Friday, July 29, 2011

Head of Fire, Feet of Clay

                                                                                  July 13 2011, San Francisco

Four months already and I haven’t come up with another blog.  Swore I’d write one once a month, but I just didn’t get around to it.   

I kept journals for years and years.  Why oh why is it so hard for me to sit down and write the damn blog?

I figured it might interest you to hear the story of some of the songs coming out on the new release...

Head of Fire, Feet of Clay

Got no fear, and I got no hope
Rollin down the river in a tin can boat
Don’t throw me a line ‘cause it’s much too late
Head of fire, feet of clay

My true love taught me not to feel
Taught me when to run, taught me how to steal
So I stole his heart and I gave it away
Head of fire, feet of clay

I’m the last big chief in this one-cow town
Won’t crawl, won’t kneel and I won’t bow down
So they left me lying where I lay
Head of fire, feet of clay

Kick down the dead, climb the graveyard wall
When you get to the top, boy, you better not fall
You laugh when they say it’s gonna end this way
Head of fire, feet of clay

*   *   *    *    *

Well, at the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, I especially like this one.  One of the best moments for me in my musical life, Bill Bottrell chose this one (and another one called “Say Goodbye.”) to produce out of all my material.  He played drums on it.  We went up north to his studio in Mendocino which has been closed off for a few months, and in the process it had gotten moldy.  I was singing in an isolation booth, and started to get an asthma attack, but I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to whine, wanted to be brave!…you can hear it in my voice, but it adds an oddly cool quality.

I took inspiration on this song from a few places.  The title was an ”Untouchables” episode from 1960 that came on in the wee hours and I thought the title would make a great song.  I didn’t know what to make of it at the time.

The line about the “tin can boat” seems to me like I might have heard something like it in a Dylan song, but I might have dreamed it, or just imagined I heard it and filled in the spaces.  You can get some great lines like that.  I never found the Dylan song with that line.  Maybe you know it.  Well, it’s belongs to this song now.

The last verse’s first couplet comes from a 2008 PBS special on the black Indians of New Orleans called the “Order of Myths.”  There’s an old guy talking about the stuff he sings, nonsense stuff, but I thought it was very poetic:

Make fire, make thunder
Kick down tombstones
Midnight put the dead on the wall

Dude tell you I’ll make a tireless climber
Slip the wall
Get to the top
you better not jump or fall