Stranger In My Own House

Album: The Oakland Zone (2003)
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Songfacts®:

  • Emilio Castillo is one of the founding members of Tower of Power. He produced the album and wrote many of the tracks, including this one. In his Songfacts interview, Castillo explained: "I wrote that song with a friend of mine, his name is Leo Sacks. He lives in New York City and he's a journalist. He wrote the NBC Weekend News for Garrick Utley, but he's especially into song music and he left that profession and started doing reissues for Legacy. He's in charge of all the reissues for Earth, Wind & Fire, The O'Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, and The Isley Brothers. He pulls out stuff from the vaults and remixes it and he does all the liner notes. He's really into music that way.

    He asked me, 'You know, I've produced a lot of things now on these reissues. Could I produce a track for you guys?' And I said no. He goes, 'Oh, you answered me pretty quickly there.' I said, 'Leo, I'll be honest with you, man. I'm looking to work with producers on the caliber of Quincy Jones, somebody I can relate to musically. You don't know music at all. You've done these great productions for these reissues but Tower of Power is a whole different animal and I'm not looking for that type of thing for Tower of Power. But I will write songs with you.' And he goes, 'What? I don't know how to write songs.' I said, 'Well I'll teach you.' And what I told him was, 'You've got to come to me, I'm not flying to New York to teach you to write songs. But if you can come to my house, you can stay there for a few days and I'll show you how to write.' He says, 'How do you know I can write?' I said, 'You're a journalist, you're into Soul music big time. We're going to sit around and talk and we're going to write songs.'

    He came to my house, we wrote three songs the first time he came and then he came back when I was demoing the three songs and we wrote another one. Out of those four songs, three of them got used. Two of them made the record: 'Happy About That' and 'Stranger In My Own House.' 'Nothing Like It' was a bonus cut in Europe."
  • Castillo told us: "As far as the story about 'Stranger In My Own House,' there was no story. It is absolutely made up. I came up with a chord progression - that sort of minor sound - and to me it sounded like something ominous, and I came up with that hook, 'I feel like a stranger in my own house,' and then we wrote a story based on that. But there's no truth to it, there's no real life bearing in it at all." (Check out our interview with Emilio Castillo. You can learn much more at his website, towerofpower.com.)

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