I just conducted a brief survey of the hundred seventeen Backstage Graffiti columns that have been published here in the only true and living LDS magazine offered to the universe by Maurine and Scot Proctor (unless they’re holding out on us) and discovered that, on average, only about every three years have I used this column to promote, in what shamelessly, brazenly judgmental readers of other online magazines might characterize as a shamelessly brazen fashion, projects that are designed to make me rich. (One was about a cruise that I wanted you to go on and take me with you, one was about “Scripture Scouts TV,” in which I would be a writer, actor, musician, executive producer, and all-around media mogul, and in one I just asked everybody to send me a little money ((somebody did!)) ). There was another promoting a book that hasn’t been published yet, so I’m not counting that one. There may be some that I’ve overlooked—remember, I said it was a “brief” survey.)
Wishing to adhere to that modest tri-annual standard, and seeing that I’m not due for one of “those” columns to appear for another year-and-a-half, I’m going to write here about a project that’s designed to make you rich.
Spiritually. (Thought I’d better clarify that quickly—your increased pulse rates were making my monitor jiggle.)
Now, those countless (that’s because they haven’t been counted) columnreaders who subsist on mere scriptures and the classics until the second Wednesday of every month (except when I miss the deadline) will observe with a certain astonishment that this bonus column is appearing days and days and days early. That’s because this is URGENT. Pregnancy is urgent. It happens, and can’t, morally, be stopped (except in certain cases that I’m happy to leave to the courts).
Being pregnant with album (what CDs really are, except it’s an unhip word), used to be even more urgent, because they were bigger. They were large, black, vinyl LPs. [X] (Now, because Meridian Magazine is a digital medium, the majority of you will be young, because digital media attracts young people in a manner not unlike how a dropped and neglected creamsicle attracts ants ((it has been observed elsewhere that a dropped and neglected bowl of Kraft macaroni & cheese or a chocolate shake from Macdonald’s attracts nothing at all—does this tell you something?)). Being young, you will be guessing in vain at the meaning of “LP.” It stands for “long-playing.” You would put one of these disks on a turntable ((you know, what DJs use to make scratching sounds)) and they would play for weeks, if not watched.
AN INSERTED NOTE OF HISTORICAL INTEREST: “Album” is a vestige of an even earlier medium. Before LPs, you bought a dozen songs by a certain artist that were engraved in records that turned at 78 revolutions per minute. One song would fit on one side of a large disk. So six disks would be packaged together in a book that looked for all the world like a photo album. Um, this was when photos were made of paper. And you held them in your hand. Or pasted them, I mean, like, with paste, not with “command V,” into albums. And if you wanted to share one, you bought a stiff envelope and… END OF INSERTED NOTE BEFORE IT GETS OUT OF HAND
My first nine albums were on LP vinyl. You used to be able to find them pretty easily in any local Deseret Industries stores ((I found two cases once)), but not anymore. What happened was that young people who didn’t know what they were bought them all up and made round tables for their wedding receptions. With a tablecloth, you can’t even tell they’re vinyl. They used the covers as murals.
Now ((or, really, just before “now”)) they’re CDs. But you same young people will soon forget what “CD” stands for, or even what they looked like, because anything that doesn’t exist in a “cloud” is probably not real. But listen, I’m pregnant with one, real or unreal, so we’d better get out of these parentheses and back to the subject.)
The preceding parenthetical material started a pretty long time ago, so I’ve gone back and inserted a big “X” where it started, just to help you out. (See? This really is about communication—trouble is, it’s coming from a mind. Minds are parenthetical. That’s why people have a hard time paying attention to things that are orderly. Except people who have overcome their minds, and Hercule Poirot. )
Now I’m pregnant with CD, which is easier, but still requires a nurturing gestation and hard labor. There are no drugs that help. I’ll tell you about the baby.
It will be called throughout its life and on the records of the church “Roses and Hope.” It will be called this because the title song says,
“Roses and hope are milk and honey for the soul.
Love and believing are what makes the broken whole.
You cry for comfort out along the stony slope.
I can give you roses. He can give you hope.”
