Before Native, your humble narrator was in a band called Kitchen Ethics. Based in Hell’s Kitchen, and helmed by Joel Golden, Mick Ryall, and Ron Brice, we were lucky enough to play gigs with Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, God Street Wine, and were a part of the burgeoning New York Rock Club Scene in the pre-Wetlands days when small clubs like Nightingale’s, and McGovern’s ruled the roost.
It was during this period that I started to take up a guitar and attempt to write songs. As a drummer, I’ve always tried to play with really good songwriters, and the day came when I had collected enough influences and arrangement practices that I was compelled to take it a step further and write the darn thing myself.
I was like Candide, throwing myself into the role of writer and hoping that sheer luck and effort would make up for things like not knowing the names of the chords, or how to play the guitar.
But, I had one very good advantage, as a drummer I knew very clearly what the beat was, and how I wanted it played. This may not sound like much, but let me tell you something, most of the songwriters I worked with, as good as they were, usually had no idea what they wanted, beat-wise. Quite often, I’d be playing a song and wonder if I had it right, and I seldom found out!
So, I was motivated to write songs from the beat up, and with the encouragement of the Kitchen Ethics guys, I wrote a little ditty called The Better Part Of Valor. Good title, but that’s about all that’s good in it. Oh, the band plays it fine, it’s the lyrics and melody, and singing that makes me absolutely sure that I’ll not be playing it for anyone.
Kitchen Ethics broke up, sadly, and I was left with The Radon Room in Mott Street. Two years later, at the same location, Native was getting going, and I decided to dust off this tune and give it a revamp. Inspired by the intoxicating sight of beautiful girls dancing around an open fire after a Grateful Dead concert, (and with Something Worth Remembering already under my belt) I proceeded to work up a tune that worked out pretty well, and would stay in our setlists for the rest of Native’s touring days.
We never recorded an album version, other than the epic live version found on Native’s cd – Live From Marmfington Farm Vol. 1. But, we *did* tape a demo of it during the sessions from Fall 1995 that have made up a big part of Nativology Vol. 2
In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best things we did in these sessions. So, take a trip back in time, to a Grateful Dead parking lot bonfire, and the silhouetted dancers around it, those —