Whaddaya Say? (The Saga of Sam)

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Lyrics
This is the story of a dog named Sam. Sam lived with a couple of grown-ups and a couple of kids, and he loved his life. One day, nobody knows how, but he could talk and think and feel just like a person. And the grown-ups thought, “Ah, no more teaching this dog old tricks, it’s time for some new ones. Because the difference between a dog and a person is what you train them to do!”

Used to be, Sam would want to play outside
He’d run to the door, they’d let him out, and he’d run free in the breeze
Oh, but now, now that Sam could talk and think
He ran to the door, they looked at him, and they told him, “Sam, say ‘please’!”

So he did, and one fine day
The only thing they had to say was

“Whaddaya say?” — and he said it
And he wondered if I don’t feel it, do I get credit?
But everytime, whatever he wanted, he’d get it
So when they would say, “Whaddaya say?” — he said it

Then when Sam trackin’ mud would come back in
They’d clean up the floor, clean off his feet, and it all was fine somehow
Oh, but now, now that Sam could talk and think
He tracked in the mud, they looked at him, and said, “Say, ‘I’m sorry,’ now!”

So he did, and one fine day
The only thing they had to say was

“Whaddaya say?” — and he said it
And he wondered if I don’t feel it, do I get credit?
But everytime, whatever he wanted, he’d get it
So when they would say, “Whaddaya say?” — he said it

Later on, when the dinnertime would come
They’d pour the food, he’d run to his bowl, and he’d eat up every gram
Oh, but now, now that Sam could talk and think
They poured the food, he ran to his bowl, and they said, “Say, ‘Thank you,’ Sam!”

So he did, and one fine day
The only thing they had to say was

“Whaddaya say?” — and he said it
And he wondered if I don’t feel it, do I get credit?
But everytime, whatever he wanted, he’d get it
So when they would say, “Whaddaya say?” — he said it

Belly full, wanting just to take a nap
Sammy would yawn, then he would head to the cushion where he snoozed
Oh, but now, now that Sam could took talk and think
When he was done, right then they were saying “Say ‘May I be excused”!”

So he did, and one fine day
The only thing they had to say was

“Whaddaya say?” — and he said it
And he wondered if I don’t feel it, do I get credit?
But everytime, whatever he wanted, he’d get it
So when they would say, “Whaddaya say?” — he said it

Sam could have learned so many valuable things. But he didn’t even learn what the grown-ups thought they had taught him. He didn’t learn to be grateful or regretful or considerate. He only learned to say what people wanted to hear so he could get what he wanted. But he remembered, he got what he wanted even easier before he could talk. So he stopped talking, and the grown-ups thought he was just a plain old dog again. So they stopped treating him like a person. They just did for him all the things they used to do, asking nothing in return. And when the kids in the family saw Sam was loving his life again, well, they stopped talking, too. What happened then, that’s a story for another time.

Story
This song and the album it comes from were written using Appreciative Inquiry and Internal Family Systems. With IFS, we can talk about different parts of ourselves as if they are separate people. Hopefully that clarifies why these stories at times refer to he, she and we!

One of the ideas I’d come to in thinking about writing songs for the album was “supposed to” — how we’re so often led to believe that we’re supposed to do this or that, saddled with all sorts of rules. From etiquette and manners to many other cultural expectations and even laws, there are lots of “shoulds” that seem to force themselves on us.

For the fourth song for the album, I did an Appreciative Inquiry on this idea. It led me think about how there are often good reasons the rules were put in place but how they just don’t always end up meeting their goals anymore — like the old story about Grandma’s ham. Why does the recipe involve cutting the ends off the ham? Turns out it was because Grandma had a small oven and small pan. She had to cut the ends off just to get the thing in the oven. Later, with bigger ovens and bigger pans, people kept the recipe, not realizing that they were wasting food for no good reason.

