Rope around the moon on my 1938 Blond Vega Archtop Electric
This month I finally dip into the Claude Pate repertoire, offering up a singer songwriter version of Rope Around the Moon, possibly my favorite Pate song. Fans of the band will recognize the beautiful guitar in this video as the one I chose to play at the last Claude Pate reunion, a blond archtop built by the Vega company in 1938, intended to compete, I guess, with Gibson's ES150, the first electric guitar, the one made famous by Charlie Christian, guitarist with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, et al.
About the song
Rope Around the Moon, sometimes referred to as My Desire, was one of the songs that came along as we were getting used to the idea of having Jon Hahn on the drums. Jon was a very different sort of drummer than Ron Hahm, at least it seemed that way at the time, and we struggled a bit during the transition trying to push Jon to play songs made popular by Ron. Those of you who read this (Hi Mom!) will know that we started as a skinny tie, New Wave, kind of band, where Ronnie focused on staying in the pocket and making people dance (at least that's what I remember). Part of this was just necessity. Truth be told, none of us (OK, maybe I should speak for myself) were particularly accomplished musicians, and just playing and singing and keeping time was challenge enough. Jon came from a jazz background, so he had chops galore by comparison, and he also had experience playing classic rock in a bar band, and so we immediately set out to explore new sonic possibilities, pushing Jon in new directions on a weekly basis.
Our focus on original material that was swerving all around the new landscape of so-called alternative rock definitely presented Jon with challenges and frustrations as he tried to figure out how to fit in with Mike and I. Fortunately, around this time Green on Red was getting my attention, and I happened to go see their show at the M-Shop. These guys played a kind of roots rock, alt country, and they did it very well. My reaction at the time was a little less generous. The crux of my problem with the whole California based alt country movement was this: why were we, who were actual bona fide hicks, working so hard to develop a more urban sophisticated rock sound built around folks like the Jam and the Clash, while they who were actual urban sophisticates by comparison, were affecting drawls and twanging on telecasters? What the hell was I missing? Anyway, it got me to thinking that we needed to try harder to be just who we are and not who we ain't, so I wrote two new songs that were G, C, D roots rock mid-tempo fare, If You Will, I will and Rope Around the Moon. Both of these turned out great, and were songs where Jon really gave us an inkling of how the band could work with him on the throne.
Lyrically, Rope Around the Moon is just me musing on relationships again, but it contains one of my better lines...mine forever, mine for always, mine at least for now. Yep, that's as good as it gets for me, which is probably why I'm a scientist, not a lyricist. Anyway, I spent Christmas prior to writing this song moping about in a general state of depression. We had basic cable at the Pratt homestead in Bettendorf, Iowa, and my anodyne for that holiday break was binge watching It's a Wonderful Life. In one 24 hour period I believe I watched it five times. So it was on my mind, and I had fun channeling Jimmy Stewart as this song took shape. I'd met Naomi by then, things were looking up, I could imagine being George Bailey, but I couldn't quite forget that I was Jon Pratt, hence the mine at least for now.
About the guitar
I have a thing for prewar Vega guitars, mostly because they look cool, are pretty high quality, and I can afford them. I got this one from Players Vintage Instruments. A very neat thing about this is that the propietor is Lowell Levinger, who is pretty amazing and one of the original members of the Youngbloods. You know...Come on people now, smile on your brother, every body get together, try to love one another right now! I loved that song as a kid. Which is funny to me now because...Listen to that song. And listen for the stage whispered listen. And then think about Spinal Tap...