Archive for August, 2010

#41 Sidi Ifni -Cracker. Paul Bowles, Moroccan Space Rock and Old English Queens.

Posted in Cracker with tags , on August 31, 2010 by davidclowery

Hotel Suerte Loca in Sidi Ifni

08 Sidi Ifni



Please make some donations

So the last i left off the band had broken up in Sweden and we had made our way back to the UK to fly home.

I however had always planned to stay behind in England. My girlfriend Mary (later my first wife) had planned to meet up with me in the UK and then we were gonna spend a little time time traveling around europe. But i had two weeks to kill till she got there. the first thing i did was go and visit my cousin John in london. We methodically explored quite a number of pubs in the the grimy yet colorful area of south london where he lived. John worked nights and i learned to ride the night buses around london. A helpful skill i relied upon many times since. I’ve never understood why one of the biggest cities in the world has a subway system that doesn’t run all night. Also the London tube map has a way of distorting your perception of the spatial relationship between different neighborhoods and boroughs of London. You get a much better sense from the buses. But i digress.

I then headed down to the Isle of Thanet. This is the very tip of land where the south eastern thames estuary meets the english channel. This is where my mother’s people live. At least for the last few generations. I have a large batch of cousins, uncles and aunts in this area. in particular my grandfather lived in a little seaside town of Westgate-On-Sea. We then explored the various pubs of this part of the UK.

By the time mary arrived in London i was ready to get out to of the UK. I had settled on a pretty wacky idea. A trip to Morocco. I was unwittingly taking part in a long rock tradition of visiting this cultural crossroads. Mary didn’t seem totally thrilled by the idea of visiting a predominantly muslim country, only because she had in mind more of a laying on the beach vacation, not a covering up her head, arms and legs vacation. On top of that she had spent time in Mogadishu not cause she was in the 10th mountain division but because her mother and stepfather were very ambiguously associated with the state department, always ending up in interesting places like the Mogadishu, Peshawar and Manilla. Read into that what you will.

On the balcony at Hotel Suerte Loca

But go we did. Ending up in the very unique city of Sidi Ifni.  (To arbabic speakers: I’m aware it’s redundant to say City when Sidi is already in the name.  But we notoriously monolingual americans won’t be able to find it on a map if i just say Ifni.)  We went to Sidi Ifni largely because of the strange description the Lonely Planet guide to morocco.  Since revised,  it used to say something that began this way:

“If Lethargy and Decay can be described as charming…

Hence this line in Sidi Ifni.

we drank wine, slept off hangovers

lethargy decay and forgotten loves

“Through the porthole see an epiphany I will never leave this place alive”

Inspiration for that line was this apartment building designed to resemble a Ship.  Sidi Ifni Morocco.

The second reason we went to Sidi Ifni was because of it’s hybrid culture and lack of pestering “guides”.  Sidi Ifni was part of Spain from 1860 to 1969.  It is a strange updated remix of Spanish and Moorish.  Remember Spain already contains a healthy dose of Moorish culture.  The architecture of the town is this spanish/arbabic/ art decco mix.  It is striking.  Also when we were there, the legal status of many of the mansions in the spanish quarter left them abandoned and boarded up.  That whole quarter which near the hotel suerte loca was largely vacant.  There was also a Spanish Consolate, in this quarter.  It was unlocked the two times we went to visit it, but no one was there.  Totally eery.  Another interesting feature was the grand promenade and staircase that ran down to the beach.  Although the city made an effort to maintain it, it seemed to be always on the verge of crumbling and being overgrown by shrubs and vines.  Finally as the spanish had land routes in and out of the city, the center of the city was a runway.  At the time Mary and I were there the locals used it as a giant pedestrian thruway. Whether it was unusable or simply used so rarely it seemed abandoned was never clear.  The whole town had the feel of Macondo the fictional town in 100 years of Solitude.  Indeed the french couple  that was staying at Hotel Suerte Loca brought it up conversation

“Is Gabriel Garcia Marquez translated into English?”

“You mean this city reminds you of Macondo?”

 


“Vines and Shrubs grew between the steps from the Spanish town to the African sea”

Another character at the Hotel Suerte Loca was an gay englishman of indeterminate age . Everyday he’d sit out on the balcony at 5pm to listen to the BBC worldwide service.  We’d often join him with a bottle of the local sulfite heavy headache inducing wine.  He had been in Morocco for some time.  He had been a composer of some kind.  This strangely mimicked the writer Paul Bowles history.  He makes appearances in both Dr Bernice and Sidi Ifni.

12 Dr. Bernice

Dr Bernice:

“The Soundtrack is played by some aged british queen on BBC radio one”

Sidi Ifni:

 

 

 

 

“We’d awake to the BBC
An old English queen, on the balcony”

There was an air of sadness to this man.  Or perhaps i projected my sadness from the demise of CVB onto him. Alone at the very edge of civilization.  And this time i really mean the edge of civilization.  This isolated coastal enclave hemmed in by the trailing edge of the Atlas mountains.  Only accessible by dirt road through the mountains via Tiznit or Guelmin.  The climate along the coast was like San Diego or Ensenada, but just south of us the Atlantic Ocean meets the sand of the Sahara.  It was as if we were at the end of long skinny peninsula between two seas.  Or with some poetic license between the Sea and the moon.

Between the sea and the moon.  Doing my best sheltering sky pose.

Finally the Hotel Suerte Loca.   This lovely and friendly place was our home.  The family that ran it had two adult sons who took an interest in the fact i was a musician.  They took me out and introduced me to other musicians.  They also had considerable knowledge of the western rock music and introduced me to many Moroccan and Magreb (western arab world) artists.  Most of these artists played traditional or arabic and berber pop music, but a couple of the cassettes i brought home were moroccan “space rock” bands.  Indeed many young moroccans would proudly tell you the influence that their music had on various icons of 60’s and 70’s rock music.  The music to the song Sidi Ifni also references the sound of these moroccan space rock band.  This was a conscious choice to do this rather than reference the traditional music of Morocco.

The phrase “Suerte Loca” means wild luck.  Or crazy luck.  I loved that this hotel was named this.  So i also dropped this phrase into the song The Good Life.

01 The Good Life

 

Please make some donations

Sidi Ifni


[INTRO:]

[Em] [Bm] [A] [Em]
[Em] [Bm] [A] [Em]
[D] [C] [Em]
[D] [C] [Em]We walked [Em] down a long prome-[Bm]-nade
Down a winding [A] stair, wide as boule-[Em]-vards
Vines and shrubs grew between the [Bm] steps
From the Spanish [A] town to the African [Em] sea

We drank [D] wine and toasted to the [C] day
When she was the [Em] Queen, before the long decay
We drank [D] wine, slept off hango-[C]-vers,
Lethargy, de-[Em]-cay, and forgotten loves

[BREAK:]
[Em]

We’d awake to the BBC
An old English queen, on the balcony
Wander round abandoned consulates
An old broken chair on the marble stair

And from the roof see Canary seas
The discarded runway of Sidi Ifni
We drank wine lying on our backs
On the warm tarmac, in a bowl of stars

Well I went down, mostly on my own
‘Til I was alone in that shipwrecked house
Through the porthole sea, an epiphany
I would never leave this place alive

I drink gin with the old ex-pats
We are broken things from a broken past
And it comes near, but just out of grasp
The alchemist words that would bring her back

[ENDING:]
[Em]

40-Sad Lover’s Waltz-Camper Van Beethoven. A Viking Funeral Pyre.

