West End

by Alex McMurray

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about

This song "West End" was written by my dear old friend the late Mr. Dave Myers. I'll post a link to his version of the song at www.alexmcmurray.com.

Below are a few paragraphs I wrote back in 2016 when I was sure I was about to put this song out. I got a little sidetracked. I'll just include it here unedited. Bear in mind it's almost 4 years old...

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Rain rain rain rain rain. I’ve been sitting here listening to the rain for two days now. The house has been empty and quiet and I’ve had a little time for the first time in a while. I’ve been thinking of my old friend Dave Myers who died this June. We were up in Oshkosh when I got the news that he’d drowned while swimming somewhere off Cape Cod. I hadn’t thought about Dave too much in the last 30 or so years but still it was quite a shock. We met in the summer time on Martha’s Vineyard, where my aunt and uncle have a place. I was a teenage guitar player and when that became known I was told to seek out this other kid who played guitar as well as bass, drums and the saxophone, though I never heard him play sax. He suggested we play together almost immediately and what struck me was he just started singing right away. His voice was sort of odd but he was not at all shy about opening his mouth and singing. I think we must have been 15 or 16 years old and I was pretty shy and certainly would never think to sing on my own volition. Dave seemed to enjoy it and encouraged me to sing backup. I was content to noodle behind him (a role I enjoy to this day). He asked me what I thought of Elvis Costello, and told me what a big fan he was. I was more into Van Halen in those days, but he was impressed that I could cop the lead guitar stuff from “Alison” pretty quickly. We played that one a lot. I can’t remember many other tunes. I think he might have had some originals already, long before I did. He was big into the Beatles and had all the LPs, even the obscure imports like the one with the bloody baby dolls on the cover. That tripped me out when I first saw it.

We spent a couple summers hanging out. My mom had just died and my Aunt took mercy on me and let me come to the Vineyard, against her better judgment I’m sure. Teenage boys are a handful but I was a borderline menace in those days. I was developing an interest in Hunter Thompson, The Grateful Dead, that sort of thing, and my cousin Ray and I used to get into plenty of trouble. Up on the Vineyard in those days I was splitting my time with my cousin and Dave. We’d roam around at night and act like teenagers, looking for beer and girls to talk to. I can only remember one time we were successful in meeting any. Dave worked at the Black Dog and I worked at another lunch counter. Dave had a theory about showering in the summer, that you only needed to swim in salt water and then rinse off in fresh water—that soap was unnecessary. It’s a method I use to this day. It works. He also once described something as “nougaty”. I think it was about something musical, like, “that bass riff makes it a little more…nougaty.” I remember looking at him after he said it because it made no sense and he looked right at me and smiled because he knew it didn’t make any sense, but he didn’t explain it either. I have since employed the word nougaty now and then and it often provokes a similar response. Like a dog cocking his head at hearing something queer.

When I met Dave we hit it off immediately and stayed in touch during the winter months as well. He lived in Lincoln, MA and came down to visit me in New Jersey, and I went up there as well. When we were applying to colleges I drove up there (I had a car in high school, which I still find hard to believe) to look at schools. I was applying to Boston University, Brown University and the University of New Hampshire, which are all pretty close to his hometown. It was pretty much an excuse to hang out. The B.U. visit, as I recall, consisted of driving into Boston and going to one of Dave’s favorite record stores near Harvard Square. We never even went into Boston proper, in my recollection. I think we got to UNH sometime on a Saturday evening and stopped to get a slice of pizza, and never made it to the campus. Dave had a friend who went to Brown and lined it up so that we would stay at the co-op where she lived. I remember having brown bread and black coffee in the communal room at breakfast in the morning and a woman sitting next to me with black hair and blond roots. She said nothing but giggled some and it was only later that Dave’s friend let us know it was Amy Carter. I can’t recall whether this episode pre-dates Amy’s adventures with Abbie Hoffman, which put her back in the news. Again I saw nothing of the university, but I did buy a pair of horn-rim sunglasses, which were all the rage in those days. While we were driving around to all these places Dave asked me why I was applying to all these big schools. He wanted to know if I’d considered even one small liberal arts college (he wound up going to Swarthmore). I can’t recall whether it was Dave who suggested I take a look at a place called Reed College out in Oregon, but then I can’t recall how I would have conjured that obscure school out of thin air. I’d certainly never heard of it, but there was still time to apply so I did and was eventually accepted via the waiting list. When I ended up at Tulane I hated it and the town and applied a second time to Reed, this time looking to transfer my sophomore year but I was wait-listed once again, which sealed my fate. I never reached escape velocity and have been in New Orleans, with a couple detours, ever since

By the end of college we were moving in our own directions. I wasn’t up in the Northeast much and I don’t know if Dave was either. I remember a phone conversation in the early 90’s where he said he was listening mostly to early Rock & Roll like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. I was trying to play New Orleans music by then, but was still too ignorant to know that rock and roll and New Orleans music are the same thing. We didn’t talk again until ’97 or so when I was on the road promoting the first Royal Fingerbowl CD. I remember Dave called my Dad’s house in N.J. We talked very excitedly about our respective musical careers and took down one another’s addresses to send each other some music. He got the first Fingerbowl CD, and I got a mix tape of a few of his projects—the Osirians, the Inskirts (with his brother Rob) and some solo stuff. A song of his called “West End”, which to my mind recalled his early Elvis Costello kick, knocked me out right away. I tried more than once in the intervening years to figure it out and have only cracked the code just recently. I hope my rendering would have pleased Dave.

