Man On The Ledge

1 Zydeco
2 Your Dime
3 Can't See The Reason
4 For The People (Song For Czechoslovakia)
5 Hey, Mister President
6 Some Things I Like About America
7 Dallas
8 The Man On The Ledge
9 Up On The Mountain
10 Women Of The World
11 American Jerusalem
12 Honorable Men
13 Auschwitz
14 For All The Grapes On The Vine

Available from Shanachie Records vie amazon and itunes.

Released 7/05/1994 by Shanachie Records

Produced by Rod MacDonald, Mark Dann

Rod MacDonald (acoustic & electric guitar, harmonica, vocals)
Jack O'Hara (electric guitar)
Lisa Gutkin (violin)
Brian Mitchell (accordion)
Bernie Shanahan (keyboards, background vocals)
Margo Hennebach (synthesizer)
Greg Anderson (bass)
Mark Dann (bass, 12-string & electric guitar, drums, percussion, background vocals, mandolin)
Jay Dee Daugherty (drums)
Larry Eagle (drums)
Rachel Polisher, Lisa Klotz (background vocals)

Recorded at Mark Dann Studio, New York.

Photograph by Mike Wolke

All words and music by Rod MacDonald except "Auschwitz” (by Francesco Guccini/Fama Music).

Review by Music Journalist William Ruhlmann:
The Man on the Ledge, is a newly recorded set of mostly new songs, however. (MacDonald has opted to re-record "Honorable Men," which appeared on the second volume of the Fast Folk musical magazine (aka The Co-op) in 1982; "American Jerusalem," which appeared on his first album, No Commercial Traffic, in 1983; and "Zydeco," which was on his Italy-only 1989 album Simple Things. "Some Things I Like About America" has a 1982 copyright.) As usual, while coming under the folk rubric, MacDonald, with his acoustic guitar, leads arrangements that touch on rock, country, and blues. "It's Your Dime" is a country ballad that ought to be heard in Nashville, while "Up on the Mountain" sounds like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." "I Can't See the Reason" has the feel, especially in Bernie Shanahan's keyboards, of early Bruce Springsteen, and the title song also has a distinct rock tilt. "Some Things I Like About America" uses its bluesy arrangement to support the dry wit of the words. MacDonald is typically wide-ranging in his lyrical concerns, addressing political and historical issues sometimes with a caustic tone, as when he is recalling assassinations ("Honorable Men") or the Holocaust (his translation of Francesco Guccini's "Auschwitz"), and sometimes in a more hopeful frame of mind, as in "For the People" (subtitled "Song for Czechoslovakia") and "Hey, Mr. President," which pokes fun at Bill Clinton's assertion that he smoked marijuana but "didn't inhale" (yet concludes "I think I voted for a winner/For the first time in my life"). As usual, MacDonald also has love on his mind, and as usual things aren't going so well, as he devotes two successive songs, "It's Your Dime" and "I Can't See the Reason," to addressing former girlfriends who want to remain in touch. The love life of the singer is, of course, complicated by his lifestyle, as this peripatetic musician acknowledges in another love song, "Dallas," when he sings, "I've no right to ask someone to love me/When I'm moving all the time." Restlessness and dissatisfaction seem to drive the rambling title song, but the man the singer encounters on the ledge eventually steps away, not jumping, and that seems to be the defining metaphor for the songwriter here, that he must press on, even in the face of romantic and philosophical travail. ~ William Ruhlmann



I remember when there was that first dance in school
The boys lined up on one side of the room
The girls lined up on the other side of the room
Everybody tryin’ to play it cool

And there was zydeco
Oh I was just want to dance all night to zydeco
Come on baby let me swing you to and fro
I just want to dance all night with you

Now the river’s flowing steady through the night and the day
I feel my life drifting out to sea
But I can feel my woman’s love flowing into me
I know tonight we’ll dance the night away


Sometime there’ll come an end to all the fighting and the pain
Sometime we’re going to follow the sun
Sometime there’ll be a world where all the hatred is gone
We’ll dance to that sweet song again

(chorus )

Yes, it’s a surprise to hear you
on the other end of this line
haven’t heard a word from you
in quite some time
thank you for asking how have I been
I’ve been fine
why don’t you do the talking?
it’s your dime