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven with tags on August 30, 2010 by davidclowery

Sundsvall  A Viking Santa Cruz.

Please make some donations</


In May of 1990  Camper Van Beethoven unexpectedly* broke up while on tour in Europe. We were up near the arctic circle in Sundsvall Sweden. This beautiful and remote town on the Gulf of Bothnia seemed a fitting place for an ending.  Figuratively and literally at the end of the road.  Yes I know the E4 continues past Sundsvall but it seemed to me at the time it was about as far north as you could go before you left the refined “cultured” Europe and entered the wilder arctic region.  Sundsvall, with it’s university, banks,  shipping, industry and tech is one of the places where the Nordic arctic integrates back into the rest of Europe.

Sundsvall also has a habit of burning down.  At least 4 times in the last 400 years.  And I do mean the whole town burning down.   So for two reasons we could not have picked a better place for the band to break up.

We made this strange dispirited trip back to the UK.  We weren’t speaking to each other but we had to ride together for 3 days  and several ferry rides back to London.  Our tour manager Howie,  made us play one more show in Örebro Sweden.  Just so we had enough funds to make it back to London. We would have run out of cash otherwise.

The traveling minstrel business™ is not what people think it is.  You make very little money on the road,  and you have these enormous up front costs. And if for some reason you don’t get 90% of the way through a tour you usually lose money.  That’s why I hate it when these new media music theorists opine about songs being promotional tools for touring and then the musicians are supposed to make all there money from touring revenues.  It’s an iffy proposition that you make any money on a tour,  even when you plan it carefully. All it takes is one broken arm or skull fracture. Every band on tour in Europe is always one makeshift toboggan ride with a drunken Finnish transvestite away from financial disaster.

A lot of people are surprised at Cracker and Camper Van beethoven’s frugality when we tour. Minimal crew,  no tour bus, vans and trailers, budget hotels etc.  But consider that the idiots running around playing the same size venues we play in tour busses (at $1000+ a day) are going home with no money.  Or worse owing their record companies and managers money.  Part of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven’s longevity is due to our business model.  Another part is the Fission-Fusion(insert link) cycle that Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven unconsciously developed. But that’s another story.

So breaking up in Sundsvall Sweden was an unmitigated disaster. Without the last 2 1/2 weeks of tour revenues the band fell short almost $20,000 of what was expected.  Further  the tour was already a net loss even as planned.  Virgin records had agreed to make up that shortfall. approximately another 30,000 dollars.   The record company gives you a check at the beginning of the tour, and a final balance when you complete the tour.  This is called tour support. This was very common in the day,  and a figure like that for a two  month tour of europe was not uncommon. The tour support was actually a loan against OUR royalties from sales of our CDs/Cassettes/Albums in europe.  So like most bands we viewed it as an almost fair trade-off.  Certainly nothing to quibble about.  If we could achieve the same level of popularity in Europe as the states we would be sitting pretty.  In order to do this we needed to extensively tour the continent. Tour support was viewed as a way to prime the pump.  Also  because of the way royalties are figured artists are almost always un-recouped.  Unless we went gold or platinum we weren’t gonna see any record royalties anyway.  It was like monopoly money in a way.

But since the band broke up  a funny thing happened.  Buried in the fine print of our tour support agreement were a couple clauses that really screwed us.  First the record company was not obligated to pay the balance of the tour support agreement. And really why should they?  We didn’t finish the tour.  Second the tour support loan was now re-coupable against ALL royalties owed to us.  Including what is called publishing royalties.

Publishing royalties are monies due to the songwriters.  They are for everything from radio play,  television and film licensing.  Also-and most importantly- the record companies have to pay the songwriters for each cd/cassette/album/download  sold.  Whether the record is recouped or not.  These royalties are substantial.  In some cases larger than the Artist royalty.  Notice the distinction.   Songwriters as opposed to Artists.  They are often not the same thing.  They might overlap but not exactly.

The publishing royalties were very much not monopoly money.  There were  publishing monies due to us for sales of albums the last couple years. A funny quirk of the music business only 50% of sales are counted at the time of sale. the rest  are doled out over a period of two and 1/2 years. In order to account for returns.   And since i was the principal songwriter a disproportionate share of these royalties were mine.  As soon as the band broke up,  those publishing royalties disappeared.  $30,ooo dollars of non-monopoly money.

With the net loss from the tour about $40,000 dollars evaporated.

Back to the traveling minstrel business for a moment.  So we weren’t making money from records.  We were no longer getting the subsistance per diems and stipends for touring and now the publishing money had gone away.  Our band bank account was wiped out.  We returned to the U.S, unemployed and dead broke.  I didn’t even have an apartment to return to as I had let mine go and put all my stuff in storage.  My parents were of very modest means and i couldn’t rely on them for a handout. If i wasn’t such a thrifty Scot and managed to tuck away 5k the previous couple years i would have ended up homeless. I very nearly did anyway.  It was by and far the single stupidest thing we ever did as a band.

That fateful day in Sundsvall we should just piled all the instruments, amplifiers and luggage in the long boats set them ablaze and pushed them into the Gulf of Bothnia. A true Viking funeral.  It would have been more enjoyable way to lose 40,000 dollars.  And it would have enlivened the miserable trip back to the UK.

The last song Camper Van Beethoven ever played in it’s first incarnation was Ambiguity Song.  That was the last song of the encore in Orebro Sweden.  However in that set we played another lovely song from one of the early records. Sad Lover’s Waltz.  I remember that this was the song that that evening put a lump in my throat.

*It’s hard to say any band unexpectedly break up. It’s amazing that you can hold together a group of  5-6 young men and women in their twenties for an extended period of time.  When the band is a collective rather than a single person or two to three person partnership the band is bound to break up. It’s just a matter of time.  Longevity is also highly dependent on the power hierarchy of a band.  Flatter structures are less stable. Note that i’m not saying longevity of itself is always a good thing.  Solo artists have the longest longevity but are prone to go through the longest cycles of bad records.

traveling minstrel business™ is a trademark of zendixie™

Please make some donations</

03 Sad Lovers Waltz


[INTRO & BREAK:]

[G]-[C]-[G]
[G]-[C]-[G]
[G]-[D]-[C]-[Bm]-[Am]-[G]

[G] One step for boys, [C] one step for girls, step a-[G]-way
One step for you, [C] one step for me, step a-[G]-way
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz [D] that’s just the sad lovers’ [C] waltz [Bm]-[Am]-[G]
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz [D] that’s just the sad lovers’ [C] waltz [Bm]-[Am]-[G]

One step for anger, one step for pain, step away
One step for right, one step for wrong, step away
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz that’s just a sad lover’s waltz
Don’t take the third step, ‘cuz that’s just a sad lover’s waltz

[REPEAT BREAK]

One step for boys, one step for girls, step away
One step for you, one step for me, step away
One more step makes three, and three steps a waltz
Don’t take the third step, cuz that’s just a sad lover’s waltz

#38 Circles-Camper Van Beethoven. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven with tags , , on August 25, 2010 by davidclowery


Please make some donations

As long as I lived in the Inland empire I had never been to Vegas.  Not until 1985,  That was the  first time  Camper Van Beethoven went to  Las Vegas.  Very Briefly.  We played at a Record store I remember the guy who owned it.  Wayne Wheeler.  I can’t remember the name of the store, I think it was the Record Exchange.  But they had a giant mural of the first album on the wall.  We played for free, got burgers and hotdogs  and lots of beer.  It went really well and we decided we should come back to Vegas.  In fact we got sort of fascinated by Vegas.  But we had to got to albuquerque so we split.

