Archive for the Uncategorized Category

#84 Sugartown: San Pedro, SugarBeets and Portuguese Fishermen

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2014 by davidclowery

 

Buy El Camino Real at your local record shop. Click here for locations

The Song Sugartown is the 6th track on the Camper Van Beethoven album El Camino Real (2014).   This album is part of a two album series on California.  The first album La Costa Perdida(2013)   focused on Northern California while El Camino Real focuses on Southern California.   In particular El Camino Real celebrates the polyglot poly-cultural history of Southern California

The fictional Sugartown is a combination of the working class neighborhood of San Pedro and the early 20th century sugar beet plantations of Seal Beach and Los Alamitos.  San Pedro is situated at the mouth of the Los Angeles River and faces the massive Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach.  Seal Beach and Los Alamitos are on the mouth of the San Gabriel river to the southeast on the other side of the two ports.

Both cities are (or were) home to large and diverse immigrant communities.   San Pedro is now known for it’s Italian neighborhoods, but was also once home to large populations of Croatians -actually Dalmatians, Greeks, Portuguese and Irish.  The Dalmatians are perhaps the most interesting group as they settled here when California was still part of Spain.   I wanted to use the Dalmatians as the fishermen in the story but lines like “We Came from Portugal to fish the sea”  didn’t sound as good with Croatia, Dalmatia Brač, Hvar, Vis or Korčula substituted.   So the Portuguese got the focus.

Los Alamitos and the adjacent Seal Beach were the center of Southern California’s briefly thriving sugar beet industry.   The sugar beet farming and processing industry attracted a lot of immigrant labor.  When the sugar beet farming collapsed in the 1920’s one of the big owners John Bixby started leasing out land to immigrant farmers including many Japanese families (many later ended up in  Manzanar) further diversifying the population.

Finally Sugartown also makes reference to Crocket or as the locals in the North San Francisco bay call it “Sugar City.”    Crocket is most clearly distinguished by the big C&H (California and Hawaii) sugar processing plant that faces the Carquinez strait.  Interstate 80 is carried over the city by a massive flyover bridge hence the line in the song  “Stay up upon the bridge at sugar town  mind your business don’t come down.”

So essentially the story is this:  Portuguese fisherman come to California to fish the sea. The fishing dies out and the lucky ones get jobs at the sugar processing plants. Of course the sugar beets are not even grown locally anymore.  So they process sugar cane shipped from hawaii.   The unlucky resort to smuggling drugs  “sugar cane”  (probably heroin) using the local port and what’s left of their fishing fleet.

The sea is empty now

It’s all we had

So we sell sugar cane

God is our judge

This little area is so rich in history, I feel like I could have done a whole album just on this area.   The Portuguese began exploring this as far back as the 1540’s. The  Spanish used this as a regular port shortly after.  The Tongva-Gabrieleño had villages here for at least 8,000 years.  They were expert seafarers and traders.  They had ocean going canoes something of a rarity among the native populations.

The whole sugar beet boom involves various railroad and banking tycoons and some genuine 19th century  robber barons.  The aforementioned John Bixby deserves his own treatment.  Finally their is the fate of the Japanese americans who were forcibly relocated to Manzanar during WWII.  Most of them lost everything.

Sugartown

We come from Sugartown

At the river’s mouth

Nestled in soft green hills

A factory town

it comes from cross the sea

raw sugarcane

it comes in railroad cars

we make it pure

Dont you show your face in Sugartown

we dont need your kind around

if you think you’re better than we are

you can leave at anytime

Stay up upon the bridge at Sugartown

Mind your business dont come down

If you show your face in sugar town

You know what happen last time round

We cam to Sugartown from the old country

We came from Portugal to fish the sea

The sea is empty now, its all we have

So we sell sugar cane, God is our judge

Dont you show your face in Sugartown

we dont need your kind around

if you think you’re better than we are

you can leave at anytime

Stay up upon the bridge at Sugartown

Mind your business dont come down

If you show your face in sugar town

You know what happen last time round

 

 

#82 Camp Pendelton – Echos of New Roman Times.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 4, 2014 by davidclowery

el camino real front

Camp Pendelton- Camper Van Beethoven.

