Girl on a Swing (Ballad of a Cavalryman)

October 18, 2011 12:06 PM

This is a super-rough demo of a song I wrote yesterday for the 'Has Been for Years' song fight. It's a gothic little waltz using a resonator guitar, told from the point of view of a trooper in the 7th cavalry who was killed at Little Big Horn while waiting to be relieved by Reno's troops. Recorded before I put my pants on, for the challenge. Video proof is here.

Unusually for me, the words came first. I wrote three different tunes for it before I decided on the one I eventually used. It's phenomenally difficult to play (for me) as the tuning is Open G, which I'm only marginally familiar with, and in addition has a stupidly high action. As a result I screwed up the bridge but you get the idea... it would probably have taken another twenty takes to get anything better than this.

I'll do a proper version for the songfight... could use some pump organ towards the end I think.

Still working on this so suggestions welcome

posted by unSane (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite


In the town where I grew
There's a girl on a swing
With eyes of such blue
And a softness of skin
I see her there still
In a dress of pure white
Like a daguerrotype
Of an arrow in flight

I was twenty-one years
When I saw her that day
I am twenty-one still
But her hair has grown gray
Her eyes were upon me
As I rode away
With my brothers in arms
And ten dollars in pay

Smoke rises up
From the village below
Blood mars the banks
Where the river bends slow
Here I fell to the earth
Fifty summers ago
A sword in my hand
And a stain on my soul

The shadows are long
And the trees have grown tall
Fifty summers have gone
But I age not at all
I lie in the ground
With my face to the sun
The skin and the bones
Of my flesh turn to dust
And the earth I become

And the girl on the swing
Is the memory I hold
Her skin remains soft
Her hair is still gold
Like the girl on the swing
I will never grow old
So I lie here and wait
Through the rain and the cold

These bones bleached to white
Are my last souvenirs
The cavalry's coming
It has been for years

© 2011 J Brownlow

posted by unSane at 12:12 PM on October 18, 2011

I really like this. Hits all my sentimental buttons without being overdone. Nice work.
posted by Pallas Athena at 9:50 AM on October 19, 2011

posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:34 PM on October 19, 2011

Wow! I'm hearing a totally different arrangement here unSane. I'm hearing a kind of "Windmills Of Your Mind" thing going on with strings etc. Very French. Acoustic Spanish guitar perhaps - not a resonator. Accordian in the back somewhere. Hugely atmospheric. I think it'd be a total knockout. You'll laugh at this, but I can kind of hear Jacques Brel having a go at this (and that is a massive compliment given that M. Brel is one of the few musical heroes I have left).

Put your pants on and grab a violin mate....
posted by MajorDundee at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2011

Major, I've been playing around with the arrangement today. It does work very well with strings and the pump organ is basically an accordion with pedals. The biggest problem is that it gets melodramatic very quickly which sort of takes the wind out of it. A big funeral drum is nice at the end.

The other difficulty I have is that it's a bitch to play on everything!

Anyway, maybe I'll do an orgiastic mix for you. The strings are very seductive.

I also added a new verse which goes after the 'smoke rises up' one, which makes the situation a bit clearer and explains the 'cavalry are coming' line at the end.

As we made our first charge
I could swear that I knew
The voice of the girl
With the eyes of such blue
In the cries of the women
And children we slew
But their men were too many
And we were too few

posted by unSane at 4:12 PM on October 20, 2011

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