Archive for new roman times

#28 New Roman Times part 4: Unabomber as Folk Hero. Steve Reich as Pop Star

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven with tags , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by Dr. David C Lowery

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06 Might Makes Right

I don’t know how i can top that last story.  That gum you like is back in style.  I’m not even gonna try.

Might makes Right has our young  Texan on patrol with his unit in the Middle East. He is slowly growing disillusioned with his role and his units mission.  In particular he was entered the Army a fairly devout christian.  He actually bought into a lot of the the notion that God was on the side of Texas.  After 9 months in the middle east he has come to doubt many things.  The lyrics tell the story well enough.

[INTRO/BREAK:]
[Bm] [F#7] [Bm]
[Bm] [F#7] [Bm]

CHORUS:
Yeah might makes [G] right
Yeah might makes [D] right
They say that [F#7] god is on our side and made us [Bm] mighty
Yeah might makes [G] right
Yeah might makes [D] right
They say that [F#7] god is on our side I don’t believe them

I’m [Bm] crawling through the under brush, we’re [F#7] teched up to the hilt
Compared to us these poor guys should be [Bm] wearing shorts and kilts
I’ve got a living breathing shadow crossed up in my scope
My partner gives the signal, pull the trigger, then there’s smoke

CHORUS:
Might makes right
Yeah might makes right
They say that god is on our side and makes us mighty
Yeah might makes right
Yeah might makes right
They say that god is on our side I don’t believe them

[REPEAT BREAK]

CHORUS:
Might makes right
Yeah might makes right
I guess that god is on our side and makes us mighty
Yeah might makes right
Yeah might makes right
They say that god is on our side I don’t believe them

They want us from the villages, they want us from the towns
Who could really blame them, shit blows up when we’re around
We fly above their houses with our Huey double-props
We scare the crap out of their kids, their mothers and their flocks

CHORUS:
Might makes right
Yeah might makes right
I guess ’cause god is on our side it makes us mighty
Yeah might makes right
Yeah might makes right
They say that god is on our side I don’t believe them

Also here is a video that John Croxton did for the song.  He interpreted it differently. He did a sort of Fight Club thing to it.

07 Militia Song

This is another of the songs that had been around before we came up with the concept for New Roman Times.  It was originally titled The Unabomber song.  Cause clearly it was written about Ted Kaczynski. And as a basic idea, it had been kicking around in my head since he was caught.  I was kind of fascinated by some of the details of his life.  It didn’t hurt that he was a mathematician.  I mean that always gets me interested.  I also developed a weird fascination with his manifesto cause excerpts  printed in the papers started to make sense to me. I was starting to freak myself out. The guy was a violent terrorist and very nearly succeeded in bringing down a passenger jet.  Not to mention the innocent people he killed and maimed. And i was developing an unhealthy empathy for the guy.

And then there were the just plain weird details.  When his brother turned him in,  a brief profileon CNN mentioned that his brother had “lived in west texas in a hole in the ground”.  As if that was a normal biographical detail.

In the alternate reality of New Roman Times.  The Unabomber song is a favorite underground country song popular  w with the right wing militia set in Deseret, Texas, and Southern California. These groups were very instrumental in supporting the Mormon Uprising in California. Like the infamous Rodeo song many artists have covered it and there are many variations,  some quite vulgar and all politically incorrect.

New Roman Times- Camper Van Beethoven

We discussed this in the first post.  But this is our young protagonist loses a leg while on patrol in the middle east.  He comes home, a bitter broken man.  begins to drink heavily and finally runs away from his young wife and family to occupied California.  Las Vegas California to be exact.

11 The Poppies Of Balmorhea

Balmorhea is a famous spring in the arid country of West Texas.  In our story The Poppies of Balmorhea is a bar in Las Vegas,  frequented by members of the Texan intelligence community. It’s an Oasis -get it- for the hardcore black bag and private intelligence contractors. BTW there are no Deseret Intelligence folks here as they don’t drink, they do however set up shop at the Jamba Juice directly across the street in case their Texan allies deign to speak to them.

