Key To Your Room

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Robert Hunter

A new(ish) Robert Hunter song, first played during his solo set on 31 December 2003. It is a song he has been working on for some years - see below for background.

These seem to be the 'official' lyrics, posted on dead.net:

Standing on the corner at the break of day
I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say
Live for tomorrow and to hell with today
Who do you think you are anyway?

Walking on water when you can't even swim
Sawing the branch when you're out on a limb (note 1)
God damn, Buddy, whatcha talking about?
Dig down deep and let the song roll out (note 2)

There's nothing in the lock but the key to your room
Nothing inside but the ghost of perfume
A photograph of Jesus, a mop and a broom
The toll of a bell I don't know for whom

Hangs in the silence like an echo of doom
Black paper roses to brighten the gloom (note 3)
A note on the mantle, for me I presume
Saying please take care of the key
The key to my room

Said thank you for the key to your room
I just want to thank you
Once more for the key to your room

You didn't move nothing, you let it move you
You left your number, I couldn't get through
I'll call you again if I can scrape up the change
However unusual it isn't so strange

To visit the scene of a previous crime
And know it for the first and maybe last time
I remember a hell of a lot
But it's hard to believe how much I forgot

For all the emotions whose price tag is lost (note 4)
Smothered like flames or encoded in frost
Free as it seemed from profit and loss
Inside we both know what it cost

Cost everything but the sink and the floor (note 4)
So wash your face and roll out the door
Do what you gotta do and do it some more
And try to believe in what you're doing it for

Maybe your intentions weren't all that clear (note 5)
Or maybe I just didn't want to hear
Words of consolation shouted in my ear
However well meant, however sincere

There were complications, it didn't look good
In retrospect I might have misunderstood
On a whole other page as I usually am (note 6)
It could be I really didn't give a damn

Still undecided at the close of the day
If it could've played any other way
Did we execute an original crime
Or was it just another sign of the time?

Some insist it was nothing at all
But a patch of shade between the rock and the wall
Others see acres of love in full bloom
A boxful of matches and the key
The key to your room

Thank you for the key to your room
I just want to thank you
For the key you your room

Nothing to communicate but your own pain
One day's tears, another day's rain
Maybe the music by which you express
The things that hurt will heal you the best

Indian Summer on the porches of Fall
Shed a little bit kinder light on it all
Maybe not much and maybe not long
That's about all you can ask from a song

So thank you for the key to your room
And everything in it the flames now consume
Spread from the candle I lit for to see
And just knocked over accidentally

I don't guess I'll be coming back here (note 7)
But I'll keep the key as a souvenier
Gotta go now but I just want to say
Thanks for everything you didn't betray

And thank you for the key to your room
I just want to thank you
Once more for the key
The key to your room

Thank you for the key to your room
I just want to thank you
Once more for the key to your room
Notes
In the first performance, on 31 December 2003, Robert Hunter sang some small variations on the lyrics:
(1) "Jumping off branches"
(2) "Open your throat and let the song roll out"
(3) "lighten the gloom"
(4) These two verses were omitted
(5) "Maybe your expressions were not that clear"
(6) "Obsessed with myself as I usually am"
(7) "I don't think I'll be coming back here"



Background
In his journals, Robert Hunter gave the following account of writing the song:
3 September 2003
Sitting down to work on "Key to Your Room" (which I've been at, off and on, for five years) I found myself writing another sixteen lines which is the last thing the song needed because it already seemed daunting at sixty four lines plus refrain. Well, let the song decide what it wants.

11 September 2003
Omitted the new sixteen lines from "Key to Your Room". They weren't bad, but they didn't need to be there.

23 October 2003
"Key to your Room" still developing. Now that I have all the chords, words, and a prolix arrangement it occurred to me it would be nice if it also had a melody. I know that's bass ackwards but it's how I write, so shut up.

4 January 2004
As for my own opening set, like most sets when I haven't performed for awhile, it was pretty rough and ready. I dared to do "Key To Your Room" and managed to turn it inside out, not in a good way. With a song a lyrically dense and chordally complex as that, a certain automaticity has to set in in order to play the changes correctly while remembering and interpreting the lyrics. Once begun, "he who rides the tiger fears only to dismount" as my carefully constructed arrangement came crashing around my ears.

23 February 2004
Still faithfully (or doggedly DOHYWTLAI*) at work on "Key to Your Room" if at a slacker pace than before. Now that I've got the words finished and learned (ho ho) I can put full attention on the arrangement. I'll tell you one thing for nothing: I've spent more time writing & composing "Key" than many songwriters have spent writing their whole repertoire. This is not to say that a song jotted down on an envelope in the elevator may not be a better song. Far from it. That's not the point. The point is to spend a great deal of life in the activity of making songs, primarily because it's my pleasure but also because it's my discipline, my living, and, in some hard to pin down sense, duty. Duty to whom? Go figure. Doesn't do to get too precise about these things. Some motivating factors should be left approximately vacuous.

*depending on how you want to look at it
An earlier version of "Key To Your Door" appears in Robert Hunter's collected lyrics in "Box Of Rain." It lists it as having music by Pete Sears, though the passages from Hunter's journal seem to indicate that the music for the present version is written by Hunter himself.

I have highlighted in italics the phrases that survived through to the current version:
Thank you
for the smoke and perfume
Thank you
for the key to your room

Thank you so much
for the things you presume
in this lily-white season
of blood on the moon

Summing it up
I'd just like to say
You had it in hand
You threw it away

This was your flower
This was your day
Nothing much happened
Did you want it that way?

One more time
I just wanta say
thanks for everything
you didn't betray


Thank you so much
for nothing at all--the
empty space between
myself and the wall

Thanks for the picture
the color cartoon
of a star-studded stripper
with oil on the plume

thanks for the latitudes
we never crossed
contented with attitudes
that others exhaust

for all the emotions
whose price tag is lost

the hot breath of oceans
encoded in frost

Free as it seemed
from both profit and loss
Somewhere inside
we both know what it cost


Thanks most of all
for the key to your room
and all that came with it
which the flames now consume


Confusion and chaos
fashion and fad
You either step back
or go stark raving mad

It isn't so evil
just kinda bad
You didn't get angry
Just kinda sad

You didn't move nothing
You let it move you
Thanks for your number
I couldn't get through


I'll call you again
if I can scrape up the change
However unusual
it isn't so strange


to visit the scene
of a previous crime
know it for the first
and maybe last time


Thanks for the favor
of you in full bloom
And once more thanks
for the key to your room

Key to your room
Key to your room
Thank you
   Thank you
      Thank you

Thanks for your light
at the dark of the moon
and thank you
for the
key to your room