What's the Difference

From time to time over the years people have asked that we post the lyrics to What's the Difference.  Scott has kindly written a history, and some lyrics, to this great song.

From time to time over the years people have asked that I post the lyrics to "What's the Difference".

I started writing "What's the Difference" when I was 24 years old.  I'd had a few beers and was sitting alone on the floor of a hallway in New York. I wanted to escape to somewhere, but I didn't know what it was I wanted to escape from, and I didn't know where I could go to escape from it. I just knew I had to go, or be forever caught in a huge city that was about to devour this country boy from the North Carolina mountains.

Of all places, I ended up in another huge city, where I recorded "San Francisco", and where I also almost didn't survive. No, it was not San Francisco; San Francisco is not a huge city.  It was Los Angeles.

The first version of "What's the Difference" was on the other side of the "San Francisco" single.  For you younger readers, this was in the days when people actually recorded 45 RPM vinyl singles, which had one song on each side.

In the decades since I have found myself adding verses to "What's the Difference".  Some years ago I realized it was my own personal folk song.

The lyrics here are my favorite, especially the last verse, which I did not write.  John Phillips wrote it in 1984, when the two of us had finally reunited after 16 years of not speaking.  I was visiting him in his studio apartment in an area of Manhattan called Soho.  When I started playing the song, he listened for a few moments and said "Try this," which I did.  We both loved it, and it seemed to sum up the song quite nicely.

Sometimes now, over twenty years later, I pick up my guitar and sing "What's the Difference," just so I can sing this verse, because I know that when I do I will be able to see John Phillips clearly again, still standing in the doorway of his Soho kitchenette in a bedraggled bathrobe, holding a colander full of freshly drained pasta, looking at me and saying, "Try this."

At some point, when I find the courage, I will add a verse about how John was so much better a friend to me than I was to him. I owe him that much, and more.

Much, much more.


Hey friend, wake up
I'm throwin ' rocks at your windowpane
Get out of bed,  I got somethin' to say
Pack up a toothbrush, sneak down your stairway,
You got no reason you should stay

Hey what's the difference if we don't come back?
Who's gonna miss us in a year or so?
Nobody knows us for the dreams we've been dreamin'
So what's the difference if we go?

But don't tell your friends
They ain't quite through sleepin yet
They'll wake soon enough and prob'ly start to cry
Cause you left behind all the dreams they had for you
But don't worry, someday they'll know why

I have followed your journey
From the beauty of childhood
To uniforms of flowers that you wear like some disguise
Until you can't hear them when soft songs are sung to you
You're sleepin on a featherbed of lies

Can't you see the two of us on the horizon
Our silhouettes so black against the sun
Hand in hand, no more compromisin'
Doin' things that no one's ever done