An embroidered theatre curtain in front of empty stalls. An embroidered theatre curtain in front of empty stalls.

Futzle: The Musical

Play 01 Play 01 Don't Tell the Bees 3:44
Play 02 Play 02 Weeping Melaleuca 4:01

Music from the pandemic years.

Don't Tell the Bees

Telling the bees is an old European tradition. A beekeeper is expected to visit the hive and announce life changes to the bees, such as a death or departure of an owner. Beekeepers who fail to do so are at risk of the colony dying or producing sour honey.

Country is an interesting genre with a mixture of tradition and experimentation: while a lot of it is straight major chords with no accidentals, there is scope for complexity and innovation. In Don’t Tell the Bees, the verse starts with only the white notes in the harmonies, but by the end of the verse, every black note has also made an appearance.

Instruments used: Korg Kronos, MODO DRUM, MODO BASS, Lee Oskar Diatonic C Harmonica, Fender American Acoustasonic Telecaster guitar, Korg Module, Melissa & Doug wooden kazoo.

I was still fresh out of school
You were the homecoming queen
Didn’t have money
But what did we need?
Lived on a farm in Racine
Everyone called us a fool
Yet we still dared to believe
Learned to make honey
And then to make mead
Drunk on joie de vivre

Then the elation of youth
Faded, like so many things
Drove me to drink
And then drove me to smoke
Trying to fend off the stings
When I uncovered the truth
I found that I lost my way
Now how I think
About your masterstroke
Much to my dismay

So tell all your girlfriends how I did you wrong
Write to the papers, compose a sad song
You’re your own boss, you can do as you please
But don’t—
Don’t tell the bees

After the thrill of it all
Now we lead separate lives
You got the land
And the dog
and the horse
I got the wrong kind of hives
Now I know I was in thrall
Playing the part of the drone
How did you stand
To go through that divorce
High up on your throne?

You can tweet it on Facebook or toot on Bluesky
Start doing voodoo, and hope that I die
Curse me to catch an infectious disease
But don’t—
Don’t tell—

Be a good parent, maintain the façade
You ought to know that deception is hard
Give my last bottle of honey a squeeze
But don’t—
Don’t tell the bees

Not for the first time I’m down on my knees
Don’t tell the bees

Weeping Melaleuca

This is not a true story; my family moved permanently out of my childhood home when I was 15. But the lyrics are informed by my life and they mean something to me personally.

The tree, a beautiful melaleuca viminalis, was real. All the wildlife loved it as I did. It grew 8 metres tall and leaned over our fence from a neighbouring property until it was torn down during a demolition in 2023. Its absence leaves me immensely saddened.

Melaleuca trees, sometimes called callistemon or bottlebrush, are native to Australia. They are usually glorified bushes, not so much with a trunk as a mass of woody stems and flowers that last for months on end. Their nectar brings wildlife from afar, and in summer they strew spent red flower stalks all over the place.

This song is unashamedly of my part of the world: Christmas is in December; the proper colour for a tree is grey-green, locations in the yard can be described by backyard cricket fielding positions; "lawn" rhymes with "born".

Compositionally, I would also be remiss to omit that one of the chord progressions in this song is influenced by my childhood musical hero Scott Joplin. I also wanted to give attention to the piano left hand notes, to let the bass part have its own counterpoint rather than just repeating the tonic of every chord. It was educational to discover how the tempo of this song needed to change not just from verse to verse, but speeding and slowing on a bar-by-bar basis. On top of that, I turned off quantization, so even the tempo track was only advisory.

This is the first song where I've played a physical guitar rather than a synthesized one. I'm not much of a live performer, even less of a guitarist, so I want you to know that this solo is comped together from 105 separate recordings! I still can't feel some of the fingertips on my left hand.

Weeping melaleuca, you were there when I was small
Deep at extra cover, you were there to catch the ball
Through all my misadventures you were there to take the fall
Counting rings each year since I was born
Tower in the backyard, a perpetual mainstay
Oh, weeping melaleuca, you were constant as the day

You were ever olive green as life grew up and down
Sunny cheer, and then the year the black dog came to town
Despondent in the darkness deep despair enough to drown
You had the grace to look a mite forlorn
Shelter when I doubted just who I was meant to be
Oh, weeping melaleuca, you would always weep for me

Summer brought a feast for every possum, bat and bird
And every Christmas I’d return and share a festive word
And I’d confide my secrets, sure that no one overheard
You’d sprinkle scarlet tinsel on the lawn
Patiently accepting all the things I had to say
Oh, weeping melaleuca, you were never hard to sway

And though you’re left behind
I hope the years were kind
There’s just this picture in my mind I’ve drawn

Today I got nostalgic so I scheduled a house call
Standing on the footpath, there’s no sign of you at all
What took you in the end, was it a dozer or a squall?
I thought that you’d outlive me, I’d have sworn
Driving home tomorrow, I resolve to plant a tree
Oh, weeping melaleuca, you are always part of me
Weeping melaleuca, thank you for the memory Copy Copied Failed Close