More Songs to Dead Friends


Cake on a Rake

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

My ex-girlfriend Jan sometimes worked for a friend of hers who did balloon-animal shows at children’s birhtday parties, and one day they needed a third hand to help out carrying stuff, driving, etc. The party was at a big, rich house on Long Island. About 50 little kids. After setting up, there wasn’t much for me to do but drink Heinekens in the corner and watch the show. When they brought out this big, humongous cake for the bratty little brithday boy, he burst into tears! “I didn’t want cake,” he bawled, “I wanted Cake on a Rake!” I had no idea what he meant, but for the first time all day I sympathized with him.

Hey Caroline, is it simply divine
Or is it lonely where you are?
I know it’s hard to judge the distance
But it’s really not that far

And in a way I’m glad you never had to see
All of the things you love collapse so easily
Like tissue paper huts in a monsoon

Caroline, don’t apologize
You gave a good fight
You dared to meet their eyes
You didn’t want cake
You wanted cake on a rake

Out in the yard I play your tape
And I think about that spring
I should be sad, but I’m all right
‘Cause I love to hear you sing


Post-Mortem Bar

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

An All-Girl Band staple. This was the amazing, heartbreaking acoustic song that played over the final scene of the movie “Longtime Companion.” The movie credits said it was by someone called Zane Campbell. This was in pre-Internet Stone Age, and Mr. Campbell proved impossible to track down. Nor could we find any CDs. We asked everybody, scoured little record stores, nothing. We ended up learning the song by renting the video of the movie and holding up a cassette recorder to the TV. Later, it turned out Zane Campbell was alive and very well, right here in New York. He had a brilliant band called The Dry Drunks, and was playing around everywhere. He had heard that there was this other band out there (us) doing his song and showed up at one of our gigs, so we corralled him onstage to sing it. I’m sure he’s still around, though I haven’t seen him in years. I do know that his original version of the song has many more verses and doesn’t go to the bridge directly after the first chorus — the movie people had taken a few liberties with his recording. But it was the only version we knew.

When I cleaned out your room
I painted the walls to cover any memories
But still it seemed like you were hovering over
Still out there keeping an eye on me

We’ll go down to the post-mortem bar
And catch up on the years that have passed between us
And we’ll tell our stories
Do you remember when the world was just like a carnival opening up

If I could have just one more day with you the way it used to be
All the things I should have said would pour out of me

I took a walk I didn’t know which way I was going
But somehow or other I ended up here
Where we said we’d meet again and I guess I was hoping
But the place had been closed down awhile
It was all dark in there

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