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Behind the Song: On The Edge

The last song to be written ended up as the first song on the album.

I enjoy some of the chords in Jim Croche songs, and for this song the inspiration was the same sequence from the chorus of Time In A Bottle, which runs down the D scale. Except for On The Edge, the rhythm is more upbeat.

I remember it so clearly, sitting on my bed in my room with pen and paper on my lap, trying to finish the song by putting words that matched the mood of the rhythm and the chords. I knew what I wanted the song to be about, but just couldn’t find an opening line.

My daughter, all of 13 months at the time, walked into the room carrying one of her toy balls and a teddy bear. Unaware that I was in the room, she immediately spotted the guitar out of its case and on the stand in the corner of the room.

“Oh!” she exclaimed from behind the dummy, her little pot belly hanging over her trousers, and the clear excitement in her eyes at the endless possibilities of what lay before her: yet another noise-making device to accompany the talking book, talking rocking horse and toy frog, all of which go through batteries like my car goes through fuel. (Rapidly.)

She stood for a minute, breathing heavily, and then in a moment in which she must have been battling her conscience, looked around the room to see whether the coast was clear. The instant she saw me watching her, we both burst into laughter.

This inspired the opening line, “You make me smile”.

From there, the song rolled on easily. It is really a reflection on my life and our life as the RCB. Five years on from the first album Better Days, I’d considered recording a new album, but in between a full-time job, a growing young family and a very full schedule outside of those, the challenge was always going to be finding time. I decided, probably foolishly, that the best time would be December when things were “quiet”. It turned out to be chaotic – with my folks getting ready to move to Cape Town from PMB where they had lived for 28 years, as well as the usual festivities that came earlier during that period around Christmas time. I was not popular with my wife.

In hindsight, I was probably very unwise. But the whole episode highlighted the underlying value in the song.

Around the same time, our long-standing editor at The Witness, John Conyngham, announced an early retirement. A product of the baby boomer generation, he said that having worked long and hard and provided for his family, he was now going to pursue his own passion of writing novels once again. I could appreciate how, even though he was pursuing his passion later in life rather than at the start, he still did it.

It’s easy to see how dreams fade so quickly. It’s easy to see why so many musicians, across genres, come and go so quickly. It’s hard work keeping a group together, committed and passionate about the music, when life is throwing everything at each of you. It’s easy, and often realistic, to say, “I just don’t have the time”.

I’ve chatted to Tam about this often. When we’re older, I want to look back without regretting that we didn’t try something that we really wanted to and that would have benefited others. There must be nothing worse than the “if only I had tried that when I was younger” idea. Even worse than that, in my mind, is getting to the end of my life and realising that I leave no meaningful, inspirational legacy.

And so, coupled with the reality of being on the edge of taking that step of faith into doing something meaningful with my life, is the challenge of actually doing it, so that one day, when I’m dead and gone, my daughter and the generations after her will be looking at my life and singing “You make me smile”.

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3 thoughts on “Behind the Song: On The Edge

  1. You TOTALLY make me smile……. so proud of you. thanks for being true to yourself, Ryan. God bless your work and increase your blessing(influence) in the music world.

  2. Believe me Ryan, when you’re older, you get quieter and slower and more focussed than all the hustle and bustle that youth demands. But you are not in the age group that I have reached and so I cannot expect you to adhere to what I write. I observe my grandchildren and console them when they have not managed to complete their tasks and offer this; “Say to the task, see the worry in my eye”.
    ‘On the edge’ (To use your title song) of the next phase that life takes you through, you look around you and exclaim, “That can wait till tomorrow” (Circumstances often twist your arm) and when tomorrow eventually arrives, you say, “How did I ever accomplish so many demands in the short time that has flown by”? Who really is behind all that I somehow manage to get through and know that it really was impossible for me to do single handed? My family for one have been part of the secret to my success. Friends too and yes, even enemies, have got me through. Everyone around me suddenly seems part of the destiny I face and they take on a new meaning in my busy schedule.
    I am slow. I run so slowly, because I eat so slowly and when I set out to do more than I can accomplish, Wisdom takes over and my day takes a complete turnaround. It offers this; “Whatever you have to do, can wait for tomorrow”! “Tomorrow, you will accomplish far more than you have dreamed about, if you first take time to smell the roses and enjoy today”.
    When I see all that you and the rest of the band have accomplished in the fleeting years that have past, I often think how many roses you all keep smelling?

  3. […] Rise, an old favourite I’m Alright, the ballad More Beautiful Tonight, new album title track On The Edge and ending off with the upbeat Loving Every Day. It’s always interesting seeing how our music […]

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