For what it’s worth: By Joe Phillips

Sometimes, you fall in love for an hour, a night, for a season or a lifetime.  This falls into at least some, or all, of those categories.  As a once-attractive young musician, I can attest that sometimes you have “fans” who pursue you with ulterior motives, other than wanting an autograph.  I don’t know where this woman is anymore, and that’s probably best.  But, the friendship we had for a while taught me a few lessons about myself.  The song was inspired by an old Hamilton Camp album I had, trying to get back to my Folk roots.  Oh, sometimes the names are changed to protect the innocent, sometimes they aren’t.  I hope she’s well, wherever, or whoever, she is.

Milltown Saturday Night

“This is a love song for people who don’t like love songs”.  That’s how I used to introduce it when performing it live.  This song may very well be my legacy, my “signature” song.  It started out with very humble beginnings.  Milltown was actually a “throwaway” song, written in a hurry for my “Milltown Concert” album, in a darkly humorous “John Prine” style, with a much different tempo, and attitude.  (My second ex-wife still likes that version, for some bizarre reason, which I’ll NEVER understand.)  One day, I was toying with the song for my next studio album, using a special capo co-invented by a friend of mine, respected guitar wizard, Harvey Reid, playing on top of an open Esus tuning.  (The “Third Hand Capo” became a part of my signature sound in later performances and recordings, as I used it on my personalized versions of Dylan’s “Just Like A Women”, P.F. Sloan’s “Where Were You When I Needed You”, Shel Silverstein’s “The Eyes Of Lucy Jordan”, and several of my own songs.)  I was just strumming the chords, slowly, and the up-tempo song, became a much darker, serious ballad.  It was then that the seriousness of the inspiration for the song became apparent.  So, I began performing the song in this new interpretation.  My hardcore fans and my musical peers, were mesmerized, and suddenly started to take me more seriously as an artist, and not just a good-time bar room singer.  I’ve recorded better versions of this song, and played better versions live, but this one will always be important to me.  I had Harvey Reid in to do the electric guitar and lap steel parts, which was unique in itself, as his own recordings only feature him on acoustic guitars.  Anyway, the song took off, in popularity, and importance.  It even inspired a sequel, “Turn Around Again” (you can find me performing it on YouTube) and a short film about love and endless one night stands in a gritty New England factory city by Lowell, Massachusetts film maker, Paul Bergeron.  I’m only sorry that we’ve lost the original tracks of this song, featuring Brian Richardson’s acoustic lead guitar in place of Harvey’s searing electric interpretation.   “Visions and dreams, of a factory day.  The mornings are lousy, but the nights are OK.”  This is among my best writing, so they tell me.

Hyannis Romance

Yea, it’s a rock and roll song, about a jaunt to the Massachusetts coast with a girlfriend.  But, it’s also about superficiality and fashion.  There’s a little bitterness about a failing relationship, and a whole bunch of things.  I used to love doing this with the band.  Brian did a great job on the guitar.  I may possibly have dreamed this whole episode, but that’s what us dreamers do, eh?

Goodbye Maria

This song was about a relationship I’d rather forget.  I loved this woman with all my heart.  But, I was a philanderer, and my perspective was skewed, I guess.  She’s done well in her life, I guess I was her poison.  The song was good to me, though, and was recorded by a major Nashville star in the 80’s.  God bless him.


Turn Of The Screw

It may seem like a simple song, but is probably one of the most complex, and literate works in my catalog.  The inspiration came from Henry James’ “Turn Of The Screw” (1898) and William Shakespeare’s “Taming Of The Shrew” (1590-ish)  What’s it about?  Who the Hell knows.  Feelings about the impending train wreck of a marriage?  Spousal abuse?  An explanation or apology?  An examination of the dynamics of male/female relationships in the 1980’s?  Who the Hell knows?