Last year Camper Van Beethoven released La Costa Perdida  (loosely “the lost coast”) which is a set of songs about Northern California  (see Northern California Girls or Come Down the Coast as examples).    This year Camper Van Beethoven releases the companion piece to this album “El CaminoReal.”   This time the album thematically focuses on Southern California and Baja California.

Whereas  La Costa Perdida  was a look back at the “back to the country” hippy period of  northern California with references to Jack Kerouac, Richard Brautigan, The Grateful Dead and even The Beach Boy’s  “Big Sur”  period this one is firmly planted in the present and further down the coast in Southern California.

The best way to look at the new album is to draw a contrast between the two. On La Costa Perdida  the ocean is calm, benevolent and feminine; on  El Camino Real  the sea is “filled with darkness, secrets and chemicals.”

Camp Pendelton is the 4th track on the new Camper Van Beethoven album El Camino Real.  The song tells the story of a marine in either Iraq or Afghanistan (most likely Afghanistan).   He is manning a remote outpost somewhere and  in his head he is speaking to his wife:

Keep the children safe

dress them the same

cause I have changed

I’ve changed forever”

The idea is that he is fully aware that he is suffering from the effects of his long deployment.  Maybe PTSD although it’s not really clear to me and I wrote the song. You might compare him to the character in The Hurt Locker.  Although the similarity is purely coincidental because this is the one song that we didn’t write FOR this album.   This song has been kicking around  since 2003 in the form of of a half finished demo. This was when Camper Van Beethoven  was working on their alternate history sic-fi rock opera New Roman Times.  In fact it was intended to be a track for that album.  It would have loosely fit in somewhere between White Fluffy Clouds and Might Makes Right.  We didn’t include it because it seemed like we didn’t need this “in between” stage of his character development.    I sort of forgot about the song.

Skip forward 8 years and I was looking for B-sides for La Costa Perdida and I came across the demo for this song.   What a surprise!  How could we leave this unreleased?

Fortunately it’s set in Southern California and considering that Camp Pendelton and Twenty Nine Palms take up 85% of the landmass of Southern California (joking folks) it seemed like it was perfect for the album.

Buy the album at your local record store

or stream here.

 

Camp Pendleton

I have dreamed immortal suns

I gazed upon the fiery surfaces

and I have fought down burning roads

The highways littered with our humanity

I see your face safely at home

Baby keep the home fires burning

Keep the children safe

and dress them the same

Because I have changed I’ve changed forever

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the ordnance on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the ordnance on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the ordnance on down

I have dreamed immortal sun

I gazed upon the fiery surfaces

always fear but never falter

onward forward Christian Soldiers

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the ordnance on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the ordnance on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the ordnance on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the lights on down

Pump up the violence bring the ordnance on down

©2014 Camper Van Beethoven

 

#81 Classy Dames and Able Gents – Southern California’s Military-Academic-Industrial-Electronic-Espionage-Complex

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2014 by davidclowery

Oceanview_Club

The Oceanview Club on Kwajalein Atoll which will be the site of Camper Van Beethoven’s 2027 Reunion show. 

 

In number #60 I’m So Glad She Ain’t Never Coming Back I posed a little riddle about where  I found the titles for three unfinished demos I exhibited in the blog.   These titles were

“Infidel Sorcerers Of The Air”

“Peppermint Mind”

“Classy Dames and Able Gents”

Only a couple of people figured it out.  It was a reference to a website that appeared to be the semi-secret  homepage for the Forsythe Associates.  This audiovisual services company was the “cover” company that operated the secret underground bunker beneath the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia  designed to house the US government in the event of a nuclear war.

This is not a joke.  This actually happened. This is not some wacko conspiracy theory thing like the Denver International Airport Conspiracy.  