Yes I‘ve been keeping myself busy
if that’s what you called about
every now and then I get lucky
in fact, I was just on my way out
so if you don’t mind me asking
why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind?
why don’t you do the talking?
it’s your dime

There was a time you were everything
I though my life was about
I never knew I could be so forgiving
but it just doesn’t matter now

How are all those dreams you told me
you couldn’t have with me
Yes I’ve found someone to hold me
thank you for setting me free
I can barely remember
it seems such a mighty long time
why don’t you do the talking?
it’s your dime

You know I’ve always loved you
it seems like I dreamed of you
you were everything I wanted for me

This morning I got your letter
now the years we spent together
are raining down like dead leaves from a tree

I can’t see the reason
why two people with so much love
still can’t keep from leaving
sometimes love just isn’t enough

Alll right you want to stay in touch
I guess that’s not asking too much
feel free to call me anytime

I can’t see the reason
why two people with so much love
still can’t keep from leaving
sometimes love just isn’t enough

Don’t ask me to forget you
though you know I’m going to let you
go on your way without me

Last night I dreamed of my old home
my sister and I, when we were young
the yellow sun shone through flow’ring trees
we rode the old familiar streets
the faces of old friends were near
the smiles of children bright and clear
my mother sang our favorite songs
my father worked his patch of ground

When I awoke I was far away
in a land where only yesterday
after forty years of tyranny
the foreign armies had to leave
and as I walked the streets of town
with my new friends who call it home
in the air so newly free
this is what they said to me:

“I would not love my country more
for victories in foreign wars
I did not love my country less
when it was occupied and oppressed
not for some politicians’ speech
but for the people strong and free
the land so green, the sky above
these are the country that I love”

Now who can say what takes a man
far away from his own land
and yet his dreams will take him home
back to the land where he was born
to walk the old familiar roads
and see the faces young and old
the land so green the sky above
these are the country that I love

I’ve been all over this great big land of ours
from the seaside of Seattle to the hills of Arkansaw
where the Little Rockers gather at the Solar Cafe
and they tell a tale of Wild Bill back in his younger days
and they say

Hey, Mr. President, pass that doobie over here
if you’re not going to smoke it, don’t hold it in the air
are you just going to sit there, grinning like a jerk?
if you don’t inhale it, it’s never going to work

I guess I should’ve known it, I guess it had to come
I’ve seen it in the New York Times, right up on page one
Bob Dylan wrote a song about, least I’m pretty sure
I believe I know what Elvis would’ve done if he was there
he’d say


Now whoever would’ve thunk it, whoever would admit
the President of the USA might’ve took a hit
next thing you’re gonna tell me, he’s got a working wife
I think I voted for a winner for the first time in my life


One thing I like about America
is that you’re always free to leave
it doesn’t mean that I want to
but the feeling’s nice indeed

One thing I like about America
is that a man can speak his peace
it doesn’t mean anyone will hear you
but you’ll have your rights at least

One thing I like about America
any boy can grow up to shoot the President
it doesn’t mean they will understand you
but they will gladly pay your rent

One thing I like about America
a woman’s love is given free
and the way I like my lovin’
I want my woman free as me

One thing I like about America
is you can say you will not kill
and the government, they must respect you
though you won’t get the GI Bill

One thing I like about America
is even you might be rich someday
just don’t forget where you came from
in case you end up back that way

Slowin’ down to 45 through every little Oklahoma town
Comin’ in past miles and miles of shopping centers lit up in neon
Arriving at the apartment and waiting for a minute outside the door
Like a shadow hungry to stand in the light once more

Things I’ll remember about Dallas
I could remember anywhere
There’s nothing special about Dallas
except that you are there
To make me love again in my time
to see my life so clear
I will remember Dallas
everywhere I go from here

Lying on the bed alone, nothing much could happen there to me
Listening to the cars comin’ and goin’ outside, trying hard to sleep
Oh I’ve no right to ask someone to love me when I’m moving all the time
Like an outrider cruising down the highway, ignoring all the signs

I saw the Dealey Plaza scene, the sixth floor window museum
Stood behind the grassy knoll, I fired a shot for rock and roll
I ate fajitas off handmade plates, cruised around the interstates
But the end of the road kept fading farther and farther
til it faded away altogether

Staying up til way too late, listening to the noises in the night
I believe I could hear a heart break if it were just a bit more quiet
But the hum of the traffic never dies, just like the highway never ends
I don’t know anyplace that I could stay that would ever take me in

“I was never blessed with children,” said the man on the ledge
“at last none that I know of.
Of course, it’s possible for a man to have children he never knows.
It’s one of the little things that sets a man apart:
he can have children and never know they’re his own work of art.”

