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‘What Did I Do? – the annotated lyrics

November 9th, 2014 Comments off
Seeing how the whole concept of  Sonic Highways was to record songs inspired and shaped by the studio and city it was recorded in, I thought after each episode airs I’d try and piece together the meaning behind the lyrics.

“Some of the coolest, freakiest stuff comes out of this city.” – Dave Grohl

 

There you go again,
putting words into my mouth.
This one’s for you to know,
and for me to find out.
All that trouble, and you on about.
How you gonna know, til you hear it out loud.
Stop, ask myself what did I do?
what did I do to deserve you?
Go on, tell me now what did I do?
what did I do to deserve you?
I heard every word comin’ from the 13th floor. 

Roky Erickson’s psychedelic rock band The Thirteenth Floor Elevators.
Your song came along,
and I heard the voices telling me to save yourself,
I’ll behave yourself.
I stop, ask myself what did I do?
what can I do to preserve you?
Go on tell me now, what can I do?
What can I do to conserve you?
Your name, year of fame,
I could see the writing on the wall.
Come on, flip a coin, bet it’s going to tell you
The Big Boys guitarist Tim Key told how he and Chris Gates flipped a coin to see who would play bass in the band.
to save yourself, I’ll behave yourself.
Your man, channelin’, knowin’ by the x on his hand
Gary Clark Jr often found himself too young to drink in the bars he played at & in the US marking underage patrons with an X on their hand (to ensure no alcohol is sold to them) is common practice.
You raise, runaways singin’ at the gate,
to save yourself, I’ll behave yourself.
So here I go again,
putting words into your mouth.
This one’s for me to know,
and for you to find out.
All that trouble and I’m on about,
how you gonna know, til you hear it out loud.
All of your heroes, where are they now?
I’m lost, deliver me,
I crossed the river finally.
God as my witness,
yeah it’s gonna heal my soul tonight.
God as my witness,
yeah it’s gonna heal my soul tonight.
God as my witness,
yeah it’s gonna heal my soul tonight.
God as my witness,
yeah you gonna heal my soul tonight.
God as my witness,
yeah you gonna heal my soul tonight.

 

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‘Congregation’ – annotated lyrics

November 4th, 2014 Comments off
Seeing how the whole concept of  Sonic Highways was to record songs inspired and shaped by the studio and city it was recorded in, I thought after each episode airs I’d try and piece together the meaning behind the lyrics.

“That week in Nashville I felt like a fish out of water.  But in the most refreshing way.” – Dave Grohl

Well I met the seventh Son

Tony Joe White was the seventh child in his family.

He came for everyone
The day he heard the lightning in the field

TJW was the Son of a cotton farmer and knew he wanted to be a musician after hearing Lightnin’ Hopkins

I heard him clear his throat
A fork within the road

Tony ended up in Nashville by accident – he’d planned to drive to Memphis but had trouble on the highway.

That night the Tallahatchie took the wheel

After hearing Bobbie Gentry’s  ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ on the radio and relating to the songs subjects Tony Joe decided “If I ever write, it’ll be about something I know about”.

I’ve been throwing knives to see just where they land
Now my world is in your hands

Send in the congregation

Nashville & country music is synonyms with the church and gospel singing.

Open your eyes
Step in the light

While having difficulty working on the song’s arrangement  Dave said he glanced up, saw sunlight breaking through the studio’s arch window and immediately ‘got it’. “When that light hit me through that window I felt inspired”.

A jukebox generation
Just as you were

In the 50s & 60s in order to make money country stars needed to keep putting out singles to be played on jukeboxes.

A voice upon a stage
Is a heart inside a cage
Singing like a bluebird in the round

The Bluebird Cafe is a legendary Nashville venue where acts perform in the middle of the floor with the audience all around.

There’s mystery in this wood
And Ghosts within these roots
That are tangled deep beneath this southern ground

The track was recorded in Southern Ground Studios, a former church built in 1901 that used to be the home of Monument Records.

Ive been going through life making foolish plans
Now my world is in your hands

Send in the congregation
Open your eyes
Step in the light
A jukebox generation

Just as you were, alright
Just as you were
Just as you were, alright

And you need Blind faith
No false hope
Do you have blind faith?
No false hope
Where is your blind faith?
No false hope

An almost direct lift from producer Tony Brown’s thoughts regarding idealistic artists breaking away from Nashville’s strict formula for success:  “Don’t have false hope. Still have blind faith. You gotta have blind faith or why do you even give a shit?”

Open your eyes
Open your eyes
Step into the light

The sound becomes congregation
A congregation
A congregation

And they’re singing like a bluebird in the round

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‘The Feast & The Famine’ – annotated lyrics

October 24th, 2014 Comments off
Seeing how the whole concept of  Sonic Highways was to record songs inspired and shaped by the studio and city it was recorded in, I thought after each episode airs I’d try and piece together the meaning behind the lyrics.