It is here in this bar that he is recruited by agents from the quasi private TexIntelSecuiCorp (Doo Dah). They are the sleaziest and most ruthless of the lot. The plan is for him to become a double agent.  All he needs to do is play himself: a bitter and disgruntled wounded former soldier in the Army of Texas.  They want him to either infiltrate the Los Tigres Trafficante organization or the CVB.  Since he has recently developed a taste for the barely illegal “Flower” he accepts. But he also has a vague sense that he can somehow exact revenge.  On who he’s not sure?  But it’s not the Los Tigres or the CVB.  He has no beef with them.

 

12 The Long Plastic Hallway

In the song the protagonist goes to LA with his TexIntelSecuriCorp handlers.  He is wined and dined.  He is partying like a rock star.  He meets aliens and movie stars.  It’s crazy.

But again  this is one of the songs that at least partially was written before the  concept of New Roman Times album came about.  And the true story it’s based on happened in 1984.

First the Long Plastic Hallway is from a quote widely (mis)attributed to Hunter S. Thompson:

  • The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

Second the song is a metaphor for selling out.  For doing the wrong thing for money.  For selling your soul.  And finally doing stupid stuff for your own vanity.

Thirdly there is the true story that goes with this song.  That in real life involves flying saucers and aliens.  And it’s a Doozy.  It deserves it’s own separate post.  Stay tuned.

Finally the video is only evocative of the theme of the song. Not literal. The child represents the innocence that will be lost. Drag queen Manley Lennox represents our protagonist. He of course is “cross dress” his allegiances.

 

I Am Talking To This Flower- Camper Van Beethoven

In this song the protagonist is working with Los Tigres. Trying to get information about the CVB and Mexican informants in Southern California.  But  mostly he’s  thinking out loud.  He is essentially talking himself into joining the CVB.  His bosses of course think this is a good idea He is supposed to be a double agent after all. But he has his own plans.  He intends to join the Rebels for real. I guess that makes him a triple agent.  He is at this point completely disillusioned with his own government. He also is feeling the effects of the Flower. He’s got a plan it’s just not quite clear….

Also while researching odds and ends for this post I’ve discovered there are a lot of people who believe that Marijuana really is a plant that Extraterrestrials brought to Earth.  Here is one such nut.

The song starts with a sample from Steve Reich’s Come out to show them.

(sampled voice:)
I had to like, open the bruise up and let some of the blues blood come out to show them…

[G] I’m working California [D-Em-C]
[G] Tex Securintellicorps [D-Em-C]
[Am] And I’m smoking lots of [C] flower
‘cos I’m really [G] bored [D-Em-C] [G] [C]

I’m talking to my contacts
They’re el tigres traficantes
They always bring me flower, for known intelligence

CHORUS:
And if I [D] weren’t high on the flower
[C] could not work for the power
that [G] stands for nothing decent any-[F]-more
Yeah if I [D] weren’t high on the flower
I would [C] walk into a [A7] tower
Do some-[G]-thing [D-Em-C] nuclear, or worse [C]

I’m talking to this flower
So what ya lookin’ at?
Texas bureau little crew cuts
You need me much more

I’m talking to this flower
Without me he’d be lost
Maybe I should join the rebels
At least the chicks are hot

REPEAT CHORUS

 

14 Come Out

Well going back to the alternate universes and pop star theme: in our New Roman Times reality  Steve Reich is a pop star.  He plays a sort of highly repetitive hypnotic blues rock.  Often singing one phrase over and over again.  In California and Mexico where there is a lot of Flower smokers he is especially popular.  This song he makse  in reference to a martyred mormon separatists famous last words to his followers  “Come out to show them”.  This song is playing on the radio as our protagonist drives back from Fresno CA to LA.

