Friday, February 20, 2015

Bomb Train

Yesterday morning, early in my day as I started my normal routine (if in fact I have one), I began watching Democracy Now on the computer. Amy was going through the details of the daily headlines, the story was about another oil train exploding, this time in Mount Carbon, West Virginia. The programming showed the video a fireball raising upward into a cloud covered snowy sky and an observer obviously frightened by the intensity of the explosion. Seeing this triggered recent thoughts of this very subject as the theme of a song. I have been carrying around the idea since last summer, yet until today it remained solely as an idea. By chance, the previous night I had watched an episode of the early 1960's television show ''Rawhide'', who's musical theme seemingly remaining in the forefront of my consciousness, obvious to me now, came to mind. Those words, ''rollin, rollin rollin,'' popped into thought, in its musical form. The words can logically describe the movement of a train, and the musical theme in that very brief stanza in music formed solidly immediately followed by a differing stanza retaining that rhythm, yet entirely original. A phrase of ascending notes, followed a similar phrase of descending notes. This event happened in a time span of seconds and I immediately realized this could be the song. I grabbed the computer mouse, pausing the news video in play, followed by the opening of a word processor and began to write. ''Rollin', rollin', rollin', when the bomb trains come rollin, on into your town...” and continued, words quickly coming into place, telling a new imaginary story about the observance of an oil train passing by, the observer stopped behind a blocking railroad crossing gate, awaiting the train's passage. A poetic description of how it could be to be forced from the intended path by a railroad crossing gate and the train rolling by directly behind it. I think on that scene now, although imaginary, I painted it up pretty well, the hearing of the train horn, the wheels striking the joints in the steel track causing that distinct sound and waiting there in a state of limbo or in a position of being on hold. From there the story goes on tho the threat these oil trains pose in real life, to anyone who might happen to be near one of these exploding bomb trains, in which the story line concludes that the train will explode when it reaches ''downtown.'' I stopped somewhere after writing out the first half of the verse, 4 lines of rhyme, to grab a guitar to compose this music that was now rather clear in my minds eye.

The music created is in the key of E minor, in 2/4 time, in a fast moving tempo of 194 BPM. It begins quite like the theme of ''Rawhide,'' only long enough to get through those three words, creating a brief illusion that will bring up memories to the listener of that theme song, but then with a brief walk-down conclusion of that stanza, the ascending phrase takes hold, altering this illusion of known, into what will be unknown to the listener. I decided to make the first half of the verse, those four lines, in the key of E minor, then the following second half of the verse being different, in the key of A minor. This half concludes resolving back to a similar resolution as the first half, that is a B7th which follows a F# , making a somewhat apprehensive shape in its musical presentation.

Having now at least somewhat formed the complete musical theme, I put the guitar back down and went back to the keyboard, writing out more lyrics. I went back again to the introductory stanza, rollin', rollin', rollin', adding a complementary phrase, bomb train to it, as though it were a following tag, then went on to another verse. Along the course of the process, I went back and forth between writing and review while playing guitar and singing these new lyrics. The purpose being that of integrating the music into my memory while analyzing the lyric for meter and rhyme. Along the course in process, I became stumped to rhyme a particular line closing word that seemed important enough to retain rather than replace. I did something new to me, I used a search engine asking it for a rhyme to this word. To my surprise I found website, new to me, which provided a solving of the word in wanting. Later in the process, I came to another desire for finding rhyme and tried the website again without having a successful conclusion. I was however able to find a rhyme after some thought, and on I went.

With the concluding verses of the song I had the desire to make this work hold some historical significance. Having no actual factual information on hand, I did another web search finding several instances in fact, of locations where oil trains have exploded in recent history. There are surprisingly and sadly, too many to choose from. I found several names of communities, cities or towns, wrote them down, along with the human death count from a specific location and disaster. I incorporated these names and figures into the lyric, giving the song historical reference.

I concluded the song as I started it, back to that opening theme, including the complementary, ''bomb train'' phrase, again followed by those ascending/descending stanzas. In the end, I practiced playing and singing the song for a long time, then made a rough recording to hold the song. My memory is really getting leaky.

**An edit addendum**

I have added a refined recording of this song and video, mp3 page of my website: