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New song -- "Drive-Through Town"


dhanners623
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I'm part of a Facebook songwriting challenge in which we're given a prompt every couple of weeks and write a song from it. The first prompt of the year is "drive-thru." Once you get past telling someone they broke your heart or declaring tomorrow will be the First Day of the Rest of Your Life, “drive-through town” -- i.e., a town nobody stops in unless they have to -- is about as cliche a concept as you can get for a song. A quick look online shows others have shoveled their own cliches on the pile. But I grew up in a drive-through town and Woody Guthrie told us, “Write what you know” so I did.

Years ago, I worked graveyard at the Marvel filling station on Illinois Route 49 north of my hometown. It was dull work. In fact, my predecessor got fired for sleeping on the job. Along about 1 a.m., he’d kill the lights, go in the back room and nap. His upended circadian rhythm was my gain.

I got people driving home from bars, the occasional lost soul or people who avoided interstates. They exist. We had gas, oil and vending machines that seldom worked. One of our signature products was a fuel additive named Marvel Mystery Oil. I was intrigued people would entrust their engine to a product with the word “Mystery” in its name; It just seemed to be asking for trouble. People swore by it, though.

One of the regulars was a local who came in every couple of weeks and used my countertop to cut up his speed. I surmised he found the lighting helpful. I’d go out to fill somebody’s tank and come back in and he’d have his illicit product all over my counter. I’d shoo him away, but he always came back. I once suggested he call it, “Marvel Mystery Speed,” but he said the word “Mystery” would introduce an unwanted air of uncertainty in the mind of the consumer. Exactly.

The line in the chorus, “Good times never stop in a drive-through town” can be interpreted two completely different ways — Either the good times never end, or they just pass through town without stopping. I’m unsure if this wordplay is a feature or a defect, but we’re advised to just write and post, so here, without further ado, is “Drive-Through Town.”

I'm playing my J-35, strung with Martin Monel mediums.

Drive-Through Town

© 2020 by David Hanners

Worked the graveyard at Marvel out on 49

This town’s a corpse when the sun goes down

Drunks and night-owls, strangers passing through

Pissed they had to stop in a drive-through town

 

They’d buy gas, a quart of Mystery Oil

Ask how far to St. Louis or Nap Town

Pay their cash, tail lights fade to black

Gettin’ the hell out of this drive-through town

 

(chorus)

They say things are booming, good times all around

 But good times never stop in this drive-through town

 Good times never stop in this drive-through town

 

John Floyd’d come out and cut up his speed

Late at night when there were no cops around

Just a guy whose engine sputtered and died

On his way out of this drive-through town

 

(chorus)

 

(bridge)

They say all great stories are about a journey

Or about a stranger comin’ to town

But those who leave here always come back

And strangers blow right past this drive-through town

 

Sun comes up, another shift done

I’ll go home, lay down on the couch

Watch some TV until I fall asleep

Dream of leavin’ this drive-through town

 

(chorus)

 

The video:

https://youtu.be/lPRNgJ3ltwg

 

 

Edited by dhanners623
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Great job, David. I really liked that one. You tend to write lyrics in a style I appreciate and is personally drawn to. A lot of artists I love tend to deal with similar topics, like Springsteen and Isbell to name just two. I also live in a small town, so a lot of the issues and characters you often write about feel very real to me. 

Your songs also have a tendency to remind me of stuff from these other artists I like, and this one is no exception. It's more a thing of a shared topic or point of view than anything else. Have you heard Jason Isbell's song “Speed Trap Town”? The lyrics to that one are sensationally good,  

I think I've said it before, you have been posting several songs here for quite some time now that deserves recording. Any more detailed plans for that?

Lars

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2 hours ago, Lars68 said:

Great job, David. I really liked that one. You tend to write lyrics in a style I appreciate and is personally drawn to. A lot of artists I love tend to deal with similar topics, like Springsteen and Isbell to name just two. I also live in a small town, so a lot of the issues and characters you often write about feel very real to me. 

Your songs also have a tendency to remind me of stuff from these other artists I like, and this one is no exception. It's more a thing of a shared topic or point of view than anything else. Have you heard Jason Isbell's song “Speed Trap Town”? The lyrics to that one are sensationally good,  

I think I've said it before, you have been posting several songs here for quite some time now that deserves recording. Any more detailed plans for that?

Lars

 

Thanks for the kind words. Actually, there are a couple of different recording projects I'd like to do, but they'll probably have to wait until I move back tothe U.S. and I'm not really sure when that will be. There are studios in Nicosia, of course, but I don't know how hip they would be to recording me and there is zero outlet for me to market the record(s) here in Cyprus. There is a grand total of one coffeeshop I can play at, and even they weren't crazy about having me.

