Cadillacs & Tarantulas – Song Notes
Diatribe – When I lived in Harrisburg, there was a Chinese restaurant near my apartment. One day I decided to go there for lunch by myself. A family was sitting at the table next to me, and I overheard some of their conversation. They had obviously come from church, and they were reflecting on the sermon that day. I don’t know what bothered me so much about their talk, but from an outsider’s perspective, they just seemed to be going through the motions.
Jack Smack – This song originally appeared on my MINDSPEAK VII collection back in 1993. It was written during a period when I was going out on my own more, enjoying the freedoms of a driver’s license. At the time it was written, I admittedly identified with Jack’s character, and some of what I wrote reflected how I felt about relationships at the time. These days, I appreciate the song more from a third-person perspective, and when I was looking for songs for this CD, Jack Smack seemed to fit in with the other characters. Ironically, while driving home from practice one night, I saw those red and blue lights again and got a speeding ticket.
She’s Done Enough – This song is a good example of my delayed writing habits. I’m finding that I tend to writing about things as much as two years after they’ve happened. For many reasons, “She’s Done Enough” was difficult to write. Finding a way to be compassionate toward an ex-lover without pissing off your wife isn’t easy. I liked the emotional impact of the chorus, and the mood set by the music, but it took me a long time to find the right combination of words for the verses.
8-track Underground came quickly and became an easy way to lighten up some of the darker aspects of “Cadillacs & Tarantulas.” I really do have a small collection of 8-track tapes, and two 8-track players.
Put The Face On – With PTFO I was seeking to compare and contrast the life of a prostitute and a teen pop diva. I drew from my readings of Janis Ian and my viewing of Britney Spears. I saw a link between the type of posturing and prostituting that goes on in the music business and it’s even more violent sexual equivalent. In my own travels I had watched as local female sing-songwriters were gobbled up and spit out. The majority of them lacked vision, and they were simply the puppets of other people who were trying to cash in on the recent craze.
Dream Girl – The character in “Dream Girl” is related to the character in “Put that Face On”, but more from a die-hard fan’s perspective.
Arjuna Blues was inspired by both the Mahabarata and the Bhagavad Gita. After reading the Bhagavad Gita, I was struck by the power of Krishna’s message. During the same time period, I was listening to a lot of acoustic blues music. I wondered what it would be like if Krishna had a guitar instead of a flute. I wanted to put some of his message into the blues idiom, contrasting nicely with the bold Hindu concepts. This type of songwriting approach can be attributed to my love of shows like “Iron Chef”, where cuisines from many countries are combined.
Spider – Every few years, I feel the need to write a pseudo-fairy-tale song. The crop out of my mind late at night, and I can’t always claim responsibility for their meaning. They usually start with free-verse brainstorming, but this one required a bit of research. The obvious tie-in with the album title was unintentional. As part of my lyric writing process, I researched tarantulas, consulted my J.R.R.Tolkien books, and observed some real life spiders over the course of the summer. Soon before Halloween 2001, I found The Book of the Spider by Paul Hillyard at the local library. Paul’s book was just what I needed to round out my research and develop the rest of the song.As all the pieces came together, the song turned into a full-blown sci-fi/horror story that required characterization and dialog. As the story unfolded, I found myself noticing spiders everywhere. When I moved into a house built in the late 1800s, I noticed even more spiders. Soon I had begun to identify with the character in the song even more.The guitar part, in DADGAD tuning, was not interesting enough for an extended version. In the future I’d like to do a larger production.
The Gravedigger was a direct result of a character exercise derived from two books: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field and The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein. The character of Jacob Corby came to life quickly and vividly, but his story took a little longer to unfold. I didn’t want to make him just another dumb guy with hard times. I also wanted to subtly reflect some Buddhist ideas of suffering.Toward the end of the writing process, my friend Jim asked me to supply a song for a Dungeons & Dragons module he was playing. His description of the characters in the game brought to mind Jacob Corby, so we modified the words to “Gravedigger”, and came up with a totally new story. The new song would be used in the game to provide hints for the characters about the adventure they were on.
I’m Goin’ Down was written on my dad’s cheap hand-made electric guitar during a visit to Hazleton. The guitar was unplugged and had poor intonation. The original version of the guitar riff was much more funky, but when I got back home and played the riff on a good instrument, the vibe wasn’t the same because my guitars were in tune. Not having a tuning reference, all I could come up with was an approximation of the first moment. The lyrics, except for the bridge, came all at once. The bridge lyrics came later when I was driving home from practice. The rather dark humor of this song coming after Gravedigger may be missed my some.The bass drum sound is actually a stomp box that I made out of a cardboard box.