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Jay Dugan / Blog

The Story Behind Liberty Salsa

This instrumental was in my head for over 20 years, so I finally decided to put in down as a recording. I was actually not shooting for the Dick Dale-surf guitar sound...Stratocasters will do that. I was actually trying to emulate a cross between The Allman Brothers and Carlos Santana. There's nothing symbolic about the title. The song is a salsa and I recorded it on a street named Liberty.

The Story Behind Commodore Dan

I had a snow day off and this song came to me as I played around with A, D, and E chords with a capo on the 3rd fret (C, F and G). Commodore Dan is a symbol for the wealthiest two percent of the nation. This is a song about the struggles of the Have-Nots, as they try to make it in a world where the Haves run everything.

The Story Behind "A Grand Old Time"

This story explains that the only winners in domestic disputes are the lawyers. In the chorus, the hook and operative word is "grand," which switches between the meanings "wonderful" and (the loss of) "one thousand dollars." As found in "When The Eagles Are Playing" and some of my other songs, I like to bring out the humor of a song by juxtaposing a beautiful melody with a tragic or twisted lyric. Original recordings of this song sounded tropical, with a simulated marimba complementing the vocals. This recording was made at a concert in Schenectady, NY and later polished up in a NYC recording studio near Grand Central Station. My lifelong friends and band of 45 years, The Notes, made a very rare live appearance and played with me for this benefit concert. It now has 5 electric guitars playing during the solo; something we couldn't pull off with two guitarists, live. Originally, this song was going to be a fast rocker. I was showing the bassist the "Don't Be Cruel" styled bass line. I slowed the pattern down to let him get it note-for-note, when the rest of the band started playing along. We never went back to the faster version.

The Story Behind "The Vidiot"

For starters, this story's main character is purely fictional. The Vidiot does not remind me of anyone that I know. He certainly does not resemble me. I rarely sit through an entire movie and I rarely watch TV. You might be surprised to know that I do not spend much time listening to music, though I love playing instruments and creating songs. The Vidiot is a man that was so hurt by relationships and human interactions that he decided to save himself by socializing as little as possible. He filled the void with media: cable & satellite TV, DVDs, radio, and CDs. I am not a very religious person, but I use Christian themes learned throughout my Catholic School upbringing in a lot of my songs. I compare The Vidiot's media zealousness to that of a religious fanatic. His altar is a media center. A TV channel is his god. His messiah is a newsreporter. The second verse is based on themes from The Book of Corinthians, Faith, Hope and Love. I particularly liked the double-meaning of "a Blockbuster baptism" and the play on words in "from the cable to the grave." I think of this song as the closest approximation I'll ever get to the quality of Paul Simon's lyrics, though no one I ever heard came close to his clever use of words. It also has a similar theme to Paul Simon's song "I Am A Rock." This is a home recording, made one track at a time. There is a NYC recording of this song around my house, somewhere. The drum track was a recording loop from a Casio keyboard; not what I had in mind, but it worked. The string ensemble, bass, and cello came from the same keyboard. There is probably a bit of Al Stewart (Road To Moscow, Year of the Cat) influence there. The main instrument was an Ovation acoustic guitar. I chose to fingerpick to make use of a lot of bass note variations. Vocal harmonies were used sparingly, in the bridge of the song.

The Story Behind The Stories

I've often heard it said that Art should allow the listeners/observers to develop their own personal interpretations of its meaning; that artists should not have to explain themselves. I have no problem with the first statement. I'm not buying the second statement.

I want to get inside the mind of the painter, whether a realist or abstract. I want to know what the lyricist thinks a vague line or two means. I remember reading Brian Wilson's interpretation of his wildly obscure song, Surf's Up. For a guy many people though went insane before writing that song, his explanation made the song become crystal clear to me.

The songwriter is usually limited to two or three verses, trapped within additional rhyme and meter restrictions. On top of that, the songwriter only has 12 notes to work with. For me, this means sacrificing the clarity that prose writers are afforded; not that they have it much easier.

I intend to go behind the scenes of the songs that I post on ReverbNation. I feel that you deserve the option of making your own interpretations while having mine as well.