COMMODITIES – Tom Sanderson
lyrics and music by Tom Sanderson
You’ve at least once to me told
the pharoah’s love for gold
led to a standard for the stuff
Now there only flecks are found
in man’s search underground
Those seeking never find enough
There’s a myriad of ways
of how to spend your days
More than a lifetime just to list
You take footsteps with your shoes
You go where you may choose
from the Dead Sea to Everest
There’s some that fancy a yellow-brick path
Others dig to construct their own road
Likewise a sea lane for those that need space
A train for those burdened with load
I know many plainly said
they need a comfy bed
on their own little plot of earth
But the skirmish over dirt
some million people hurt
We cannot add what land is worth
Maybe there’s still unclaimed deeds for Atlantis
Everywhere else is owned by some state
If you are keen to construct your own castle
You buy rights, you don’t own estate
This song had its genesis around March or April 2017. I had just purchased a USB sound capture device similar to the one Alan uses in the hopes that I could start an remote collaboration with he, my brother Brian and a couple of my musical friends. Technical difficulties got in the way of this collaboration blossoming at this time. I had made some tracks with a pre-programmed samba rhythm from my Casio WK-6500, bass, piano and guitar (played with my fingernail instead of pick, I think). The bass line was one of my favorite parts of this new composition. The working title was “Sambariffic.”
A few years later (summer 2020) I transferred my unfinished recordings from this period and played back this demo recording. After letting it stew in my head for several months, I got an idea to incorporate a Yamaha late 1970’s type organ with it’s rhythm ace counterpart. I began this sequence in May, 2021 when I simultaneously was working on a few other ideas. As I couldn’t find a suitable facsimile on the Roland FA-06 for the rhythm ace drums, I instead approximated this idea on a latin drum set sample, adding triplet breaks on top of 4/4 – kind of like reggaeton (or rumba) does. The organ sample was pretty close to what I had in mind but since the rhythm took a sidetrack because of lacking a needed sample, the tone of the song changed in domino effect. The bass was played on keyboard, taking more or less the original bass line verbatim.
After completing some of the other recordings I was working on, I circled back to this sequence in September 2021. I added several guitars in kind of a Los Lobos or BoDeans fashion and wanted to replace my keyboard bass with a real bass. It proved to be a difficult task to get a smooth take, so opted to leave in the keyboard bass. The lead guitar was more of a latin-rock inspired line.
Over the last couple months, Lori and I have been liquidating our excess goods to patch the temporary shortage of a new career opportunity. As a result our common area has been littered with boxes. It was the boxes that gave me the idea for the lyrics. I think another influence in the lyrics has been the supply chain disruption of 2020/2021. The short length of the existing recording didn’t give me much room to explore the notion of commodities but I think it’s fairly interesting. It’s easy to understand gold as a substance with limited availability but I present also land and freewill for your consideration. Perhaps you could leave your thoughts on how the latter two may or may not have limited quantity.
If one were to assign a genre to this recording, I submit it sounds to me like Tex-Mex or Roots Rock, which the hints of Norteño (the sixteenth-note accordion) and mariachi (trumpet duet) have a place in. Curious to know what you think of this song. I like it because it feels different than many of my musical outings.
I owe a great deal to Alan who helped me get this one to the finish line instead of the rubbish heap. He listened to it in various stages (enough to permanently etch in his neurons) and provided great suggestions, as he has with many of my musical projects for decades. Lori Sanderson took the great cover image.