There have been only a few times I’ve received a fully written draft of a lyric when I knew  immediately it was going to be a joy to compose to. I love to write “beautiful/emotional”  but one doesn’t usually pay the rent that way. Gotta be catchy to pay the bills.  Sometimes, however,  you can’t help yourself and upon reading “Dialogue” I knew I had to write an appropriately lyrical melody to these words.The lyric was given to me by my good friend and collaborator Patti Dahlstrom (http://pattidahlstrom.com) in or around 1977. A good lyric isn’t a poem per se, but that doesn’t mean a good lyric can’t be poetic.  The trick is to not sound “purple” or overwrought. Patti knew (and still does) how to summon up a beautiful image with plain language, the hallmark of a smart poetic nature. With a deeply sensitive intellect and an expansive, passionate Texas personality she was a collaborator to be reckoned with. You had better do your best work when  setting one of her lyrics to music. I  never thought we would get a recording of “Dialogue”…way too “artistic” for the room. Didn’t care. It had to be written. Fortunately, Michael Johnson (http://www.mjblue.com) and his producers in Nashville, Brent Maher and Steve Gibson, saw the value in the piece and wanted to record it for Michael’s follow up to his hit album, “Bluer Than Blue”. They flew me down to Nashville in the winter of ’70-something to lay down the piano track over which they later added M’s vocal and the strings and oboe solo. It was a somewhat daunting experience, sitting alone in the studio playing the piano part with no accompaniment, vocal or otherwise (there might have been a “click track” metronome to keep me from wandering), but I managed, after multiple takes, to finally get it right. I had a great time working with these guys… ended up doing three or four more songs with them.

In the capital of country music where “Three Chords and the Truth” rules the day, “Dialogue” is hardly a typical tune.  But every now and then you can get a song cut down there even if it has too many “out-of-town” chord changes and a pastoral rather than a “pasture-al” theme.  Big thanks to Patti for writing her beautiful lyric and to Michael, Brent & Steve for having the courage to record the song.


“Dialogue”  Snow/Dahlstrom

Stranded in a waiting room he turns to her, “How Do You Do?”

I know the book you’re reading and I’ve always liked his point of view.

I am flying out of here to somewhere I have been,

Set out to find it years ago and I’m finally heading in.

Have you been to France? I hear it’s wonderful this time of year.

Have you really seen the English countryside? Do people ride?

All I’ve ever seen is Houston, it’s flat and rainy and rich.

And California on my own and neither one quite fits.

He has got the world to give and she is on her own,
Together they can show each other what they cannot see alone.

Cancel all your reservations, it’s a now or never stand,
Final call and off they go, leaving hand in hand.

Click here to listen

25 Responses to “Dialogue”
  1. Tim McMullen says:

    I have loved this song and this arrangement since I first heard it. Michael Johnson is a particular favorite; his fluid, mellifluous voice has handled clean, acoustic folk in his early offerings, then he hit his prime with both beautiful and playful pop, and in his third incarnation he mastered clean, clever country. He is also a great live performer as well as an excellent nylon string guitarist.

    Above all, though, he is a great interpreter of great songwriters. After “Taking it All in Stride” and “Tom Snow,” Michael Johnson was my continuing connection to the Tom Snow catalogue. Your work with Patti Dahlstrom, Eric Kaz, Cynthia Weil, Dean Pitchford—all consummate writers—was wonderfully rendered by Johnson’s smooth, articulate, sometimes subtle, sometimes dynamic vocals accompanied by great arrangements. You, Randy Goodrum, Bill LaBounty and Roy Freeland, and Hugh Prestwood kept Michael Johnson in business for many years. The fact that you had two or three songs on every one of his first three or four hit-making pop albums helps to explain his success.

    I have actually put together an album’s worth of “Michael Johnson does Tom Snow” just for the fun of it. (I have done the same with covers of other favorite songwriter’s like Randy Sharp and Dave Loggins—who also had recordings in the mid-70’s and then turned almost exclusively to songwriting).

    I am very glad that you decided to work on this one even though you considered it to have little commercial potential. Patti’s words offer such an instantaneous slice of life in a tight little romantic vignette, but your melody gives it a very special grandeur. It is truly lovely.

  2. Tom Snow says:

    Thanks, Tim. It really was fun to write Dialogue. Felt so natural. I think the music came from an authentic place in me. If I could have written art songs or lieder and made a good living I would have been a truly happy chap. T

    • Tim McMullen says:

      I think that you often did write the art song, you just sometimes added that ba-ba-bump (pause…wait for it) ba-ba-bump synth that made it 80’s pop at the same time.

  3. Dearest Tom,
    I am so honored and happy that you have put one of our songs up on your blog, truly humbled by the thoughts you expressed.
    I’ll never forget the night you and Mary Belle and I met at the Whiskey. We didn’t really meet, our souls simply crossed paths again, and we picked up the conversation mid-sentence where we’d dropped off before. We all sat up at your charming small place in the canyon and talked till the wee hours.
    It could not have been more perfectly timed, I might say divinely so, as new opportunities were coming my way, which I did not have the musical ability to create. In you walked in all your brilliance, humor and genius.
    Whether you gave me a piece of beautifully crafted music or I gave you a completed lyric, the result was the same. Your melodies wrote the lyric for me it seemed; your tune told me what you were saying. It was always a joy to have that opportunity. When you gave me back music for my words – well, it either perfectly expressed them or elevated my thoughts.
    Something happened too when people commented on my work, they no longer said “i love your lyrics.” With our songs, they said “What a great song.” The separation of music and lyric vanished. They were one.

