I’ve written zillions of songs over the years. Who knows if they’re any good. But I often manage to amuse myself. Which I guess is the point. But the song “All My Dreams” is probably the quintessential Ace Backwords song. I’ve done HUNDREDS of different versions of this song over the years. It’s one of those songs that’s pretty flexible.. It started out as sort of a surreal acoustic psychedelic song (with a lot of lyrics). But I’ve done some pretty good hard rock electric guitar versions with fuzz tone power chords. As well as quirky versions with spaced out keyboard effects. And I recently even did some piano versions for the helluvit.
I stole the basic riff from this guy I used to hang out with sometimes in this flophouse in Eureka, California way back in 1981. His name was Butch. He lived down the hall from me in a little room on the 2nd floor of the Greyhound Hotel (how’s that for a name for a flophouse, ha ha??). Butch was like this Keith Richards wannabe — one of many I’ve met over the years. A short guy with a swashbuckling air — the cigarette dangling from his mouth, the torn blue jeans, the boots. Like he was trying to live out some fantasy of the rocknroll outlaw. He was actually a great songwriter. The riff and chords I stole from him was from one of his best songs. “People They Pay For The Games They Play.” It was sort of a bitter song about a beautiful young woman who he had fallen in love with and had hurt him badly (which often can make for a great song). I still remember most of the lyrics to the song. He played his music on electric guitar with a little fuzz tone amp, most of his songs he wrote were like hard rock or heavy metal. But they were all good. And you could tell they all came from his heart. As well as his thwarted dream of becoming
an actual rock star (one of millions of those wannabes)…. Like I said Butch lived down the hall from me. I had my own little lonely flophouse hotel room back then. But sometimes when I’d be walking down the hallway on the way to my little hotel room I’d hear Butch jamming his heart out in his little hotel room with his electric guitar and his little amp. And it sounded good…. So eventually we connected and we would “jam” together some nights. I had my guitar too. Some cheap old piece of crap. Aside from his great originals — he was a great though limited songwriter — we also jammed on Hendrix, “Hey Joe” (he even taught me that great bass run at the end) and “Jumping Jack Flash” by the Stones (a great jamming song) and even U2 “I Will Follow” ( which had that great but simple guitar riff)… We’d drink whiskey and Butch would brew up some psychedelic mushroom tea (shrooms used to be all over the place in Humboldt County back then). To add an otherworldly dimension to the music. We’d both end up pretty glassy-eyed by the end of our jams. … He was one of the first actual musicians I ever jammed with (I was like 24 years old or some shit like that a mere novice and Butch busted my rocknroll cherry). You know me — of course I recorded our jams on my cheap-ass tape recorder and I still have the cassette tapes to this day (labeled “Butch Rock”).
But in the back of my mind I still think of Butch all these years later whenever I play “All My Dreams.” Because I stole the main riff from him. I knew I could get away with lifting it because he was so obscure, he was like a rocknroll casualty that you knew would never get it together to put out his own music. Though a local rock band often did a cover version of “Games They Play” when they played at bars and clubs. But as far as I know, that’s as far as he got with getting his music “out there.” I’m sure he’s long dead by this point. Ole’ Butch…. On the other hand — he probably nicked the riff from some other song himself. That’s just how music works. You borrow and steal and hopefully turn it into something new and original.