What's The Difference

Album: Stained Glass Reflections (1967)
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Songfacts®:

  • McKenzie is a singer and songwriter known for his hit "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)," which was written by his friend John Phillips, who was a member of The Mamas And The Papas. Phillips died in 2001 at age 65.
  • McKenzie: "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 20 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." (courtesy: www.scottmckenzie.info)

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