Day One of our session was winding down....I had some obligations to take care of but we could surely knock a couple of other numbers out.
“MEDICINE CABINET”: LIL' BOX-O-DEMONS
“Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you're gone”
I reckoned “Medicine Cabinet” would be an easy one to bang out. It didn't demand a whole lot from me, vocally speaking.
At this point there was no getting around it----I was saving all the rough stuff for Day Two.
“If you seen the demons I seen
You might just shit your pants
This ain't no Motley Crue
This ain't no high school dance
When I'm in the mood
to nullify my life
Gimme what I want,
I ain't got all night
There's a devil in my brain
Medicine Cabinet Yeah”
In the 80s I never bought the hype about Motley Crue being the kings of excess. Vince Neil's biggest partying accomplishment was getting Razzle from Hanoi Rocks killed, and Hanoi Rocks, sadly, were worth ten Motley Crues. We were always opposed to the whole dumb, shallow party-all-night mentality of the hair bands, though....I could never call myself Straight Edge, but our mentality was always to show the downside of getting high and partying....some guy dying during triage----how's that for a party? Boston hardcore band DYS writing songs about nodding off on heroin was more of a party song to me...Lou Reed singing “The Last Shot”. The Heartbreakers singing “Chinese Rocks” or “One Track Mind”----how are those for party anthems?
“When I crack that vial
Watch the sweat pour over me
I crave the apocalypse
in my head to set me free
Just as soon go lose my head
than let you bring me down
I'm too far from the shore
Can't help me, gonna drown”
I've played with a few things in my time, although my personal poison has always been booze. Mild on the scale, I guess, but I understand Addict Brain. I understand looking in the fridge on a Sunday morning and feeling your heart sink because you don't think you've got enough to get you through the weekend. My late friend, Brian Shane, the guy who really, truly turned me on to Lou Reed and/or the Velvet Underground, was alluding to the Velvets' song, “Heroin”, and told me he understood the impulse of looking forward to a long, deep, dreamless sleep...Brian was an alcoholic (although most of his life as I knew it was spent more on the wagon than off) and if the Apocalypse Krew were going to do a “party anthem”, that was the spirit I was going to follow.
“Had enough of the past
Better be movin' on
Better feed my head
Better dead and gone
Come the rush of the tide
Oblivion's sweet roar
Don't say what's bad for me
I can't hear you anymore”
Stiv Bators, from Day One, was my muse on “Medicine Cabinet”, and I tried to channel that. I put the lyric forth in a flat, slimy, laconic drawl that hadn't changed much from earlier demos. It was one of the easier numbers to tackle.
“Medicine Cabinet” actually evolved out of a cover of an old Tommy Bolin tune called “Shake the Devil”, although by the time we were done with it it bore little resemblance to the original...Bolin's song veered into the territory of moody reggae....ours became a slab of monolithic blues-metal that had kind of a bump-and-grind to it. If there's any remaining thread, it's the Devil itself---Tommy's demon----the one he ultimately succumbed to----was drugs, and we're exploring the same themes in this song----so the La Ronde effect continues....
HATE (AND RELIGION) FOR SALE: “JESUS ON A STICK”.
“I am a Hope Dope Pusher!”
It was getting late but we were bent on knocking out one more and we decided to go with “Jesus on a Stick”.
This was always one of our wild cards. One thing you might not know about us is we're big funk fans. Sly and the Family Stone, P-Funk, the Ohio Players, old, good Stevie Wonder, old, good Kool and the Gang, Earth, Wind and Fire, Fishbone, War-----me and Mike are there. There are a smattering of funk-based songs in our repertoire....”Infection”, “Carvach”, the unrecorded (and super-politically-incorrect) “Love Pig”----but “Jesus on a Stick” is the one that made the cut.
It's a medium-paced song with sort of a breezy funk-rock riff that picks up into more of a stomping, hard rock chorus. The main vocal, on the verses, is kind of weird for me....what I envision on the song, sound-wise, is kind of a compressed voice that makes it sound as though the speaker/narrator/character of the song is cajoling you through a bullhorn. I see the character as almost an old-skool carnival barker or snake oil salesman.
“I got a new kind of kick
called Jesus on a Stick
no reason to complain
it tastes good and melts your brain
fifty cents a lick, it's salvation
America's new taste sensation
tastes so sweet you'll wanna come
then wipe out the heathen scum
oust the obscene, make way for the clean
clean up this place for our master race”
Then on the chorus it's the usual stuff with me yelling:
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
DEATH TO THOSE WHO DON'T JOIN THE CLUB
DON'T QUESTION WHY, SHUT UP AND BUY
DON'T QUESTION WHY, SHUT UP AND BUY”
“Jesus on a Stick” is a hot button song that's bound to offend a whole variety of people...religious people are apt to balk at the title alone....once they get past that some might appreciate the joke----others might find themselves the butt of the joke.
The singer/speaker/carnival barker character is selling a particularly virulent version of religion to anyone who's willing to grab a piece.