In early 1986 we got a real gig in Vegas. So there weren’t a lot of choices for places to play.  I don’t remember if Wayne found the gig for us,  but somehow we ended up playing in a place that was a little odd.  I mean it was in some industrial park.  And we were opening for a band called The Joneses which featured LA Guns frontman Paul Black on drums!  I  just looked this up and was surprised by this myself.  It was probably more of a metal club.  I remember the owner was walking around wearing a sidearm in a holster.

<important update from greg in next paragraph>

So we all took acid.  I mean everybody,  the whole band, my girlfriend jennifer,  our sound guy andrew,  our friends john stein and edie.  We played some fairly psychedelic stuff for a somewhat mystified crowd.  I’m thinking it was stuff like Circles and Interestellar OD and ZZ Top Goes To Egypt. Greg couldn’t get his amp to work.  But we had a very short time to play, so we just kept playing.  Greg was trying everything.  Finally he found the drummer in the very first band.  I’m not making this up-The drummer had no legs but was totally eager to help greg. He went to his van and came back in his wheelchair with an amp on his lap. By the time he got his borrowed amp plugged in and working the sound man shut us down.  I mean like shut the whole PA off mid song and killed the power to the amps.

16 Zztop Goes to Egypt

12 Circles

15 Intersteller Overdrive

02 Cowboys From Hollywood

Jennifer had wandered outside into the parking lot.  When i found her she was barefoot and kicking around a giant spring.  Like a suspension spring for a heavy duty truck or some other piece of equipment.

“I love this spring.  I love the sound it makes”

Oddly I knew exactly what she was talking about.  I took turns rolling the spring around with my foot.

“No, no no!  you have to take your shoes off.  It’s better that way”

About then Andrew or Jonathan told me we had to come in and settle the show.  Which means get paid.  This was a problem all 3 of us were very high at this point. We went into the office anyway.  The owner wearing the sidearm was very nice, but kind of odd.  One of us just tried to accept the money and walk out.

“No i want you to count it. I don’t want you coming back and saying I cheated you”.

“We trust you”

“No count it”

Do you know how hard it is to count 500 dollars in 5’s and 1’s when you are high on acid.  Especially when there are three of you trying to count the damn money.

Eventually we got out of there without a pistol whipping.  We went out to the van.  I climbed way in the back with Jennifer.  She still had the Spring.  She was holding it like a kitten,  or  baby.  I know i’m really making Jennifer sound insane.  She wasn’t and is extremely smart.  But she was pretty quirky.

We  were still  out back in the van when some kids approached us.  They were CVB fans.  They started talking to us and after a while asked us:   Hey you guys are really high aren’t you?   We replied.   “wow how can you tell!”

They told us that they needed to be our guides, cause vegas is an evil place.  so what did we want to do? Jonathan said he wanted to go to Circus Circus.

WE DROVE TO CIRCUS CIRCUS!   WOW! who drove?  Jonathan says he did. WOW!  We wandered around Circus Circus for a while.  Casinos are weird anyway.  To walk around in one when you are tripping is a whole other experience.  It  felt like that underworld  experience I had in Victoria BC. ( Brides of Neptune #31) It’ best if I let Jonathan tell the story:

as we entered the circus circus, i saw many old people who appeared to be biologically attached to slot machines, they looked like they were vomiting forth coins that went through the machines with all the little tunes the machines played and then dripped out like chyme into a stomach-trough below, drip drip drip, where they were ingested again by the ancient cyborg to be vomited through the machine again. frightening.

we came upon a band playing, they had nice expensive new instruments that we were impressed by, but then after finishing “china grove” they proceed to humorously insult one another as their schtick (“that’s Jose, our utility musician, he’s the spic in the group”) and then said they’d be back in 20 minutes for their 5th set of the evening. I looked across the audience area and saw Victor and we silently made eye contact and an unspoken pact to never become that.

After a while some plain clothes security types came up to us.  They didn’t like that Jennifer was carrying around this 25 pound spring.  Or they just didn’t like our looks at all. But mostly i think it was the spring.

Eventually we all managed to get back in the van.  Not before Jennifer kicked her spring around for a little while longer in the parking lot at Circus Circus.  John Stein began driving.  We had to play the next night at Berkeley Square in Berkeley. John decided we should just drive overnight.

About 5:30 AM  I woke up.  We were stopped alongside the road.  Highway 58  somewhere a few miles short of the Mojave.  It was cold and raining.   John Stein informed us the Alternator was dead and he was trying to  make it to Mojave.  We came up a few miles short.  He put on a coat and started walking up the road.  Jennifer woke and got out of the van.  She kicked her spring around for a while,  but it wasn’t the same when she wasn’t tripping.

John Stein did a couple tours with us as our driver.  He was like MacGyver.  He walked up the road to a junkyard. Stripped an alternator out of a truck,  hitchhiked back and installed it in our van. This whole process took about 3 hours.

Greg lisher did not wake up the entire time.  However somehow he lost a shoe.  I guess he took them off before he went to sleep, and with all the getting in and out of the van it ended up along the side of the road.  I am assuming.  When we got to Berkeley Square to play Greg discovered he really really really had lost his shoe.  It was not in the van anywhere.  He’d been looking for it fitfully the last couple hours of the drive.  “What are you gonna do Greg?” we all asked.

He played the show with only one shoe on.

post script:  greg says he didn’t play with only one shoe.  he went across the street to the pharmacy and bought some slippers.  Still for a man who cares about footwear this was quite embarrassing.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1985. There was a severe stylist shortage in Santa Cruz at the time.  The Govenor rushed stylists to Santa Cruz from Los Angeles but it was too late for Camper Van Beethoven.

Circles is based on the song the CVB song Oh No.  We are playing along to the original recording backwards. We were kind of making fun of the LA Neo Psychedelic Movement.  ie  The Three O’Clock,  Rain Parade,  The Long Ryders.  AT THE TIME we didn’t relate to these bands, as we thought they were more about the look than the music.  We didn’t find their music psychedelic at all.  But you got to understand we had Ray Farrell and Bruce Licher feeding us Kaliedscope and West Coast Experimental Pop Art Ensemble compilation cassettes.  Of course they wouldn’t compare.   Much later I developed an appreciation for all these bands. I mean it was LA.  They had to have a look!  And look how crappy we were dressed. A little too much authenticity.

Cowboys from Hollywood is also about the related cowpunk/country rock scene that was going on in LA at the same time.  They overlapped somewhat.  I mean cowboy hats crept into the neo-psychedelic scene via flying burrito brother/ the byrds. cowpunk?  well they came equipped with cowboy hats.  We played with Rain Parade  and several other bands in downtown LA in late 1985.  We were driving our friend from Wyomings 350 diesel 4×4 pickup.  One of the guys (who may or may not have been in rain parade, but there was a psychedelic western theme to his clothing) asked us:  Are you guys really from wyoming.   Jonathan was chewing tobacco as usual. “Yep”  spitting a stream of tobacco juice to the ground.  Me being the smartass said ” are you cowboys from hollywood?” or something to that effect. it’s just kind of stoner humor to sing a song with nothing but that as the words.

