Contact John

BFE Records
PO Box 6272
Plymouth, MI. 48170

Land of the Living – Lyrics & Notes

All songs (including lyrics) © 2004 by John Finan


Intro: Off The Ground
Land Of The Living
Waking Alone
Between The Paper And The Pen
Nothing At All
Hold The Door
Now That You’re Gone
A Song Of Hope
I Wish You Well
Off The Ground
Paid Rehearsal
Sleep Tight

Intro: Off The Ground

These are simply the vocal tracks isolated from the end of “Off The Ground”. (More on the song itself later.) I thought it might be a good way to wake up the listener, since it fades up REALLY slowly, and most people will turn it up – making the first note of the next song REALLY loud. (What sadistic bugger would do that, now..?) Top of Page

Land Of The Living

I was trying to get my wife out of bed at noon one Saturday morning – simple as that. (Kinda spoils any Big Metaphor people read into it, but what the hey.) This song came out that afternoon.
Instruments: electric 12-string rhythm, electric lead , bass, drums, voice.

Roll back the covers,
Raise up the blinds,
Lift up your body,
Awaken your mind,

Sunrise is past-
It’s a beautiful day,
There’s too much to do
Just to sleep it away,

And I’d like to see you
In the land of the living,
Where the company’s good
And the weekend is always forgiving,

Open your eyes, open your eyes
And come back to the land of the living.

The breakfast is done
And the coffee is brewed,
The radio’s on
And the station’s not rude,

The paper arrived
With the sections all there-
Proof that miracles happen
In the cool morning air. (C)

Let go of the nightmares
And the worries that you keep
Like a handy glass of water

At your bedside as you sleep,
Dwelling on the darkness
In the middle of the night
Can leave your eyes too blind to see the light.

Open the door,
Take a breath of the air,
Step into the yard
While your feet are still bare,

It’s good to be standing
On top of the ground,
Before the long view
From below comes around. (C)

Top of Page

Waking Alone

Another song based on imagery at BlissFest, but written a few weeks later. The “mist” mentioned was particularly striking – I’ve never seen something so blue and gorgeous suspended in mid-air so low to the ground. (And not as the result of pollution.) Instruments: guitar, bass, keys and voice.

When the sun goes down tonight,
I’ll listen for the sound
Of the rainfall on the canvas
And the droplets running down, down, down…
Just a few feet from my head,
Like a lover’s quiet tread
While her partner dreams away
In the early hours of day,
And his dreams are like my own-
And we’ll both wake up alone.

When the raindrops fade away tonight
And the dark clouds have passed through,
I’ll step out in the grassy fields
In a midnight mist of blue, blue, blue…

That hangs low above the blades,
Casting tiny moonlit shades,
Which are hiding both my heels
And the lonliness I feel
Deep inside a heart you own-
And we’ll both wake up alone.

Now it feels like you’re there,
I can almost feel your hair-
How it drapes across my cheek,
Gets in my teeth when I speak,
But I’m too asleep to say
If you’re right here
Or so many miles away.

When I lie down with the stars again
In a clear and simple sky,
I can stretch out in my sleeping bag
Without ever wondering why, why, why…

When it’s only once a year,
I don’t feel any fear,
For when I return to stay,
After all this time away,
I will share my bed at home-
And I won’t wake up alone.

Top of Page

Between The Paper And The Pen

A verbose song about writer’s block. (Per Leslie: “Writing about NOT writing..?!?”) Um… yep. Instruments: Acoustic & electric guitars, bass, drums, keys, lead & backing voices.

My hands are still
As I waste another hour,
The flesh is strong,
But the spirit’s overpowered
By the rush of thoughts
And emotions of the day,
And the need to change
them into something I can say,

But the words won’t come-
They’re wandering again
In the long, dark space
Between the paper and the pen.

I see the pain
In everybody’s eyes,
It comes and goes
But they no longer seem surprised,
I want to write
To communicate concern,
To show support,
And to cool what makes them burn,

But the words won’t come-
They’re wandering again
In the long, dark space
Between the paper and the pen.

I feel as useful as a shadow on the street-
A distorted imitation at my feet,
Out of sight and out of mind while at my best
With a confidence forever second-guessed.

So I’ll just sit
With a notebook in my hand,
And make my thoughts
Turn to words at my command.
Yes, I can dream –
It’s always been my greatest skill,
I have more luck
With my dreams than with my will,

Because words won’t come-
They’re wandering again
In the long, dark space
Between the paper and the pen.

Top of Page

Nothing At All

One of the oldest songs on the album – written around 1993 or 94. It surprises (and saddens) me how many people have told me how they’ve connected with this song. Instruments: Acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars, bass and 2 voices.