The “He” is capitalized because it’s at the beginning of a sentence. But those “with eyes to see” will know that there’s a second reason. The He in question is the Savior. (“Ears to hear” could come into play here, but in hearing there is no capitalization—still, even in thought we capitalize Certain Things and Certain People. Except when we’re swearing or irreverent. It’s not a light thing to “lower case” the Lord.)
I have dear friends who’ve felt tremblings of hope when they’ve heard some of my songs. That’s not a light thing, either. They’ve asked me, earnestly, to make and share more songs that engender hope, to make something that would, for forty intimate minutes, water the true seed in the stanza above. So I decided. So I’m committed. There’s no such thing as “a little bit pregnant.”
Every Friday morning for nearly a couple of years, I’ve driven over the ridge and up to Salt Lake City to my son Dave’s house, right downtown. I think I mentioned here once before the conspiracy in which my grown sons combined to form a band and put Dad out in front of it to sing his oldest songs. For many months, I played a Stratocaster with my Fender Blues Junior amp on ten and we had a blast. You can actually see some of the results of that conspiracy (not hear, I’m afraid—I haven’t put up a listening demo for that CD yet) at a live concert at the University of Utah recorded a year ago called “5/10.”
Then my son Joe, who plays bass, got a job teaching theatrical sound design at a university in Illinois. I switched to bass (being not so much a “bass player” as a “bass owner”) and we continued rehearsing as a “power trio.” But then David, who’d been playing drums (he plays everything—he keeps suggesting we add ‘cello to our palette and we keep backing up, smiling), got a new stand-up string bass and so we tried some tunes pure acoustic—me on my Martin, Joshua off the Telecaster and on his sweet archtop guitar, and Dave on bass. Some really nice things began to happen.
Well, like http://www.marvinpayne.com/RandH.mp3 recorded a week ago.
We practice for an hour or so, then just walk across Broadway, with Dave’s four-year-old twin daughters attached to the pinkies of the hands that aren’t filled with guitar or bass, to a little coffee house where the owner likes us and we play until lunchtime, asking the occasional listener what they think about this or that new song. They liked “Roses and Hope.”
I started a blog, to track the creation of this CD. If I quote from my first entry, you’ll get a feel for what I’m struggling to say here. I’ll color the quote.
This morning the three of us got together again at Dave’s and I passed around a rough-hewn lead sheet (with lyrics written yesterday) for “Tender Mercies.
Part of what moved me to write this song was the feeling I always get when I hear somebody’s mom or a kid from across town or the Tabernacle Choir sing “Consider the Lilies,” written so eloquently by my frequent creative partner of many decades, Roger Hoffman. The beauty always gets me, but I’m also touched by the profound usefulness of that piece. “Tender Mercies” is a different flavor than “Lilies,” but it’ll be singable in church. I should get Roger to arrange it for piano—our bluesy guitars would never make it past the chapel doors. Here are the words:
Tender mercies touch my eyes—
warm, like a breath of summer skies.
Tender mercies, like the breeze,
bend with angelsong all the trees.
Tender mercies fall like rain—
showers of grace erase my pain.
Tender mercies heal my day,
steal my troubles and tears away.
Tender mercies cover me,
cloth of covenant over me.
Tender tapestries Jesus wove,
hang like holiness in the grove.
Tender mercies, like a rod,
shepherd me home to my good God.
Tender mercies break my heart,
take my wandering will apart.
Tender mercies cover me,
cloth of covenant over me.
Tender tapestries Jesus wove
hang, like holiness in the grove.
Tender mercies fill His hands—
rich, like a rainbow’s radiant bands.
Tender mercies bathe my feet
when my spirit and Savior meet.
They’ll change some before they’re recorded in a few days. I’ll sing the song at a gig tomorrow, and at another next week. I have to be certain it communicates what it’s meant to.
I’ve splattered all over Facebook the news about this project, along with encouraging my friends to help it see the light of day by pre-ordering in various ways. This is where I’m sending people. (Click away, if you wish.)
So, it’s all about getting it done, staying afloat while getting it done, trying to be useful, answering my hope-hungry friends, crafting a gift worth giving. I think I know you well enough to share this. Thanks.
And you can hold the baby! (See you the second Wednesday in July. We’ll talk about pioneers.)