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Song of the Month #26 - “I Just Try to Move the Chains”

(Track #4 on The Road Less Traveled CD)


RLT Album Cover                                       Lyrics:  If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read.  Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy The Road Less Traveled Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "I Just Try to Move the Chains."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                                               *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.


For most of us, when we are young, our plans and goals for life are quite grandiose.  We shoot for the stars, and we struggle to be the best at whatever it is we decide to pursue.  Doctors want to find a cure for cancer.  Lawyers want to win the big case against some corporate monster.  Actors seek to win an Oscar.  Athletes strive to be the Most Valuable Player.  Musicians try hard to win a Grammy.  I could keep going here, but this is more than enough for you to understand my point.  Anyway, as we all know, such accomplishments as the ones mentioned are only reached by a small portion of the population.  Most of us remain quiet heroes who adjust to achieving small successes as we move through life.


The quiet heroes are the people we run into every day.  They put a cast on a broken arm, help someone complete a closing on a house, act in a local community play, coach a little league team, or perform in a local community concert.  Their satisfaction comes from the little goals they reach each day.  To use a football analogy, they are the people who do not throw the long pass for the touchdown.  Instead, they are the ones who run the ball and move the chains just enough to get the first down.  I use this analogy because it is the one that motivated the writing of “I Just Try to Move the Chains.”  Here is how it happened.


In the early 2000s, Siobhan and I played The Flipside, a little neighborhood bar in Rochester, NY.  We got to know many of the patrons there because at that time we were playing The Flipside on a regular basis.  One of the more interesting regulars was a guy named Stu Silver, a writer of movies and TV sitcoms.  Well, over the years, I met many people who claimed to be writers, but more often than not, they came up a little short when it came to publishing.  Stu, on the other hand, was a different story.  He actually had credentials.  Of his many accomplishments, Stu is best known for Throw Momma from the Train, a hit comedy film in 1987, and Webster, a popular sitcom that appeared on TV from 1983 to 1989.


During the time Siobhan and I played The Flipside, Stu and I chatted several times, and one night, we drifted into a rather long discussion about his career as a writer.  After we sifted through some rather entertaining anecdotes about his experiences with people like Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, we got around to talking about the more serious aspects of his profession.  In his younger days, as with most young aspiring writers in Hollywood, Stu eagerly competed in the dog-eat-dog, cut-throat world of Tinsel Town.  He wanted to score big, and he did everything he needed to do to reach that goal.  While Stu reached what I consider to be a rather substantial level of success, like most of us, he himself felt he never quite reached the level of success he wanted to achieve.


As Stu’s writing career wore on, he got more and more tired of the fast-pace life of Hollywood.  He kept an apartment there, and returned to his home town in Rochester to live in a place not very far from The Flipside.  Now, he spends most of his time in Rochester, only going to LA when it is necessary.  He writes twenty pages every day, deals with other aspects of his writing career, and then goes off to meet with his friends.  He is no longer interested in throwing the long bomb for the touchdown.  Instead, he just moves the chains a little bit each day.


After Stu dropped this little football analogy on me, it would not go away.  I had heard it many times, but this time its impact was indelible.  For a few days, the idea rolled around in my mind, and then one day while I was doodling on my guitar in our practice room, a dining room rarely used for its intended purpose, the chorus came to me.  It started with rhyming the words “fame” and “chains” with a little melody that was running through my head.  Then, in no time, the rest of it quickly fell into place.  Having the main idea of the song established in the chorus, it was now necessary for me to find verses to reinforce it.  What emerged for me were some descriptions of friends of mine who just went out and moved the ball a little bit each day.  Like me, they are folks who are quite content with just getting to that first-down marker.


“I Just Try to Move the Chains” is pure Americana.  It is an upbeat song bringing the folk, country, and bluegrass styles together.  The song stresses the importance of daily accomplishments, and it attempts to convince the listener to appreciate his or her little triumphs.  By the request of many, Siobhan and I recorded this song without the help of any studio musicians.  In addition to our basic sound of the guitar, harmonica, vocals, and bass, I gave the recording some depth by dubbing in some additional harmonies, an electric guitar, and blending harmonicas.  Pop this one in your CD player if you are feeling frustrated from not having reached your dreams.  It will get you to concentrate on all the great little things you are achieving, and I hope it will bring a greater sense of fulfillment to your life.  Hope you have time to check out the song!  I like it, and I hope you do, too!


I dedicated this song to all those who try to achieve a little bit of success each day.  If you are wondering if this song is dedicated to you, here are some questions I have for you regarding determining success.  Are you doing a few things each day to make yourself fulfilled?  Are you doing a few things each day to make those around you feel good?  Are you doing a few things each day to make this world just a little bit better place to be?  If you can answer yes to these questions, you are “moving the chains,” and I am glad to be able to dedicate this song to you!


This song was inspired by Stu Silver and Bill Mallwitz.  Stu, as I have already indicated, is a successful screen and TV sitcom writer.  However, I was not inspired by his many accomplishments in the entertainment industry.  Instead, I was motivated by his approach to his craft.  He constantly works at becoming a better writer.  He reinforced my belief that, although our abilities bring us to different levels of outward success, the potential for inward success is the same for everyone.  Whatever it is we do, we all have the capability to continue trying to do it a little bit better.


Bill Mallwitz, a successful restaurant owner, has been a friend of mine for over twenty years.  His restaurant, Buffalo Bill’s Family Restaurant and Tap Room, is a little mom and pop operation in Shortsville, New York.  Bill approaches his restaurant business the same way Stu Silver approaches his writing.  Whether the focus is preparing food or simply customer service, Bill tries to improve his business a little bit each day.  He inspired this song because for years he and I have been talking about the “moving the chains” philosophy with regards to the restaurant and music business.  My discussions with Bill planted the seeds for this song a long time ago, and my visits with Stu brought the song to fruition.  Thanks, Guys!


We recorded this song in 2008 at Rich Cooley Studios, a little studio in Canandaigua, New York.  Rich Cooley Studios is owned and operated by Rich Cooley, an excellent singer/songwriter, music teacher, and recording engineer.  When you record with Rich, you can always count on him for a relaxed recording session with a genuine and sincere effort to produce the best recording possible.  I highly recommend Rich if you are interested in doing some recording on a small scale level.  Rich is most comfortable when he is recording a solo artist or a duo.  Check him out if this is what you need!


Well, there you have it.  I’ll have another song of the month for you next month.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me.  This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.


(E-Mailed 5/18/09)





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