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As happens from time to time, Bruce will hand me a track with a line that has lodged in his mind while writing the music. In this case it was, ‘I’m just sitting by the Mayflower’. He imagined the Mayflower to be a third rate bar of some kind and the man singing to be drinking himself into oblivion as he waited for a date that didn’t show up.
But I liked the idea of The Mayflower - that wind blown hulk of a ship so deeply embedded in the early history of North America. It is a tragic story - a poorly equipped boat whose trans Atlantic voyage was plagued with bad weather, disease, and short supplies before arriving off course to a harsh winter that left half of the passengers and crew dead by spring. And yet, this pivotal tale is not without its triumphs for it is drenched in the human capacity to endure much in the moment for the sake of a hoped for future.
So, I moved the man in question to the dock yards of the Pilgrim’s boat, waiting for the woman he is hoping will come with him on his great adventure. When we read history with its lists of facts and figures, we often forget that in the midst of the grand sweeping narratives there are smaller stories of hoped for loves, broken promises, and regretful decisions. I wish she had gone with him. But, then, maybe he didn’t make it to spring.
On a historical note, I’m not sure that rum was widely available in England at the time of the Mayflower, or even if it was, given the puritanical overtones of the voyage, that it would have been part of the cargo. But by the time this was realized, we had already recorded the song - my apologies to all historians and drinkers of sugar-cane residues.
Bruce tells me that his first band, The Pharaohs, would have loved this song. CJ
I’ve been sitting by the Mayflower,
All this time, just waiting for you.
Right here at the Mayflower,
Wondering what you’re gonna do.
My bags are standing in the dockyard,
Beside a different point of view.
I’ve been sitting by the Mayflower
All this time, just waiting for you,
Right here at the Mayflower,
I swear I’m gonna see it through.
The dawn is breaking, and I am breaking too.
I wake up in the morning
And from the first light to the last
I’m cramped and cursed and kept down in my place.
But I’ve heard that in the new world
A man can be what he wants to be,
And mostly what I want is to be free.
I’m sitting here at the Mayflower,
Watching as they load up the rum.
Just sitting here at the Mayflower
Polishing my boots and my gun.
I’m still waiting for you baby,
I’m still hoping you’ll come.
How I talk and hold my knife,
My profile and my hands
They hold me in my place just like a vice.
But my dreams won’t be contained
Nor my worth stamped on a page,
A man can’t live his life inside a cage.
Well, I’m leaving on the Mayflower,
Hadn’t planned to leave without you.
I’m sailing on the Mayflower,
You have to do what you have to do.
I’m so sorry you’re not with me, wish you were sailing too.
from Bruce Ley Collection One 'The Peacock, the Deer, and the Moon',
track released March 26, 2014
Scott Bruyea, drums
Bob Hewus, bass
Steve Kennedy, baritone and tenor saxophones
Bruce Ley, organ, guitars, lead vocal
Steve Kennedy, Russell Jones, Bob Hewus, background vocals
Candice Bist, lyrics
Bruce Ley, music