Neptune
Words & music by S. J. Tucker
Guitars, vocals, bass, percussion, whalesong: S. J. Tucker
Cello: Betsy Tinney
Tracked & mixed by Ginger Doss, Eagle Audio USA

"Neptune" commemmorates the painful end of a relationship I had with someone very brilliant, who unfortunately felt that the world owed him a living.  I wrote it in Manhattan, in a friend's apartment, while I was on tour with Cat Valente for the first time, just before Halloween in 2006, more than two years after said relationship had left me cold.  I wrote it in the presence of someone else who was just undergoing the painful end of a  relationship, herself, with a husband who lived on the water, of all things.  It came on like a headache, making me very cranky and restless until I realized that all I needed to do was grab my guitar and sit still for a few minutes.  I did so, and out flowed a song.

Cat wrote this vignette for "Neptune" in the liner notes:

This is what a song does: it ties two tales together. So that one woman, with such a kind face, can sit on a couch in New York and pick out a melody the color of deep blue ink on her guitar, singing shards of a song like a knife, like a burial, and another woman, broken all too recently, can hear it, and find herself crying because it is not only the kind woman’s story but her own. She can see herself in it, her mistakes and her rescue, and the inky tendrils of the song stitch her heart back together, even as they are being written by the gentle woman beside her, even as the song is being made, it heals her. Note by note, stitch by stitch. And it goes out into the world from that couch in New York, and it touches other tales, and other hearts, and we all stand on either side of a song the color of water, and sing along with it.

This is what a song can do. This is what magic is.

Years ago I came to you,
in love and doomed by what I knew,
and though I miss the mystery now
of life beneath the waves,

Thin air's as sweet as water
when your body begs to breathe,
and so I leave when I must leave,
don't weep for love I couldn't save


Love changes us all, makes us broken, makes us brave, makes us deny ourselves and our very breath, makes us refuse to listen when our hearts tell us that the time has come to move on, to break the surface.  "Neptune" is the story of what can happen after you've drowned yourself willingly in someone else's hopes and dreams, and you find that saltwater and shadows no longer sustain you.  "Neptune" is the story of what can happen when you've lived in sin with a god for long enough that the respective piles of dirty laundry and broken promises have started to really get on your nerves.

Interesting facts: 
Originally the first verse went like this:
Moons ago I came down to you
down beneath your ripples
wrapped in seaweed splendor
where the coral yields to gloom

Years I floated near you
swimming in your subterrain
rocking in the opium embrace
of Triton's tomb


I might start singing it again this way when I perform it live; we'll see.
The rest of the song's features--time signature changes, guitar parts, lyrics--are pretty much as they were when I finished writing the song that day in New York.

I started learning two new percussion instruments just for this song: Tar (frame drum) and Udu (clay pot drum--the one that goes bwwoOOp).  The list of percussion we used on "Neptune" is the longest, coolest list of different ethnic drums I've ever played: djembe, tar, udu, and doumbek. 

About the recording: 
Ginger, Betsy and I started tracking "Neptune" at Ginger's last home in Austin, and Ginger and I completed tracking at the home of friends in Melbourne, Florida.  We tracked cello and the main guitar part in Austin, and we tracked all the rest in Florida--twenty minutes from the nearest beach.  I didn't realize until we were nearly done with our work that there was a mermaid painting on the wall in the room where we were recording.  Lots of other interesting ocean things happened that week, including a wonderful recording trick that we discovered by accident:  the sound of the ocean that you hear on "Neptune" is not the ocean at all.  That's what it sounded like when I ran my hands gently across the goatskin head of Ginger's wonderful djembe drum, with the reverb cranked all the way up in Ginger's recording program.  We could hardly believe our ears when we played it back.  "So much for hunting down an ocean sound effect!" we decided,
our eyes wide.  Same for the whalesong noise in the intro: that's me, sucking air backwards into my throat with my lips closed, while we were taping the ocean sound from the djembe with the reverb cranked up.  Happy accidents in the studio are one of my favorite kinds of magic.

This version of "Neptune" is one of the finest things I've ever recorded.  Unlike most of the tracks I've released that I'm very happy with, we recorded "Neptune" without a click track.  Normally, when I get ready to record a song, the engineer and I will set up a click track for me to play against, so that I can be absolutely sure that I'm keeping time and tempo the way that I want to, without drifting.  In the case of "Neptune", Ginger and I decided to record without use of a click track, due to the fact that the song changes tempo several times.  All of the drums and guitars and vocals that you hear, I played without the guidance of a steady beat.  The same went for Betsy and her cello part.  We just had to feel it, and somehow, we did.  Over and over, in my case, but I love the result.  It moves the way the ocean moves, and it all moves together.

Special thanks go to Chris in Tampa for the last-minute Mid-east Drums hookup and to the Cooks for the loan of their sweet ceramic doumbek (and of course their house).
.

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