Monday, 1 November 2010

Song By Song Notes from Steve Wynn on Northern Aggression


Song By Song--What's It All About

It seems somehow appropriate to be here in Heilbronn, the home of Edgar Heckmann and my longtime label Blue Rose Records, on the day my latest record is being released in Europe. I’m spending a week here (and being very well fed by his ver...y kind wife Beate) doing interviews for the record and enjoying the active Heilbronn nightlife. Don’t laugh—I can recommend the Tropicana bar the next time you’re in town. Seems like something Warren Zevon would have liked. I hear they make a mean mai tai although I have chosen to stick to the beer. Even with the protective shield that is a heaping bowl of spaetzle (and they do it right in this town), you just can’t be too safe especially when getting into fighting shape for a 4 week tour.

But enough about tropical drinks, doughy treats and even the upcoming tour.-- more about that soon and I do hope that you’ll join us if you’re in the neighborhood or in the mood for a road trip. Let’s talk about Northern Aggression:

The bio/press release/back story is up on the website so let’s cut to the chase and talk about the songs:

RESOLUTION—The first track, the first single, the opening gambit. I had forgotten about this particular tune in the palette of ditties that I brought down to Richmond, Virginia until late one night in the studio when Dave put his foot down and said, “Okay, here’s the thing. We gotta do that song in D, you know the one.” And I did. One take later we had the version that you’ve hopefully already heard. It’s a mission statement, a zen koan. Time is the great equalizer—as is a good droning D chord, of course.

WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT—The Southern tip of the Northern Aggression. Tony Joe White filtered through the Lower East Side, Captain Beefheart strolling through the Bowery. Linda said she tried to deny the funk but, as you can hear, that was impossible. What’s it all about, Alfie? Well, shine a light deep into the dark recesses, the cracks that nobody can see and the most interesting things arise. And then? Shut off the light and don’t tell anyone what you saw.

NO ONE EVER DROWNS—I wrote this when I was 20 years old (one year before forming the Dream Syndicate) for a band a band called Goat Deity, which was me and two sisters who went on to form Wednesday Week. We played it at our only gig, which took place in their mother’s living room. The song was never recorded in any way but somehow I remembered the music and lyrics 30 years later and it just seemed like this was the time, place and record in which it was time for some dusting and preening. A statement of defiance and bruised optimism from a precocious kid, barely out of his teens

CONSIDER THE SOURCE—Had this bit of music floating around since around the time of “Static Transmission.” Never could find the right words or story to tell. But in the laboratory that was the recording of my third album with the Miracle 3 I decided to give it a shot. I sat down at a Wurlitzer electric piano and just started playing. The band caught all of the changes on the fly, I made up the lyrics on the spot (it’s a live vocal, thank you) and amazingly enough my fingers never flubbed on the 88’s. That’s Jason on organ (the guitar solo was overdubbed). Yep, so much for Guitar Rock, although Jason says this is his favorite recorded solo.

COLORED LIGHTS—More on topic, this is us doing that Miracle 3 thing. Hazy psychedelia, riffs galore and a rave-up at the end. It’s what we do, man! Van Morrison said something about not pulling punches or pulling a river. But he said it more quietly. Oh, and I have always loved colored lights. I guess it’s some kind of visual Ritalin.

THE DEATH OF DONNY B—Okay, here’s the deal. I didn’t write this. But I don’t know who DID write it either. Jason discovered it as the soundtrack of a short, early 70s film on YouTube not long before we went into the studio and it became our mutual obsession for weeks. What a great film! What a great song. And late one night in Richmond we decided to record it just for kicks. Once again, a live performance, a live vocal, one take bit of magic. And, best yet, it was all documented on film by our friend Ford Loving. Go ahead, type in the title on YouTube. You might get the original film or you might get our version and they’re both worth your internet time over a cup or two of strong coffee.

THE OTHER SIDE—My bandmates don’t understand—nay, are somewhat repelled by my not so guilty pleasure enthusiasm for the occasional endless live jam bootleg documentation of the Allman Brothers and/or Grateful Dead. More about that at another time but I knew that I had to sneak this one by them by wrapping it up in Television wrapping paper and it does feel like the improbably link between Jerry Garcia and Tom Verlaine. Can you imagine the band they might have had together? The song was inspired by a duo show that Jason and I played in Austin at South By Southwest a few years ago. The rains nearly washed the show away before giving way to bright sunlight and some kind of low-grade epiphany that became this song. It’s all about transcendence; it’s all about breaking on through. It’s all about the other side.

CLOUD SPLITTER—I was going to call this “Jihadist Dream” but knew that was just looking for trouble. But it also might give some clue to this opaque pop tune. Animals tell us all kinds of things but they’re also sometimes an unreliable narrator, practical jokers, not always concerned with our best interests. Can we touch the sky? Maybe, just maybe—go ahead and give it a shot.

ST. MILLWOOD—Another song with an alternate title, “I Brought My Own Sorrow” which tells you all you need to know. Or maybe if I tell you that I had considered “Grief Tourism” as an album title, well you might get the idea. Or how about Emotional Ambulance Chasers? I’ve got a million of ‘em. Stephen McCarthy’s pedal steel work on this one brings me to tears every time.

ON THE MEND—Wrote this one in a Ljubljana hotel room, singing all of the various jam rock riffs into my tape recorder (a cassette, no less!) I think this song could have gone on for another 20 minutes and might do just that when we bring it to a stage near you. It’s a story I’ve told many times before—the dark side of recovery and rehabilitation but I’ve never set it to something that could have been a Dennis Coffey out-take. I’ve never played it live (which is true for almost every song on this record, actually) but if I was a betting man, I would bet on this being one of the highlights of the upcoming tour.

RIBBONS AND CHAINS—And ending it all on a happy note, the unexpected Hollywood Ending. It turns out that everything that rises really truly absolutely must resolve and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. For all of the desire to shape, mold, move, steer, deny and dissolve, you usually just end up where you started. With more miles, a few weathered cracks, a couple of jokes and the path and directions to begin the next circle or two.

Lifted from Steve's Facebook page

1 comment:

IMR said...

Goat Diety song! Awesome!