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Other Plans Feat. Tony Cultreri

03:41
Bill Sunkel
Bill & Rob Sunkel

Story

DECODING “OTHER PLANS”

This is a bonus track for my website fans, a really good song that, for better or worse, arrived just a few minutes too late to make it onto the Monsters Among Us collection.  Though, as every flight attendant in The Twilight Zone knows, there’s always “Room for one more, honey!”  Well, actually, two more, since I'm including two different versions here:  this one, which features the lovely, subdued "lonesome guitar" stylings of Tony Cultreri, and the one that follows, which features crisp, clean chromatic harmonica, beautifully performed by Corrin Huddleston.

The problem with writing a heart-wrencher like “Other Plans” is that your people immediately assume that some awful thing has happened in your life that caused you to write it.  With songwriters as with novelists, however, it should come as no surprise that not every first person narrative is about the writer himself, or about something he personally experienced.  In fact, we writers love to co‑opt others’ pain and suffering (as opposed to the good stuff, which we’re pleased to experience firsthand).  As Billy Joel explained in interviews, many of his fans just assumed that because “My Life” was written in the first person, he was writing about his own life (he wasn’t).  Or, conversely, that because in “Big Shot” he addressed the title character in the second person (and also made her a woman), he was not talking about himself (actually, he was).  Tricky bastards, these songwriters.  You can’t trust ’em.

Which is not to say, with respect to “Other Plans” (to quote the bard, Shaggy) “It Wasn’t Me.”  Just that it probably didn’t happen exactly the way you’re thinking.  Some songs gestate from nothing more than a phrase, sometimes even a phrase that hasn’t been spoken aloud.  (Clear enough?  No?  Good.)  Notwithstanding all this denial, there’s real blood on these tracks.

About the recording:  This is a "whiskey" song, which perhaps explains the use of a "whiskey" voice.  I was in the middle of a bad cold, and could barely speak.  The song was newly completed, and I had just memorized the chord changes well enough to make it from one end to the other, so I thought, “What better time to record while I only have half a voice, and on top of that it hurts like hell to sing?”  (I figured that I could always go back and record a more pristine vocal later, if my Dustin Hoffman Marathon Man method acting experiment didn’t pan out.)  But this is a broken man, singing about his broken heart, and a broken voice just felt right.  There are a couple of flaws in my guitar playing, too, but again they seemed to suit the mood, so I let them go. 

What is flawless is the lovely, transparent lead guitar track provided by Tony Cultreri, who managed to capture not only the pain and loneliness of the lyric, but also a country-jazz vibe in what I think can only be described as an inspired arrangement.  When this song hits, we’ll be doing the L.A.-to-Vegas midnight run in a black Cadillac sedan.  (Sorry, Tony, I’m driving.)

I suppose it’s apparent by now that I’m not going to dissect each line and verse of this song the way I have in past Decoders©.  If you can’t tell what’s going on here, your heart is made of granite, and my explaining it is not going to change that one whit.  Suffice it to point out that the lyric shifts between outgoing message (what he’s telling her) and inner monologue (the truth), and it is the contrast between the two that is, I think, poignant.  There are a few lines with which I'm especially pleased, including "Tonight I'll sing myself to sleep/Holding me close this old guitar" (which is purposefully ambiguous -- is the singer holding the guitar, or is the guitar holding/comforting him?) and "I'll count your face among my favorite daydreams/And when the wind whispers your voice, God save me" (which is intended to capture the wistfulness of a bittersweet memory).

Finally, as disheartening and frustrating as it can be to create exciting new music and have it go ignored by the masses, or by industry insiders – seriously, wouldn’t Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart or Tom Waits just sing the heck out of this song? – I must say that I consider myself truly blessed to be able to write, perform and now (through the grace and patience of my sensei, Obi Wan Casella) record my original songs.  This is especially so in view of the terminally degenerative state of modern popular music, to (most of) which I cannot listen.  (Trust me, I’ve tried, periodically and repeatedly.)  In fact, with the release of this track, I am pleased to announce that I have named myself my own “Favorite New Artist of 2015.”  Which is really what it’s all about anyway, right?  Right?

Lyrics

OTHER PLANS
 
You can go your lonely way
’Cause I’ve made other plans
No need to ask if I’m okay
Yes, I’ve made other plans
 
Tonight I’ll sing myself to sleep
Holding me close this old guitar
Trying to take my mind off where you may be
With the whiskey in this jar, oh baby
 
You don’t need to justify your choice
I’m sure you deserve a better man
Still, listen closely to my voice
’Cause I’ve made other plans
 
How could you know that it was you
Who steadied me through stormy days?
Maybe I’ll find another star to guide me
Sail to an island far away and hide me
 
 (Instrumental Verse)
 
Each now and then, I’ll reminisce
About every kiss we never had
I’ll count your face among my favorite daydreams
And when the wind whispers your voice, God save me
 
Some day you may come across
A torn and faded photograph
And you might laugh, but please don’t weep for what we lost
When we made other plans
 
Yes, we made other plans