Having grown up in a rather genteel Catholic family in 60's/early '70's New England (and yeah, before you get all fired up I'm aware of the issues behind that and I see through it as well as you do---I'm aware, though, that our catechism seemed considerably kinder compared to a lot of the xenophobic evangelism that had a groundswell in the '70s and exploded during the Reagan years) I felt like the sort of rabid fundamentalism pushed by the moral majority and outfits like that in the '80s was nothing remotely resembling what I'd been taught about as “Christianity” growing up. I wrote “Jesus on a Stick” as a reaction to interviews with KKK/Nazi types who I heard espousing bigotry and hostility as a part of what made them “good Christians”.
“Now you're hooked on this hot new taste
for more you'll do just what I say
golden road of fate, pave it with hate
we are the chosen, all others must suffer
go burn down a Jewish Temple
lynch a nigger, it's that simple
bow to a flag to prove you're loyal
then take a faggot and boil him in oil”
You could leave it right at that or you could insert the names, “Mexicans”, “Muslims” and “Trangenders in bathrooms” and it still works fine today.
Of course, that opens up a whole new rogue's gallery of potential offendees, and that, naturally, includes our friends, the Politically Correct. I'm talking about the kinds of people who will knee-jerk at terms like “nigger” and “faggot”, take everything literally (not unlike a lot of the biblical literalists they consider themselves to be the opposition of) and and not be able to wrap their tiny, spoonfed brains around concepts like Context or Irony. They're the so-called “liberals” who want to ban HUCKLEBERRY FINN because they think it's racist; They're the kinds of nimrods who thought Jonathan Swift really wanted to eat the Irish. They have to run to a grief counselor if you should even mention the idea of satire to them...they're the living embodiment of Brain Death.
Granted, I'm always of two minds with this shit....a good many peoples' solution to political correctness is to run around using terms like “faggot” and “nigger” all willy-nilly as an act of defiance and inasmuch as (having said this in a previous rant) being a writer I want my words to hurt I want them to hurt for a GOOD REASON and I want people to UNDERSTAND why I'm using those words---I don't think throwing them around indiscriminately and stupidly really helps things. Context is everything.
“Build an idol to the brainwash
new third reich while others watch
shun and slaughter the infidels
it's the new world, wipe out everyone else
Shut up and buy!
Shut up and buy!”
I added a new line to the song as the last chorus ended, coming up from under the chorus with a descant of “Do yourself a flavor---say hello to flavor”----leave us not forget, after all---our carnival barker is selling a PRODUCT.
There were odd little non-sequitors that Mike and I threw all throughout the original demo....lots of “YEEEHAW”s and “Why don' we jes' throw them dirty minorities raght outta TOWN???” I eschewed them all in the new version but instead continued in my carnival-barker-with-a-bullhorn riff, yowling, “WEER GONNA BUILD A WAAAALLLLL!!! WEER GONNA BUILD A WAAAALLLL!!!!” One for the Donald and his followers---the true heirs to the irony of this song.
The vocal done I stepped out of the booth and Mike was at the console guffawing.
So...rock'n'roll, chemical dependency, religion and humor....that's it, right? The four food groups? No?
We were done for the day. “Not bad,” said Mike. “We knocked out nine songs, we've got....” he surveyed the list. “Seven more.”
“What are they, exactly?”
He ran down the list. “Rise”, “Pig”, “Black”, “Fear and Hate”, “First Stare”, “Outsider”, “The Candidate's a Religious Man”.
There were a few double-takes here for me; We had discussed “Fear and Hate” but he had never sent me a new take of it in the Dropbox. Likewise I had never gotten a new version of “Black” and was halfway under the impression that we might actually throw the old demo for “Black II” on the CD....if anything from that era was capable of making that transition it MIGHT have been that one---it was probably the cleanest of what we'd done back at that time.
Under any circumstance I had brought a rough rewrite along with me and would tailor the structure to whatever shape “Black” took.
“Fear and Hate” was another matter----I'd written a lyric for it at some point in the mid-90s prior to moving down to Arkansas...the lyric had since been lost. I had centered it around my circumstances at that time---I was living alone in what may as well have been a condemned building surrounded by some rough neighbors, most of whom were rebrobates and dopers of one stripe or another. Probably just as well those lyrics went MIA---no one needed my baggage at that time.
Mike uploaded the track onto my phone and I would take it back and write a new lyric overnight.
After that I visited with family....my brother and I had gotten a motel room in Nashua and at the tail end of riding around with him and my niece on the back roads between Mass and New Hampshire (my brother drives a taxi, and his knack for negotiating those suburban labyrinths is beyond me) I was presented with a late night choice; join them at the local multiplex in hate-watching “Batman vs. Superman” or go back to the Motel 6 and write the damn lyrics. I'd let my brother cajole me into seeing “Deadpool” the night before, and despite my running belief that these Superhero epics are hitting a bubble that's about to go bust, I quite enjoyed it----even gave my fingers a mild sprain throwing the devil horns over a Zamboni joke. I brake for Zamboni jokes.
I couldn't go near “Batman vs. Superman” on a bet, though....that thing looked like a goddamned turd. I couldn't even watch it on a snark premise.
So it was back to the motel and I was going to bang out a new lyric to “Fear and Hate” if it killed me.
I busted out the phone, a piece of paper and a pen, cracked a 40 and went to work.