ZZ Top Goes To Egypt is called that because it sounds like that.   it’s purely a descriptive title.  However later we learned of Billy Gibbons was an amateur Egyptologist.

Intersteller  Overdrive is  based  on the Pink Floyd Song of the same name.  It will get it’s own post as it involves Eugene Chadbourne.

Please make some donations

#32 Poor Mexico so far from God; So Close to Camper Van Beethoven

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker with tags , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by davidclowery


Please make some donations

“¡Pobre México! ¡Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos!” -José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori. President of Mexico 1876-1911.
Poor Mexico, So Far from God, and so close to the United States.

In #22 I ride my bike. I briefly mentioned  the borderlands of California and the Southwest. This is as important as the Inland Empire and Santa Cruz to the identity and development of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven.
So I Should explain the concept of a Borderland a little better.

Borderlands are a concept from Geopolitical theory. It comes in handy when trying to describe California. Borderlands are regions where the immigrant population is still culturally and economically anchored to their nearby ancestral homeland. The classic example is Mexican immigrants in the Southwest of the US. Coachella valley, large swaths of LA,  the southern Central Valley. All borderlands. These pockets are neither US or Mexico or both depending on your viewpoint.  While physically part of the US they are culturally and economically tethered to nearby Mexico. If you slide into one of these pockets from Mexico or from the the southwest of the US there isn’t really much of a process of adaptation.

Contrast these with the large pocket of Arab immigrants around Dearborn Michigan.  The weather alone would require adaptation.  But this immigrant population is isolated economically and culturally from ancestral homeland.   Sot this population is firmly part of the United States.  Exotic and unusual but not a borderland.

So this is what the members of Camper Van Beethoven and Johnny Hickman grew up around,  these transnational pockets called Borderlands. Jonathan, Greg and Chris Pederson grew up near these borderlands. Victor, and Chris Molla across the street from the Borderlands while Mike Zorn, Anthony Guess Johnny Hickman and I grew up inside one of these transnational pockets. This was especially true of Anthony Guess.

BTW Guess is really his last name. It was not a stage name. More than any other member of CVB Anthony was the most immersed in the borderland culture. He grew up in the farming and ranching town of King City California way “up” (south) the Salinas Valley. He showed up in Santa Cruz at the ripe old age of 18 and quickly gained a reputation as the great drumslinger in town. First we grabbed him to play in Box o’ Laffs. Later we talked him into playing in Camper Van Beethoven. He was a nut. In a good way. His music options in King City were limited so he learned to play everything. Rock, Country and of course the Norteña or Conjunto music. When we asked him to play with CVB he agreed only if he could play Conjunto style. I had no idea what he meant. But to him it meant he would only bring a kick drum, snare drum, high hat and sometimes a cowbell (pre-irony) or tambourine. The entire first CVB record is played with kick drum high hat and snare. Nothing else. Genius.
Not only did anthony play drums like he was from the borderlands he also talked the talk. His speech sounded vaguely chicano and he sometimes threw in spanglish phrases.

Camper Van Beethoven already had a little subset of norteña influenced ska:

01 Border Ska

04 Yanqui Go Home

11 Tina

But when Anthony Guess came into the band this stuff really started sounding very cool. Like i said we all lived in or near the borderlands so it was as if we were culturally fluent in this stuff anyway. Anthony Guess just took it to another level. Even the flat footed folk of Tina took on a Conjunto edge.

01 Heart

But long after Anthony Guess had left the band we continued to occasionally dabble in this style. Heart was re-recorded in 1987 with Chris Pederson and still retained it’s borderland feel. Although technically it was played more in the Tex-Mex style which was a later offshoot of Norteña.

A quick but important aside.  Some people are confused by the this lineage?Norteña before Tex Mex? Norteña is very old. It goes back to the 1850s and those german settlers bringing their music into northern mexico.  But it keeps being re-invented. Every 20 or 30 years.  Just when it’s about to become old folks music it transforms itself. And always by attaching itself to the most dangerous and edgy elements of the borderlands.  Most recently in the 70’s by groups like Los Tigres del Norte, and in the 80’s by Chalino Sánchez (who was born in mexico but spent more than half of his life in california ie a borderlander) In both cases these artists re-invented Nortena by popularizing the Narcorrido.

Damn it feels good to be a gangster. Chalino Sanchez while performing in Coachella CA  was attacked and shot onstage. Still standing  he pulled his own gun and shot and killed the would be assassin. It was The federales that finally got him in Mexico.

02 L’Aguardiente

The song L’aguardiente nods towards this as well but it was actually more of a play on South american and European music. This track was recorded in Vienna Austria in 1990. Note how enthusiastically the Austrians embrace the Waltz section of the song. That in itself illustrates my earlier German/Czech/Texan/ Northern Mexican musical connect the dots.

Finally there is a Camper Van Beethoven song that addresses the concept of The borderlands directly. Or at least treats it as the real geographical entity it is. Borderline from Key Lime Pie. Like all the songs on this album it’s bathed in melancholy and a dreamy figuratives. But it’s a couple driving from east to west, and west to east across the borderlands. Not into and out of the US and Mexico. They are observing that nothing is changing, they remain in this transnational space between the two Nations. The song even suggests that the Nations are fiction while the Borderland is real. Not to divagate too far but if the people of borderland are bound together voluntarily (which i understand is arguable) their transnational state is as legitimate as that of the US or Mexico. My Anarchist and Libertarian friends might say more legitimate.

06 Borderline

Politicians and Military strategist worry mightily about borderlands. Perhaps rightfully so. These areas tend to explode into violence and chaos. They tend to be flash points for much greater wars. But no one seems to learn from these episodes. We are always given two false choices. Make these areas part of one nation or another. The more obvious and successful choice:  Why not let them be? These borderlands have been with us throughout history and oftentimes-not always- they are places of great innovation, thought, music, art and even prosperity. From my political perspective it is often because of the very weakness of the official states in these areas. The governments have limited influence on the culture and economy. People often enjoy extra liberty. Grey market labor, less taxes, fewer regulations and contraband not available in the firmly controlled areas of the nations. They often enjoy less security. But not that much less.

If these areas manage to stay peaceful (an iffy prospect mostly because of interference byt the nearby nations). They are often powerful economic engines. I would say that this is generally true of the borderlands of the US, even if the wealth is unevenly shared. I know this sounds crazy if you look at the headlines in the newspapers. It’s stories of drug smugglers and violence. But the vast majority of the people who live in these regions live peacefully and contribute greatly to the wealth of both countries on either side of the border. And most of the Borderland is not lawless.  There are some marked exceptions. Juarez which is firmly part of Mexico (and so technically not a borderland) is currently bordering on anarchy.  Some of this spills into the real borderlands of El paso and Las Cruces, but Baltimore is more dangerous than El Paso.

There i go again looking at the big picture.

The Yaqui Nation straddled the border of the US and Mexico. They were still fighting to remain independent of the Mexico in 1918. My Niece who is very much a All-American Californian girl is 1/4 Yaqui, should she go back to Mexico?