She sees through disguises, no matter how real,
She sees your emotions and knows how you feel,
She sees every detail, no matter how small,
But if you show her love, she sees nothing at all.

She can speak with two others and hear every word,
She’s very discreet when she shares what she’s heard,
She can hear a pin drop or a small child’s call,
But if you mention love, she sees nothing at all.

Long ago, she was mine,
Now she seems so out of tune,
Her senses are working fine-
I hope she comes to them soon.

She feels compassion when someone’s in pain,
She feels the wind and knows there will be rain,
She feels so good when she lets her hair fall,
But if you give her love, she sees nothing at all.

Top of Page

Hold The Door

A friend of mine was mourning the relocation of an ex-boyfriend still in her heart. This was my song to help her work through it. it must have worked, because she got engaged to someone else a year later. Instruments: Guitar, bass, keys, percussion, voice.

The greatest source of light you know
Is setting in the east,
And you don’t know which way to feel-
Abandoned or released,
You know he’ll always be your friend,
Although you hoped for more,
Make sure that he sees your love-
Smile and hold the door.

You wonder if he’s lost his mind,
Or if you’ve lost his heart,
He’s just lost to a pilgrimage
With waters yet to part,
Enough of him will stay behind-
His heart and so much more.
Kiss him hard and wish him well-
Smile and hold the door.

Set him free, the saying goes
If love is what your feel,
Affection under pressure
Can never make it real,
If it is, you’ll find his love
Washed back on your shore,
But first, he has to drift away-
Smile and hold the door.

Top of Page

Now That You’re Gone

The other old one – written around 1995 or 96. I was trying to write a blues song- that’s it. But I still have people ask “Who was THIS about..?” It wasn’t about anyone at all. Instruments: Acoustic & electric guitars, bass, drums, voice.

I can’t sleep- but I can’t stop my dreaming,
I can’t speak- but I just feel like screaming,
And the words that you once used to taunt me
Have returned and are staying to haunt me,
I don’t know what to do- now that you’re gone.

I can’t think- but my mind is still reeling,
I can’t drink- but this gin numbs my feelings,
And the question if you ever loved me,
Is suspended like stars up above me,
Always out of my reach- now that you’re gone.

There’s a space between us like a canyon,
That we both used to cross with abandon,
After too many angry words said
Now you’re crossing instead
To a different bed.

I can’t move- but my head is still spinning,
I can’t move- it’s just like the beginning
Of the time when we both were believers
In a passion that burned like a fever,
And it’s burning me still- now that you’re gone.

Top of Page

A Song Of Hope

Holy crap, he’s becoming an optimist! Actually, this was sparked by a co-worker who saw me through hard times a few years ago. He asked me if I was still writing – when I replied that I was, he
remarked how hopeful I sounded now (compared to then). This song happened shortly afterwards. Instruments: Guitar, bass, mandolin, voice.

To look into a shadow
And see beyond the darkness-
A sculpture or a moving work of art,
To find the optimist
Behind the eyes of cynicism-
A song of hope is where I need to start.

To fall asleep alone
And not dream of being lonely-
To wring the silent nightmares from my heart,
To change my angry words
Without losing my conviction-
A song of hope is where I need to start.

You ask me if I’m writing
And I tell you that I try,
Each word becomes a breath
And without them, I could die.
And they take me to places
Where I never thought I’d go,
And they bring me the hope
That I never thought I’d know.

To look upon my friends
And not wonder if I’ll lose them-
To be assured our bonds won’t come apart,
To look back at my life
And not feel it’s been wasted-
A song of hope is where I need to start.

Top of Page

I Wish You Well

I wrote this after receiving a surprise wedding invitation from a friend who had been through a divorce, and had subsequently been Conspicously Enjoying her bachelorettehood. Getting a wedding
invite from her seemed as likely as Rush Limbaugh french-kissing Hillary Clinton. (But, just because the former happened, let’s not rush the latter, ok?
Some things are just WRONG…) Charlie and Leslie sang backup on this one, and Charlie contributed the lead guitar licks. Other instruments: Guitar, bass,
drums, alto sax, voices.

When I finished with your letter,
I didn’t quite know what to do-
Should I extend congratulations
Or condolences to you?

Or extend them to your fiance,
But, then, both parts might be true,
Don’t know which is right,
But someday time will tell

Well, well, well,
I wish you well.

When I saw your big announcement,
I just blinked and read it twice,
You said variety was your life-
Never seen as just a spice,

You thought committment was surrender
With a white flag made of rice,
Thrown into the air,
To the sound of pealing bells,

Well, well, well,
I wish you well.

And I wonder how you’ll feel
When you think of all your vows-
The ones you made while single
And the ones you’re making now.

When I got your invitation
To a town I’ll never see,
I kept trying to find the reasons
In the fake calligraphy

That made you want to cross a threshold
More than metaphorically
Where you said you would go
The day a blizzard came to Hell,

Well, well, well,
I wish you well.