“I was never much of a success,” said the man on the ledge.
“At least, nobody ever told me.
Oh, sure they read my work in schools where that kind of thing is done.
But the kind of recognition that sets a man apart
never came my way, I know it in my heart.”

“Jump, jump, said the crowd, waiting in the street
as they passed out the popcorn and portable seats
They were just waiting for their fun
they didn’t know or care what the man on the ledge had done.

“I was never much of a listener,” I said to the man,
‘at least, that’s what everybody always told me.
But I’m listening now; tell me, how did this start?”
He said “Even when we were chidren I was a man apart
I never smoked cigarettes or ripped off the MIni Mart.

“I’m not even any good at this,” said the man on the ledge.
“At least, other people know how to die.
Even my lovers knew I’d never never say goodby
No matter how miserable or how we felt apart
Doing nothing at all has been my truest art.”

“I’m gonna do something now,” said the man on the ledge.
“I’m gonna teach myself to fly.
Of course, this might be something you can only do one time.”
And off in the distance, I heard a siren whine
and the clouds moved off and the sun came out from behind.
All the windows in the skyscrapers,
all the water in the harbor began to shine.
Down on the ground a radio began to sound;
he said “Stairway to Heaven: I’ve always hated that song.
Even when you want to die they just want to bring you down.
Look at all those people standing around: they just want to, just want to
see me hit the ground.
Well, I will not be their sideshow freak
I will not be their sideshow freak
I will not be their sideshow freak
I will not be their circus clown.”
And he stood there all alone
looking into his heart
And stepped away from the ledge
a man apart.
A man apart.

Chorus 1,2,3:
I’m up on the mountain, high above a city
not eatin’ any food, I mean I will but I won’t
watching the night (2 day, 3 sky) go through all its changes
don’t want a woman, I mean I do but I don’t

Sometimes in the city you can feel the air change
there’s a kind of hunger goin’ around
Don’t matter if you run, boy, there’s no where to run to
sooner or later, you got to stand your ground
(Chorus 2)

Yes, and when you have a woman you might have to protect her
You might have to stand tall when you know you’re right
And there might come a day, boy, you have to defend her
by walkin’ away, boy, when you’d just as soon fight
(Chorus 3)

Goin’ down in the subway, lookin’ at the billboards
all the pretty people in their underwear
people rifling the trash cans, sleepin’ in the doorways
talkin’ ‘bout salvation to nobody there

I’m up on the mountain, high above a city
Listening to a song that’s playing in the night
Remembering a man who said “Come and walk with me
and forever after, you’re gonna walk in the light.”

And I’m out on the highway, lookin’ for a station
stoppin’ at the dance hall for a dosey doe
and I’m down in the basement strummin’ with a few friends
lookin’ for a wavelength on the radio

And I’m up on the mountain high above a city
listening to the music playin’ in the air
Watching my life go through all its changes
lookin’ in the darkness for a light out there

I think I’d like to say a word or two today
for all the women of the world
In my experience it makes a lot of sense
to know the women from the girls
Oh I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s you
but girls will be girls and women have a different point of view
and I admit it’s true I have known one or two
of the women of the world

Last night a woman said
I’m trying to clear my head of everything I’ve learned in life
I’ve been my parents’ child, did drugs and running wild,
I’ve been a girlfriend and a wife
now I want to think for myself and be for myself
and keep my own flag unfurled
why should I want a man? I want to play my hand
and be a woman of the world.