This song was really just a tag on the end of I am Talking to this Flower, we hadn’t developed a proper ending and one take  David Immergluck, Jonathan Segel and i just kept playing.  Some how i got inspired to start singing “Come out to Show them” over the end.  It accidentally developed into a this strange plot point.

Tomorrow part 5.

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# 25 New Roman Times-Camper Van Beethoven. Part 1 The Republic of California vs The Republic of Texas.

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven with tags on August 11, 2010 by Dr. David C Lowery

New Roman Times- Camper Van Beethoven
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This is the title track of the Camper Van Beethoven album of the same name.  It was released in 2004.  Remember i told you that CVB reformed in 2000 and we didn’t really tell anyone?  In fact the band began to release new material as if it were “lost” and rediscovered tracks.  We did two albums this way: Tusk and Camper Van Beethoven is Dead Long Live Camper Van Beethoven.  In 2003-2004  we recorded the third of our post reunion records New Roman Times.  This one of course was the official reunion record.  The one that got all the press and fanfare.  And it was a good thing because it was an extremely ambitious record. It would have been a shame to waste that on Tusk (as much as i love Tusk).

New Roman Times is a Sci-Fi Alternate Reality  Rock Opera.  It is intended as a political farce.  A sarcastic commentary on the whole notion of a Red State/Blue State america. It is not directly a commentary on the Iraq war although i realize much of it reads that way.

It was 2003 and much of the media and our political elite seemed intent upon dividing us.   God fearing Christians on one side  vs decadent  secularists on the other. Conservatives vs Liberals. Pro-war Hawks vs Anti-War Doves etc etc. It was relentless and with it we kept getting this map flashed on the TV screens.  You’d see it on the TV screens in the airport, in bars,  in the lobbies of hotels,  always with the sound down and the closed capitoning crawl (with it’s occasionally hilarious mis-captions). A map of the US with a bunch of states colored red and a quite a few less (the ones with most of the population) colored blue. It was presented in the most somber manner. Like a holy artifact. Like the key piece of evidence in a trial.

That’s us?  I mean stand in the Atlanta airport a while and look at the vast sea of humanity.  You can really break it down into that?  You can do the same at O’hare or DFW.  Further most of this Red state Blue State stuff got all tied together into one nice neat little flaming shitball package centered on the invasion of Iraq.

The war in Afghanistan did not require such divisions and manipulations. There was a general -but not unanimous-sense Al Qaeda was a menace and we should probably do something about it.  But Iraq did not enjoy that kind of semi-consensus. So a lot of coercion huffing and puffing was required. By 2003 it was like a virtual Civil War was being fought on the US airwaves.

So my natural reaction was to take this notion and exaggerate it.   To follow it to an extreme conclusion. With tongue firmly in cheek I made an alternate reality where the Christian Republic of Texas opportunistically intervenes in the Republic of California’s Civil War.  The story of course is told through the eyes of a young soldier in the Army of Texas. Of course my sympathies are more naturally with the Republic of California but as usual i wanted to tell the story through the eyes of ‘the other’ the Young Texan. Actually  that’s a little too simplistic. I was torn.  In real life i was born in Texas but  raised in California. So once again it’s me doing battle with myself.  All fiction is autobiographical.

Most conservatives would accept Texas as a symbol of the triumph of Individual rights and Freedoms.  Most liberals would see California as that. In reality both are gross mischaracterizations, no matter what your political leanings.  I was being mischievous and playful by pitting these two against each other.

And you know what? it was really fun to make this record.  Once we had the concept the record came together really quickly. It was nearly effortless.  It was like Camper Van Beethoven had not been dormant for 10 years.

Tinky Winky was banned in the Christian Republic of Texas.  Elmo required a special permit. The Republic of California fined Jonathan Segel for holding his rabbit improperly.