Running After Love

Ask Melanie Safka about the song.  I only turned a hard rocker, into an introspective ballad.  It spoke to me through most of the late 70’s and into the mid 80’s when I adopted it into my catalog.  Brian Richardson mesmerized me so much with his guitar solo when we performed this live, that sometimes I’d lose track of where we were in the song.  Mary K pulled off the vocals on this with exactly the ghostly quality I wanted.  Hey sometimes people make love more complicated than it needs to be.  Or at least the “seeking” of love.  When it’s right, you’ll know it.  It doesn’t always have to be about “running after someone else’s train”.  Maybe you have to run after your own train.  It took me decades to find out what that meant.  My friend, Bernard Stollman, once said “Love is the question, love is the answer.”  Love each other, people.  Don’t over-think it.

Harbor Song

Marigold, sweet Marigold, I’ll always love you.  I wrote this song when I was 18.  My first love song.  My power-chord whanging away on my Gibson Les Paul, led critics to start calling my style, “Heavy Metal Folk”.  I thought it was funny.  The names have been changed.  Sometimes you love someone so much, but you know in your heart it’ll never be.  It never was, but you always treasure the memories of what your imagination created.

Sixteen Miles

A journey is a journey, whether it’s a physical one, or an emotional one.  We all grow up.  We all travel from one point to another, sometimes we make it, sometimes we don’t without help from another soul, living or dead.  We all travel, whether we thing we’re moving or not.  The North Atlantic Ocean stars in this.  Having lived along the coast most of my life, she’s been my guiding light.  Well, maybe not most of my life, I’ve spent the last 20 years on the river I was born on an island in the middle, who knows?  But, anyway, it’s a mystical journey, apply it to your own life.

New Day Now

Oh boy, this is actually one of the most complicated songs of my career.  When I was the toast of the Boston Folk scene, the “Charles Street Troubadour”, I did some songwriting workshops and concerts for inmates at Massachusetts corrections facilities.  I met a guy, at the Charles Street Jail, who was waiting to be transferred to a State facility, Mark Frechette.  He was a big movie star, was in the Michelangelo Antonio film, “Zabriske Point”, and critically acclaimed,  they said he was the next Brando or James Dean.  Anyway, he was in the can for robbing a bank as a result of being involved in a strange cult compound, but I won’t go into that.  He eventually wound up being murdered in jail under mysterious circumstances.  I loved the guy, and I won’t go into the politics of his life, and death, but, I loved him.  His life met a tragic end, and for bizarre reasons, I carry his face in my brain’s memory to this day.

Glad That You’re Gone

Only a fun song, don’t take it too seriously.  It wasn’t aimed at anyone in my life in particular.  Brian Richardson’s guitar screams, it’s beautiful.

Postcard From Nashville

Weird song.  A goodbye to a relationship that I knew was about to end, a hopeful beginning to a new life, that I knew would never happen.  How weird it that?  For awhile, big people in the industry made me a lot of promises, they never came through.  That’s the way she goes, man.  It’s life.  I thought for a brief time that I actually had a shot at being a star.  Ha, that didn’t happen.  That’s the way she goes.  Somebody who’s name you’d recognize for sure, has recently told me he’d like to record this song commercially.  May God bless him if he does, and may God help him.  It’s a “dark” song.  I wrote it in an alley in downtown Nashville, drunk out of my mind, and totally without focus, feeling like a homeless person, among the trash cans and the garbage.


An ode to the end of an era.  It’s not about a city, or a state, but a woman and a place.  A very personal song.

Special thanks to Larry Jenkins, who kept me sane and was my best friend through the darkest times, and Brian Richardson, who stuck with me even though I was an irresponsible idiot.  To Harvey Reid, who still respected my art, even though his was notably better, but re-introduced me to the Autoharp.  To Bill Chinnock, who introduced me to all the “right” people and believed in me.  You should have been “The Boss”, Bill, I hope you’re enjoying your new gig up there with all the greatest of the greats.  Larry is probably playing some great drums with you, for sure.  And, to everyone else, who’s names I’m bound by legalities not to mention.

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