Finally shouldn’t we say “immigrants” with quotation marks because a large portion of these immigrants are mestizo. that is mostly Amerindian. Their ancestral homelands straddle both sides of the border. In fact we should probably go even further putting quotation marks around “Mexican”. For many of these people’s ancestors could have just as easily identified themselves as Americans or Texans had history been a little different. Indeed many of their ancestors did identify themselves as such. The recent self-identification of many of these Mestizo people as Mexicans was the result of manipulative nationalists on both sides of the border.

Note in our New Roman Times story Texas has neatly dealt with the situation. Aztlan the semi-autonomous republic within texas is made up largely of the borderland region of the southwest. And in our story it is assumed that these people identify themselves as Tejanos rather than Mexicans, yet still remain culturally distinct. In the story the Texans and Aztlans are comfortable with this arrangement. In reality i don’t know if that would have been the case. But one can hope.

Oh and since i love flags so much the Yaqui have a Flag.

As a historical note. During the Mexican Revolution many of the great Mexican corridos were recorded in San Antonio Texas. Texans in general are more comfortable having a border and shared cultural traits with Mexico than the rest of the western states (except New Mexico). This is instructive.

And indeed Sir Douglas Quintet did in the 60’s in texas what CVB dabbled in 1980s. 20 years before. basically because they were Trxan.

Cracker pays tribute to Sir Douglas Quintet on this track.

It Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself- Cracker

And don’t worry Cracker heads. i”ll devote an entire post to It ain’t gonna suck itself.

Kenny Margolis.  It’s not the Violin that is the Devil’s Instrument.  It’s the Accordion. And Kenny keeps his DI in a Holster.   At least we think it’s a DI. Now that i’ve read about Chalino Sanchez I suspect it’s his pistol.

Finally  Kenny Margolis accordion player for Cracker had this idea to take the Bruce Springsteen song Sinaloa Cowboys and make it a Nortena song.   This song is very much about the borderlands of California.

04 sinaloa cowboys

Please make some donations

Todays words and music.

Borderline.

[INTRO & ENDING:]
[G#m]-[F#]-[G#m]-[B]-[Emaj7]
[G#m]-[F#]-[G#m]-[B]-[C#m]
[Emaj7]-[C#m]-[B]-[E]
[F#]-[Emaj7]-[G#m]

I will [G#m] sing
I will be [F#] passed on over [G#m] now [B] [Emaj7]
Take the [G#m] wheel
Take me [F#] down
Let me [G#m] sleep till we have [B] disappeared [C#m]
‘Cause we’re [Emaj7] moving from east
to [C#m] west
Across the [B] grain, it’s meaning-[E]-less
On the [F#] borderline nothing is [Emaj7] real except for [G#m] you and I

 

I have silver
And I have dollars
And papers, too
Bring me a mango from the south
Pour me a drink from the bottle
And one for you
‘Cause we’re empty as the desert
As we drift from west to east
On the borderline everything is empty, even you and I

[G#m]-[F#]-[G#m] Yeah? [B] OK [Emaj7]
[G#m]-[F#]-[G#m]-[B]-[C#m]
[Emaj7]-[C#m]-[B]-[E]
[F#]-[Emaj7]-[G#m]

‘Cause we’re [Emaj7] moving from east to [C#m] west
Across the [B] grain, it’s meaning-[E]-less
On the [F#] borderline nothing is [Emaj7] real except for [G#m] you and I

[ENDING]

#31 Brides of Neptune-Cracker. Did the ferry sink? Is this the underworld? Or is it just another gig in Victoria BC.

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, Sparklehorse, Victor Krummenacher with tags on August 17, 2010 by davidclowery

 

01 Brides of Neptune
Please make some donations

In summer of 2009, Cracker was doing a Northwest run with our sister band McCabe and Mrs Miller (Victor krummenacher). It was 4th of July Weekend. A terrible time to play anywhere in the US except right before a fireworks display. So as we weren’t booked at any fireworks displays our agent sent us up in to Canada for the Weekend.
It had been at least 13 years since I’d been to Victoria with Cracker or Camper Van Beethoven. So we didn’t really know what to expect. Victoria (which is confusingly on Vancouver Island and Vancouver City is not) can be an insular place. It’s a college town/government town. It’s only reachable by ferry and aside from  provincial government types and college students, the only visitors it gets are those peculiar weird tourists that visit the islands of washington.

The Northern part of the island is also very wild still. Parts of it can be very Northern Exposure. Our promoter was from somewhere up north on the island. It may or may not be a giant hydroponic pot growing operation.  Which is especially weird cause there is seems to be some kind of police training centre on the island as well.

But when you are downtown in Victoria,  it’s a fairly cosmopolitan place. which by nortwestern or Cascadia standards that means there are some Fluevogs mixed in with the Birkenstocks.  The couple times we played there when i was in Camper Van Beethoven it reminded us favorably of 1980’s Santa Cruz.

But back to our story. The ride on the ferry from the mainland was spectacular.  We all sat out on the deck took pictures of each other , it was hot by BC standards,  75,  and i realized i probably should be wearing sunscreen.  How do people get to live in this part of the world?  They must have done something very good in a past life: Pushed a pram of quadruplets out of the path of an oncoming bus.  damn.  Victor Krummenacher and I reminisced about doing this same trip with The Catheads in 1986 or 1987.  Mark Zanadreas and I were so hungover we quickly became seasick and ended up vomiting over the railings in tandem.  Much to the horror of our Canadian hosts.  We were young so i’m sure by 7:00pm we felt completely normal.

But back to our story. When we arrived at the venue  in Victoria July 4th 2009 we were a little surprised. It wasn’t really in the quaint victorian downtown but on the outskirts of town.  It was a pretty weird place. Just a gigantic cinderblock box.  It was a combination venue,  hotel, and liquor store on the ground floor. Around back in the basement it also had a strip club and a chinese restaurant.  We were pretty early so we all checked into our rooms.  About and hour after we got to the hotel,  the local promoter called jason our tour manager.

“I just drove down the Island, hey do you mind if i come to your room and take a shower”

And then it started to get weird.  There was also some sort of event center in the hotel and it appeared to be preparation for a wedding.  And not just any wedding.

I’ve always marveled at how multi-cultural is Canada.  Toronto Ottowa and Montreal are of course famous for this.  But the west also has it’s own pan-commonwealth queens dominion polyculture.  I can not think of any proper way to say this that is politically correct.  It appeared that preparations were underway for an Indian-dot/Indian-feather wedding.  Or at least the two largest pluralities at the wedding appeared to come from these two subsets of Canadians.  It was like a Fellini movie, paper mache elephants, people painted blue , heavily embroidered vests and many variations on the bear claw pendent.  Cowboy boots and Saris.

hmm interesting.

 

 

And when we went into the club it appeared to have a model of the Parthenon for a stage except there were multiple television sets in the walls between the columns.  The overall effect was that of a Russian mobster nightclub in Azerbaijan.  That night as we began to play to the handful of people who had shown up, I noticed at the door that one of the doorman had some kind of bulldog or pitbull mix on a leash.

It was then that the devastating reality sunk in. We were in the underworld.  While crossing the Strait of Georgia clearly the ferry had sunk and we had all drowned. For some bizarre reason in my minds eye i briefly saw us being accidentally torpedoed by the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23). ( I’d recently seen a clip of it being launched or something.) And now like the crew in the song Brides of Neptune we had drowned but did not realize that we were dead.