So after reading about the Greenbriar bunker I decided to try and track down information on the Forsythe Asscoiates.   Eventually I came across a webpage that seemed to have no obvious purpose.  The website had 4 screens that were supposed to be live camera feeds but all 4 only showed static.   Each of them had a cryptic title.   That’s the three titles above.   My first thought was “What fantastic band names!”

Think about it?   Especially the first two “Infidel Sorcerers of the Air” and “Peppermint Mind.”  Classy Dames and Able Gents is more like a wedding or corporate gig band.  However it does make a good song title.  So I used it.

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

So what in God’s holy name are you blathering about in this song?    I’ll tell you what I’m blathering on about.   I’m blathering on about elements of the military-academic-industrial-electronic-espionage-complex that covers much of the Southern California coast from Vandenberg AFB to the Mexican border.   The whole southern half of the state is bristling with sensors, antennae and mysterious military installations.   Most people who visit Southern California don’t really notice this or if they do give it much thought.   But California is pretty much a garrison state.  It’s pretty well chronicled in this book Fortress California.    This song riffs on this theme and throws in references to other important military and electronic warfare installations in the Pacific.   The main character who is some sort of government contractor has just returned from being stationed at the military installation on the the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Instead of speaking literally and directly I had him speak in a style of cryptic prose that I borrowed from the aforementioned Forsythe Associates website.    It’s perfectly logical in a Camper Van Beethoven sort of way.   As some of our readers have already noted it seems to have confused the starched shirts over at American Songwriter.

Buy at your local record store

Or stream here.

Classy Dames and Able Gents

I Augustine, the fishes widow

I knew the crawfish, I lived on shellfish

Under a sail

Lived on atoll

I had a foreclosed motorhome

At Kwajalein tracking station

I’ve got friends not on vacation

They got big ears they got big eyes

Classy Dames and Able Gents

Classy Dames and Able Gents

We’re here to serve our government

Classy Dames and Able Gents

There was a fire under water

Bring me my space suit!

I always wear it

I feel like Elvis

A million bucks

I lived in Baltimore

I work greenbriar

I worked for Foresythe associates

A Kwajalein tracking station

I’ve got friends i can be trusted

i got black bags i got black hands

Classy Dames and Able Gents

Classy Dames and Able Gents

We’re here to serve our government

Classy Dames and Able Gents

Classy Dames and Able Gents

We’re here to serve our government

Classy Dames and Able Gents

 ©2014 Camper Van Beethoven.

 

#80 It Was Like That When We Got Here & I Live In LA – Northeast Los Angeles Party at the End of the World.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2014 by davidclowery

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.18.14 PM

These two tracks are from the new Camper Van Beethoven album  El Camino Real.  Release date June 3rd 2014.   

I was recently in Highland Park a neighborhood of what might be loosely  referred to as Northeast Los Angeles.   I was there to record an episode of Marc Maron’s immensely enjoyable podcast WTF.   I realized I was not too far from the apartment where the “Playing on a flying saucer over Los Angeles” story took place as chronicled in #68 The Long Plastic Hallway-Playing on a Flying Saucer with the Talking Heads.   Funny.  Regrettably I failed to tell Marc Maron  this story in our interview.

It seemed like all throughout the 1980s every couple of years I would end up at some strange party in this area of Los Angeles. Some weird mix of rich people, hipsters and low lifes. Socio-economically strange as well.   On the east  side you have the extremely wealthy enclaves of South Pasadena and San Marino.  I mean really rich. Like Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos corrupt ex-dictator rich.  Indeed this is where the former filipino president and his wife lived after being overthrown.  Various relatives of the Shah and other members of foreign oligarchs seemed to settle in this area.  And of course the wayward scions of New England establishment fortunes.  I assume dwindling fortunes cause they always lived in some decaying mansion.    Think grey gardens.