    And while I always cherished working with you and the songs we wrote together, I have to say yours and Mary Belle’s friendship, loyalty, passion, and shared life of the last 35 years has been the greatest of all gifts of knowing you.

    It was your request for a lyric when I was in London that began my writing again after many many years in the creative desert, thinking that part of me was over. Oh no! Here comes Tom, “Wake up!” And your generous comments on new lyrics I send, trying to stir that sound within you – well. By the way, I’ve got an idea…

    And darlin’ everything you wrote was art, whether classic or pop! I need to come by for a “Snow Ball” and conversation.

    I love you very much and again, thanks for including me on this brilliant site.

  4. Tim McMullen says:

    Patty and Tom, the rest of us (I deign to speak for anyone who has wandered here) are waiting, breathlessly, for any little inkling of that marvelous spark that you two have shared in the past, share in the present, and will share in the future. This “brilliant site” (at least a double entendre, if not a triple) would be the perfect place to exhibit your mutual nudges….

  5. Thank you to you both for writing this song, and well done for getting it recorded, a wonderful combination of circumstances. The tune is one that goes through my head for days each time I hear it. The rhyming couplets come so naturally, and so full of expression and understanding. In this short song you see the hopes of two people and you get so involved that you hope and pray, and believe too, that it will work for them. To accomplish so much in a song, well done!


  6. Simioni says:

    WOW! How serene and peaceful to listen to. Tom you always amaze me your musical talent, and sometimes with your golf. I’m not the expert others are to analyze all music, but some of today’s music leaves alot to be desired. Your music from the past is what we need today. Nice hearing from you, and all’s well with you your golf game. Old golfing buddy, Lou .

    • Tom Snow says:

      Hey Louie! I always love getting your responses. Can’t thank you enough for your enthusiasm and your musical ear. But then you’re Italian, it’s a birthright isn’t it? Sure do miss seeing you on the course and around the table on the 19th hole. Far fewer jokes being told! I’m back down to a 10 but probably won’t go much lower than that. I liked it when I was a 13, made more money! : Hope to see you soon. Your Pal, Tom

  7. Dearest Tom:
    What an unexpected joy, like Christmas in July, to discover another one of your beautiful songs!
    The beauty of your melodies, the elegance of her lyric, so beautifully in the voice of the divine Michael. This is a treasure You are a treasure!
    Thank you,

    • Tom Snow says:

      Thank you! Your words are so sweet. As it happens, today is MB’s and my 40th anniversary. I like Patti’s last line for this occasion: “Final call and off they go, leaving hand in hand.” Well, maybe it’s not the final call but we’ve seen some innings! Cheers, T

  8. Kimberly Lowell says:

    Beautiful. It takes me back to a simpler and lovely place. To a time when anything was possible, or so we thought. Heady, dreamy and wonderful. Thanks for the trip!

    Happy 40th. Big Sur was probably a bit more romantic than where we spent our 40th a few months ago…north of San Fran, it is called Sheep Dung.

  9. Tom,wow what a beautiful song, lyrics and melody.its a new one for me,but i loved on the first play.my kind of music.The story behind the song and your friendship with Patti Dahlstrom is a really fun,nice story.hope all is well with you and M.B. am feeling so much better as time goes by,almost back to my old self.warmest regards,Stuart

    • mrneige says:

      Great to hear you’re almost 100%. I think you had an angel on shoulder my friend. Best to you and Deb. Thanks for listening and always responding. Means a lot to me. Cheers, Tom


  10. Bill Josey says:

    Tom, I really love this song. Can’t believe I’ve never heard it before.

  11. I ,too, had not heard this, but feel that if I had been sitting in a cafe in Dubrovnik and this were to start playing I would think , ‘this sounds like something my amigo Tom must have written’…you got style Tomasito!…a wonderful marriage of melody and lyric…and almost as nice as hearing this song (which i’ve listened to now 5 times back to back) has been reading the follow up comments… you are much appreciated by many, and deservedly…keep ’em coming!

  12. Trika says:

    This is such a beautiful song! You know that I have always loved your “emotional” songs best, because they have and continue to touch my heart! I keep wondering whether the purpose of “retirement” is to free us all up from that brutal, commercial pressure, whatever its form that takes us away from true ‘self’ and to allow us write more of what is in our hearts! Hope you will continue to write to reflect your inner heart and soul in all it’s complexity! I’m wating….

  13. wemens says:

    This song has been a favorite of mine since it first came out. Is the sheet music for the piano available anywhere? I want to learn to play it.

  14. Aris says:

    MJ’s cover of Dialogue has been a favorite of mine for years, and I want to showcase this song live in Los Angeles…is there anyway to get a chord chart. It’s such a beautiful song for a soulful voice and piano to do live…!thank you so much! Aris

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