The dog at the door? Well that was Cerberus.  Greek underworld. Remember the greek Parthenon behind us?  Also it seemed that the greek underworld shared space with the Indian-dot afterlife, as i was sure that at some point i’d seen Shiva walking around the hotel.  It wasn’t a wedding after all!

And now for eternity we would be playing this nightclub every night. Well nearly every night. When Shiva needed more room for a special holiday or  if there was a sudden influx of visitors due to a  disaster up  on the Indian subcontinent: Move over greek underworld!  And Hades would summon the ferry.  And that ferry would take us to the usual Russian-Azerbaijani nightclub only this time in Elysium, the Asphodel Meadows or  Tartarus.

 

And the reason the ferry had sunk was all my fault.  I had not remembered to play the song Brides of Neptune in Vancouver and Vancouver is a port city.   This was a superstition that I had  developed. Or maybe it was more like an OCD tic: Touch the doorknob twice with my left hand before opening it with my right or there will be a axe murderer in my hotel room when I open the door.  That’s more of a tic right?

My superstition went something like this. If we don’t play Brides of Neptune in a port city, then one of the ships that leaves the next day will sink, or a sailor will drown.  I developed this superstition as Johnny,  and I stood in front of the Seafarers Memorial in Homer Alaska sometime in 2001 or 2002.  I felt so stupid.  Some showbiz know-it-all writing about sailors lost at sea. There were over 100 names on the bricks and the population of Homer AK at that point was about 5,000.  What did i know about the sea? and the lost seafarers.

Nothing except that i seem to mention the sea and sailors a lot in my songs.  And the english side of my family were mostly sailors.  And my grandfather was torpedoed either 2 or 3 times in WWII.  I suppose that is the reason i mention sailors and the sea so often:

I want everything

Saint Cajetan

Take me down to the infirmary

Dr. Bernice

Minotaur

Be my love

there must be more right?

I also have the sneaking suspicion that i was a sailor in a past life and drowned at sea.

Alas the sea is also some kind of allegory for me.  A great and immense sadness. The place where all things are eventually lost.  We crawled from the sea in the distant past.  But it waits for us in the quick and near future.  And now I’ve mixed Hades with Poseidon. When you die you become a Bride of Neptune.  Neptune is just the Roman name for Poseidon.

But i can’t help thinking of the sea as the immense sadness when i hear this song.  For this is one of the songs that i worked up with Mark Linkous.  This is a song that he plucked from a pile of small unfinished ideas i kept on cassette tapes.  each titled something like “work tape oct 1997″.  These were snippets of song about 30 seconds to 3 minutes long. I’d record them onto an old cassette recorder I always kept handy.  We were listening in the basement of my studio when we came across this one.  ” I like that one, let’s make that a song”.  So we did.  The only words i had were “brides of neptune cross the waters bring us your sons and bring us your daughter”.  We created the music first and then eventually the story came to me.  And you can totally tell that this is Mark Linkous playing the bubbling gurgling keys and guitars.  It’s his signature sound.

 

I think of the sea as this immense sadness in this song because  March 8th 2010 Mark shot himself in the heart.  He had an immense sea of sadness in his soul.

I don’t have that. That darkness. I understand it mind you.  But it isn’t me. We are all lost at sea, but it’s not a tragedy.  It’s a black comedy. A giant clown cemetery with The Catheads just too damn hungover to dance on our clown graves.  While i don’t exactly dance around the seafarers memorial in the video,  I talk to the lost and dead seafarers.  I send them on a inscrutable voyage with monkeys and pot head mermaids.  I send the dead out with a mysterious cargo that they can never get near because it’s “guarded by monkeys”  (see post  #3 guarded by monkeys).  But they aren’t really sad.  They are lost but not sad.  Understand the distinction?

In the US and many other navies there is an ancient traditon known as The Line Crossing Ceremony. It is a complex ritual in which the sailors (regardless of rank) who have crossed the equator before (shellbacks),  ritually abuse and mistreat the sailors who have not crossed the equator before (pollywogs).  The simple chorus of Brides of Neptune came to me after my ex-brother in law who was a young US navy officer related to me his ordeal during his first crossing of the Equator.  It is too complex to explain here. But your best hope is that you become a Bride of Neptune.

Finally we come to the Horse and Cow.  I am not far from the Horse and Cow Bremerton WA as i write this.  The Horse and Cow is a bar frequented by Submariners. Neptune is often portrayed followed by a Horse and Cow.  In superstition sailors would sometimes tattoo a horse and cow on each ankle.  So they wouldn’t be sunk at sea.  In WWII this was especially common.  The fear was very high that they would be sunk by a submarine.  Somehow the submariners adopted the Horse and Cow as their symbol.  Both of the related  artists i have mentioned in this post,  Sparklehorse and the Catheads  worked Submarine into their album titles.  Both albums I produced.

Also I distinctly remember Mark Linkous telling me that the spanish flotillas would throw there horses and livestock overboard if they thought they were in danger of sinking.  And consequently spanish sailors believed the sea to be haunted by ghost horses. (see reference in the song Be My Love)  I’ve googled this but to no avail.

However I am superstitious. A clear indication I must have been a sailor in a past life.  I am going out now to get a horse and cow tattooed on each ankle.

Please make some donations

[INTRO:]
[C] [G] [C] [G]

[C] She says this is my movie, [G] [Gmaj7] [Em] [Em7]
[C] so you’ll do what i tell you. [G] [Gmaj7] [Em] [Em7]
[C] There’s a mixup in Bali – [G] [Gmaj7] [Em] [Em7]
[C] you get chased by a monkey. [G] [Gmaj7] [Em]

CHORUS
[D] Brides of Nep-[Em]-tune cross the wa-[C]-ter,
bring us your [G] sons and bring us your daughters.
I won’t forsake [Em] thee deep in the blue [C] sea;
I’ll take you home. [G]

[C] I tried dating a mermaid; [G]
[C] she buys pot from the first mate. [G] [Gmaj7] [Em] [Em7]
[C] That mysterious cargo [G] [Gmaj7] [Em] [Em7]
[C] is still guarded by monkeys. [G] [Gmaj7] [Em]

Then
REPEAT CHORUS x2

[INSTRUMENTAL SECTION: (Chords as intro)]

REPEAT CHORUS x2

Brides of nep-[Em]-tune [Cm]
Brides of Nep-[G]-tune [Gmaj7]
[REPEAT CHORD SEQUENCE THROUGH ENDING]
Brides of Neptune
Guarded by monkeys

#30 New Roman Times Album part 6: We Would Fight For Hippy Chix.

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven with tags , , , , on August 16, 2010 by davidclowery

 

Please make some donations

Yesterdays post brought out quite a few Starbucks defenders.  Let me be clear. I enjoy starbucks coffee.  I make our Crew stop two or three times a day on tour at Starbucks,  or Peets or Caribou.  And in editing yesterdays post i made it less than clear i was talking about new albums or recordings.  If you are selling your new album or recording through starbucks it usually sucks.  Old stuff at least 20 or  30 years old tend to be a little better. i bought the Beatles re-issues there and i also have a great english/mod compilation from Starbucks.  But this only re-enforces my  point.  After 20 or 30 years the edginess of  something has worn off. .  Our cultural anti-bodies have come out and neutralized the threat. Even starbucks or at least Espresso “sold out”.   I remember when we used to tour in the 80’s CVB  had to plan where to stop to get a latte. Going from DC to Nashville I-81 to I-40,  We knew  there was  little place in Harrisonburg VA off hte square,  next there was a place in Roanoke by the old market.,  but you had to wait till you got to the joint across from UT in Knoxville after that. And that was a long 4 1/2 hours.  Even in the early 90’s when Mark Linkous was crackers roadie, He would care a little suitcase with an espresso machine inside of it.  he’d set it up in the venue,  hotel even at a rest stop in Nebraska once.   A large thunderstorm that looked suspiciously like a tornado was bearing down on us, but we had to have our espresso.