And I guess I’ve had my share of how the world’s unfair
and women get a lousy break
of money men get more, and keep the world at war
and always make the same mistakes
and men are always hungry for love, and afraid of love,
and runnin’ around after the pretty girls
I wish that you could see how hard it is to be
a simple woman of the world

Sometimes when I’m alone I hear the telephone
conversation in my dream
a voice is on the line: “How are you doing?” “Fine.”
“Oh really, I’m just in between.
Don’t I wish I had a home, a love of my own
a couple of baby boys and girls?
But then there’s my career, could you come over here
and love this woman of the world.”

New York City rain
I don’t know if it’s making me dirtier or clean
went for the subway but there was no train
and the tunnel was crumbling for repairs again
and the sign said “Welcome to American Jerusalem.”

I been around
you could spend forever looking for a friend in this town
and all you get to do is lay your dollar down
till you’re stumbling drunk up the stairs again
and the sign says “Welcome to American Jerusalem.”

In the temples of American Jerusalem
they buy an ounce of South African gold
they don’t care who was bought or sold
or who died to mine it
in the temples of American Jerusalem
they buy an ounce of Marseilles white
somewhere on a street with no light
somebody dies trying it

And somewhere in a crowd
looking the kind of way that makes you turn around
will be somebody who knows what it’s about
and she’s going to take the ribbons from her hair again
and welcome you to American Jerusalem

In the alleys of American Jerusalem
the homeless lie down at the dawn
the pretty people wonder what they’re on
and how they afford it
in the ashes of American Jerusalem
the prophets live their deaths out on the corner
the pretty people say there should’ve been a warning
but nobody heard it

Then shadows lick the sun
the streets are paved with footsteps on the run
somebody must’ve got double ‘cause I got none
I forgot to collect my share again
so go west to breath the cleansing air again
go Niagara for your honeymoon again
go on the road if you’re going to sing your tune again
go to sea to learn to be a man again
till you come on home to American Jerusalem

Upon their honor as Americans
They hired the bullets to fly
Straight from a window or some grassy knoll
To the place where people die
No one was found, and no one was guilty
Who wasn’t dead when he was tried
And the bullets keep ringing their questions out
Like ghosts coming back in the night

Part of the plan to hide in the darkness
In peace and in war, part of the plan
Part of the plan for somebody to take the fall
And after all, these were honorable men

Somebody had oil, somebody had money
To pay for guns and for lives
Somebody had secrets too much depended
On keeping locked up inside
Somebody had time to keep away the cops
Til killers were safely away
Somebody had time to put away a patsy
Who never had nothin’ to say

They bring the bodies back home in coffins
Draped in American flags
To stand for the cameras one last time
For tv and photograph mags
And with every slain leader the soul of a people
Goes a little down in the well
In darkness and hiding these honorable men
Feel satisfied with themselves

(Written by Francesco Guccini in Italian as "Bambino Nel Vento"
© Fama Music (Italy)
(translation © Rod MacDonald)

I died who was a child
I died like so many others
who passed through a chimney
and now are in the wind

At Auschwitz there was the snow
and the smoke rose slowly of so many people
but now there’s only a great silence
of so many people in the wind

It’s strange, but still I haven’t learned
to smile here in this wind
and I wonder, can man learn to live without killing
and will this wind ever end?

And still the cannons are sounding
and still he’s not contented
this blood thirst of the human beast
with so many people in the wind

And still the cannons are sounding
and still he’s not contented
we will be here always the smoke and the powder
of millions in the wind

I entered this world like a fable
a fox with no end of design
and wanted to have on my table
all the grapes on the vine

As a young man of thirst I was offered
enticements of every kind
but I never gave up my freedom
for all the grapes on the vine

And the beautiful lovers who gave me their passion
took me to the doors of Paradise
but the place where souls suffer always sounded distraction
and those doors never opened for me twice

Then I came to you in my sorrow
I cried all the tears that were mine
yours was the touch of forgiveness
for all the grapes on the vine

All the grapes on the vine that will never be mine
I close my eyes and still I can see
All the beautiful strangers dressed in ether and ashes
and I wonder will I ever be free?

Here’s to the fruit of life’s labors
here’s to the kiss of love’s wine
and once for our sweet companions
and once for the grapes on the vine
once for the grapes on the vine
once for the grapes on the vine