Daniel A. Sheridan
Drummer ~ Darkroom Technician ~ Photographer & Editor

Different Drummer

The Different Drummer - A Drummer's Blog

Reminiscing about The Ocean Breathe

Mysticism and Mystic Seaport

by Dan Sheridan

May 19, 2020

Reminiscing about writing the lyrics to The Ocean Breathe: Listening to an old bootleg of The Beatles in Hamburg with George Harrison on lead vocals singing Buddy Holly's Reminiscing... I look at the date of the cenotaph of the photograph I took in 1994: May 19, 1844.

I think back to 1992: Sitting at my drum kit, pen in hand, notebook on the snare-drum as my desk, I try to scratch out the lyrics and figure out the drum chart to this new song Bill played for me – The Ocean Breathe. I’m all alone in the rehearsal studio – Bill is working late. Next door, the speed metal band is thundering away, the bass is pumping, the double-kick drum pounds rapid-fire like a jackhammer. [Speed Metal is defined as extremely fast, abrasive, technically demanding music.] I’m amazed at the drummer’s head-banging, pile-driving prowess. He is a Neil Peart machine.

BillThe setting: an old, abandoned warehouse beside the train-tracks. Room after room has been converted into rehearsal studios for all the Boston rock bands. Each room has been sound-proofed and theft-proofed. I look at the wall – the sheet rock has been kicked-in to reveal an interior metal wall protecting each room from next door robbers looking for valuable guitars and amps. There’s a big cross-bolt on the reinforced metal door to our studio. There on the opposite wall is Bill’s poster – The Different Drummer. Tired of the same old shit? Try the Different Drummer. My inspiration. I tried to be different drummer...

Waiting for Bill to get off work at about 7:30pm – I have about an hour or so before he gets here. The cover band next door is warming up. The bass player starts off with a familiar riff – I've heard somewhere before. The drummer takes his cue and clicks in. The singer joins in, "Making a living the old hard way, Taking and giving my day by day. I dig the snow and the rain and the bright sunshine... Dragging the Line. My dog Sam eats purple flowers..." Dragging the Line by Tommy James and The Shondells.

Boston WhalerBill played the idea of the song – the chorus – The Ocean Breathe. Ok, what’s it about, Bill? Remember the time we went out fishing with Jack Eggert on the Boston Whaler out near the fort in Gardiner's Bay. The sky went dark – the big waves and white caps – we didn’t think we’d make it back. Jack had us lie down at the bow – to hold her down. Yeah, Bill. I remember that day. I think of the Boston Whaler logo – the harpoon – I take a sip of my Harpoon lager.

I think of that trip we took to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. We went across the street to the Seamen’s Bethel – the chapel where Melville sat – the scene in Moby Dick. It’s still there. I look at the cenotaphs on the wall. I took some photographs with Bill’s Agfa 120mm camera back in 1994.

Outside, walking along the cobblestones, I look at the street sign – Johnny Cake Hill. I scratch out some lyrics thinking of William Butler Yeats - mysticism and Mystic Seaport – the slow dirge of the A-minor chord Bill strummed, The Ocean Breathe, the chorus churns and thrashes with a Bo-Didley-beat in the surf unresolved.

The song kicks in gear, out of the slow triplet chorus, into an upbeat verse with straight eighth notes – a Nantucket Sleigh Ride. I thought of some photographs I took at Mystic Seaport. The Charles Morgan is one of the last remaining whale ships – a square-rigger out of New Bedford. Then that scene Melville describes – sleeping down below – listening to the sharks thrashing outside the hull…

The Ocean BreatheThe Ocean Breathe

Breathe Deep the Ocean Breathe
Breathe Deep the Ocean Breathe

Square rigger out of New Bedford
Bound for perdition on the ocean sea
A man aloft stays alert on watch
There she blows on the larboard side
The captain shouts, the whaleboats lower
The crew give chase, the harpooner stands up.
Dead leviathan beside the ship,
Down below the crew try to sleep,
Above the thrashing of the sharks,
Outside the hull, on the ocean sea.

Breathe Deep the Ocean Breathe
Breathe Deep the Ocean Breathe

On Johnny Cake Hill back in New Bedford
There’s a cenotaph on the wall in Bethel’s chapel
Black chisel marks in the white marble
Tell the names of the crew on the Acushnet
Near Sable Island off Nova Scotia
Towed out of sight in their boat by a whale
Wild horses roaming free on Sable Island
And down below on the rocky beach
The crashing waves of the sea
The ocean sea, the ocean sea

Breathe Deep the Ocean Breathe
Breathe Deep the Ocean Breathe



Click here to see YouTube Video of The Ocean Breathe


The Different Drummer poster and Drew Friedman.

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A cenotaph at the Seaman's Bethel across from the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Photo by Dan Sheridan.

The Different Drummer poster and Drew Friedman.