As an aside.  Always be afraid when the politicians and the elites chatter on about doing something in the “National Interest.” Or something that is in the best interest of Civilization, the Economy  the Common Good etc.  Beware anything and anyone  that groups us all together and then applies “interests” to us as a group. This is almost always the beginning of some sad chapter in our history. There was a lot of talk like this in the lead up to the Iraq war.

Conversely from time to time our politicians or courts have stepped in to protect or expand an individual right. Often in the face of an argument that it was against the common good.  It was often the beginning of a good chapter in our history.  Think of various civil rights rulings.

Yet this talk of national interests  and collective good  is always seen as noble, despite it’s lousy track record. But when someone advocates for a particular individual right, they are oftentimes seen as dangerous, selfish or somehow immoral.  It’s a weird contradiction that few (except those on the political fringes) seem to notice.   I’m not saying we don’t have actual common interests.  But if we don’t naturally and without coercion of any kind  assemble as individuals around our “common interests”  they are usually not our common interests. The false division of us into Red and Blue states of mind, was -IMHO- evil not because it was some divide and conquer ruse. It was evil because it re-enforced the false narrative about a “common good” that was actually just in the narrow interest of a powerful elite.

That’s what really got my dander up. This ends today divagation.

The Song New Roman Times picks up in the middle of our story.  It starts with the young Texan deployed somewhere in the middle east.  A small war.  A small intervention. Not unlike somalia or maybe afghanistan.  He has been there for some time.  He’s quite adept having been made a member of an elite unit  “The 51-7”.  He is however disillusioned by the war and his experiences.  Possibly because he is distracted in this way he steps on a land mine or IED and loses a leg.  He is discharged back to texas where he returns to his hometown in the Rio Bend region of west texas. He is bitter and starts drinking heavily. His life there becomes a disaster and he makes his way to the texas occupied part of California to start over.  Like so many before him. Las Vegas California.

My map is poorly drawn and the Republic of California should include a little more of southern nevada including Las Vegas.

The video for this doesn’t exactly stick to our story.  It however is very evocative of the wounded soldiers plight.

Finally the chorus with the children singing “my daddy’s got your back my mommas got your back etc” was inspired by something i saw on the eve of the Iraq invasion.  We were on tour and we stopped in a truck stop in northern georgia. All along the hallways down to the shower were dozens of drawings by children. They were portraits of their parents who were members of the National Guard (not regular army)  that had been deployed to Iraq. One boys handwriting below the picture of his mom said.  “my momma’s got your back”.   It was quite striking.

In parts two and three  i’ll cover the backstory and rock opera story in more detail.
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INTRO x2:
[A] [D] Ba ba ba [A] ba
[D] Ba ba ba [A] ba
[D]Ba ba ba ba ba ba[F#m] I’m sitting [E] in the sand [A] staring at my [D] shoe
[F#m] The birds they [E] sing tweet-tweet but [A] I don’t hear that [D] tune
[F#m] Sargeant [E] says something [A] close to my [D] face
Bells they [A] ring, [D] they ring and [A] ring [D]My daddy’s got you back
My mama’s got you back
My brother’s got you back

Hello Morpheus I think I’m going down
Ezekiel’s wheels spin I’m borne upon a throne
By Red Cross crusaders who wave from Galilee
Assyria, Samaria

My brother’s got you back
My sister’s got you back
My poppa’s got you back

REPEAT INTRO x2

The day we came home it was a shitty day
No ticker tape parade we rolled down Congress in the rain
And as we crossed across that Colorado bridge
The bats flew out darkened the sky

My brother’s got you back
My sister’s got you back
My poppa’s got you back

Living in a town on the big Rio bend
My case worker she’s always drunk and my wife don’t give a shit
I take a plane out to the province of Las Vegas
California, occupied, the Republic of California

My brother’s got you back
My sister’s got you back
My poppa’s got you back

REPEAT INTRO x4

(Child’s voice:)
I don’t wanna sing no more,
I just wanna dance!

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