Songs from "Unreleased 1990-2005"
On My Head
lyrics written by Peto Gerth (except where noted)
A friend called this song a "celebration of failure" which made me laugh. It's kind of true... more accurately put though, when I wrote this I was thinking about how in life we continually fall down (or make mistakes) and are forced to try to get back up (recover) from each situation in order to move on. And from my somewhat jaded thirtysomething's perspective, at this point in the game of life it becomes too easy not to even want to get back up if I'm just going to "fall on my head" again a few steps later. The song was fun and let me create my own 4-padded-walls refuge in which to laugh.
down is what I'm so good at
I swear, I wrote this 5 years before I even heard Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone"! Truth is, I love her song (guilty pleasure) but the original version of my song appeared on my 2000 debut CD "In My Place". After I heard Kelly belt her song backed by some awesome production that was similar to how I wanted my original version to sound, I went back this year and added in some extra guitars, vocals and production to try to up the ante a bit.
lyrics available at the IMP lyrics page
It's well documented that the Go-Go's changed my life and made me want to be a pop musician at age 11. This live track, a cover of one of my favorite songs from their "Talk Show" album, was recorded in our demo sessions before we recorded the "Sugarcoated" CD in 2001, and a song that we played at our live shows regularly.
written by Valentine/Harvey/Carter ©1984
This song was an interesting experience. First off, it was my first song of 2005 and my first in almost a year's time so I was happy to be writing anything at that point. But when I went to write the music, suddenly I felt like I had given birth to a country song. Me? A country music writer? What the hell?!! But there posed the challenge... mold, create, make it NOT country! I was happy with the lyrics because I really felt like I had been "haunted" by a past relationship that never felt like it had closure so it seemed worth working harder on the song to make it more of a pop song, since I wasn't looking to cross over into the country genre. And it really is interesting how important an arrangement and delivery changes the entire feel of a song.
was another place and time
When we recorded this for the "Sugarcoated" CD, I was all headstrong for keeping it sounding like a pop-rocker of a song so that it stood up well to the other upbeat numbers on the CD. But really, behind the crunchy guitars and pounding drums, is an emotional song that I knew would work well stripped down to the just the basic essentials as well. Daryl's piano and Sean's background vocals were part of what really made the song arrangement stronger to me and I wanted to let them be heard in this acoustic version.
lyrics available at the Sugarcoated lyrics page
A 2004 collaboration with Dustin Hunter. When we were looking for songs to build up the Dusty & Peto repertoire, we remembered this song and saw it as a fun way to do a cover of the Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield duet, but also represent the coming together of Dusty's and my different approaches to music making. Dusty is really great at layering sounds and creating counterpoint arrangements (plus he can do that talk-rap vocal thing and sound good where as I never could) and I really like to create a good guitar basis and belt out a good vocal.
written by Lowe/Tennant/Willis ©1987
Another from Dusty & Peto in 2004... this was my favorite song of Dusty's and though he had already done a couple of versions of it on his own, I really wanted to sing and play on it and he always wanted to have real guitars in the song (whereas before he was crafty with a stream of sampled loops). It was a whole heap of fun doing this because we just kept layering in guitars and vocals and more vocals and laughter and he even got to throw in an obscure reference to 80's teen princess Molly Ringwald and what someone called "those George of the Jungle drums". What more could we ask for in a pop song?
written by Dustin Hunter ©2003
This was the first song I had written solo in two years. The only other song I had worked on that broke this very long "dry spell" in my writing was a song originally by Dustin Hunter in which I helped him re-write for us to record this Spring. So this was a long time coming, and it felt good to revisit a more emotionally-toned genre (dare I say "Emo"?!! haha), like back in my earlier days of solo acoustic performing...
can I say when I think of you this way
It's all too much, it's all too lame, what's gone down, what's stayed
And now I'm confused, feeling used up and quite bruised
I'll be strong for just as long as I can bear to write this song
You say, no way and I let myself fall anyway
Getting older and still confused about that ever looming meaning of life...while still trying to hold on to any scrap of optimism left in my newly realist world...
do I go from here
Too many places
How do I know what’s coming
3-3 and counting
I’ll show you something to see
This was one of the hardest songs I've ever had to write. Not necessarily musically, but lyrically. It was an emotionally dark and very stressful time in my life and the lyrical content was very real and very sad for me. Now before you think I'm riding in the pity parade, let me just say that it was very theraputic in the writing and it was a long time since I had written a song like this -- given that the just-released Sugarcoated CD it followed was all pure powerpop.
my fourth story window that sits above the city view
From this fourth story window where I was thinking it through
What you need is apparently unknown
Now from this fourth story window not so far away from you
This song had a few incarnations in it's lifetime but this was my favorite, sung at one of my live acoustic shows in 1995 as a duet with my friend Patty Holley. She and I always had fun singing together and she was so great at harmonizing and being right in line with my vocal that we were able to just have fun and sing this in a really cool bluesy way. This version juxtaposed the more serious-sounding original version I did on a cassette demo a few years before that which was much slower in tempo with a somewhat gospel-like music and vocal backing.
