Johnny Rotten Come to Jesus (mp3)lyrics Neil Young sang "this is the story of Johnny Rotten." I'm taking up where Neil left off. All apologies to Mr. Rotten, but he made himself into a public symbol--can he blame me for running with it? It's all show-biz. The reference to Sid and Nancy dying like Voltaire is based upon a legend (not true, it seems) that the great enlightenment thinker died howling in despair. Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Lee Lewis' cousin and presumably an authority on such things, refers to the legend in his recorded sermon ("Is there a Curse on the Kennedy Family?" Answer: Yes, because Joe P. made a fortune off bootlegging and some Bible verse from Jeremiah.) Swaggart pronounces Voltaire as "VOL-Tarry." Classic.
Getaway (mp3)lyrics Suzi Ragsdale asked if this song was about drug use (the great escape?). I'm unclean but sober and told her it was inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It explains that when the soul is in its after-death Bardo realm it must face three states: 1) an all-dazzling light; 2) pitch-black darkness; and 3) gray light of first dawn. If your soul settles for the first or second states, you get reincarnated. But if you wait for the gray light you achieve Nirvana. The ultimate getaway. I guess it would have been easier to say the song was about drugs.
Let the Light In (mp3)lyrics John Davis, sweet soul that he is, said he liked this song best of the bunch. (He's also a pretty amazing singer/player, but more of that later). You might think that "letting the light in" is an easy thing. I've learned that it's pretty hard. Sometimes it shines in places where you don't want it. It casts a heavy shadow on selfishness, our common curse. But like the song says, echoing Robert Frost, with all this light it's hard to believe that this world was not made for love.
Runaway Drive (mp3)lyrics True story. Driving at night I pass this abandoned car. Pretty nice ride--a muscle car from the day but in great shape. Only the back windows are peppered with bulletholes. Not home-made air-conditioning. And I got this film noir in my head of a guy and girl on the run. And I kept on driving, trying to figure out the mystery, constructing a reality on the run . . . which I guess is what we all do.
Sea of Tranquillity (mp3)lyrics My hymn of praise. Mainly about my memory of trying to stay awake to watch the moon landing and being woken up by dad at the crucial moment and that jubilant buoyancy we felt as my brothers and I "bounced like balloons" in time with the moon-walking astronauts. All on a black-and-white TV. Suzi Ragsdale does her typically tremendous job on the harmony vocals--which is an understatement--they're vocals, pure and simple. For the visually-minded, there's a video too. Produced by the great Arturo Zapanini, Italian filmmaker and historian. Oh yeah, it's the forty anniversary on the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 2009. (That's what they call in the business a "promotional tie-in.")
The Real Elenor Rigby (mp3)lyrics I don't have this thing for Paul McCartney. I know I did "Paul is Dead" on Texasee (2008) and "Cover Song (for Sgt Pepper)" on Picture Book (2007). Both played on the Paul-is-dead-replaced-by-reptilian-alien-BMI-weapons system-NWO-conspiracy. This one is less conspiracy minded. But I do take issue with the song "Eleanor Rigby." Apparently Paul got the name from a tomb in Liverpool and imagined "all the lonely people" who live their humdrum working-class lives in what Coleridge called "Life-in-Death." I think Paul's song is a little presumptuous--especially since a document has come to light (thanks to Paul himself which he donated slyly to a charity who auctioned it off) that shows that E. Rigby was a scullery maid at a Liverpool Hospital--and further investigation shows she was married, buried with her family, etc. She had a life. Maybe she wasn't a Beatle (if that was somehow superior), but I don't think she would have wanted Paul's pity. Blake wrote: "Pity would be no more, if we did not make somebody poor."
Apache Kid (mp3)lyrics A real guy. A true story. Some pretty great steel guitar by Tommy Spurlock, channeling the soul of his friend Sneaky-Pete Kleinow. The kid did make his getaway--literally and metaphorically. He's like coyote, the shapeshifter god of the Southwestern Native Americans. Or the Greek Proteus. You can't get a handle on him. Though that doesn't stop one from trying.
Great Awakening (mp3)lyrics I debated whether to call the CD Running to Paradise, Getaway or Great Awakening. All are about the concept of escaping limitations, delusions, concepts self-imposed and maybe even the self itself. But I worried that Great Awakening might sound too 18th Century and restrictive. Or bring to mind those bumper-stickers the "born again" types slapped on their station wagons in the 1970s: "I Found It." I don't think we find it. I think we look for it. And maybe it isn't even it. Maybe it's is.
