My Girl Won't Recycle

The single cover, seen by at least a dozen people.

I the late 90's, I had an idea for a song about a young woman who had many positive attributes, but one fatal flaw: she would not recycle. I worked out the first verse and part of the second, writing it down in a notebook... where it sat for a few more years until 2002, when I finally fleshed it out in hopes of having my band Restraining Order learn it so we could perform, and ultimately record, the song. Here are the original lyrics:

My girlfriend wears her safety belt
She never lets it slide
She's always thinking of her health
When we go for a ride

She stays away from MSG
In her Chinese food
But if they inadvertently
Add some, she's never rude

Just one point of contention
That I feel I must mention

My girl won't recycle
She won't reuse - she won't reduce
My girl won't recycle
What the hell is her excuse?

She's quite aware of homeless pets
Funds all their charities
Sends money every chance she gets
She just can't deny their pleas

And when she's tired of her clothes
They go in plastic bags
Salvation Army always knows
She brings the finest rags

She's so considerate
There's one thing I don't get

My girl won't recycle
She won't reuse - she won't reduce
My girl won't recycle
What the hell is her excuse?

She backs up all her files
So careful changing aisles
Participates in walk-a-thons
Covers her mouth when she yawns
Gives blood when time allows
Drinks milk from free range cows
But why can't her plans
Include reusing cans?

Too many ugly contradictions
Just one thing left to do
Since I can't change her predilections
She'll be recycled for someone new

She's normally so nice
Except for this one vice

My girl won't recycle
She won't reuse - she won't reduce
My girl won't recycle
She has no excuse
My girl won't recycle
She won't reuse - she won't reduce
My girl won't recycle
There is no excuse

The tune was titled "My Girl Won't Recycle". I recorded a demo on a very primitive piece of Mac Recording software called Easy Beat, which I loved at the time, because it was the only MIDI software I had - this was a few years before GarageBand was released. The sounds are pretty crappy, but it hardly matters for a demo - this is just a guide for the band to learn the basic structure of the song, and for our singer to learn the lyrics - and for those purposes, it worked fine.

Here's the original demo, followed by the Restraining Order version below:

My Girl Won't Recyle - original demo version:

My Girl Won't Recycle - final studio version:

I recorded the vocals for the demo right after waking up one morning, at around 5:00 (I was going on a weekend trip to see a friend and wanted to get it done before I left) - my voice is not usually so hoarse and ominous-sounding.

Of course, many things change when a band records a song. For one, my demo only had simple bass, drums and "guitar" parts (which really sounded more like an old Casio keyboard), but our band has a couple guitarists, as well as a sax player - so the arrangement was changed - I think for the better.

The tempo also increased dramatically - also for the better. The demo is pretty dirge-like, which wasn't necessarily my intention - it just came out that way. That felt natural when only the demo existed, but after hearing the band version and playing it live a bunch of times, the faster, upbeat version is the "real" version to me now.

Another big difference: the intro. I don't remember ever hearing "Judy In the Sky with Glasses" before, but the few people who heard the demo thought the songs' beginnings were way too similar, so the band worked out a totally different intro, with some dramatic guitar/sax interplay.

Also, once we got into the studio, our singer Jason realized that he couldn't fit in all the words in that last verse (the word"predilection" was especially hard for him to deliver at the new, faster tempo) - so he and I worked out a new verse with less syllables:

Although it may seem to severe
I know what I must do
My waste reduction plan is clear:
Recycle her for someone new

He also suggested changing one instance of "What the hell is her excuse?" to "What on Earth is her excuse?" to better tie in the environmental theme - and so we did. That was a cool idea and a nice way to vary the lyrics a little.

I did the sound effects in the bridge - the girly "Excuse me!" (for the aisle-changing reference), the yawn (for the mouth-covering reference) and the cow sounds. I love doing cow sounds.

The song came out on our five-song E.P. Five on Green (also available on iTunes) and garnered a good reaction from both those who heard the recorded and the live version. People like the funny, I guess.

I thought the song had potential to get us some publicity, so I created a single cover (using the same "mean girl" drawing I used on my Staring Problem products (I like to recycle for real, y'all), burnt about 50 copies of the CD (with only "Recycle" on it), and starting sending it out to people. I don't remember my distribution list, except I did send a copy to the Philadelphia Recycling Office.

That was a pretty bold move, but it paid off (I guess they're not used to receiving music submissions at city offices) - someone there liked the song and sent it to a P.R. firm who handled only environmental companies and causes. That agency was putting together an Earth Day celebration at Citizens Bank Park (home of the Phillies), and they asked us to play for a bunch of school kids who were being rewarded for their school's recycling efforts by having a day just for them at the park.

So we "kidfied" many of our songs ("Wars We Need to See" became "Smores We Need to Eat" - not very environmentally-themed, but much more kid-friendly as kids don't tend to like warfare) and spent the day performing. The Philly Phanatic actually came out in the middle of one of our sets and joined us. He came marching out during "This Land", and everyone went wild. The Phanatic alternated between conducting the band, mock-grabbing our instruments, and generally causing havoc amongst the kids. He really is a great performing, getting a huge reaction without even being able to speak. We were all very impressed with him - he's now my second-favorite green creature. And - we were on the evening news on at least one station - our biggest clam-to-fame thus far (unfortunately).

Restraining Order at Citizens Bank Park for Earth Day 2006. And no,
unfortunately, we aren't still in touch with the Phanatic.

It was a nice little run, all from one song idea. I should write another one, maybe about getting free drums, in the hopes that it will yield free drums in real life. I'm always prepared for more drums.

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