Hiawatha

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This is the Lockhorns, in a rather expansive one-off configuration, with me singing and playing acoustic, Bob Ducharme on electric guitar, Marc Fagelson on bass, Eleanor Imster and Carrie Hamilton on vocals & percussion, and John Hamilton on drums. The occasion was a benefit for our friend John Scurti whose acting troupe needed money to go to (I think) the Edinburgh Festival.

I don’t remember much about the event — a vodka-soaked barn-burner held in the company’s theater space — though the evidence clearly shows that I was physically present. (My last crystalline memory of that day is actually puking out the side of a moving car on the West Side Highway in the afternoon as we were corralling equipment.) The nostalgic and summery “Hiawatha” is one of Bob’s songs, and it contains one of my all-time favorite couplets.

Hiawatha (Bob DuCharme)

By the shores of Gitchee Gumee
In the summer of ’79
Phyllis’s fast food seafood restaurant
I washed dishes with a friend of mine

Hiawatha, do you wanna
Get some beers and drive around?
You call Kate and I’ll call Donna
We’ll watch TV with the sound turned down

By the shining Big-Sea-Water
The tourist come just to eat fried fish
Me and Hiawatha out by the dumpster
Smoke a joint and make a wish

Two in the morning, close up the kitchen
Pies in the walk-in, Hiawatha sweeps then
Me and Hiawatha and the brand new waitress
Take her blood-red Pinto down to Woodmont Beach

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11 Replies to “Hiawatha”

  1. Totally great song, yes, and I loved singing it too. It really worked on me — bygone suburban summers in what was then a vanishing world, now almost completely lost. And I think for all it’s rowdy horniness, the song’s got just the right amount of wistfulness, too. (Though I wouldn’t say it was particularly tragic or Devastationalist.)

    I was trying to think of other examples of a musician who isn’t usually “THE SONGWRITER,” but who quietly comes up with a song every year or two and it’s always really good…?

    Bob wrote this one with one of Kris Woolsey’s bands, the Hunting Accident, I think, and then it became a living room staple when Bob and I were roommates on St. Marks.

    By the way, the couplet I loved (i.e., was totally jealous of) was “me and Hiawatha out by the dumpster/smoke a joint and make a wish.” That pretty much sums it up, no?

  2. I was trying to think of other examples of a musician who isn’t usually “THE SONGWRITER,” but who quietly comes up with a song every year or two

    Well, had they not gone on to form bands of their own, that would have been Kim Deal, Tanya Donnelly, and John Strohm in perpetuity. I could think of more, but I’ve got a geeky blog comment puzzler of my own today.

  3. Thank you, Paula, those are all good examples — though I draw the line at “Girl in a Box.” (By the way, I never realized before you were so Boston-centric.)

  4. I was trying to think of other examples of a musician who isn’t usually “THE SONGWRITER,” but who quietly comes up with a song every year or two and it’s always really good…?

    George Harrison… and the guitar solos near the end (Bob’s, I am guessing) sound like him.

  5. There is at least one minor difference between the version you sang and the Hunting Accident’s original. You sang that she was in a blood-red Pinto, Kris Woolsey sang that she was in a light blue (Columbia Blue!) Pinto. Your version sounds better… of course it’s 2 am, and it’s late at night somewhere in some little town near Lake Superior, and you & Hiawatha just smoked a joint before closing up the shop. So it’s probably kinda hard to tell what color the girl’s car is.

    I think he sang “summer of ’75” and you sang “summer of ’75,” but it’s hard to tell.

    Even though the sound quality is tinny, yours was a great version of a wonderful song! (The original is pretty good, too.)

  6. Bob’s lyrics deviated slightly from Longfellow in that his Gitchee Gumee was not Lake Superior — rather, it was the Long Island Sound. Woodmont Beach (second photo) is just east of Milford, CT, where Bob grew up.

    The Pinto’s color change was just a drunken ad-lib. (I think that shitty little car got a different paint job with every rendition.)

  7. Thanks Phil! Those interested in the Hunting Accident’s version of the song can hear it at http://www.snee.com/music/ha/, as well as our version of Philip’s “I Want You Around.”

    The Pinto was originally light blue; “blood red” was Kris’s more dramatic version. The song was a composite of Milford-area dishwashing jobs, and I really did work at a place called Phyllis’s that specialized in fried seafood in the summer of 79.

    I remember going into Cannon’s Bar (cf. http://www.philipshelley.com/words/?p=123) with Kris, and the jukebox was loud and you couldn’t hear the TV behind the bar, and some guy I didn’t even know came up to Kris pointing at the TV and chanting “We’ll watch TV with the sound turned down,” and I thought “wow, I wrote a song that got stuck in some stranger’s head.”

    Bob

  8. So tough to punctuate around URLs… lose the comma after http://www.snee.com/music/ha/ .

    One more fun fact: my high school girlfriend was named Kate, and there was a waitress at one of those restaurants named Donna who I wasn’t a fan of but whose name rhymed with “do you wanna.” The line was originally “I’ll call Kate and you call Donna,” but Kris reversed it because the woman who booked bands at the Bottom Line was named Donna.

    Bob

  9. I think we’d agree that Mr. Dave Davies could put pen to paper on occasion with great effect despite the shadow of big brother. I’d put Ed Shanahan in there too, except that he turned out to be the SONGWRITER after awhile.

    Still sounds really good. Thanks Bob.

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