The Constant Inspiration of Junior Dad

Over the last several years, while I have been writing this blog, I have mentioned Lou Reed and Metallica’s Junior Dad.  It is the final set of lyrics on the final album that Lou Reed released during his life time.  Earlier this week I put on the song while I was walking around Austin’s Lady Bird Lake.  Every Time I hear it I feel inspired by its artistic fearlessness.  Like the best art, I don’t even know if I can articulate why it moves me so much.  The lyrics are create strong images, without definitive meaning, even if they hint seriously at several themes.  I am always especially knocked out at the section of the song that starts at the breakdown and goes through the end of the lyrics.  (The song is over 19 minutes long!)

Scalding my dead father
Has a motor and he’s driving towards
An island of lost souls

Sunny, a monkey then to monkey
I will teach you meanness, fear, and blindness
No social redeeming kindness
Or – oh, state of grace

Would you pull me up
Would you drop the mental bullet
Would you pull me by the arm up
Would you still kiss my lips
Hiccup, the dream is over
Get the coffee, turn the lights on
Say hello to junior dad
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad
Psychic savagery

The greatest disappointment
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad

Almost like the films of David Lynch’s, it has a quality that deals in dreams and the subconscious.  Like dreams, the meaning is so close, yet just beyond our reach.  It could be about Reed’s own mortality, or about the realization of him or a character that hey are turning into their parents, despite the best intentions not to.  It could be about original sin, or how violence is passed on from generation to generation.  It could be about how even the things we fear and hate, the things we have struggled against all of our lives, eventually turn to dust.  There is something both horrifying and comforting in that last thought. Emotionally I do feel the song has that weird mix of emotions.  It’s like a fire that burns everything in its wake, leaving things to begin anew.

The song is part of a concept record, albeit one where the whole album is more or less as abstract as this one song.  (Even if you like this one song there is no guarantee you would like the rest of the album.  It is a brutal, ruthless thing.  Yet it is extremely beautiful and artistic in its own deranged way.  Aside from this song and maybe the first, stay away if dissonance and sonic brutality are not your things.  I happen to be one of the few that absolutely loves this record, but I understand why some would not be drawn to it.)  It is also elastic enough for other interpretations.

Anyway, I have written about all of this before.  But every time I am looking for some inspiration, to feel something more intense than I am feeling in the moment, this song never lets me down.  Reed, like George Carlin, never succumbed to resting on his laurels.  He never became mundane or safe or tried to cash in on the easy money.  He started with the Velvet Underground and ended with this.  What a career!


Reimagining the New World

We were going to see the world
In this land
We placed Baptismal fonts
And an infinite number were baptized
And they called us “Carabi”
Which means “Men of Great Wisdom”

Where are you going,
And are you going anywhere?
Where are you going
Send me a letter, if you go at all

Ahh, the salvation of souls,
But wisdom we had not
For these people had neither King nor Lord
And bowed to no one
And they had lived in their own liberty

Where are you going,
And are you going anywhere?
Going in circles
Going in circles, anywhere

I saw the new
The inconstant shifting of fortune
And now I write to you
Words that have not been written
Words from the New World

Tracing the circles
Moving across my eyes
Lying on a ship
And gazing at the western skies
Tracing lazy circles in the sky


Wake Up!
Wake Up!

Where are you going,
And are you going anywhere?
Where are you going
Send me a letter, if you go at all

It’s such a delight
To watch them dance
Be it sacrifice or romance
Free of all the things that we hold dear
Is that clear, Your Excellency?