17 Oath of the CVB (Hippy Chix)

Moving along.  Our protagonist has now successfully contacted the CVB. He is whisked away to Santa Cruz to be indoctrinated and screened by the CVB.  He meets Field Marshall Nine Mile Beach at Artisans Christmas annex on the pacific garden mall in Santa Cruz.  As it turns out Field Marshall Nine Mile beach is really just a Hologram.  “they’ve got this Alien technology he’s just a hologram”. For his own safety he is being projected into the room for the meeting.

Field Marshall Nine Mile Beach?   Well all the officers in The CVB use the names of famous Surfing spots on the California Coast.  Sometimes they are Surfing spots from parallel universes.  Something to do with the quantum encryption scheme  mentioned in part 3.

The highest ranking member of the CVB he meets in person here is Major Dogpatch San Onofre.  And he is pretty distracted trying to chat up the sales girls.

Regardless our protagonist takes the Oath of the CVB:

I would fight for hippy chix,

I would die for hippy chix,

I might stop and surf a bit but i would die for hippy chix,

I might stop and skate a bit, but i would die for hippy chix

After this he is lead into the basement where he meets a trio of Grey Aliens.  The three aliens inexplicably go by the names Hoyt Wilhelm,  Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter.  In their short time on Earth the Greys have become fascinated with baseball. They love it so much they’ll even listen to recorded broadcasts from the 1950s.  Since their real names are not pronounceable by humans, they all adopt english names.  Baseball pitchers are a favorite choice.

INTRO]
[E7] [G] [C] [A] [D]
[E7] [G] [C] [A] [D]
[E7] [G] [C] [A] [D]
[E7] [G] [C] [A] [D]

[E7] I see a winter scene in-[A7]-side a tiny plastic [E7] globe [A7]
[E7] Old European castles, [A7] a sinister Santa [E7] Claus
[C] The salesgirl’s really hot, [D] but I can’t talk to her right [E7] now.
[C] I’ve come to meet Field Marshall [D] 9-Mile Beach from the C. V. [E7] B.

CHORUS:
[E7] I would die for [G] hippy chicks
[C] I would die for [A] hippy chicks [D]
I would fight for hippy chicks
I would die for hippy chicks
We might stop and surf a bit
But I would fight for hippy chicks
We might stop and skate a bit
But I would die for hippy chicks

9-Mile Beach he’s so crunchy wearing skater’s knitted caps
He takes my oath but doesn’t even seem to smile or laugh
They’ve got this alien technology he’s just a holograph
Projected next to me while TBI aims at my traitor ass

CHORUS 2:
We would fight for hippy chicks
We would die for hippy chicks
We would fight for hippy chicks
We would die for hippy chicks
We might stop and surf a bit
But we would die for hippy chicks
We might stop and skate a bit
But we would die for hippy chicks

They bring the greys into the room, man I say this just ain’t for real, ah
True Christian Church of Texas teaches aliens are the devil (ha ha ha ha ha ha)
The greys they tell a different story of humanity upon the brink
Of ecological disaster they have come to save our ass-es

[BREAK:]
[B] [C] [G] [B] [C]
[B] [C] [G] [B] [C] [D]

REPEAT CHORUS 2

[E]

 

18 Civil Disobedience

This song originally came from a solo album by Jonathan Segel Edgy Not Antsy.  So yet another song that was sort of finessed into the concept after the fact.  The lyrics explain the plot points well enough. The protagonist is grappling with the consequences of his betrayal of Texas.  This end has one of my favorite Camper Van Beethoven Guitar Solos.

Originally released on Jonathan Segel’s solo album “Edgy Not Antsy”. Vocal track changed to David Lowery, and additional guitar overdubbed.

[INTRO/BREAK:]
[C] [G] [Bm]
[C] [G] [Bm]

[REPEAT BREAK]

[C] When they [G] come to your [Bm] home
[C] You know they’ll [G] never leave you a-[Bm]-lone
[C] You know [G] your on their [Bm] list
[C] I guess you [G] weren’t the one they [Bm] missed

[REPEAT BREAK]

Have you been doing something wrong?
Well I guess you’ve known that all along
So when they come to take you away
Are you gonna go with them on that day?

CHORUS:
[G] Will you [D] know what to do?
[G] Will you [D] know what to do?
[G] Will you [D] do it?
[G] Will you [D] do what you know how to do?

[REPEAT BREAK]

When they come into your house
Are you gonna hide like a, like a little mouse
You know you’re in their file
But I guess you’ve known that for a while

[REPEAT BREAK]

There’s no room for folks like you
What can you say, what can you do?
So when they come to take you away
Are you gonna go with them on that day?

REPEAT CHORUS

[REPEAT BREAK x many]

REPEAT CHORUS

[REPEAT BREAK]

19 Discotheque CVB

It’s an instrumental so it’s about whatever we say it’s about.  Right?  The idea here is that after several years of being a double/triple  agent our protagonist is at a CVB retreat.  It’s a kind of a strategy session mixed with a party.  This is the end of the story.  The party ends with an explosion.  A suicide bomber has infiltrated the CVB.

The video is Camper Van Beethoven’s Manager Velena Vego (and my Girlfriend)  dancing to the song.  Anyone been to the old Luna Lounge on ludlow in manhattan? This is simply the camera feed of the stage that is shown in the bar.  We put the song on the PA and Velena got on the stage and danced to the song. I play the creepy guy that comes to the front of the stage and watches her dance.  Minimalist music video. Nothing happens for almost 2 minutes.

20 Hey Brother

Post Script. After the explosion.  The scene is in a TexIntelSecuriCorp  conference room.  An unnamed operative with aviator sunglasses and terrible mustache puts a disc into a video player.  Several executives  and a Northern Californian Army officer are gathered around a table..  It’s the suicide bombers tape.  He is saying his farewells and stating the purpose of his mission  Behind him is the yellow banner of a breakaway extremist mormon sect. Also next to the banner is a picture of the sects prophet Ezekial Weiland.  The implication is that TexIntelSecuriCorp has manipulated this young man into becoming a suicide bomber. The song is from the suicide bombers perspective. The second implication is that the Northern California Government has sold out the CVB.  The CVB had become too radical and anti-authoritarian for the power brokers in Sacramento.

I told you this wasn’t a happy ending.

Finally,  I hope none of our mormon friends and fans were offended by this last part.  I grew up in the Inland Empire with many mormons. I was in a mormon boy scout troop.  My wildest friends in high school were mormon kids gone feral.  Perfectly normal people.  Every religion and sect has it’s weirdos and extremists.  The reason that Mormonism is played up  in this story is simply because of the land. Most of the story takes place in Deseret.  Everyone knows the Spanish, Mexican  and American contributions to the development of the Southwest,  but the Mormon settlers also had a great and largely unheralded role. They bravely settled some of the harshest most remote terrain in the West.  In this story, (however backhanded)  I tried to give them their due.