Top of Page


I ve been blessed to have been able to keep in touch with the people to whom I was closest in high school. One of them – my senior year sweetheart- invited me to HER reunion. She and many of my friends graduated a year behind me, and I had more fun at THAT reunion than at the one
for my own class. Observations from both reunions were the basis for this song. Instruments: Guitar, keys, voice.

I headed out to my reunion
At a hotel banquet hall,
To see the classmates I’d remember
Or didn’t know at all.

A few that I had kept in touch with
Met me early for a beer,
We drank to those who couldn’t make it
And those no longer here.

And that number just keeps growing
With our wrinkles and our pounds,
I’m still not brave enough to say “I love you”
To the others still around.

We all walked in wearing name tags
With photographs from senior year,
And engaged in conversations
Almost none of us could hear.

We told the stories of our weddings
And the ones that came to end,
We pulled out pictures of our children
That we show off to friends.

And the girl I was in love with
Is still beautiful today,
And I know she’ll never think of me as
The one that got away.

We took video and photos
By the fountain in the hall,
Collected addresses and numbers
That we knew we’d never call.

Because the people we lost touch with
Will just disappear again,
And the ones I know I’ll hear from
Have always been my friends.

Top of Page


I was listening to a little too much Dylan at the time of this one, methinks. This started as a prayer, and morphed along the way into social, religious and political commentary. In other words, I’ve probably pissed off as many people in one song as I have with all of my others combined. Instruments: Acoustic & electric guitars, bass, drums, voice.

Have mercy on the couple
When they don’t know how to talk,
Have mercy on the married man
Who’s far too quick to walk,

Have mercy on the children
When they step outside the rules,
Have mercy on their teachers
When they’re stressing out in school.

Don’t know where we’re going-
Some folks just don’t care,
I just hope somebody shows us
Mercy when we’re there.

Have mercy on the criminals
When they’re in and out of jail,
Have mercy on the police
When their body armor fails,

Have mercy on the juries
Kept debating in the wings,
Have mercy on the honest lawyers-
If there’s such a thing. (C)

Have mercy on the politicians
Tripping on their laws,
Have mercy on the zealots
Pointing out our moral flaws,

Have mercy on the businesses-
I hope they all get well,
Have mercy on the greedy CEOs
(…when they’re in Hell). (C)

Have mercy on the workers
When they have too much to do,
Have mercy on their bosses
When they lack a freakin’ clue,

Have mercy on the soldiers
Whey they’re sent home in a sack,
Have mercy on the men who sent them…
No, I take that back…! (C)

Have mercy on the poor ones,
Have mercy on the sick,
Can’t afford a decent meal
And dying off too quick,

Have mercy on the people
Spread across the planet’s face
In the footprints of the dinosaurs-
I hope we leave a trace. (C)

Top of Page


In high school, college, and the first 10 years of my marriage, I wrote lots of ballads on piano. I gradually switched back to guitar (even the digital keyboards are still a pain to move), but still made the occasional foray into keyboard-based writing. I liked this one enough to include here. Instruments: Keys, bass, drums, voices.

So who can see what’s up ahead of us?
Is there a course we should be on?
Is there a guide we should be following
Before it’s gone?

Have all the voices of experience
Told us anything worthwhile?
Or are they laughing underneath their breath
At every mile…
That we spend wandering?

Are we so sure of all we’re carrying
That we don’t notice when we’re cold?
Because, instead of growing memories,
We grow old.

Is this the place our fates have taken us?
Is this oblivion our home?
Or can our souls escape to places where
They can roam?

Are they still wandering?
Are we just wandering?
We keep on wandering…

Top of Page

Off The Ground

The major influence behind this song was “The Only Living Boy In New York” by Simon & Garfunkel. In addition to the lyrical theme of trying to reach out, it was also a musical
homage. Art Garfunkel had recorded his “Here I Am” response to Paul’s “Get your plane right on time” entreaty – and did so in a stunning multi-tracked choir of his own voice. My humble effort clocks in at only 9 vocal tracks (compared to Art’s 24 or so), and I have only a fraction of his range. But here it is anyway. Instruments: guitar, bass, percussion, keys, and a lot of voices.

I’m dancing to your discontent
And singing through your storm,
And climbing up your chilly side,
(The movement keeps me warm.)

But don’t think I’m ignoring you
In times when you seem down,
I’m on the dock to pull you up
In case you start to drown.

Take my hand- my arm is strong,
Hang on tight and don’t look down,
Come on now and get up off the ground.

My smile is a gleaming sword
I wield in your defense,
To fight your demons with my own
Would not make any sense,

I won’t feel pain in sympathy
And wear a martyr’s crown-
It clashes with my rubber nose
And makeup of a clown.