And I guess it’s time to go but
I gotta send you just a few more lines
From the New World

Tracing the circles
Moving across my eyes
Lying on a ship
And gazing at the western skies
Tracing lazy circles in the sky

Tracing lazy circles in the sky
Tracing lazy circles

And the sky opened
And we laid down our armor
And we danced
Naked as they
Baptized in the rain
Of the New World

Amerigo by Patti Smith.  I’ve posted the lyrics to this song before, but recent events have led me back to it.  (I’m reading her book Just Kids and I have also been thinking about great American musical artists.)  This song is the true sound of freedom.  It has an almost shamanistic quality to it.  Why is Patti Smith considered great?  Because of pieces like this.  Smith is going back to the beginning of America and imagining if things had been different.  What if we had lived up to the true promise of, “The New World?” Geographical discovery as metaphor for the discovery of the spirit, of the imagination.  Her last album, Banga, of which this is on, is as good as anything she has ever put out.  And that is saying a lot.   Happy Friday!  Forget about going down to the local pub and leering at members of the opposite sex.  Go somewhere new this weekend, inside or out…

“Which pushes me to their place in the queue”

“And he spoke with his voice
 As he was talking with his mouth”

Oboe concerto
All the best ones are dead 
And there’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

There’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

Oboe concerto 
All I do is drink to absent friends 
And there’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

There’s a song I can’t stand 
And it’s stuck in my head

The older generation have tried, sighed and died 
Which pushes me to their place queue

Round, rhythm goes round 
Round, round rhythm of life goes round 

– Morrissey

My birthday was today.  Today is also John Lennon’s birthday.  I played a tribute to him this afternoon.  It made me realize that his music is more complicated than it sounds, as I felt like I was playing with mittens on my hands.  Part of it had to do with extreme exhaustion, but there is no doubt that one stroke of his genius is the fact that he could make bizarre and unruly chord progressions sound like perfect pop moments.  Things that are sophisticated became emotionally raw in his hands, all while somehow seeming universal.  He was a rare bird indeed.

I couldn’t help but compare his music to a great deal of the popular music of today’s radio.  Along with reflecting on the passing of time, as one is apt to do on their birthday, I was reminded of the Morrissey lyrics to Oboe Concerto.  But in case anyone thinks I am being maudlin, I think there is a great deal of mischievous fun to be had in the above verses by old Mozzer.  Looking at the inevitable, shrugging, with an ever so slight grin…

Lou Reed’s ‘Brandenburg Gate’ and the Joy of Discovery

I would cut my legs and tits off
When I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski
In the dark of the moon

It made me dream of Nosferatu
Trapped on the isle of Doctor Moreau
Oh wouldn’t it be lovely

One of my favorite albums from the last five years is Lou Reed and Metallica’s Lulu.  Just the opening lyrics to the first song alone, Brandenburg Gate, make my heart sing.  I’ve written about this record several times, but I never tire of singing its praises.  Look, I understand the reasons that some people don’t like this album; The lyrics are disturbing, the music will go off at times into discordant soundscapes or heavy metal brutality, and at times Lou Reed sings without care for melody or pitch.

But in general I feel bad for people that don’t get this record.  It is a beautiful, dark, fever dreamscape of a record.  It’s a Viking raid, a horror freak show, a psychotic hallucination, an Edgar Allen Poe poem, Victorian London, and nighttime in the Tiergarten all at once.  If it were a movie it would be Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God or Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.  If it were a painting it might be by Goya or Bosch.  The record is batshit insane in the best way possible.

But the record isn’t all dark.  There is a sense of fun, of the thrill of reaching new ground, as well.  Lou Reed was near the end of his life when he made this.  He was physically in decline.  He used Metallica as a way to go once more into uncharted territory.  They were his musical armor.  Like George Carlin, Reed kept growing as an artist.  There was never any self-congratulatory victory lap or a watering down of his talents to finally cash in.  He remained true to his vision right until the end.

But I don’t love this record, truly love it, because others don’t get it, or because I think the best art should always be bleak.  I enjoy it.  In it’s own strange way it is full of joy.  It feels free.      Reed is not bound by the normal conventions of society.  He is out there on a limb, living in the new.  After all, he’s just a, “small town girl.”

The Sire of Sorrow (Job’s Sad Song)

The Sire of Sorrow (Job’s Sad Song)

The song above song, by Joni Mitchell, is one of the most powerful songs I have heard in awhile.  Typical for Mitchell, it features a poetic depth that leaves most other artists in the dust.  Both this version and the original are fantastic.  (The original is a more typical Mitchell arrangement based around her guitar.)

