|Posted by powerpopclassics on July 6, 2015 at 9:45 PM|
I composed the original version of "Florida Girl" in 1981, right around the time I graduated from high school. The first melody was deliberately simple, in the vein of "She's The One" by The Ramones and several early Beach Boys songs. The lyrics, also simple, were inspired by a girl from Florida named Sybil that I liked very much.
While it became clear the following year that Sybil and I were never going to be an item, the song she inspired lived on. It continued its unlikely existence through two vastly different versions by The Trend. Our Ramones-ish first arrangement was catchy, but it did not make the cut for our 1982 album sessions. Later, in 1985, we recorded a "country punk" version as a demo, but that experiment failed to produce anything special, in spite of some great playing by the band. Nothing career-wise came of "Florida Girl" or any of that year's other demos. The Trend's members soon went on to real life, and I forgot about the song.
Fast forward almost thirty years.
One very normal day last year, I was working at my office, listening to my iTunes library on the "random" setting. The demo of "Florida Girl" came on, preceded by "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" by The Cowsills, and followed by "Intuition" by John Lennon. Suddenly, and obviously because of The Cowsills and John Lennon, it dawned on me that my old song had really never been completed, writing-wise. It needed to bounce. It needed a better melody. I dictated a quick note into my phone on February 21, 2014 to that effect. (I only know that date because my phone dated the memo.)
At the piano a few days later, I roughed out a bouncy version of the song with new melodic verses along with the hook and the tune of the middle 8 from the original. I determined that it needed an introduction that modulated, sort of like "The Things We Did For Love" by 10cc, and intended to arrange the intro right then. But I got interrupted by my real job and did not follow through.
Then, earlier this year, I bought a classical album by pianist Susan Merdinger. The first time I played Susan's album I was jolted by her brilliant recording of Brahms' "Rhapsody in G Minor." The chord changes were VERY familiar, and I immediately recalled my mother playing this piece many times in my childhood. It also struck me that the opening of the Brahms sounded like something Brian Wilson might have constructed for PET SOUNDS, especially with Brahms' frequent use of bass notes that were not the root of the chord.
Once again, "Florida Girl" came to mind. This Brahms modulation was exactly the kind of introduction my old song needed. I tracked down the classical sheet music, played it passably, and, sure enough, it turned out to be a perfect fit. To truly transform and complete the song, I reconstructed it one final time, and scored a string arrangement for it that had Brahms overtones. I also scored a vocal round to punctuate the “beachy” sound of the song. My good friend Don Smith promptly flipped the background vocals upside down, made them less busy, and put the “Rundgren-ish” slides in as a perfect finishing touch.
So, a mere thirty-four years after first scratching it out, I am finally ready to present "Florida Girl" as an iTunes single, and as a track on David Bash’s new power pop compilation, INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW, VOL. 18. It was recorded in two sessions this past June at Music + Arts Studios and Ardent in Memphis, co-produced by Don Smith and me. Dawn Hopkins engineered. Robert Hall played drums. The string section was Beth Luscombe, Jessie Munson, Wenyih Yu and Jonathan Kirkscey. Van Duren joined Don and me for the backing vocals. I sang, played several different keyboards, and played guitar. The spirit of the late Jack Holder seemed to be present throughout the proceedings. And the new lyrics? They basically have nothing to do with the original song. The new lyrics were inspired by Michelle, Abigail and Marie, my modern-day Carillon Beach girls.
Finally, in a really cool twist, it blows my mind that a song I started writing at the time of my high school graduation was completed and is being released right after my oldest daughter’s graduation from high school.
John T. McMullan
July 6, 2015