You Can Come Home

One winter’s night a number of years ago in Boston, I was huddled in my small studio apartment on Boylston Street near Berklee College of Music. It was a cold December evening, and as I recall I was broke and in fact sitting in the dark because the electric bill had not been paid. I did have a battery operated radio, however, and a squeaky and somewhat effective radiator in the corner, as well as a number of cigarette butts with a few drags on them. In other words, not rock bottom, but pretty near the shoals.

I was listening to some late-night Grateful Dead program (I think syndicated, but who knows now), and they were playing “deep” cuts. In the midst of my depressingly cold scene came a hauntingly beautiful song — probably one of the most beautiful songs, in terms of sheer lyricism and fragility, that I had ever heard. It was I Will Take You Home, words by John Perry Barlow and music by Brent Mydland.

I have heard this song only once; that evening, and never again. But as soon as it finished on the radio, I picked up my guitar and wrote the following song.

When all the sad Romeos you call companions
have found their way back to the night;
and all your engagements for debutante stages
aren’t coming as fast as they might;
when the crowd you enamored decides you’re a scam
and finds some other queen for your throne,
and you’re trying not to weep, trying to sleep, trying so hard
to forget that you’re sleeping alone,

when your circle of friends fades to lines on the mirror
that tell you the years have gone by,
and your social connections just send their condolences
(sorry, they just can’t stop by);
when the world outside your side of which you’re so petrified
just might be nothing at all,
I’ll be around when there’s nobody else you can call.

When you’ve played Cleopatra and Anthony’s gone,
and your lovers have found other roles;
when the rest of the blessed have begun to confess
they’ve no need for your broken down soul;
when your audience turns from compassion to apathy,
leaving the theater bare,
and you’re trying not to weep, trying to sleep, trying so hard
to forget that there’s nobody there;

when you’re shunned like a leper by all the pretenders
you thought were your very best friends;
and the children you’ve raised turn their backs on you,
leaving you to wander alone ’til your end;
when you’re old and turned gray, and they take you away
’cause you can’t seem to find your way home,
I’ll be around when you don’t want to be all alone.

When all your imagined battalions of Galahads
fade back into the mist,
and you find your influence has faded to nothing
and you’re not so hard to resist;
when those princes on horseback find some other maidens
to seek out and rescue from pain,
and you’re trying not to weep, trying to sleep, trying so hard
to pretend that it’s all still the same;

when the dreams you were promised turn out to be nightmares,
and all of your hopes turn to tears;
when your vanity fades and you pull down the shades
and think back on the faraway years;
when you’re lost in the night, and even the cold moonlight
has left you, and you’re all alone —
I’ll be around when you need me to take you back home.

You can come on home.

1993

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