But back to geography.  To the north you have Glendale and Pasadena. To the  south high-rises of Downtown.  To the west Los Feliz and Hollywood.   All relatively affluent places, home to power brokers of various kinds:  banking, entertainment, military-industrial academic (Cal Tech/JPL) and political.  But in the middle of this are a series of neighborhoods like Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Atwater Village, Montecito Heights, Mt Washington and others without name.   Within these neighborhoods you have poor areas, usually in the flatlands, and up on the hillsides are nicer houses and generally wealthier people.  Not Imelda Marcos 15,000 pairs of shoes rich, but not as poor as the folks in the flatlands.

It was in a relatively new and nice compound near the top of one of these hills that I occasionally attended parties with a few of the the punk rockers from the Inland Empire.   I don’t know who in my IE group of friends got the original introduction but somehow we were on the guest list from time to time.  The hostess was a woman reportedly from spain, but I always wondered about that because most of the cars were tagged with Mexican “La Frontera” licenses plates.   The rumor was she was variously the daughter, mistress or wife of some gangster.  This was the early 1980’s and the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels hadn’t really made any headlines, so we always assumed that our host was connected to the Sicilian Mafia.  Which somehow made it seem safer.

Regardless these were pretty typical LA parties, mostly booze and a little bit of drugs in the back room somewhere.  Some impossibly arty musical ensemble.  Inevitably someone was keeping time on an oil drum or some other large piece of metal.  Guitars, Synthesizers and a often more than one bass player.   At least one of the band members was always from the UK.

One night we all went outside because there was an enormous brush fire in the Angeles National forest that had worked it’s way down into the foothills of Pasadena.  It may have even been the La Tuna fire that burned parts of  Verdugo Mountain between Burbank and Glendale.   It looked like the end of the world.   But this only seemed to enliven the guests.

Their are two songs on the record inspired by these parties and their mysterious hostess. It Was Like That When We Got Here is largely about the party on the night of the fire.  I Live in LA is about the  hostess.  

Buy album at your local indie record store

Or

Buy album Here

Stream Album Here

It was Like That When I Got Here

It was broken on the floor

It was like that when we got here

A piece was stuck in to the door

It was like that when we got here

There was this girl I kind of know

It was like that when we got here

In an Army Uniform

It was like that when we got here

I’m a mess baby and you’re a mess baby

So why can’t we be more than friends

You and I were meant to be together

I’m a mess baby and you’re a mess baby

So why can’t we be more than friends

You and I were meant to be together

An Endless pool of summer light

It was like that when we got here

Pasadena burning bright

It was like that when we got here

A phoenix rising from the smoke

It was like that when we got here

The mountains rising up in flames

I’m a mess baby and you’re a mess baby

So why cant we be more than friends

You and I were meant to be together

I’m a mess baby and you’re a mess baby

So why cant we be more than friends

You and I were meant to be together

It was like that when we got here

It was like that when we got here

It was like that when we got here

It was like that when we got here

I Live in LA

She comes in like a star

Wearing jewelry and fur

with her own entourage

hanger-oners in clogs

From some small town in spain

Its never explained

Sufficiently

Or the security

I live in LA

Come and see me someday

You can stay at my house

I’ve got plenty of space

I live in LA

Come see me someday boy

If you wanna have a good time

A good time with me

Black SUVs in the drive

tinted windows and guards

Cowboy boots and shaved heads

Italian suits tattood necks

the party rages inside

but its never explained

Sufficiently

Oh boy I hope its not too late

I live in LA

Come and see me someday

You can stay at my house

I’ve got plenty of space

I live in LA

Come see me someday boy

If you wanna have a good time

A good time with me

Done ever ask where i’ve been

Dont ever ask where the money comes from

Dont ever ask who I am cause it cant be explaind

Sufficiently

Or the Security

I live in LA

Come and see me someday

You can stay at my house

I’ve got plenty of space

I live in LA

Come see me someday boy

If you wanna have a good time

A good time with me

I live in LA

Come and see me someday

You can stay at my house

I’ve got plenty of space

I live in LA

Come see me someday boy

If you wanna have a good time

A good time with me

© 2014 Camper Van Beethoven

#79 The Ultimate Solution- The Polyglot Polyculture City-State that is Los Angeles

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2014 by davidclowery

el camino real front

The Ultimate Solution- Camper Van Beethoven.