The Sire of Sorrow (Job’s Sad Song)

Let me speak let me spit out my bitterness
Born of grief and nights without sleep and festering flesh
Do you have eyes?
Can you see like mankind sees?
Why have you soured and curdled me?
Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you?
That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?

Once I was blessed; I was awaited like the rain
Like eyes for the blind, like feet for the lame
Kings heard my words, and they sought out my company
But now the janitors of Shadowland flick their brooms at me
Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you?
that you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?

(Antagonists: Man is the sire of sorrow)
I’ve lost all taste for life
I’m all complaints
Tell me why do you starve the faithful?
Why do you crucify the saints?
And you let the wicked prosper
You let their children frisk like deer
And my loves are dead or dying, or they don’t come near
(Antagonists: We don’t despise your chastening
God is correcting you)

Oh and look who comes to counsel my deep distress
Oh, these pompous physicians
What carelessness!
(Antagonists: Oh all this ranting all this wind
Filling our ears with trash)
Breathtaking ignorance adding insult to injury!
they come blaming and shaming
(Antagonists: Evil doer)
And shattering me
(Antagonists: This vain man wishes to seem wise
A man born of asses)
Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you?
That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?

(Antagonists: We don’t despise your chastening)
Already on a bed of sighs and screams
And still you torture me with visions
You give me terrifying dreams!
Better I was carried from the womb straight to the grave
I see the diggers waiting, they’re leaning on their spades

(Antagonists: Man is the sire of sorrow
Sure as the sparks ascend)
Where is hope while you’re wondering what went wrong?
Why give me light and then this dark without a dawn?
(Antagonists: Evil is sweet in your mouth
Hiding under your tongue)
Show your face!
(Antagonists: What a long fall from grace)
Help me understand!
What is the reason for your heavy hand?
(Antagonists: You’re stumbling in shadows
You have no name now)
Was it the sins of my youth?
What have I done to you?
That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?
(Antagonists: Oh your guilt must weigh so greatly)
Everything I dread and everything I fear come true
(Antagonists: Man is the sire of sorrow)
Oh you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true

P.S.  One other thing I’d like to add is that I love the way Mitchell uses backup singers here.  They almost used like a Greek Chorus where they comment on the events at hand.  Leonard Cohen will also sometimes use singers in this same manner.

More Posts On Joni Mitchell Include: The Genius of Joni Mitchell

You Can't Pin Me Down

All of my hymns to depravity
Are really just odes to the Lord
He in his infinite wisdom
Sense of theater and the absurd
All of my psalms of violence
Are really just tributes to love
I’ve been scavaging like a vulture
Looking for the peace of the dove

You can’t pin me down

I will be a cloud of smoke
I will be a dream
I will be a crown of thorns
Up on Calvary
I will be a lover
In the throws of lust
I will be ashes
I will be dust

You can’t pin me down

Hence forth comes a mystery
In our darkest nights
In our deepest dreams

You can’t pin me down

– J. Brown

Neal Cassady Drops Dead

Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s tears shampoo his beard
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s lips tighten and thin
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s hosed down in a barn
Neal Cassady drops dead
And Allen Ginsberg’s howl becomes a growl

Everyone has babies
Babies full of rabies
Rabies full of scabies
Scarlet has a fever
Ringlets full of ringworm
Angel of distemper
Poor little fella has got rubella
Liver full of fungus
Junior full of gangrene
Minor’s melanoma
Tykes full of gripe. 
Whippersnapper’s scurvy
Urchin made of acne
Get that thing away from me!

Victim, or life’s adventurer
Which of the two are you?
Victim or life’s adventurer
Which of the two are you? 

Lyrics by Morrissey

Last night I heard a brilliant podcast about Allen Ginsberg.  I don’t remember the name of it, but I will try to find it and link to it somehow.  In the meantime I have been thinking of these lyrics by Morrissey.  Everything dies.  The only thing you can choose is to live life to the fullest or not in the meantime.

You'd Think 'Twas a Crime to be Human

The following lyrics are from a song in Brendan Behan’s play Richard’s Cork Leg:

You’d think ’twas a crime to be human
To sometimes get scared in the park,
When a copper sneaks up there behind you,
And flashes his light in the dark.

