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the basics lyrics song notes

Master of Disaster (fetters)

I wrote this one for the Bears. I envisioned our slightly celebrated “East meets Mid-west” instrumentation in the production, using a Tascam 8-track cassette recorder and elaborately demo-ing it out with a mandolin and dulcimer. The lyrics are loosely inspired by the life and times I shared with my “bad friend”, artist Daryl “Doc” Kalmus during my life as a Raisin. He was born in Hollywood and raised in Las Vegas and – as yet - hasn’t died in New Orleans, although we burnt the candle at both ends there.


Exaggeration (fetters)

Feelings aren’t facts. I think that’s what this song is about. It took a lot of pain for me to learn that integrity involves questioning the authority of my own beliefs.


Stella (fetters)

I wrote this in 1977 in a closet dressing room of a bar in Allen Park, MI. Stella was the best friend of a girl singer I fell madly and stupidly in love with when I was 22. I flew to L.A. to see the object of my desire, was promptly jilted in favor of Jackson Browne’s brother, and suddenly I had time on my hands and Stella’s shoulder to cry on. I also had Adrian Belew’s phone number in Hollywood. He had just started rehearsing with Frank Zappa, and was happy to have a friendly face from home to traipse around with on Sunset Blvd. We became good friends and you might say lemons were turned into lemonade on that trip; it eventually led to a lot of wonderful music.


Another Reminder (arduser)

I became mildly obsessed with the mandolin in the early 80’s after hearing, among other pieces, David Grisman’s arrangement of John Coltrane’s superb composition NAIMA. The next several years were spent trying to write a melody one hundredth as beautiful. Failure was mine, of course, but along the way I came up with many serviceable melodies and chord progressions and taught myself to get around on a mandolin.

Meaningful lyrics, or at the very least, non-humorous ones, had always evaded me. However, by the late 80’s, after living through some tumultuous and wildy decadent decades, verses and choruses started flying out of me. This song is one of them, a look at trying to tell the truth to yourself and not always succeeding.


Livin' in a Lincoln (nyswonger)

A direct descendent of the Raisins’ Possum In the City (which had already been vivisected for the Bears’ None of the Above.) I basically ripped off the rhythm track to the verse of Possum and re-wrote the words and melody, added a chord change and a new chorus and voila.   This is one of two tunes I tracked with the Silvertone Danelectro Dolphin bass that’s on the cover, the other being Enough. I love the way this track feels – it’s very simple and solid.  I remember doing a 4 track demo of it over at Rob’s house before I bought his Tascam 246 machine.  


Water Under The Bridge (fetters)

Bad love, undying; a lot of weight for a dirge to carry-but with a kalimba and a Stratocaster, all things are possible. Another elaborate demo painstakingly emulated in a “real” studio.


Artichoke (fetters)

Artichoke would have made the second Raisins LP, had it gone into production. I stole “heart as big as an artichoke - a leaf for everyone” from a line tossed off by a gum-chewing comedienne I saw on an ‘40’s screwball movie  ( I don’t remember the film title or actress ). So if it ever makes real money, I’ll need to track down the heirs of a mystery screenwriter. It’s bugged me for many years.


I See Through You (fetters)

My version of “When you point your finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you.”


Open Window (arduser)

I recall sitting at my kitchen table with an unamplified electric guitar strumming the opening chords, thinking “I must write a song, it’s been a day or two since the last one…” A friend of mine was embracing a rather negative world view at the time, and as a result, the first two verses popped out. By the last verse I realized I’d done a bit of that as well.

Demoed at Kevin Meade’s cheapo 8 track studio in an exceptionally drab area of Toledo. I wish I knew exactly why I enjoyed that so much. The bass drum pattern had to have a swing-y feel, thus the board of executives at my record label violently threw an extra roll of dimes at me.


Sad Little Monkeys (nyswonger)

This is the thematic godfather of my more recent tune Veneer. I really did see Zippy the chimp at the McCleans department store in Binghamton when I was about 4, and I guess it made a real impression on me.  He was a star, but he seemed really jaded and unhappy, and I thought his handler was an asshole. I think the lesson here is this: if you have a 4 year old, don’t think for a moment that he’s not paying attention. It’s an odd song with some key changes and Rob’s frenetic sample and hold solo over the ominous bowed bass – also the first recorded appearance of the band-owned mellotron that is now unfortunately all but unusable and in need of a costly rehab.  I never demoed the tune, but remember learning it up in Toledo at Chris’s place while he was still commuting down to Cincinnati for gigs – probably ’89 or so.


Creature Of Habit (fetters)

Although I rate the conceit of most suburban-raised white guys playing “the blues” as an abomination right down there with pedophilia and hunting from helicopters, this song happened too fast to stop myself. I got to play all those hot licks I learned when I was 14 and snicker at the same time.


A Walk Thru The Garden (fetters)

A tip of the hat to Dr. Albert Hoffman: The multi-track cassette home demo of this was a marvel of weirdness and audio serendipity, and very difficult to recreate in the big fat studio. I have no idea what the meter changes in it are. If I think about it, I can’t play it. If I don’t think, it’s as natural as breathing.


Less Blue (arduser)

Written in the back of a moving van somewhere on an interstate during a Bears tour. This is the first of what I like to call reticent love songs. I’d been absorbing traditional Irish balladry and I think some of that seeped in.

Demoed at Mr. Meade’s again. We used a programmed bass drum so as to not spend precious minutes trying to get a decent sound out of an actual drum. The rest of the kit was real. Fifty dollars or so later, voila!

Bobby’s bass break after the bridge is a thing o’ beauty.

Later recorded in Nashville by the Graveblankets in a different key and expertly sung by Bridget Otto.


Enough (fetters)

I guess I was sick and tired of being sick and tired when I penned this one. 3 chords and a bad attitude always go well together. As long as I keep writing songs about suicide, it keeps me safe… right?


All material is © 1993-2009 psychodots, unless otherwise noted.