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Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Leg at a Time

I was deep in a Pop writing session at a drafty studio on 39th Street and 9th Avenue. Everybody was soooooo hip. We were trying to write something we could pitch to J-LO and I cried out, “Let’s write a song called everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time!” They almost threw me out of the room. I didn’t push the idea.

But uptown I was raising two little boys. They would be “tweens” soon, and they were already getting pressure about perfect idealized bodies, from all sides of pop culture.

When I was a girl, we had to measure up (or down) to Twiggy and Penelope Tree. But the guys we grew up with had Bob Dylan and John Lennon as their role models (no “six-packs” there).

Now the whole thing is out of control. Children are used as ideal sex objects to sell products to children their age on TV, movies, online, buses, billboards — everywhere!

I wanted to tell my kids to chill. And, by the way, not put people on pedestals (something I still do … but to Bill Evans, Billie Holiday, James Taylor…)

I wrote the song in 1999, and finally recorded it in 2004 with some of the funkiest, and, I think, funniest, horn and backgroud vocal arrangements ever. But by that time, my kids were teens, and were embrrassed by it. “It’s soooo corny, Mom!”

Amazing what a few years will do. Fast-forward to 2010 (and a few more wrinkles and pounds). My boys, who are now halfway down the other side of “adolescence mountain,” have changed. They like the goofy horn parts, and they love Everett and Elaine Caswell’s background answer lines; “Pants … oooh oooh Pants on … “ Now, at the Café Carlyle, they marvel at the way Ev and Jerome can sound like a much bigger band: Jerome doing a tight Police-ish ska riff, and Everett doing, well, everything else.

Maybe the song is getting better with … age. Or maybe my embarrassment threshold has lowered. You’ll notice me doing a little dance on the way to verse two (hey, that’s what vamps are for). And in a song about the perils of modernity, I have to improvise my way through getting Everett’s BlackBerry off the piano bench — where he left it … when? But motherhood makes you as flexible as the greatest jazz improvisers. So Everett’s BlackBerry ends up in the song, for posterity. (Actually, Everett is so talented that frankly I’m not sure he puts his pants on one leg at a time.)

For the original track, replete with the coolest horns, and John Pattitucci laying down the bass riff, go to:

And don’t be afraid to sing this chorus to your kid, the next time he or she comes home wishing he she were a Jonas Brother, or Miley Cyrus. And sing it to yourself the next time you wish you were Twiggy … or John Lennon.



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