Father’s Day

Father's Day visualization with lyrics

“Father’s Day” is the sixth song on Bachelors Anonymous’ unreleased third album, The Big Picture, remastered and released digitally. Bachelor David Hughes tells the story behind the song.


I vaguely remember dedicating this song to my father during our show at Café Largo on December 20, 1990. My parents were in attendance, having arrived from Boulder for the Christmas holiday. Also in the audience were Madonna and Sandra Bernhard, but they left before our set; they had come to see the opener, Lypsinka, “grand dragmaster.” If only we’d had a manager who could have cajoled them into staying…

The Recording

We can date “Father’s Day” to the summer of 1987, according to a 4-track reel consisting of three keyboard lines. A later stereo mix included drums, and this is what we used. But no vocal. We joked about how recreating this would be like riding a bike: you can’t forget. Except that we had. I had the flimsiest tendrils of tune in the cobwebs of my mind, and assured Rob, week after week, that I could flesh it out. I even bought a mini keyboard to plink and plunk, to no avail. Finally I just sang and recorded, bit by bit. It’s not a complicated melody, despite all my procrastination. I’m 95% certain this tune is faithful to what we created in ’87.

The original song structure, instrumentally, included a fourth verse, which bewildered me because our lyric sheet didn’t include it. I’m adverse to repeating verses in songs; it strikes me as lazy (“In Another Time“’s repeated half verse notwithstanding). I told Rob I could write a new verse, but since the song clocked in a a full six minutes we decided to omit that section as well as a somewhat redundant chorus.

Rob kept hearing “Exultate Domino” in the last chorus, and it neatly reflects our days in a Catholic choir. He added the clavichord ostinato at 1:26 as well as a combo of strings and female soprano chorus beginning at 1:43, which nicely complements our baritones. A springy tubular synth with some overtones peeks in, doubling some of the vocal lines. We recorded the vocals in Scott Fraser’s studio, Architecture.

The Lyrics

When we were mixing “Father’s Day” I remarked to Rob and Scott that some of the lyrics came from a poem I’d written in 1978 during an apprenticeship with Allen Ginsberg at Naropa in Boulder during a summer break from college.

Allen knew I was a pop music fan and I was disappointed when he sang the praises of the Stones’ album Some Girls, which had been released the week before. I’d been immersed in Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model. Allen’s main contribution to my poetry was to straighten and simplify the lines, remove the dross. I know I showed him a poem I’d written on June 27th and I remember him critiquing its unnecessary repetitions. It begins…

These are the things
I want to keep

…before listing several “souvenirs” (the title of the poem), similar to but different from those in “Father’s Day.”

Unwittingly, Allen had as much influence on me musically as he did poetically. As I wrote in 2018,

knowing of my interest in offbeat music, Allen handed me [Alvin] Curran’s first solo album, Cante e Vedute del Giardano Magnetico (Songs and Views from the Magnetic Garden). Apart from Ginsberg’s insightful tutoring of my poetry, I tend to forget how influential was the loan of that LP. Curran’s use of natural sounds—not necessarily manipulated à la musique concrète—was an inspiration, liberatory in the laboratory of my own magnetic musings.

That poem, and others I wrote while working with Allen, wound up in my first electroacoustic piece, “Drone & Epilogue,” created the next summer. It’s one of the tracks I included in the sampler I gave Rob when we first met in 1984.

After I mentioned the “Father’s Day”–Ginsberg connection, Scott Fraser reminded us that Kronos Quartet, with which he works, collaborated on an album of four spoken word pieces, including with Ginsberg, who recited his “Howl.” That album, Howl U.S.A., and Kronos’s earlier Short Stories had the fringe benefit of works by Scott Johnson, a visual artist and guitarist who has mined the musicality of the un-sung voice.

When we were preparing for the vocal recording, Rob asked me about the chorus’s “Forget that it’s father/ Remember, it’s Father’s Day.” That exhortation is autobiographical insofar as every child is initiated into adulthood by the man “Who can hold the world in his hand.” If that hand be present and heavy, the child might hold the hand with a grudge. If one can “Forget that it’s father” whose belt, well, belt, one might give up the grudge, at least for a few hours. Remember, it’s Father’s Day.

Lyrics

Hung up on this guy tonight
No need to make it right
Hung up with no regrets
Like high school cigarettes
Man to man
If I could, well I guess I would
I barely can
Shake your hand, take your hand, barely

No regrets, not tonight
No words, though well we might
No regrets for me these nights
In Bombay Gin, red traffic lights
For who I am
With a shudder and shrug
The son of a man
Who can hold the world in his hand

Chorus
And break it slowly
Bend and break
Ache it slowly
For goodness’s sake
Drawn into the drama (treading the water)
Walk on wire
Drowning in the drama (tread on the water)
Forget that it’s father
Remember, it’s Father’s Day

These things I want to keep
To put this child to sleep
Back talk, lines drawn with sticks
Father’s belt and shaving nicks
And here we stand
If we could, well I guess we would
Man to man
Making plans, shaking hands, shaking

Chorus
Take it slowly
Bend don’t break
Fake it slowly
For pity’s sake
Drawn into the drama (keep treading water)
Walk on fire
Drawn into the drama (into the water)

Exultate
Domino
Make it holy
Make it so
Drawn into the drama (treading the water)
Don’t walk on by
You belong in the drama (tread on the water)
Forget that it’s father
Remember, it’s Father’s Day
Say an “Our Father”
Remember, it’s Father’s Day
Forget that it’s father 
Remember, it’s Father’s Day x3

Lyrics Reprinted by Permission

Credits

See album credits

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