‘Ten Year Bender’: Lyrics, Stories, In the Studio
Backstory | Lyrics | Recording | Listen on YouTube and SoundCloud
Song: Ten Year Bender
Album: Ten Year Bender
This song is the title track from the 2015 re-release of Ten Year Bender by my rock project Stand & Deliver. I don’t remember the exact day when I wrote the song Ten Year Bender, but I imagine it as one of those beautiful, warm, sunny days in late spring or early summer in Detroit. Everyone is feeling euphoric now that the long winter is finally over. We all know the sunny days are numbered, so we’re doing our best to enjoy every drop of the warmth and sunshine while we can.
I’ve been writing for hours at a time lately about the period when I made Ten Year Bender. Check out the back story posts on the Behind the Songs page.
I’m pleasantly high¹, the sun is shining, and the world is spinning slowly in vibrant hues of tree-green and sun-yellow and sky-blue. I’ve got the windows open in the Indian Village carriage house. I can hear the birds chirping in the trees. The traffic out on Jefferson Avenue sounds kind of like waves at the beach. I’ve found this bouncy little G-F-C pattern on my Mountain acoustic guitar. And the words “coming off a ten-year bender” pop into my head. A couple hours later and I’ve got a rough draft of the song scribbled down in my journal.
I have been obsessed to varying degrees with the character Odysseus/Ulysses for going on 30 years now. The “screaming with the sirens” line is an obvious reference, but this whole song has that feel of reaching the end of a long and perilous voyage and finding yourself on solid ground, hardly daring to believe you’ve actually arrived at your destination.
In Homer’s version of the myth, maybe it’s the moment when Ulysses finally steps off the ship and touches the ground of Ithaca again – the moment right before he realizes the Universal truth that the ending of one quest inevitably brings the beginning of a new journey.
Which isn’t to downplay the significance of that moment. I think, especially when we’re young, that the hope of reaching our goal – of satisfying our heart’s desire – is what keeps us going through the rough seas. Odysseus’ vision of sitting by the hearth with his beloved Penelope is what tied him to the mast as the ship passed through the sirens’ realm, what gave him the courage to leave Circe and to turn away from the pleasurable oblivion of the lotos-eaters.
For a soul as tormented by the demon of alcohol as I had been, waking up even one morning feeling almost certain that everything was going to be just fine – that was my destination.
Ten Year Bender Lyrics
Comin’ off a ten-year bender
Looking like a train wreck
Anything’s a bargain when you’re drinking alone
Yeah, when you’re that far gone every woman look a little like home
You said you tried to warn me
Said I was moving too fast
It’s just a whistle in the wind mama when you’re moving that fast
I was screaming with the sirens every time they tied me to the mast
It’s been coming for a long, long time
Wake up feeling everything (oh yeah!) gonna be just fine
If you could just see through me
Like I see through you
If you could just see straight you would see a heart that’s true
I said, “Don’t look now cuz you got a little living to do”
Comin’ off a ten-year bender
Looking like a train wreck
Well I’m looking like a train wreck, honey
Recording the song Ten Year Bender
All of the songs on the album were recorded over about a one-year period in 2002-2003 at Lupo’s Studio in Saint Claire Shores, Michigan.
I was doing a lot of ‘critical listening’ during this period. I’d listen to a song or album that moved me over and over, trying to understand how the band made me feel the way they did.
One of my clearest memories of recording the song Ten Year Bender is of coming back to the carriage house after tracking one of the rhythm guitar parts and trying to work out on the fretboard a harmony I’d been hearing in my head on the drive home.
I spent an entire evening working out the guitar part that comes in (right speaker) at 1:00 and practicing it over and over so I’d be able to knock it out at the next day’s recording session.
A few other impressions:
- I feel so fortunate to have Karen Bennet’s voice on two of the songs on this record. She is an amazing person with a beautiful, soulful voice and a gift that all the great back-up vocalists have – tuning in to the deeper vibe of the song and translating it into vibrations of sound that make you feel. Karen was one of the three original back-up singers. She did an incredible job of replicating and improving upon the original (sadly, out of tune) three-part vocal harmonies that kick in on the bridge. One of my life goals is to write an album of songs featuring Karen as the lead vocalist. That one will really blow some minds.
- By the time we recorded ‘Ten Year Bender,’ I’d run out of money to pay James Simonson(Brothers Groove, Thornetta Davis), who played bass on about half the songs on the album. So Lupo took over and did a great job with the bass on this song.
- I can’t remember which John Lennon song I was obsessing over at the time, but I noticed he would create more space in the mix by tracking his rhythm guitars clean and at lower volume. We borrowed this idea for the guitars that are just playing the chords throughout the song. I think that’s my DeArmond Starfire semi-hollow body through an AC Vox amp with the brilliant channel turned up and the normal channel turned down.
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1 – I haven’t smoked marijuana in years; I was on what the old-timers call the marijuana maintenance program in 2002. More on that in Part 2. Go back