To regard savage dogs with suspicion,
In case that the bastards would bite,
To be hauled off to jail on suspicion,
And scared of a scream in the night.

You’d think ’twas a crime to be human,
With sex education in bed,
And postpone your thoughts of hereafter,
‘Till after you are twenty years dead.

To work overtime with young Nancy,
And give her a coffee and roll,
And likewise whatever she’d fancy
By weight or the lump or the whole.

You’d think ’twas come to be human,
And go for a swim in the sea,
And dance with no clothes in the sunshine,
And drink foreign lager for tea.

To regard co-existence with favor,
And nuclear weapons with fear,
To want more return for less labour,
Fatter fish, cheaper chips, better beer.

Let the heroes all die for the people,
If that is what they want to do,
And we’ll struggle on here without them,
I’ve concluded, now, frolics to you.  

Kiss Me A Lot (Official Video)

Above is the official video for Morrissey’s song Kiss Me A Lot, which in my opinion is from the best album from the last few years, World Peace is None of Your Business.  This is easily the most straightforward pop song on the album.  I like the fact that even in a straightforward pop song he can get a term in like, “Bastille mausoleum.”

This video has created a lot of controversy in the world of Morrissey.  He has strongly supported feminism throughout his career.  The fact that this video features scantily clad models, which are so normal in most pop music, has caused disbelief amongst fans.  I admit that I was surprised to see them.

However, I love the song and the man.  Even if you count the above video as a stumble in his career, his life’s work still towers above most of modern pop music.

Buffy Sainte-Marie to Release New Album In May


Last night I was extremely happy to find out that Buffy Sainte-Marie will be releasing a new album in May called Power in the Blood.  I found out by seeing the new cover pictured above.  (Looking pretty amazing for 74!)  She is one of the most fearless singer-songwriters of all time.  She was once blacklisted by LBJ for her political stances.  Instead of being defeated by being blacklisted by a sitting president, she just moved forward and continued to be outspoken.  Though most of the songs on the album are new, she starts off the album with a remake of the very last song on her first album.  Usually when an artist puts out a new album I don’t want to hear old songs again.  However, I feel that this time this reassessment of an old song has purpose.  Plus I have heard this version on iTunes and it is fantastic.  It is delivered with fire, brimstone, and power.  Things have gone full circle.  She is, all these years on, as bold as when as she began.  Here are the lyrics to the song It’s My Way:

It’s My Way

(I’m cutting my) own way
through my own day
and all I dare say is
It’s my own

(Got my) own seeds
Got my own weeds
I’ve got my own harvest
that I’ve sown

I can tell you
things I’ve done
and I can sing you
songs I’ve sung
But there’s one thing
I can’t give
for I and I alone can live 

The years I’ve known,
the life I’ve grown.
Got a way I’m going,
and it’s my Way.

I’ve got my own stakes
in my own game
I’ve got my own name
and it’s my Way

I’ve got my own kith
I’ve got my own kin
I’ve got my own sin
and it’s my Way

I’ve got my own peace
I’ve got my own wrath
I’ve got my own path that only I can go
I’ve got my own sword in my own hand
I’ve got my own plan that only I can know

Don’t be sighing
Don’t be crying 
Your day will come; your day alone
Years you’ll know and a life you’ll grow
You got a way to go and it’s all on your own

I’ve got my own world
I’ve got my own life
I’ve got my own strife
and it’s my Way

I’ve got my own wrong
I’ve got my own right
I’ve got my own fight
and it’s my Way

I’ve got my own prayers
I’ve got my own fears
I’ve got my own tears
and it’s my Way

I’ve got my own joy
I’ve got my own load
I’ve got my own road
and it’s my Way

The years I’ve known,
the life I’ve grown.
Got a way I’m going,
and it’s my Way. 

Don’t be sighing
Don’t be crying 
Your day will come; your day alone

Put down the story of what I’ve known
Your bound for glory all of your own 
Put down the story of what I say
You’re bound for glory
all on your own one day