This made me think about how as parents we want our kids to turn out a certain way, but a lot of times the things we do to try to make that happen really end up accomplishing the opposite — like when we want them to be grateful or sorry but settle for having them parrot certain words about gratitude and regret even when they don’t actually feel those things. We’d rather they say the words than feel the feelings — and we often even communicate that directly, asking them, “Whaddaya say?” as a prompt, showing that we expect them to simply say a certain thing in a certain situation. It’s more important to say it than to be it. They learn to please others and get themselves out of uncomfortable situations instead of feeling for the other person and helping resolve things.

I started hearing a rough, guitar-based rock song, edgy and electric, but not fast, something that would give a lot of weight to the really serious ideas underneath the song. But I needed a fun way to present it. Thinking about the way kids are taught to just respond a particular way, I thought about Pavlov’s dogs. It’s like we’re treating the kids like pets, training them like dogs, conditioning them, doesn’t matter what they really think or feel. We just care that they act a certain way, produce a certain outward behavior.

Suddenly, the whole idea for the song just popped out. Make the story about a dog, something we normally see as just needing training. The dog learns to talk, and so we know there’s far more to the dog than what we thought there was, but now the talking just becomes part of the training. We think the talking is enough to make the dog ready to act a certain way. We taught the dog what to do before, and now we see new things we think he needs to learn. We’ll just ask it, “Whaddaya say?” and train it to say the right things, too. Everything flowed from there.

There were several examples of things to say that I thought were worthwhile. The song was growing long, but even then, it seemed to need some more explanation. With the style of music I’d picked, I imagined it being one of the kinds of songs where people turn on their lighters during a concert, and I thought about the band introducing it slowly, carefully building it up for the crowd before they actually grace the crowd with the performance of the much anticipated song. That led to the narration idea, which felt right for that kind of effect and also made the extra explanation possible. I was surprised just how long the song ended up, but I thought the “real” rock sound, the way the song builds, and the story itself would be enough to hold interest.

This was the second of four songs in a row where the AI and writing weren’t consciously done with a particular part of me, but I had a sense that different parts were stepping up to the plate, so to speak, focusing on different and appropriate topics. Later, when it became clear that each part should have its own song, I started doing an AI with a part of me that finds it really important to just be where he is, who he is, to not do anything he’s not ready for, and who has often been really angry about being made to do or be otherwise. In the middle of the AI, he realized that what was most important to him were the ideas in this song that had already been written. In fact, he’d often seen himself as sort of uncivilized and animal-like, like a wolf — not in a bad way, just in a natural way. And here was a song not only about the idea he’d realized was important, but it was even about a dog, a domesticated wolf! Its harder rock style also captured a lot of the strong feelings he’d often had about these things. He felt that it was almost like the song was channeling him in the first place, and it felt really right for him to claim this song as his own.

The next song written for Everyone's Invited was The Animal School.

Share your own stories — of art or other things that have inspired you, of how you came to do something artistic or creative, of how the OHB’s songs have impacted you, whatever you like — at the Fan Clan.

Credits
Written by and Circle P - Phonorecord Copyright&© 2008 Mark S. Meritt (BMI). All rights reserved.

Dianne Mucci – Vocals
MSM – Instruments, additional vocals

Produced, arranged, recorded and mixed by MSM in the basement in the village, Red Hook, NY, using a MacBook Pro, MOTU Digital Performer 5.13, Native Instruments Kontakt 3, Quantum Leap Colossus, and an M-Audio Keystation Pro 88.

Vocals recorded in the garage on the mountain, Bloomingburg, NY.

Release Date: November 11, 2008
Album: Everyone's Invited
Track Number: 11
Length: 5:54

Written: 4th of the 12 songs for the album, starting January 22, 2008
Key: Written in G, transposed to Db for recording
Arranged: 11th, starting April 16, 2008
Vocals recorded 12th, October 7, 2008
Mixed: 12th, starting October 8, 2008

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Whaddaya Say? (The Saga of Sam) — MP3 Single

Last modified on 1970-03-17 15:48:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

From the album Everyone's Invited

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