I have retooled the lyrics. As always happens with early drafts, there were some lines that were bugging me. The current version:

Pumped gas on the graveyard at Marvel out on 49

This town's a corpse when the sun goes down

Wanted or wealthy, they were running on empty

And pissed they had to stop in a drive-through town

 

It's a sleepy place in the corn and bean fields

Halfway 'tween St. Louis and Naptown

I'd fill their tanks and without so much as a "thanks"

They said goodbye to this drive-through town

 

(chorus)

They say the economy's booming, good times all around

But good times never stop in a drive-through town

Good times never stop in this drive-through town

 

Doper John would come out, cut his speed on the counter

Late at night when there were no cops around

Just another guy whose engine coughed and died

When he tried to leave this drive-through town

 

(chorus)

 

(bridge)

All great stories are about a journey

Or about a stranger comin' to town

Those who leave never come back

And strangers blow right past this drive-through town

 

Read the pumps, count the oils

Then go home and plop down on the couch

Watch the TV 'tail I fall asleep

Dream of leavin' this drive-through town

Dream of leavin' this drive-through town

Dream of leavin' this drive-through town

 

 

Edited by dhanners623
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On 1/9/2020 at 12:20 PM, kelly campbell said:

Great song ..and I always love the playing and tone. Thanks

Agreed! “Good times never stop in this drive-thru town” is a great line, for sure. 

(You do good with a prompt...not sure if I’d be up to it.)

Nice job, David

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On 1/12/2020 at 1:37 PM, Tman said:

You're a masterful lyricist (and post writer). I love the double entendre you pointed out (probably would have been interpreted a single way in my simple mind). Great song, hope you win the challenge.

Thanks. I should note the Facebook thing isn't a competition. It is just a way to get songwriters to write. We're given a prompt -- either a word, phrase or a picture -- and then we write songs and post them. It is interesting to see what others come up with. Some of them are very creative and talented. 

I've edited the song yet again. (I edit a lot....) I checked with a buddy back home about the guy who used to come in late at night and cut his speed on my counter (even though I always told him not to) and he said the guy died in 2011, but had really cleaned up his life. He'd received a Purple Heart and other medals in Vietnam, but never told his family about them. They were unaware he'd done that until after he died.

So I felt kinda bad about telling that bit of his life, and that got me thinking about the rest of the song. As written, it took place in the 1970s. That's a long time ago. I decided to put the song in the present, even though the gas station is no longer there.

Also decided to do a countdown thing in the bridge to illustrate how the town is declining. (And actually, my hometown, after years of decline, is seeing a resurgence because a local businessman has started building huge things and getting them certified by Guinness as "World's Largest" and the town is now pulling in tourists like crazy.)

Here is the current version:

Work the graveyard at the Marvel station out on 49

This town’s a corpse when the sun goes down

Wanted or wealthy, they’re all runnin’ on empty

And pissed they have to stop in this drive-through town

 

Sleepy crossroads in the corn and bean fields

Halfway ‘tween St. Louis and Naptown

Fill their tanks and without so much as a “thanks”

They’re pullin’ out of this drive-through town

 

(chorus)

They say the economy’s booming, good times all around

But good times never stop in this drive-through town

Good times never stop in this drive-through town

 

My buddy John comes out, grabs a quart from the cooler

2 a.m., he’s still tightly wound

Purple Heart in Afghanistan, no longer gives a damn

What people think about him in this drive-through town

 

(chorus)

 

(bridge)

Four gas stations, three dollar stores

Two groceries until the IGA closed down

One stoplight at Central and Main

Is one too many in a drive-through town

 

All great stories are about a journey

Or about a stranger comin’ to town

Those who make their getaway seldom come back to stay

And strangers blow right past this drive-through town

Strangers blow right past this drive-through town

Edited by dhanners623
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Nice, David! It definitely put a few small town images into mind from the 'ol memory banks. A few of them, actually. We moved around. Sort of kind of miss it, sort of, I think. Well, the being young part. One of our fellow forum-dwellers might even be able to guess the one town. Half-way between two of that state's smaller cities with a big used constructions equipment junkyard smack dab in the middle of town. The junk yard has been gone now for maybe 20 years, though.

Marvel's Mystery Oil was a great way to disguise a knocking engine in a '85 Fleetwood with the 4.1HT(hook and tow) engine in it.

Time to go play guitar.

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