The fourth tune is finally ready to share. A giant. His mother (and father). A big heart. You take it from there. Diane Arbus keeps taking us to strange dark places, but there is a flicker of light in there if you look closely enough.
Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx (1970)
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I wish I were a normal size / I think I’ll stay home tonight / Draw the curtains and chain the door / I’m staying home tonight / Don’t crane your neck at me / I’ve tried honestly /My heart’s the same size as yours / It’s just working overtime / I’m staying home tonight / Just last weekend those kids pushed me in the chest / But that was just some fucked up teenage test / It’s really the heartache / It’s really the heartache / It’s more the heartache / It’s really more the heartache / They’re always asking how’s the weather up there / I wish I wasn’t in the clouds / My heart’s the same size as yours / It’s just working overtime / I’m staying home tonight
The latest installment of our Diane Arbus project, this one is tale of a man watching his world fall apart and thinking that may not be so bad.
Man at a parade on Fifth Avenue, N.Y.C., 1969
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A father who told me we couldn’t lose / Put your hat on your heart / Cheat if you have to / A father who told me we get what we get / Kick ‘em in the shin / God is on our side / Put your hat on your heart when the flag goes by / I always had a fairly clear view of my path / I never had a doubt / Until the floor caved in / Right about then we all took cover / Locked up what we had / And went looking for more / Put your hat on your heart when the flag goes by / I think it might be all lies / A haze over the hurry of this muscular town / Another boy on the block who thought he’d run this place / A father who told me we’d never lost a war / Only losers look out for a life-preserver / Put your hat on your heart when the flag goes by / Oh, I think it might be all lies / Maybe the kids are right this time / Look to your right there’s another rhinoceros
"Spitting Into the Fire" is another Diane Arbus inspired tune. Quickly, Arbus’ images have turned on me a bit. They are feeling mean. I’ve known most of these pictures, and the overarching mood of her work, for a long time so it’s me that’s changing not the photos. But while writing this tune, this image felt especially exploitative and aggressive. So here we have a couple who is probably fairly used to getting more than their fair share of shit, looking defiantly at the camera in a take-as-many-goddam-photos-as-you-want kind of way. Atleast that’s how I was seeing it. Enjoy!
Young man and his pregnant wife in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965
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This park bench is an island on an island / Take that camera / I can hear my soul dripping on the pavement / Take that camera back uptown / Your face is far too shiny in this light / Take those sad eyes / Can you move that hand a bit to the right / Take those sad eyes back uptown / Why do all these gawkers always show up when we’re dreaming / My hand on your hand / You keep your head up / And keep me from stumbling over the edge / I feel a change in the weather / Take your cool breeze / If I only had a nickel / Take that free lunch back uptown / This park bench is an island on an island / Take that camera / I can hear my soul dripping to pavement / Take that camera back uptown / Why do all these gawkers always show up when we’re dreaming / I don’t believe in spoiling our luck fighting for something bigger than us / My hand on your hand / You keep your head up / And keep me from wandering over the edge / My hand on your hand / You just won’t give up / You keep me from spitting into the fire
This the first song in an open-ended project where we look at a photo by Diane Arbus and see what sort of song comes out. This tattooed man is the inspiration for “We’re All In Tents.” Lyrics are below.
Tattooed man at a carnival, Md., 1970
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My mother and the bank sent me out on my own / My brother and my dad had left us for the west coast / Some valley somewhere / And they said I had eyes that could shoot lightening / They said I had eyes that could bend nails / The winds they change fast / And we fended for ourselves / Scatter, scatter, scatter / The water from all the storms / The water from all these storms collects somewhere / One tattoo at a time and I just sort of blended in / At first it didn’t feel right but it’s just another tent in your town tonight / And we’re all in tents / Safe little tents / And here I am / Doesn’t the water from all these storms / Doesn’t the water from all these storms collect somewhere
Well, the last track of 2010 came a little late but mostly due to snow. We wrapped up our modest song-a-month project with “Soak City.” This will be the last track on the upcoming album “Dig.” We all have our Soak City and hopefully you’re there already.
Sometimes you just have that one thing and it’s all you need. We seem to know this instinctively as kids. Kids kids kids. Well, I like the idea of holding on to that one thing that always made you feel comfortable.
She’ll point to the moon and whistle through her teeth / A sad little tune no one ever hears / She cocks her back when an airplane’s in the sky / And she keeps her head back till the plane disappears / She keeps her eyes peeled till the plane disappears / There’s magic in the sky for her / And somehow it doesn’t fade / She stands in the rain and the hail / What ever comes from above / Held by the clouds, one step closer to God / Held by the clouds, one step closer to God / We all start with something / With her it was stars / The constellations are stuck to her walls / And as she got older she just wanted more / She climbed and she climbed as far as she could / She climbed and she climbed as high as she could / There’s magic in the sky for her / And somehow it doesn’t fade / She has the sky
Chasing luck and approval, a man stalks the sole survivor of a passenger airplane crash. That’s my one sentence pitch for this song. Hopefully it does it justice. Again, special thanks to Andrew Soto for the drumming.
