Wicker & Palm


This is the Mystery Dates (Danny Wattenberg singing, me on guitar and singing, Gideon Rosen — who, incidentally, makes an excellent case against epistemic relativism here — on keys, John Fousek on drums, and the long-lost John Travis on bass), from a cassette of a demo that was produced by our Mamaroneck homeboy Peter Denenberg. I think this song is about being romantically involved with someone who is becoming accustomed to breathing more rarefied air than you could ever hope to provide. (I also think it’s the only time I ever sang lead in the Mystery Dates.)

I wrote the verse and chorus after a drunken week on Martha’s Vineyard, besotted with a girl called Laura Resen, which accounts for the semi-pun in the chorus. I remember Gideon at rehearsal fancifying and fussing around with the basic chords I brought in. Later on he and Danny came up with the bridge part — maybe the whole band contributed to the bridge, I don’t remember — but it’s definitely Danny’s words and melody.

Wicker & Palm (Mystery Dates)

You got a nice house with wicker and palm
And a chandelier
You got a nice house but I’d change a few things
If I had to live there

Reasons, they’re not so clear now
But they’re happy, happy at home
I’ve got nothing to fear now
‘Cause I’m happy, happy at home

Winter’s coming to this place
Now let’s prepare
Storm doors, storm doors
Can’t predict the weather here
How come there’s no Maypo
For my breakfast, dear?
Casey’s come back from the Cape
But she’s not like I knew her
Not like I knew her

18 Replies to “Wicker & Palm”

  1. I love… “reasons they’re not too clear now…”
    perfect and so true….reminds me of…”you may find yourself …..”

  2. didn’t you record a version of this in my living room in larchmont? with two little cassette players, by the piano? maybe that was Perfume. And is that the ‘he’s gay you know’ martha’s vineyard trip?

  3. Yes, of course, you were on that trip. I remember a liquid brunch in some trendy Vineyard bar, reading the paper where there was a big article on the potential presidentiality of Bush Sr. in the magazine — first time I ever heard of the Bushes. And we got stopped — I got stopped — for drunk driving after we left the bar, and the cop let us go with a warning. Truly a different world.

    I can also date the trip by the fact that we tried to buy a cassette of the Go-Go’s “Vacation” but it wasn’t out yet, and the record store guy made us buy “Under the Big Black Sun” instead, so we drove around listening to that the whole time.

    I did record a bunch of songs in your living room, including Perfume, and this song of course evokes your house in a lot of ways, but this song is not on those tapes.

  4. Hey Philip–How are you? I love your site. Jon turned me on to it long ago. Sorry I haven’t managed to check in with you before. Good to hear these songs again after too many years–and to see you post MD material here. I still have the reel-to-reel master of the studio demo, which I’ve held onto for you all this time, if you’d like it. Where is the Drips recording from? Wicker and Palm may have been the best song you sang lead on, but by my memory not the only one. Fireworks and Cigarettes was another, no? And also, earlier, the Carrie Ann song (not it’s official title of course). And your guitar playing on these tracks is a revelation. Wonderful to hear again. Takes me back, my friend . . .

  5. John! How are you??? (Actually, we really ought to catch up somewhere other than this comments box.) But it’s great you stopped by. I can’t believe you have that tape — I was sure I did! Ha! A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Oh, also — Danny sang lead on those songs you mentioned. And the recording of “Drips” is from a CBs board tape. Takes me back too, dude, the way back machine, holy fuck. And where the hell is Travis?

  6. Philip, Philip . . . yes, indeed, we need to catch up somewhere else. Offline even. I’ll bring the tape. I guess you’re right about Danny singing those songs; not sure why I have it set in my mind that you did. Rehearsals maybe. Waste is a terrible thing to mind. Glad you still have those CBs board tapes. No idea about Travis. Back to Deeetroit? I ran into him in midtown sometime in the latter part of the ’80s. He smiled through dark glasses, then faded into the crowd.

  7. Didn’t know that M. Isbell had any special powers other than showing up in your dressing room, taking your beer, and then leaving.

  8. I was there with you that drunken week as well.
    It’s actually my fondest memory of you.
    I was staying with Laura and then had to leave her place and ended up crashing with you all at Danny Cohen’s – to his utter displeasure, along with Jon’s incessant grumbling.
    I don’t know how it came about, but I think you rallied behind me, either out of boredom or mischief, but in the end they acquiesced and you made me promise I wouldn’t cause any trouble.
    Do you remember I made such a fuss about a never-been-worn pair of green platform boots from some thriftshop up there? They unexpectedly got transferred from one store location to another clear across to the other side of the island.
    I never would have gotten them if you hadn’t taken up my cause and made Danny drive us. You always had a certain empathy for all the gay teen angst that went on.
    I never knew you wrote that song there, or were inspired by that weird and drunken week. The irony of it all is I wore those boots to a subsequent Mystery Dates gig up at Columbia. Got too fucked up and missed my ride back to westchester, crashed with the columbia kids, and the next morning was mortified I’d have to walk around in the light of day wearing green leather platform boots. So I lifted a pair of converse, and even forgot the fucking paper bag I put the boots in……ya know it was a quaaludes blackout sort of thing.
    I think it saved me from becoming a drag-queen, losing those boots. I’m SURE of it.

  9. That’s a fantastic (and sweet) memory, Frank. Wow. Thanks. (And I do have a vague, hazy memory of stalking those boots on the Vineyard.)

  10. by any chance,
    was the ” ‘he’s gay you know’ martha’s vineyard trip’ ” in any way named after me?

  11. Ha! You should be so lucky!

    It’s a dig on poor Dan Cohen, something ridiculous Dan said during that trip (rather petulantly and pathetically — I can still hear the exact tone of his voice), and Jon and I had many a laugh quoting it for years after. (We were so mean back then!)

    My memory being what it is, I can’t for the life of me recall the original circumstances or even to whom Dan was referring. I bet Jon would remember…

  12. ridiculous, yes.
    well, we all had our set roles to play, didn’t we?
    Jon and I are being quite civil with each other now,
    but my WORST memory is of all of us doing crystal in his bedroom and of him spitting a drink in my face…..mean indeed.
    Matthew was great and stood up (literally) for me,
    calling Jon an asshole,
    and we all took off in the black bug.

  13. Sorry, but that story makes me laugh. And I see no reason to single Jon out — we all did tons of equivalent things back then, including you, Frank. I’m not even sure it’s anything but funny in that particular, peculiar context. (And of course I’m wondering what you did to provoke him.)

    And of course you and Jon are civil now — you’re both adults now! We all are. Thank god. All of us are more civil now, more kind. The world is cold and cruel enough as it is, so I’m glad we all figured that out. No end of deserving, disturbing places to spit our drinks now.

  14. John Travis is a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley in London. Both his kids are undergrads at Columbia. Though the boy, Max, may be having a pre-life crisis and doing something non-collegiate for a while.

    I’ve seen him a few times in the past two years, and he seems a little nostalgic and “WTF?” about his life (unlike me, of course), so I imagine he’d be happy to hear from his old bandmates. I’ll send him a link to this blog and maybe you can all bask in the afterglow.

    And if you could post “Tropical Fish” I’d be much obliged.


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