518 West Roy

518 West Roy

billwhite51's picture



Liner Notes: 

Over a 35 year period, Yasuhiro Ozu directed 55 motion pictures. For the most part, each film told the same essential story. So when we watch his films today, we are seeing the cultural history of Japan as it evolved through the years 1927 – 1962.

1962 was a pivotal year for me. I had just returned to Seattle from South Dakota after living with my father after my mother divorced him. At age 11, I had already made out with girls in movie theatres, eaten hamburgers in bars where men drank beer, was nearly buried alive in quicksand, stood over the grave of Wild Bill Hickok on Boot Hill in Deadwood South Dakota, wrote a 60 page essay on the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler, and waited for Old Faithful to gush in Yellowstone Park. Now I was back in the city where I was born, but instead of the housing projects in Holly Park and Renton Highlands, I was living in a mansion on Queen Anne Hill, which had been transformed by the Worlds Fair into a vision of the future.

My father was a gunner on the USS Enterprise during war in the Pacific with the Japanese. My grandfather was the Rear Admiral on that ship. My father, a loudmouthed boozed up troublemaker, married the Admirals daughter. The Admirals wife was a flapper in the Roaring 20s, and he had her comitted to an insane asylum, where she died sometime after the turn of the century. When the admiral remarried to an heiress to a frozen food business in Californias Bay Area, my mother was taken in and treated like one of the new family. But her marriage to my father resulted in her being virtually disinherited, and our family was the typical post war Boeing working class one that began in poverty and ended in middle class subsistence. Meanwhile the Admiral married a third time, this time to his gold digging secretary, and raised a third family in the luxurious digs of Mercer Island.

I go into this to explain how we wound up in that mansion on Queen Anne Hill. After my mother and father divorced, the Admiral bought it for my mother to run as a bed and breakfast during the fair.
This song takes that place and tries to suggest how the city changed over the course of five decades by observing the changing ways in which those fairgrounds have been utilized. it is not exactly Japan as seen through the lens of Ozu, but it is Seattle as I experienced in from 1962- 2012, less the years 1982-99, when I lived elsewhere. And its just a song, not a history, not even a movie, let alone 55 movies...but I hope something of interest comes through this changing picture of a city from the persective of a house that no longer exists, and hasnt for several decades.


18 West Roy
I lived in a mansion 518 West Roy
Century 21 in the 20th Century
Our dining room table was big enough for everyone
Who had come to the fair from every other where
And was boarding with us

Elvis Presley was strolling the fairgrounds
My sister said she saw him just hanging around
When the fair closed down, we saw Elvis in the movie
And the fairground ruins was our new playground

We played in the fountain and the monorail was free
Once a year on the fairs anniversary
Dylan and the Band played in the Coliseum
I bought an $8 ticket just to see em
Bumbershoot hit the grounds one Labor Day
It was free at first, now its $100 a day
Back in 1962, for the fair you had to pay to get in
Two bucks for adults and a dollar for kids

There is no mansion at 518 West Roy any more
Just three blocks of condominiums
With no yards between them
A line of buildings where there used to be mansions
And I lived there
In a 20th century vision of the 21st century
The present of the past is bereaved
But all you thought you ost will be retrieved

Please keep your comments respectful, honest, and constructive. Please focus on the song and not the demo.


I think this is what "folk" ? ~music~, so to speak, - music is for, to record, capture slices of history like nothing else might, -- not in a picture, or a book, or a short story or a play, rather, a song.

Good one.

cindyrella's picture

I love hearing all of the history behind this song
I think you lived more in your first 11 years than Did in my first 30!
Anyhow, loved my listen and all the pictures it put in my head. One of your best!

kahlo2013's picture

Wow, this is wonderfully rich and poignant story telling at its finest. I love the unique intimate details of your story as well as the universal feelings that it addresses and evokes. The musical delivery is soulful and emotional as it takes us on this journey with you and tugs at the listeners heart. Really wonderful, Bill!

fresh spotless youth's picture

You are a storyteller, Bill. The liner note alone is worth reading: "At age eleven, I had already..."--there's the first line of a novel. I love all the details in this song. If there were a mansion there, it would be worth some insane shit ton of money. This is a great line: In a 20th century vision of the 21st century

metalfoot's picture

Splendid storytelling-- folk music at its finest, and the liner notes are worth the price of admission alone.

Acousticmaddie's picture

Thank you for sharing your story. Great to take part of the story behind. Well performed. Lovely song

jcollins's picture

Looking at the liner notes...I find your life facinating Bill. Thanks for sharing.

Looking at the lyrics...yes, the first two section pain the picture nicely. Especially like the Elvis note. The next section a history lesson about the cost of participating over the years. While I was reading about Dylan they were actually playing Positively 4th Street on my TV (music channel). Kind of distracting because I love that song but I'm following along ok. The last section reminds me of my old neighborhoods, I went back, and one of the buildings I lived in for years is no longer standing. I'm ready for the audio now...hold. Guitar intro...tremelo guitar as well...vocals now...nice and slow...can clearly understand the lyrics...Elvis Presley....fairgrounds....my sister said she saw him just hanging around....we saw Elvis in the movies...the fairground ruins was our new playground. Dylan and The Band played the coliseum...back in 1962...it was 2 bucks for adults...1 buck for kids...there is no mansion at 518.....just three blocks of condominiums...line of buildings where there used to be a mansion...and all you thought you lost will be retrieved...fade out. Very nice Bill. You do amazing stuff and are a true superstar.

Technicolor Gramophone's picture

Fascinating life, Bill! The lyrics really paint pictures, and the music is almost heartbreaking. Really beautiful storytelling!

owl's picture

What an amazing and detailed backstory, I loved getting that history before getting into the song itself (sounds like there are 100 more songs waiting to come out about that time in your life, though)! All the images and details in your recollections are great, and that closing verse about the condos is so poignant.