Ship of Dreams, Ship of Fools
I wrote this a long time ago, and about nobody in particular. In fact I don’t remember much about writing it, now it just seems like one day it wasn’t there and the next it was. I think I was listening to a lot of Dylan at the time, and I vaguely remember kind of finger-picking along to some sort of compilation before stumbling into the chords and the rhythm for this which, as I said, is usually how it happens. More fumbling through the dark than marching in a straight line.
I think this song was one of the first times I managed to step outside myself and think about a song in terms of a narrative. I don’t mean progression, songwriting 101 is you learn something in the second verse that you didn’t know in the first. I mean narrative in the sense that there is a character with volition, that is on some sort of journey of their own. This person is so caught up in the journey they’re on that they lose sight of what is actually important, which again is not really something I was consciously projecting but makes sense in hindsight. 20/20 as ever.
So much of the music I grew up listening to has this sense of narrative in it that I’m not sure why it hasn’t shown up more in what I write about. As I’ve gotten older and turned more towards blues and soul, and yes acknowledged that there is a natural country-tinge to my voice, that’s started to turn me more towards the characters and stories that comprise so much of that music. But then Springsteen has been writing Mary for 40 years, and Bon Jovi about Tommy and Gina for almost the same. I guess if every little song was a letter to somebody, it was always harder to imagine the letter someone else needed to write when I’ve always had a few of my own I was trying to work through.
The harmonica is one of those things I’ve also tried to incorporate more but outside of this song I’ve rarely attached myself to it without feeling like I was stepping into a part I wasn’t meant to play. So many people do that so well, including Bruce and Dylan, I’ve rarely found the moments with it that felt true for me. This was one exception and when I listen back to it now…well…if that ain’t truth then I’ll live with being a liar.