The polyglot poly-cultural city state that is Los Angeles.  

Last year Camper Van Beethoven released La Costa Perdida  (loosely “the lost coast”) which is a set of songs about Northern California  (see Northern California Girls or Come Down the Coast as examples).    This year Camper Van Beethoven releases the companion piece to this album “El CaminoReal.”   This time the album thematically focuses on Southern California and Baja California.

Whereas  La Costa Perdida  was a look back at the “back to the country” hippy period of  northern California with references to Jack Kerouac, Richard Brautigan, The Grateful Dead and even The Beach Boy’s  “Big Sur”  period this one is firmly planted in the present and further down the coast in Southern California.

The best way to look at the new album is to draw a contrast between the two. On La Costa Perdida  the ocean is calm, benevolent and feminine; on  El Camino Real  the sea is “filled with darkness, secrets and chemicals.”  The choice of the masculine title subject El Camino Real  as opposed to the feminineLa Costa Perdida was an intentional contrast.  On La Costa Perdida the bucolic rural past is the focus; on El Camino Real it’s the urban polyglot multi-cultural landscape of Southern California that is celebrated.   La Costa Perdida is laid back where El Camino Real is fast paced and frenetic.

Generally when journalists have written about Camper Van Beethoven they have inevitably associated the band with Northern California because of the band’s long residency in Santa Cruz CA.  But it’s often overlooked that the band originally formed in the gritty and rural  “Inland Empire” region of Southern California.  This album is a gentle reminder of the band’s roots.

The album starts with the track  The Ultimate Solution.  Essentially an ode to the City of Los Angeles.  Frommer’s has described Los Angeles as “Less of a melting pot and more of a tossed salad of overlapping cultures.”  This song essentially sums up this view of Los Angeles as the ultimate polycultural American megapolis .

If there were a video to this song it would be a high speed stop action video that took you down vermont from the Hollywood hills through downtown Los Angeles.  There would be stops along the way for  snacks like “Armenian lamb kabobs served in Mayan pickled cabbage tacos”  or  “Filipino style curry udon.”

Alternately you could take a larger east to west cross section of the megapolis and travel from the celebrity suburbs of the far west sunset drive, through downtown Los Angeles all the way out to the far end of the San Gabriel Valley.   On this drive you would encounter large communities, of Russians,  Mexican-Americans, Persians, Samoans, Koreans, El Salvadoreans, Filipinos, Hasidim, Indians, Japanese, Armenians, Arabs, Greeks,  Chinese, Turkish and Afghanis.

I once took a city bus from the Fairfax district all the way down pico and into Boyle Heights with a native Angeleno specifically to experience this aspect of the city.  Oh and to sample the food at various restaurants along the way.

Finally I reference the LAPD “Rampart Division” scandal.  Los Angeles as a true city-state has often operated it’s police department as an almost militarized internal security force.  Sometimes acting more like a La Guardia Civil   than a traditional city police force.   The most bizarre chapter in the LAPD history concerns an anti-gang operation out of the Rampart substation that rumored to have acted as it’s own gang, with it’s own tattoos and spray paint tags.

Buy New Album Here.

Stream New Album Here.

The Ultimate Solution

I was living happily

waiting for the world to end

eating pickled cabbage in a taqueria

I was waiting patiently

For the geminids to show

I was staring happily in to the sun

And every day is just like a dive

into the ultimate solution

violins and violence

Samoa town Los Angeles

In Tagalog Korean girls

say Oyster Pearls

are like the Ultimate

Ultimate Solution

Ultimate Solution

I was on a new game show

Dancing with the Rampart squad

everyone had gang tattoos

and designer luggage

Waiting on the El Al Bus

Security was tight that day

Pico and Sepulveda

all the way to Baghdad

And every day’s just like a dive

into the ultimate solution

violins and violence

Somoa town Los Angeles

In Tagalog Korean girls

say Oyster Pearls

are like the Ultimate

Ultimate Solution

Ultimate Solution

 

 
© 2014 camper van beethoven music

Trichordist

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2012 by davidclowery

Hello everybody.

