ABOUT CRACK OF DAWN
There is no order to the songs in this book—not alphabetical, not chronological, not from “best of” to “worst of”—the order is both random and whatever felt right, one song after another. However, I did want the first song to be meaningful in some way, so I put a bit of thought into the selection.
Crack Of Dawn became the logical choice. It was the seminal song in my writing collaboration with John Schwab, which, in commercial terms, was my most successful partnership.
I had previously written almost all of the lyrics when John and I finished the song one day in his living room, making it the only song that we worked on together at the same time and in the same place. The lyrics to Crack Of Dawn are stark and edgy, some of the best lyrics I’ve ever written. Crack cocaine was a huge problem in the late 1980s. I have never been in a crack house, and to this day I have yet to see crack cocaine in person. Still, I think my lyrics captured the sheer despair and desperation of a lost soul addicted to crack.
I have many memories associated with this song. I remember going to Sisapa Studios during the recording of Crack Of Dawn and meeting Kenny Aronoff. Kenny was the drummer in John Mellencamp’s band and played on his biggest albums. Kenny has also toured with John Fogerty, playing hits from Fogerty’s solo career and from his Creedence Clearwater Revival days. Over the years, Kenny has played on records by many of the biggest names in rock, and has performed multiple times at The Grammys and the Kennedy Center Honors. To watch and hear him lay down drum tracks to Crack Of Dawn, a song I cowrote, was a special day.
I remember John Schwab’s 40th birthday party celebration at a Columbus, Ohio, club whose name escapes me. The place was packed, and a number of guest musicians played with John over the course of the evening. With maybe seven or eight other musicians and singers on stage, John did a nearly fifteen minute version of Crack of Dawn, with long solos by the various players interspersed throughout. It was pure magic, and I regret that no one recorded it that night.
In 1994, John and Mike Nugen played a gig at Bourbon Street that fortunately was recorded. Their amazing live version was released on their You Thought I Was Something Special...But I Fooled You CD, and I also included it on my compilation CD, Just A Few Words Between Friends...
Another memory was the time I was at one of John’s gigs. Before he played Crack of Dawn, he introduced me from the stage. After the song was over, a guy came up to me to shake my hand and tell me how much he loved the song. I was flattered until I started discussing the lyrics and realized he had no clue what the song was about. When I told him I was describing a night in a crack house, he had a blank look on his face. Oh, well.
Then there was the night that John Schwab and Mike Nugen opened for Stephen Stills at the Riffe Center in Columbus. After ending their set with Crack of Dawn, John and Mike walked off the stage. Stephen Stills was waiting to go on and said to John, “Nice song, man.” It’s a good feeling to know I cowrote a song that Stephen Stills liked.
My most recent memorable moment about this song actually played a part in the writing of this book. John, his mom, and his sister, Julie, were visiting us for the day in Florida. I was talking with Julie and Crack of Dawn came up. She knew John and I wrote songs together, but for twenty-five years she thought that John had written Crack Of Dawn by himself. She didn’t know that I wrote all of the lyrics except for the line waiting for that magic blast. Ah, the life of the anonymous lyricist! The seed for this book was planted that day, because even my cowriter’s sister didn’t associate my name with a song whose title and words originated in my mind. I figured it was time for me to let people know the songs that I wrote—not for money, not for fame—just For The Record.