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"Bryte Side"

"Bryte Side"

from the LP The World Won't End
 Somebody said you got it together
as if I'd never been alive.
The weak fireworks eclipsed in a trauma.
Another year does suicide.

Throat open to the cut of a winter
if only just to feel alive.
The cascading days 
they crash on each other.
I wish you well this starry night.

On the bright side.
On the bright side.
Left me blind.

I hope i never love anybody
the way we never really tried.
Skin tanning in a hot flash summer.
I never was so terrified.

On the bright side.
On the bright side.
Left me blind.

Joe Pernice Bony Gap Music (BMI), admin. by BUG/BMG.

phioto by Norm DeMoura

I can’t recall exactly when I wrote Bryte Side. I was living in the house on Crescent Street in Northampton, MA. The same place where I’d written most of the Scud Mountain Boys and almost all of the Pernice Brothers songs to up till then. I’m not sure if it was hot or cold outside. But I had caught a glimpse of a news story on TV about a fireworks warehouse that had exploded. That got me thinking about fireworks, which got me thinking about New Years Eve, which got me thinking …and I was off to the races.

I should get this out of the way from the jump: Nick Drake had been in heavy rotation for some time, and yes, I stole his spelling from Bryter Layter. I should also add that I named the album The World Won’t End as a tongue in cheek nod to the late great poet Charles Simic’s Pulitzer Prize winning collection The World Doesn’t End. My choice of “Won’t” was meant to be at the same time reassuring and a lament. Too much thinking for the title of a “pop” record? Perhaps. And when it came time to design the record jacket, I tried to get Laura Stein (keyboards, vocals, matrimony, design) to use the same font on Simic’s book, but she wasn’t having it. In the end, the jacket she designed is perfect for the record, and I’ve always loved it.

Back to the song. The chorus changes and lyrics came to me first and fast: On the bright side…left me bliiiiiind. Somehow I managed to stretch a single syllable word out to five. And no kidding, the violin melody under the vocal melody came to me in that minute. That melody line informed the production, and I could tell—even before the whole song was written—how it would sound. Pretty exciting stuff for someone like me. (The violin melody is more obvious on the modulation section, where the song goes to the modulated chorus chord changes.)

The house on Crescent St. in Northampton, MA. I wrote a lot of songs in that sunroom to the right.

The strings were ultimately arranged by David Trenholm who I’d known for a long time in Northampton, MA. Dave has been a member of my great friend Frank Padellaro’s band King Radio. I remember him going over the scores with Dave and being so excited to hear his charts unfold with the songs. Again, very exciting stuff for me.

The prose poems in this book changed me.

With regard to the “studio” recording of the song, the only thing I really recall is laying down the 12-string acoustic track. I don’t believe I owned a 12-string at the time, so we must have borrowed one. The recording sessions for The World Won’t End were pretty crazy. Loose ends and schedules flying all over the place. And not a lot of money/ Did I mention not a lot of money?

My partner Joyce and I had only months before decided to start our own record company. This would be our first proper release. (We’d licensed the record Big Tobacco to Glitterhouse in Germany, but that album wouldn’t come out on our label until after The World Won’t End.)

The entire record (with the exception of the strings) was recorded in Thom Monahan’s house, also in Northampton. It was a single floor ranch on the outskirts of town. Cool spot. Again, I’ll have to someday write something about that time. I’d left the “security” of a real record label to co-run my own.

In addition to the orchestration on the LP version of Bryte Side I must say the backing vocals make the song. That lineup of the band had three great “backup” singers. Each was a lead vocalist in their respective bands. Thom Monahan, Laura Stein and Peyton Pinkerton. All three not only could sing, but they loved to sing. The loving it is an added, audible bonus if you ask me.

As for the lyrics, this song has a line that stung me to admit it was true: I hope I never love anybody the way we never really tried.

The World Won’t End album cover designed by Laura Stein

Bryte Side is one of my favorite of my recordings. Hearing and playing it again brings back a lot of good memories. And like all of my songs, it’s pretty simple. Any hack rhythm player can play it. I’m living proof. Just listen to the recording included here.

I sang and played live. I used a Martin acoustic. Recorded to my iPhone through a Shure MV88 condenser mic for iPhone.

As always, thanks for listening. Take care of yourselves and those around you.


Four Track Substack
Four Track Substack Podcast
Musician and writer Joe Pernice shares recordings and some words about making them.
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