CHORUS:
Hey [G] brother, we’re on our [C] way
Hey [Am] sister, [C] we’re on our [G] way
Hey brother, don’t be afraid
Hey sister, we’re on our way

Cos if we [D] stay true to our course
And have [Em] faith, keep out of [C] court
We shall be re-[G]-warded [C] very [G] soon

For when we spite them with our swords
In the name of our just lord
We do bring glory a-to his name

REPEAT CHORUS

Cos from this fire I am reborn
Like the phoenix of ancient Rome
I will be cleansed of all my sins

And on a spiral I will rise
As the flames reach to the sky
To sit forever, on the right hand of the lord.

REPEAT CHORUS

Finally when we debuted songs from this album at SXSW in Austin Texas we covered La Zona Rosa with these Wanted Posters of the Members of Camper Van Beethoven.  Enjoy!


Please make some donations

#29 New Roman Times part 5: I Hate this Part of Texas.

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven with tags on August 15, 2010 by davidclowery

16 I Hate This Part Of Texas

Please make some donations

Band dressing rooms are famous for their graffiti. Most of it is pretty is juvenile.  But on occasion there are gems.  A long standing tradition is just to simply write on the dressing room wall “I hate this part of Texas”.  This piece of graffiti is usually written in the dressing room at some venue outside of Texas.  My favorite incidence of this graffiti was on the wall of a dressing room in Bergen Norway.

As I was born in Texas i am familiar with your average Texan’s overbearing pride in their home state.  They don’t really know that most of us don’t sit around thinking about Texas.  Texas enters our mind mostly when there is a hurricane or  some other natural disaster.  Or mass shooting.    Sometimes I fear that this graffiti was originated by prideful Texans who view all the world as somehow a lesser part of Texas.

Other times i think this graffiti originated with bands who have played the notoriously shitty venues in Texas.  More than any other state the venues in Texas suffer from cramped or no dressing rooms,  bad PA’s and surly staffs.  Sorry Texas but it’s true.  I remember the first time i walked into the Liberty Lunch and thinking  “This is the famous Liberty Lunch”? It was December of 1985 and Camper Van Beethoven was  opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The Chili Peppers being from LA had the total old school rock crew. So their crew used to working for Motley Crue or Night Ranger had staked out the entire Backstage.  The venue gave us some folding chairs that they placed along the wall along the side of the stage.  I watched the Chili Peppers thinking “that Flea guy is a great guitarist,  But why is he playing guitar parts on Bass?”  All the while Rock historian then just a journalist  Ed Ward was rattling in my ear about how “unprofessional”  Camper had been that night because Jonathan had complained about how cold it was in the venue and he couldn’t keep his violin in tune.  While the Chili peppers were “consumate professionals putting on a great show” full of stupid double entendres and flat footed funk that only a drunk UT Pi Chi might find revelatory.  I was polite but only because i had no place to hide from him.

In some ways Ed Ward was right.  The Chili Peppers were consumate professionals and were rewarded for that with massive success. But “rewarded” may not be the right word.  It’scertainly not the kind of success that i would want.  I’m not sure that i would want the kind of audience that  thinks “Yeah Yeah Yeah Oh No,  No No Oh Yeah”  is a chorus.  I mean what would i say to our fans?  What would we talk about?  “Hey i don’t like getting hit in the head with a stick,  do you?  do you like Ice Cream headaches?  I don’t !”

This and having your CD sold in a Starbucks is one of the most dubious distinctions in rock music.   It means your music and career has acquired the stink of faux of credibility;  the Pleather™ sheen of stylized rebellion and pleasant sleepaid gurgling of empty sloganeering.  Or as David Cross and  Bob Odenkirk so succinctly put it  “Break the rules,  but don’t really break any rules”.

Bizarre story.  I walked into a Starbucks in Grapevine California. It was december and freezing. The wind was blowing a zillion miles an hour down the grapevine and so know one would even dare to get out of their cars to actually go to the counter. The drive thru was packed but  i was the only one in the store.  At the counter was a Starbucks Compilation of Sonic Youth songs chosen by such celebrities as Marc Jacobs (the clothing designer!?)  Wow  that is so punk rock dude.  The Chicana behind the counter was pretty chatty and a little bit of a smart-ass so i thought she’d be good to engage in conversation. Holding up the Sonic Youth CD:

“Do you know who this band is?”

“No”

“Do you know what they sound like?”

Squinting “Are  they …were they..some kind of Boy Band?”

“Has anyone bought this CD”

“Not during my shifts”

” Do you know any of the celbrities that picked theses songs?”

“um…Portia de Rossi–Are you from Corporate Headquarter?”

“No i’m just an asshole”

Even Thurston Moore The Third knew how weird this was.  Check out how he keeps laughing nervously in this pitchfork interview.

Grapevine California. Sonic Youth Hotbed.

Camper Van Beethoven writes music that could never be played in a Starbucks unless the clerks managed to splice their iPods into the pipe that drizzles the music, like low calorie icing  in from the Seattle Headquarters.   And this is probably one of the top 5 Camper Van Beethoven songs least likely to be played in a Starbucks. Even if Portia de Rossi swore up and down cross-my-heart-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye “this is the best song in the world” it would not make it past the censors at Corporate.  I’m proud of that. In fact i am proud that there is no song in my entire catalogue that could possibly make it onto a Starbucks CD. ( And i dare Starbucks to prove me wrong. he he)

Aside from that Sonic Youth mistake.  Which was weird enough that the Traders on CNBC’s Fast Money mentioned it in connection to Starbucks stock price, someone at Corporate in Starbucks is very good at picking out fake edgy bands like Death Cab For Cutie.  Band’s that are really the equivalent of 70’s mustachioed soft rock.  Bands “that break the rules but don’t really break the rules.” Bands that if they were ground up and loaded into shotgun shells that then a drunken Dick Cheney  fired in your general direction and one small piece of a Death Cab for Cutie song lodged next to your heart the doctors would not operate.  In a press conference in their spiffy white coats they would announce :

 

“The small fragment of the Death Cab For Cutie song is so innocuous,  so bland and devoid of roughness,  sharp edges or any dangerous ingredient,  we think the safest course is just to leave the fragment next to the heart.  Thank you.”

******************

I hate this part of Texas. What is this song?  in the context of the story of New Roman Times,  it’s our protagonist really high on some extra strong flower,  trying to get his Los Tigres contacts to put him in touch with either Mexican Intelligence services,  Grey aliens or The CVB.  He is going over to the other side.

Again what is this song.  Like post #1(The chemist said)  this is one of those songs that came about because Engineer John Morand was listening to a song backwards (The Long Plastic Hallway). He really enjoys doing this. He of course found an engaging melody and pointed it out to us.  Eventually we figured out we could sing “I hate this part of Texas”  to this Backwards melody.

It’s fun to be Camper Van Beethoven.

And as a Bexar county born son of Texas. I got to say this on behalf of  Texas:  If Starbucks were  based in Texas at least the damn CDs would suck less and they’d have a beef brisket BBQ sandwich.

Please make some donations

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,549 other followers

%d bloggers like this: