When we started recording the 1st album, I just drew from the live repertoire of about 50 songs that I had been performing since early ‘76. There was no calculation or strategy involved, whether for the cover photo or the thematic content. This was simply a record of what I had lived through. I always found it strange that anybody would question for a minute whether this was real or made up. Why would anyone “make up “ anything so self-degrading? Creating all of this was the only form of survival I knew, and I saw these songs as my cleansing in the same way a blues singer sings of their troubles as an exorcism of sorts. How I wanted so badly for the pieces to scream out and be heard. That’s why the arrangements are so active and multi-layered, along with so many hues of color. What was shocking about this record was simply me being me...
Introduction: Barbie did such a terrific job on this, setting the audience up for a complete surprise. I’ll never forget when we were opening for Iggy Pop in 1979 in Detroit, and Barbie comes out in a 1950’s poodle skirt, waving to the audience and says, “Hi I’m Barbie.” Before she could say “C’mon right in,” she took an egg right in the face. It was the first of an egg farm through the entire set. We always stood up magnificently to the challenge under those circumstances. In those moments, performance was war.
Joan Fan Club: Some critics accurately perceived that Joan Fan Club was autobiographical by proxy. Yes, I experienced all of this, being pushed down the stairs in school, mocked, harassed, continually told I was soooo cute, called every name in the book. This one football jock once grabbed my tits in the locker room, saying, “Them are cute.” Yep. Joan was me.
Maybe One Time: This version was a little bit faster than the original recording from the August, 1976 demo tape. The mellotron strings add an airy kind of a cloud-like feel.
Obsessions Of You: I felt so obsessed by everything, especially by my romantic interests that never wanted me in return. In this piece, I tried to capture the ugly part of obsession—the selfish tunnel vision side of it all through the blaring synths and pounding drums. The flip side of the coin to obsession is the delusionally exalted side—the holy aura we tend to wrap around obsessing over someone. I hoped to represent that essence by the classical voice parts and the string sections. I shoved and crammed the nerve endings of all of those feelings into under 3 minutes.
We’ll See A Psychiatrist: In 6th grade, it had come to the point where all the kids in my class, plus kids from the school across the street were all trying to beat me up after school everyday. It was open season on the class freak. So I started ditching school and hiding in the family garage all day, just sitting there, staring into space. One morning my mother found me in the garage, and went hysterical - sobbing and crying about how weird I was and what a terrible son I was. She threw me in the car and forced me into school, wailing as if someone just stabbed her through the heart.
After school, when my parents came to pick me up, I thought, “Wow, they’re doing this to protect me from getting beat up and stabbed.” But when we got to our house, my dad just kept driving the car. I’m like, “Dad, where are we going?”
“We’re going to the doctor,” said my mom.
“Why? I’m not sick,” I replied.
“It’s just a check-up,” my mom said.
So we kept driving about an hour, and when we got to Chicago, I was really confused. My parents escorted me into this huge building. All of a sudden, I was in this office with a psychiatrist who started questioning me in a detached, clinical, completely non-emotional way. By this time, I was starting to get the picture. Then the shrink tells everything I said to him in confidence to my parents. How did I know? Because my mother blurted it all out a few days later. The lyric was simply the story, like a diary entry.
cherished my parents' relationship. They
really loved each other in a beautiful way and I thank them for showing
me that. When I composed the song,
I saw myself on the outside looking in, at the park, at the drive-in, watching
all the perfect couples that I felt I would never be a part of.
This recording has
more synthesizers, giving it a more industrial and metallic feel than the 1st
version of 1978.
Guardian Angel: After my father died, I started becoming aware of angels on a real level through his presence around me. I felt so comforted by his spirit. My Catholic upbringing may have planted the seed, but having contact with my dad in spirit really helped to blossom my awareness of the spirit world. To me it’s so utterly beautiful to know that there’s divine protection for everyone from the other side. I tried to place the context of the piece in a nighttime setting where someone might be afraid, and then show the spiritual comfort our angels provide us.
Disgracing The Family Name: Why Swanee River? Because I connected “the old folks at home” line of “Disgracing” with the same line in the old Stephen Foster classic. My song was Americana turned upside down. I hoped to trip up the listener and grab them right off with the “Swanee River” bit, then startle them quickly with the band entrance. I wanted people to think I was Lawrence Welk - just for a moment.
Liberation Here: Like
the pain of a blues song, the sexual demons were real - I sometimes felt
embarrassed and ashamed even performing this song.
Take It Out On You: I wanted so badly to have the final revenge and get even—get even with a world that had attacked me and violated the essence of my very being everyday of my life.