Sometime later that week, while browsing through a used bookstore in town, I found and bought a first edition of Orfeo Angelucci's 1955, The Secrets of the Saucers. Definitely a sign.
Immediately after unpacking back in Boston, I set to work. And writing that song was quite a bit of work. The only book I could find that was directly related was a study by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore that included excerpts from Stanton Friedman's interviews with prime witnesses. After reading that book and whatever else I could find, I was faced with a complex story and too much information mixed with too much conjecture. Meanwhile, the amusing but brutal Independence Day flick was ramping up for nationwide release.
I re-read the accounts of Mac Brazel’s daughter, Bessie, and Major Marcel’s son, Jesse. Brazel was the rancher who found debris strewn across one of his fields and Marcel was the military officer originally charged with collecting the debris. Both men chose to show their children pieces of what they'd found and both children had vivid recollections.
In a flash of inspiration, I combined the children and their two stories, not dissimilar, as a framing device. Once that was clear, I plucked excerpts from other eyewitness interviews to allow the song to tell the story as truthfully as possible through contemporary accounts. The lyrics fell into form while suggesting the tune on top of a simple chord progression.
After that, it was a matter of practicing and memorizing the thing so that I could perform it. I had an upcoming gig opening for Tony Bird at a small folk club west of Boston. Now, audience members rarely come to see the opening act and openers have limited time slots.
I can’t remember ever being so concerned about performing a new song but was very nervous about sharing a never before heard by anyone other than myself, six-and-a-half minute song about the crash of a flying saucer to an audience packed into a folk club for another artist. Nonetheless, I stood up and delivered the thing.
Much to my surprise, more than a few of the folks in the audience came up to thank me for the song and tell me that it had moved them. I am forever grateful for their encouragement.
Early in 1997, I was touring up the West Coast. In San Francisco, I stayed with a dear and generous friend who hosted a soirée for a few of our New College friends. By that time, I’d caught wind of some celebration planned in Roswell for the 50th anniversary of the crash and brought this up after sharing my song at dinner. Bill Latham seized charge of the the table with a brainstorm which went something like this: "Here’s what you do. Record the song and make a mini CD of the thing or an EP. Then send it to everyone you can think of in Roswell.” I did exactly as Bill suggested. It was a great idea.
Back again in New England, I recorded the song, pressed the CD, hand signed at least 500 copies on a dining table in Tamworth, New Hampshire, looking out on Mount Chocorua, and sent it out with a pretty little press kit to everyone who was anyone in Roswell.
After receiving an invitation from Mayor Tom Jennings to perform at a private reception and the 50th anniversary banquet hosted by the Roswell Daily Record, I bought half a booth at the trade show, called every conceivable venue to book additional gigs, packed up my CDs, made air and hotel reservations and, yeah, there I went.
I flew out of Charleston, South Carolina, reading a copy of the current Time Magazine because the cover story (with the oddest rendition of a humanoid alien I have ever seen) was all about Roswell, and The New York Times issue with the story about the ridiculous Air Force media show, Roswell: Case Closed. Had there been any doubt in my mind that something unusual and important had happened in Roswell, half a century before, the cartoonish Air Force disclaimer would have convinced me otherwise.
©2021 Suzanne McDermott (All Rights Reserved)
Next week, I'll tell you all about my experience during the 50th anniversary week in Roswell. Make sure you're subscribed in the sidebar.
Read Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
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