I’m making some changes to the this blog.  So for the time being I have unpublished all these posts.  I’ll put them back on line as we go through them.  thanks.

You can also visit me at http://www.trichordist.com

 

#78 No more bullshit. The top 10 lamest excuses for stealing artists music

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2012 by davidclowery

I am on the fucking warpath this week.

Lamest arguments in favor of illegal file sharing from the past week. I’m not making this shit up. These are real arguments people presented. And argued vehemently.

1. “Marijuana is illegal. File sharing is illegal. Therefore it’s okay.”

Response try filesharing your pot dealer’s stash with 5,000 strangers online and let’s see how long you live.

2. “The RIAA is secretly behind filesharing. They make more money suing people than by selling albums. There are Youtube videos explaining all this therefore it’s true. Therefore it’s okay to steal from cracker and camper van beethoven”

Response: The RIAA was also behind 9-11, Global Warming Hoax and the Kennedy assassinations. Usher is behind Justin Bieber. And Camper Van Beethoven tests cosmetics on lab animals.

3. I heard that the record companies ripped off Willy Dixon in the 1950’s Therefore it’s okay to steal from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven.

Response: Very clever. You figured out that Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven have a time machine. We all went back in time to the 1950’s (before we were born) and took $20 dollars from the man’s wallet while he was sleeping. Curses Foiled again.

4. Louis CK. Is successful and his stuff is on Youtube. Therefore it’s okay to steal Cracker’s songs.

Response ask Louis CK if he would prefer his income stream or his idol George Carlin’s Income stream from album sales, video sales, book sales in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Louis CK is making a lot of money. But nothing like George Carlin. And in the process he is helping Google/Youtube add to the piles of gold bullion that Google keeps in secret spaceship deep inside the mantle of the earth below their mountain view “campus”.

5. Music should be free it belongs to the universe.

Response: Okay then come to my house and do YOUR job for free. My car needs it’s oil changed and someone needs to pick up the dogshit in the backyard. There is a signup list on our website. Last i checked my car and the dogshit also “belonged to the universe”.

6. In the middle ages there were no music sales. It was all based on live performance.

Response: Yes and doctors bled you or covered your torso with leaches when you were sick. Also it was permissible to beat your wife with a stick as long as the stick was not larger in diameter than your thumb .

7. “Music sucks today. I’m gonna steal music I like. You bad. No No.”

Response: There is no official response. We have been advised by our legal counsel that the above referenced statement exhibits such a degree of logical incoherence that the statement:
A) was made by a mentally disabled individual
B) are lyrics to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song
C) A zen koan created by a zen master operating on a higher level of consciousness
D) or any two of the above three.

8. “You’re not the boss of me. You can’t tell me what to do”

Response: Actually I personally am the boss of you. Check with your attorney. Unless you are in international waters. Now get out in the backyard and clean up the dog shit.

9. “The Record labels and Musicians failed to adapt to the new hi tech reality. So it’s okay to steal music by Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven”.

Response: So it’s okay to steal handmade boots, organically grown farm produce from family farms, and custom motorcycles? You’re right I’ve been stealing custom choppers for years. How stupid of me. You win.

10. “It’s okay to steal from musicians cause they are all rich”

Response: Although I am dictating this into my solid gold jewel encrusted dictaphone from horseback I’m not rich. Now Steve Jobs he was rich. You know he was buried in a 300 yard long platinum coffin along with 50,000 of his favorite servants? A funeral procession 66 miles long stretched from Vacaville California to Mountain View. Thousand of Buddhist monks burned themselves alive. I’m not rich.

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

A lot of you may be shocked by this response.  But should you really be surprised?  I mean i’ve spent  29 years making music for people who think  the world is full of a lot of unadulterated bullshit and can see the humor in it.  Have a sense of humor people.

19 No More Bullshit

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