Dahlia (mp3)lyrics The Black Dahlia was murdered at age 22 in post-WWII Los Angeles. Found cut in two at the waist in an abandoned lot by a woman out walking her child. She had been tortured for days prior to her death, caused, most probably by a Glasgow smile (cutting a victim's face across the mouth from cheek to cheek). James Ellroy wrote a haunting novel about it (and thinks his own mother might have been a victim too). I came to the Dahlia from Jack Webb's The Badge (with a foreward by James Ellroy who said he got his style from Jack Webb--and I believe him). The Badge (1959) covers cases that were too disturbing for Webb's Dragnet (either radio or TV versions in 1950s). It covers the Black Dahlia case. I went online, stupidly, to learn more about the case and inadvertently came across the crime scene photos. Horrific. Inhuman. Goddamn the internet. I couldn't even look at Jack Webb's book after that I was so disturbed. Finally I started a song that could somehow tell the story, and though it could not undo the unthinkable crime, could at least revive the Dahlia before her murder. A small commemoration, maybe absurd, but I felt compelled to write it.
Ziwatanexo (Zihuatinejo) (mp3)lyrics I have anglicized the spelling of the name of the small city on the Pacific coast of Mexico. That is parenthesis is the actual spelling if you want to look it up. Another getaway story. Timothy Leary, fired from Harvard but working on a grant in a NY estate funded by Mellon money, conceived of a LSD commune in Zihuatinejo so that he and "co-researcher" Richard Alpert (later Ram Das) could escape the harassment of the local US district attorney (a young crimebuster by the name of G. Gordon Liddy). The commune didn't make it. Life on the beach was more primitive than planned and the morning-glory seeds (with hallucinogenic properties) weren't enough to keep the commune afloat. Still, a beautiful dream. Even if artificially lucid. Not mentioning Tim Lorsch (of The Goose Creek Symphony), who played three different kinds of strings (from cello to fiddle and the fabled "longbow") would be an insult. Thanks, Tim.
Running to Paradise (mp3)lyrics This getaway comes gratis from W. B. Yeats, who knew a thing or two about escaping the metal box of rationalistic materialism. It's his title. My character is from Yeats' "Windy Gap," but he's an Odysseus wandering the '30s South--having to avoid the Devil in yellow suit and black bolo tie. He's running to paradise barefoot on the dusty Big Old Road of the Delta. John Davis illuminates on a wicked crackling lead guitar (boy sounds like he was born in Muscle Shoals). Conjures up images of Tommy Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Johnson, Robert Pettway and all those other nameless ghosts who trod that Big Dirt Road.
Aiyshwariya (mp3)lyrics A friend of mine went home to India for vacation. She brought me back a carving of a little elephant with beautiful inlay. He's sitting on my desk right now, next to my computer monitor, looking at me. He's telling me: "Once that you learn/to love your own fate/every day is your lucky day." I trust him. He's an elephant.
Good Revolution (mp3)lyrics The great thing about the American Revolution is that it didn't come from the Right or the Left (living in a pre-Marxist world, I guess). It came from the Middle. That's where I'd like my revolution to start. America is still a pretty good idea.
Madman of Music Row (mp3)lyrics This is a real guy. I don't know what he's gone through, but he looks like he's been beat up pretty good. Still, he's in Nashville and he has a guitar with some strings. And he's always singing some kind of song that never seems to begin or end. I guess you could say he's my hero.
Hawk (mp3)lyrics That, my friends, is Mister John Davis on the guitar solos. My brother Sam's playing some pretty mean bass and some guitars too. I think this is the song that the whole album has been tending toward--inexorably. Or maybe it's the exorcism. You can only getaway so far. I'm sure I was thinking about Yeats and hawks and walking the black bottomland by the Harpeth River. The tree featured is the Live Oak. Those things just keep growing.
Quaternion (mp3)lyrics I'm not sure, but I think this may be the only song written about four-dimensional mathematics (at least in the last couple years). Back in the 1840s Lord William Rowan Hamilton was walking his wife along the Royal Canal in Dublin when the mathematical formula came to him in a flash. He was so transported that he scratched it down on the Broome Bridge so that he wouldn't forget. (There's a plaque there down--the original scratchings have worn away). I think Shelley compared the mind in the act of creation to a fading coal--you gotta act fast or you'll lost the moment. That's Suzi Ragsdale singing four-part harmony at the end of the song and album. Thanks, Suzi.