“The experiences I had here set the foundations for the rest of my life as a musician.” – Dave Grohl

THE FEAST AND THE FAMINE

That night they were burning for truth
Down on the corner of 14th and U

The epicentre of violence for the 1968 Washington Riots but these days the centre of DC’s music scene – The Black Cat & 9:30 club are both nearby.

They took your soul and they took you for fools
Took all the windows from prisons and schools
Now what’s a poor man left to do?

One heart now broken in two
You start untying the hands of the youth

New kids hear the sound of the drumming
Mother Nature your Summer is coming
Yesterday and today
Revolution on its way

The Summer of 1985 was nicknamed ‘Revolution Summer‘ in Washington D.C – where activism and melody stripped punk of its machoism.

Amen
It was the feast and the famine

Crossroads with nothing to lose
Out of the basement and in to the news

Scream were from Bailey’s Crossroads & could this also be a reference to Foo Fighters recording There Is Nothing Left To Lose in Dave’s Virginia basement?

Come change, now shit getting heavy
Salvation at the ready

You look when I walked by
Still screaming ’til I die

Still Screaming is the title of the 1983 album by Scream on Dischord Records

You can’t find peace if you can’t find a home
You can’t survive as an island alone

Black heart with a gaping wound
Put back together by a troubled groove

Dave explains in the Sonic Highways episode that this is a reference to Trouble Funk.

Check yourself
Wreck your brains
Where is that P.M.A?

Positive Mental Attitude. As sung about by Bad Brains in their song Attitude.

Amen
It was the feast and the famine

Hey, where is the monument
to the dreams we forget?
We need a monument

The Washington Monument is in DC, as is the Lincoln Memorial which was the site of 1983 The Rock Against Reagan show that Dave attended.

And dreams will come
And change will come
Is there anybody there?
Anybody there?

Amen
It was the feast and the famine

Hey man, where is the monument
to the dreams we forget?
We need a monument
And change will come
And change will come
Is there anybody there?
Anybody there?

 

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‘Something From Nothing’ – the annotated lyrics

October 17th, 2014 Comments off

Seeing how the whole concept of  Sonic Highways was to record songs inspired and shaped by the studio and city it was recorded in, I thought after each episode airs I’d try and piece together the meaning behind the lyrics.

“The episode is basically about these people and how they all started with nothing. They were just inspired to follow their dreams.” – Dave Grohl

SOMETHING FROM NOTHING

The songs whole sentiment seems to be about carving your own path & rising to the top – from a broke and hungry Buddy Guy getting his break, to the young punks growing a scene in the face of hostility.

Give me the flammable light
I’m cold as a match
Ready to strike
So here I go

Here lies a city on fire
Singing along
The arsonist choir
Now here I go

It started with a spark
And burned into the dark
Now here I go

While 1871 saw the Great Fire of Chicago, these lines probably reference the fact Chicago’s first punk club La Mere Vipere closed  after less than a year thanks to a suspicious fire – the first of many clubs in the city to suffer such a fate.

There is a river I’ve found
Into the wild
Under the ground
So here I go

The Chicago River stretches for 156 miles throughout the city and runs adjacent to Electrical Audio where this song was recorded.

A button on a string
And I heard everything
Now here I go

Guitarist Buddy Guy made his first instrument from wires, nails and a screen door.  In the episode he talks about taking a button and string and getting a sound from it.

Oh sweet ignition be my fuse
You have no choice you have to choose
Bid farewell to yesterday
Say goodbye I’m on my way

But in the end we all
Come from what’s come before
So here I go

Oh sweet ignition be my fuse
You have no choice you have to choose
Bid farewell to yesterday
Say goodbye I’m on my way

I threw it all away because
I had to be what never was
Been so hungry I could lie
You took my word I took your wine

And held you in my bloody hands
These rattled bones and rubber bands

Rubber bands were another item used by Buddy Guy to make music.

Washed them in the muddy water

A nod to Blues legend Muddy Waters.

Looking for a dime and found a quarter

A direct quote from Buddy Guy’s interview in the episode.

But you can’t make me change my name
They’ll never make me change my name

Buddy talked about the record industry pressure to change his stage name.

Pay no mind now ain’t that’s something
Fuck it all I came from nothing

I’m something from nothing
You are my fuse

Rick Nielsen also talked about pressure to change names – his band The Grim Reapers were advised to change their name to Fuse.

I’m something from nothing
You are my fuse

It goes oh, oh, oh

All rise!

All Rise is the title of the 1985 album from Chicago’s post-hardcore band Naked Raygun – the band who played the first ever punk gig Dave Grohl attended at The Cubby Bear & it’s possible the line preceding is a reference to their song ‘Home Of The Brave’ and it’s chorus of  “oh, oh, oh, ohs”.

No you can’t make me change my name
You’ll never make me change my name
Pay no mind no wait that’s something
Fuck it all I came from nothing

I’m something
From nothing
I’m something
From nothing