During this phone conversation Dave let me know that he was a new father and that he was getting married soon in San Francisco. As it turned out the Fingerbowl was doing a residency on the West Coast and was staying at Henry Griffin’s place in Los Angeles. The wedding was on a Saturday and somehow we weren’t working that night so I decided to fly up to SF for the wedding. The wedding would take place on the beach and the wedding party would be staying at the Seal Rock Inn. So excited was I at the prospect of seeing that hotel with my own eyes, storied as it was in my mind from Hunter Thompson’s crazed missives from that place, that I immediately reserved a room, paying a deposit in advance. When I arrived in a taxi straight from the airport I was informed that my room had been given away, since I never confirmed the reservation, and that no refund was forthcoming. I said I was there to attend the wedding ceremony of Mr. David Myers and they called up to the bridal suite. A woman answered the phone and said that she was Emma, that Dave was out attending to some last-minute wedding nonsense but that I should come right up and say hello to her and Sam.

I knocked on the door and was greeted by Emma who was in quite a rush getting ready for her impending nuptials. After we introduced ourselves she pointed to a baby on the floor and said that this was their son Sam, and could I occupy him while she get ready. I was a bit flummoxed since I’d hardly been around babies, ever, but did my best to keep him out of danger until Dave returned, which he did before too long, but there wasn’t much time for catching up with all that was going on that day. They promised to find me a place to crash after the reception, which was at a gallery-type space in the Mission, I think. I remember I took a bus there. Must have been down Geary… There was a fair amount of walking but I found the place. Dave and I got to talk for a few minutes but he had a lot of other people to talk to, obviously, and it was no big deal--I was just glad to see him and glad I could make the wedding. I’m sure we said we’d meet again sometime but that was the last time I saw the man in the flesh.

I’ve had plenty of friends die over the years, much closer friends than Dave ever was, but there’s something about the friends you make when you’re a teenager, no matter how fleeting. It was like Dave had the other half of the amulet I was wearing all my life. And it was easy to pick up right where we left off on the phone in ’97, just like it was easy picking up where we left off in the summer of 2013 when Dave out of the blue sent me a message on Facebook saying “Alex! It’s been quite some time since we chatted…” After a half second of reminiscences and catching up we were making plans on playing a show together on Cape Cod where he was living, he and Emma Nation having long since split up. It didn’t happen that year but it was bound to happen some day, even when I had a son myself, which slowed down my musical traveling somewhat. When I got the news about Dave it hurt something pretty deep inside, like Dave had been trapped in amber all these years--that there was this little jewel of youth that we shared and since it was kept away all these years it was still fresh and alive. Dave’s son Sam is a sophomore in college himself now, and daughter Rose is about 4 years behind him, so they are the same age as these amber people I imagined Dave and I to be, and they’re forging their path the way we did. The last contact I had with Dave I agreed that we’d play a show together with the proviso that he show me how to play “West End”. “Deal!” he shot right back, “As long as I can do a little wordless screaming in the background while you're singing ‘when I bring home the sun’...Just kidding!”

Yesterday I was able to locate that mix tape that Dave sent me in ’97 , determined to conquer “West End”. It has been a while since I learned a song off a cassette tape. It was good to commune with Dave in short bursts…play, stop, rewind, stop, play, stop, rewind, stop, play, pause…I could almost feel some of the joy he must have felt when he was writing it--it's such a cool tune and so propulsive, always moving. Such a great hook. When I have had the rare luck to write something as good I imagine one can hear the joy in the demo. There’s a lot of joy in this cut. I also was able for a second to find it online, and it was a tad slower than my cassette copy. I don’t know what happened to that. I thought it was on SoundCloud but who knows. There’s a version of him doing it on Soundcloud which is I think from 2015

So there you have a brief history of my friendship with one Mr. David Myers, a man who was strangely important to me and who I will always miss. He was one of the good ones.

lyrics

West end is falling down, falling down, falling down, falling down…
West end is falling down, falling down, falling down, falling down, falling down…

You’ll never know the accidents you caused
Anyhow it’s true
All your feeling spent make you lie
Watch you rise while I sink
Dark as coal

And now it’s all so logical this time
Everything’s complete
All my dreams came down
Just like rain
Just like dogs at my feet
Barking threats

West end is falling down, falling down, falling down, falling down…
West end is falling down, falling down, falling down, falling down, falling down…

Pulling around the convertible this time
Kissing in the seat
Everybody knows it’s not for me that I cry
For the place we once lied (we used

You’ll never know the accidents you caused
Anyhow it’s true
All my dreams came down
Just like rain
Just like leaves in the drain
None remain

West end is falling down, falling down…

credits

released May 1, 2020
Music and lyrics by David Myers. Alex McMurray guitar and vocals. Recorded August 14, 2016 by Michael Mehiel at Studio Seurat, New Orleans, LA. Mixed and mastered by Michael Mehiel Studio Seurat April 2020.

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Alex McMurray New Orleans, Louisiana

I'm a New Orleans based singer songwriter type. I play in a bunch of bands. I make recordings sometimes. Some of them are here. Thanks for supporting my work. Drop me a line--I'd love to hear from you.

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