I’m courting the sole survivor of a passenger airplane crash / I hope her luck rubs off on me / I’m seeing stars again sitting in my padded room / Writing letter after letter with no reply / She was a headline at the lunchroom table; a hometown girl who walked away without a scratch / Now I want a dinner with the lone survivor of a passenger airplane crash / I think her luck will rub off on me / All I wanted was a good luck charm / Something you would see and say / Boy, your luck has changed / Your luck has changed / She’s a tiny little sliver of a girl / I wonder if the metal and fire missed her by a mile / It’s getting hard again pacing on this hallway rug / What do I have to do to get a reply / I’m courting the sole survivor of a passenger airplane crash / Take me away from my fiery places / All I wanted was a good luck charm / Something you would see and say / Boy, your luck has changed / Your luck has changed
I’ve sat on this one a few weeks now and I still like it a whole lot. It’s a pretty depressing song if you really listen which is, I guess, just how I roll. Money. We all think about it. It seems like more people would write about it, or write about thinking about it. Special thanks to the guys on this one. Marc’s background vocals are right in the sweet spot of funny and poignant; Adam’s interweaving guitars create a beautifully swirly sandwich pie; and drummer Andrew Soto came in a total stranger and left us all very impressed — nailing his bit in about 20 minutes, never having heard the song before.
We’re hanging on for our lives / Like litter in the trees / Breaking down, breaking down / Piece by piece / Don’t tell me money isn’t magic / The river seems to steam / In this new kind of heat / Running down, running down / It all heads downstream / Don’t tell me money isn’t magic / Don’t tell me money isn’t magic / You know it isn’t true / I’ve seen it save / I’ve seen it heal / I’ve seen it love / And God, it seemed real / Money can take me downstream from here / I’ve got enemies in my blood / You have to say these things out loud / Spinning and spinning / Just dancing around / I Just want to have a shot / Don’t tell me money isn’t magic / The cards are stacked / Don’t tell me money isn’t magic / Don’t tell me money isn’t magic / The river seems to steam / In this new kind of heat / Running down, running down / But it still heads downstream / Money is magic / Don’t tell me money isn’t magic / You know it isn’t true / I’ve seen it rain / I’ve seen it pour / I just want my shelter from the storm / Money can get me downstream from here
A brand new one. Part love song part Where the Wild Things Are.
Claws and beaks and terrible things / Put your hands to your ears / So you can hear your heartbeat / Put down the magazine you’ll need your sleep / When we wake we will dig / On your hands and knees / Yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and terrible things / Back luck piled up on pretty bad genes / In the morning you breathe / We’ll just dig / Dirt over your shoulders / A thousand tiny tunnels / God doesn’t throw dice / Take that lead tape off your back / Get some clay in your nails / Put a fort in the hillside / Poisonous bites and glorious stings / Turn your eyes to the ground / Terrible sound / Terrible sound / Dirt over your shoulders / A thousand tiny tunnels / God doesn’t throw dice
"From the Cockpit" is a song about sticking it to the proverbial old man. It’s that’s out-for-summer feeling you remember and can’t quite manage to get back, though you’ll aim for it again and again. Sad really. Damn, and this is a summer jam. Hey, can you hear the words? I think the mix may not be right but let me know. We’ll take whatever you say under advisement. This was recorded at the end of June making it the July song. It’s got that nice head bobbing summer feel thanks to Marc’s production work. Note: “cockpit” is hard to sing.
Let’s steal a seaplane / We can make it to the Great Lakes / Sure I know my wings are fragile / Or I wouldn’t have asked you in the first place / Let’s steal a seaplane / We can make it on a half tank / I know symmetry’s a weakness / But I have to get this done for its sake / We really stuck it to him / Out cold on the half-couch / But a promise is a promise / And my brother took my hand and we headed out / Out to the carnival / The carnival / And it saved my soul / Let’s steal that seaplane / We can take the fight to the clouds / And it’ll all be softer when the water ushers us back to the ground / Oh, he couldn’t touch us / Our secret was a tank trap / We’d smelled the smells of the carnival / And nothing he could do could take it back / Out to the carnival / The carnival / And it saved my soul / This land is my land / This land is elastic / You can see it from the cockpit / You can see it from the cockpit
We recorded “The Auctioneer” at the end of May, making it the June tune. That doesn’t need to make sense, but I like keeping things like this straight. I was feeling a bit like a spectator when I wrote this; and that’s, I suppose, what this song is about to me. With any luck it’ll have some new-found meaning to you. If so, let me know.
Feet on a fence / Watching the town sway / Hands on my hips / I’m just an auctioneer / Heads to a beat / Simple little engine / Just pushing the air / How do they stay up straight / I try to run / I try to run / How does running in circles feel so out of control / Feet on the fence / Watching the town sway / Wind in my sails / I’m just the auctioneer / Calling out numbers / Calling out the numbers / I try to run / I try to run / To keep from falling down
"To Be Excused" was the May tune, and I’m really excited about this one. It’s got Biblical references, out of tune keys, a survivalist bent, and some really cool guitar from Adam.
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Noah built his arc before it rained / I keep my good boots by the door / I track tornadoes as they land / To see what the angels are aiming for / Noah built his arc before it rained / I keep my flashlight in the car / I have pills by my bed / But I’m not so unhinged anymore / I wait to be excused / Noah built is arc before it rained / I bury bullets in the yard / I stopped hearing from my boys / I may have pushed them a little hard / I wait to be excused / I lick my lips and wait for the rain / For the rivers to run over and we’ll all be excused / We’re up to our necks and we’ll all be excused
At this point, it doesn’t really matter where we’re starting. The plan for 2010 has gotten a little away from us me. The plan: record a song a month, with a video for the tune appearing sometime the following month. Well, we have done a song a month. Let me set that straight. That’s something. And now, I’m starting this little page to share what we’re doing and things we’ve done, in whatever order presents itself.
So, here goes. Thanks for sticking with Imaginary Johnny. Hope you enjoy the tunes I’m about to post.