unfortunately, the first line was reeaaally flat, and I was reluctant to use the pitch correction, so I redid the sucker. Incidentally, this is the first studio track I've ever done that was 100% digitally recorded.

Oh, one more thing not to do when you write lyrics? Name check a local landmark (in this case the Willamette River) and mispronounce it. I caught all kinds of shit for accenting the wrong syllable on 232 DAYS. I corrected it as best I could (allowing for the cadence of the line) on the new version.

This is song is about as sentimental as I ever get, but memories of the girl and the city both put me in that frame of mind. And as McCartney has pointed out, a love song once in awhile never hurt anybody. I don't do them very often.

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