You’re So Peaceful
Writer: Mark Bittner
Mark Bittner: vocal
Kelly Atkins: vocal
Bruce Kaphan: Electric guitar, keyboards, bass
Bruce Gordon: keyboards
Paul Olguin: bass
John Hanes: drums
John Lee Sanders: tenor saxes, sax arrangement
I came off the road in mid-October, returning to Berkeley. I was supposed to have resolved my issues by this time and start playing music again. Instead, I stumbled into a deep psychological crevice. I had a real crisis, a complete breakdown, which left me incapable of working or even taking care of myself. Fortunately, right at that time, my sister Beth came through town, found me and rescued me. We moved to San Francisco where she put me up while I sorted things out. Through it all, when I found little moments, I worked on this song. I ended up leaving music for good, though. The issue had become my very survival, and to do that I had to decide what was real, which meant forgetting about a career in music and focusing on who I really was. I write about the creation of “You’re So Peaceful” in Street Song. At the time I wrote it, it was the first song I’d written in three years. It would be the last I’d write for another seven. These recordings are the first serious playing I’ve done in decades. It’s been a struggle to get it back.
Although the song alludes to the disastrous turn my life took, it is, oddly enough, a joyful song. It’s about loving someone who is deep instead of simply attractive. It’s a Van Morrison-type song—in the vein of Moondance or Tupelo Honey. The basic track was just me on electric guitar playing along with a click track. Then we added Paul Olguin on bass and John Hanes on drums. Later, Bruce Gordon recorded electric piano and organ. That satisfied me for a while, but I started thinking, this is supposed to be a Van Morrison-type number, and it lacked something—a horn section. So we called on John Lee Sanders who added a three piece tenor sax section. He composes his own parts, and I asked him to make it Van Morrison-like but to add his own thing. John is from Louisiana and I hear a lot of New Orleans in his playing. I’d only ever played the song solo on acoustic guitar, so it was a real pleasure to have that song be what I’d always heard in my imagination. It’s Van’s soul/r&b/gospel bit, a form I’d steeped myself in for several years, even if I’d only ever played it alone on acoustic guitar. Never having sung against a horn section before, I got off doing it. This is the song where I found my voice again—that is, I rediscovered the way I used to sing.
Finally, I decided I wanted some lead guitar and I asked Bruce Kaphan to record a part. What he came up with is fabulous. I love how his lines interact with the organ and horns. I also had Bruce add the guitar and keyboard part that sets up the song at the beginning. By this time, the track had gotten too crowded, so I volunteered to junk my rhythm guitar part, which had become superfluous. Bruce reassured me, saying it had been useful as scaffolding, an image that I love. The song still needs some background singers, and then it’s done.