Take my hand- my arm is strong,
Hang on tight and don’t look down,
Come on now and get up off the ground.

I’m no more than a silly man
Who’s trying hard to find
A way to wash the dark clouds from your mind.

When you’re in above your head
I’ll try to lift you higher,
I’ll wrap myself around you
Like a blanket for your fire,

And rain down on your tinder box-
It makes a better sound
Than long sighs of frustration
Or teardrops falling down.
I know you’ll come around.

Take my hand- my arm is strong,
Hang on tight and don’t look down,
Come on now and get up off the ground.

Top of Page

Paid Rehearsal

For all my fellow folksingers – the ones who get a bar gig, get to the song of theirs that they REALLY want people to pay attention to – only to have some drunk cretin yell “FREE BIRD!!” Leslie and I had performed just such a gig prior to the writing of this song. She and Charlie (along with the Rev. Chuck U. Farley) provided the Not-So-Big Green X Choir effect. Charlie also played the lead guitar. Other instruments: Guitar, bass, drums and mandolin.

I have included the uncensored lyrics below, but, following a discussion with my wife (whose fourth-grade students might possibly purchase another CD from the guy who did the “Refrigerator” song), I decided an edited recording might be in order. My daughter Caitie stepped in to defend her Dad’s honor, and smote down the dreaded f-word with a hearfelt “ERRGH!” (For those of you profanity purists, the original, unexpurgated version will appear in some other form at a later date- perhaps as an onine download.)

I’d like to thank you all
For lending me your ears.
And making me feel welcome
For playing for you here.

I’d like to tell you all
It meant so much to me,
But I would not forgive myself
For lying through my teeth.

This was a …
Paid rehearsal,
Because gig’s too good a word,
This was a paid rehearsal,
With music no one heard,
It’s sad, but what the heck….
I’m still gonna get my check
For this paid rehearsal tonight.

You talked too loud and often
And never clapped your hands,
And my best songs could never cross
Your short attention spans,

The only time you noticed me
Was to yell out like a dick
For some banal (top 40 song)
That always made me sick.

This was a … (C)

I’ll finish with a flourish
And take a humble bow,
To never see you here again
I’ll make a solemn vow,

I’ll leave you with the perfect words
To tell you how I’m touched:
Good Night, God Bless, Drive Safely,
And Fuck You Very Much.
For this…

Top of Page

Sleep Tight

In an effort to break several months of writer’s block, I took a cue from the folks at Lamb’s Retreat and gave myself a songwriting assignment – in this case, to write from a persona completely opposite my own. Two CDs ago, I wrote “Except a Man”, which was about violence against women. For this song, I wrote from the perspective of the male aggressor – someone sinister and menacing – without depicting actual acts of violence. I can’t go THERE – not even for creative writing. At an early performance of this song, a female audience member was crying afterwards – she later told me that a male intruder had suprised her from her closet, and that the song brought it back a bit too well. I’m usually flattered when people tell me they cry from any of my songs – but I didn’t know how to feel at hearing that. Instruments: Guitar and voice.

I am the nightmare you can’t get out of your head,
I am the faceless form that’s underneath your bed,
I am the shadow where the shadows can’t be made,
I won’t be satisfied until I know you’re afraid.

Outside your window, in the darkness of your yard,
The pole light’s broken- climbing up there wasn’t hard,
The curtain’s open just the right width for an eye,
Just wide enough to see the tattoo on your thigh.

Lurking in the darkness,
Living on your fear,
Step around the corner –
I’ll be here.

Down in the basement where the air is damp and cold,
Where you don’t like to go without a hand to hold,
A mix of cinder block, concrete and wooden beams
And insulation so they’ll never hear your screams.

Don’t turn around when you hear footsteps from behind-
You can’t imagine what fresh hell there is to find,
A little faster and you might just get away,
I know your whereabouts.
We’ll meet another day.

Lock your door.
Mind the light.
Pleasant dreams.
Sleep tight.

Top of Page

All songs written by John Finan
(c)2004 John Finan


Recording Equipment:

Fostex VF-16 Digital Recorder
Apple Powerbook G4 (Macs rule!)
Felt Tip Sound Studio software
Cad/Equitek E-200 microphone
Electro-Voice RE20 microphone
Behringer Eurorack MX1604 mixer
Johnson J-Station (guitar processing)
dbx 266XL Compressor/Gate
Polk speakers

Instruments Used:

Ovation 1861 Standard Balladeer
Ovation 6751 Standard Balladeer 12-string
PRS Santana SE
Rickenbacker 330/12

Abilene mandolin

Ensoniq SQ-2 keyboard (also for percussion)
Kramer bass
Yamaha DD-55 Digital Drums