I looked up at the moon tonight
The "B-side" to my first studio demo "Deep, Deep Water". It was the first time I got to really delve into the sexuality of a song. In the years following the recording of this, as I got more and more fluent and in touch with the soulful emoting of the song at live shows, it always got really great reactions from crowds. I mean, I'm just an all-around dork – I never thought of myself as sexy in that rockstar kind of way... but with this song I could surely pretend to be! HaHa! Oh, and yes, this really was inspired by a soft scent left behind on a pillow... ahem, good times.
on my pillow is a soft scent of you
me – lead me to your world
can't explain what I'm feeling, though I've felt it before
me – lead me to your world
are there on my pillow – there's that soft scent of you
me – lead me to your world
What a great experience I had with the "Deep, Deep Water" studio demo. It was my first time in a real recording studio setting tackling two songs of mine that I wanted to present to the world – remember this was before the digital recording age was available to the masses so it was a really big deal. Veteran musician/producer Chuck Wild (Missing Persons, Liquid Mind) was at the helm and helped make my songs sound great by adding in keyboards and drum tracks that I couldn't play but heard in my head. And because they had worked together in the past, Chuck became a second reason to convince vocalist Jean McClain (aka Pepper Mashay) to join in for some really fun soul-singin' background vocals! I learned so much from these two pros and had a blast doing it.
The song was definitely written by a much younger, naive me... tongue-tied on how to tell that certain someone that I was into him and afraid of the outcome if I did, but at the same time being all weak in the knees just at the sight of him and his big ol' deep blue eyes. Sounds VERY "high school" to me now... The funniest part of it all was that the guy was completely and utterly straight, so I never had a chance anyway. Hmmm... all these years later, and I don't think I ever told him that the song was about him...
I look in your eyes I see deep, deep water
you tell that you level my world?
I look in your eyes I see deep, deep water
so unsure how to open up to you
only you know but then I could be shattered
This was like the lost and forgotten song on the collection. I didn't even know I had a recorded version of the song until stumbling upon it while searching through a badly labeled cassette tape for something else. I only performed it once or twice back in the days when I was carting my little Mac onstage to play sequenced keyboard and drum machine tracks so that I could sing and play guitar with no band behind me. That was at the tail end of my Erasure-esque days in the early '90's, shortly before I abandoned the confinements of performing live to computer and became an acoustic guitar-playing solo guy for awhile. Though the original version was a simple 4-track recording with mostly just the funny keyboard horns and slappy drum track, I added in some extra guitar for the sake of hearing it on the "Unreleased" collection.
words in every flavor
questions come when you think of me
will be to you what you are to me
distance is a major fear
if questions come when you think of me
can we think that we want it all
When it came to picking what early stuff to have represented on the collection, it was hard to find stuff that didn't make me cringe or laugh my ass off. This tune was written in my early days in Los Angeles – I think I was 19 or maybe 20 years old and I had just gotten out of my first two scummy, dirt-cheap apartments and was renting a tiny little guest house in Silverlake that was so small I could almost do dishes in the "kitchen" sink while I was sitting on the toilet – that's how small it was. But regardless of size, I was renting from this really friendly Korean family that lived in the main house and I had a surrounding neighborhood that actually had trees and curvy hillside streets that I could walk through and not feel like I lived in rundown seedyville Hollywood. Somehow it gave me a new lease on my LA life and from that I wrote this song. Again, the naivete shows in the lyrics, but it's a good representation of the dork I was then compared to the dork I am now in "Fall On My Head", the newest song on the "Unreleased" collection. Plus this is the only song I'm including that was recorded as a duo with my sister's keyboardist/songwriter boyfriend at the time. We actually called ourselves Colors Dancing! (Like the post-80's band name wasn't bad enough, we just HAD to include the stupid exclamation mark – I kid you not. Scary!)
been so long
this is the way that life should be
been so long
yet there is anger here still