This is actually tape that I found from a gig we did years ago of Tom introducing the The John Galt Song. The John Galt Song is one of the oldest D&T songs (and one of my all time favorites) that Tom wrote about what was perhaps his favorite fictional character from the Ayn Rand novel, Atlas Shrugged. Tom and I briefly discussed recording this song for our new album, but he first wanted to rewrite the lyrics. And since he never got around to it, I scratched that song off of the album list. But his introduction was a perfect way to introduce this album because the words he used not only pertained to John Galt, but also himself.
The War Against Mental Atrophy
This is actually a recording of Tom that he gave me to work on. So you are actually hearing Toms playing on this track. This is one of the songwriting methods that we relied on in our later songwriting days. When we didnt have time to get together on weekends to write, we would resort to sending each other recordings of song ideas so that we could develop them at the next band practice. Misunderstanding a Little Less Completely is the song that resulted from this very recording. I think this piece rightfully precedes Misunderstanding. As a matter of fact, when I hear it, I think of it as one song. Tom and I originally talked about creating a concept album from the themes and moods presented in these pieces.
Tom gave this piece the working title,The Indivisible Man. And in hindsight, I should have used that title out of respect. But I chose to title it The War Against Mental Atrophy for personal reasons. This was actually a title that I suggested for the last CD title (theenigmathatisman) that Tom really liked. And although we both liked the idea this title conveys, we decided that perhaps the words were trying to hard and would better suit a song. On top of that, Tom had suggested the title, Becoming which I liked much better. As a matter of fact, we had agreed that the title of the last album would be Becoming right up until we received the final artwork from our artist. As we looked at the painting, Tom suggested that the song title The Enigma That is Man would work better with this painting. So we went with that. I still think Becoming is a better album title, but it would not have worked with that art. If I would have thought of it in time, I would have titled this CD Becoming.
The most personal reason I went with the title The War Against Mental Atrophy is actually a little hard to write about. One of the reoccurring memories I have of Tom is of him playing this piece after recovering from his first stroke, just weeks before his life ended. I remember going to the house not long after he was released from the hospital to hang out and spend time with a friend. At this point, Tom had not regained his mechanics fully, although he was so much further along than the doctors had ever anticipated. He seemed to be in a childlike playful mood and he picked up his bass for the purpose of showing me that he could play. And this was the piece he played. He struggled with it immensely, both mentally and physically, but it never looked and sounded so beautiful to me. I felt like a proud father. I was sad, but proud. And as I watched him, I couldnt help but recall this song title. I believe this was the last time that I saw Tom play bass.
Misunderstanding A Little Less Completely
I stole this title from a line that C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, A Grief Observed regarding his dealing with the death of his wife. Thats the only tie that this song actually has with that book, but I thought Id give credit where credit is due. I was just in love with what that line says. In writing about his grief, C.S. Lewis seemed to pen these words as if to say, I may not have surety or complete understanding, but upon reflecting on my grief, Im no longer entirely confused.
So I adopted this concept as I started to write about ones understanding of life and death. Tom and I obviously had opposing philosophical views. And we sometimes communicated our beliefs in our lyrics. Sometimes our lyrics would be followed by great discussion and playful jabs. But I missed out on the conversation around this song. Half of these lyrics were penned after Toms death. And I think that fact added to the depth of these lyrics and song title. It ended up having more meaning than intended. Actually, thats true of a lot of the lyrics that I wrote for this album. And although only a few lines are directly stemmed from my friendship with Tom and my time of mourning, they all seem to point to him or my friendship with him directly. As for this song as a whole, I love this song. Its classic Tom. The arrangement is so Tom. Im also attached to this song because its the first time that I would have the chance to write lyrics and sing over a song that was mainly written by Tom. I do share writing credits with Tom on this song, but this song carries out the musical themes he created; I only helped develop and arrange them. But singing over this song was a treat for me. Over time, we began to realize that Toms vocal ability and stamina were diminishing and that I would be assuming more and more of the lead vocal responsibilities. Which was when I started looking for a lead singer!
When I brought this song to the guys, I was not sure what their reaction would be to it. It was so simple. Not much flare. Not many chord changes. No odd meter. No blind sides
.you get it. And this is the first thing I brought to the band while we were finalizing the ideas for Misunderstanding. So coming from a song like that to a song like Revolver was a stretch. But to my surprise, it was an easy sell. The guys seem to love it right away, and I think it shows. For the very reasons I wondered if this was the right material for D&T, Tom seemed to appreciate it. This band has always been an everythings welcome band. But not everything sticks. But this song seemed to be just what we needed at the time. The challenge we took on as a band was to keep it simple, yet compelling and beautiful. How do we make this song interesting without completing turning left in the middle of it? How do we keep interest in a song that follows a verse/chorus/verse pattern? How do we not ruin this song? How do we make a song like this fit into our set of crazy songs on a heavy metal night in a club?
. Who cares? But this is what got us going. Lets work on it because we think its a nice song.
I thought Toms bass lines were beautiful on this song. But they didnt come easily. I remember Tom struggling to come up with a bass line for this song. For a long while at first, I didnt understand what he was going for. And I must admit, that (unlike 99% of the time) I wasnt in love with what his spontaneous bass lines for it was (and neither was he). He would sometimes get frustrated with this song. I wanted him to not over think it. It took several months, but he finally found what he was looking for. And I think George Radai did a great job on the album of interpreting Toms ideas. And Matt Brown was not only great on the keys at capturing a great mood, his vocals were convincing. Not always easy to do when youre singing someone elses words.
The Suffer Ring
This was my attempt at writing a song with only two small parts involved that went back and forth. The second half of this song (after the break) was my attempt at doing so. But we ended up throwing in the riff as an intro because I didnt know where else to take that riff. These two parts (compositionally) really have nothing to do with each other. If time allowed, these would have become two separate songs.
Ill never forget Toms comment to me upon hearing this piece. Thank you Tom.
I always identified Toms person with this piece. Its a clever little bass and drum arrangement that I remember associating with Toms personality ever since we met. This was recorded on KXLU college radio with then drummer, Don Medina.
Again, this is D&T trying not to ever copy themselves and be fresh. We felt that we had written a great ballad (if you will) for the first time in Revolver in a D&T way. So why not TAX a blues song? At least that was my thinking. Tom seemed to appreciate this approach.
This song was meant to have vocals and was originally titled Blood Red Blues. As was my habit not to complete lyrics until the very last second, two weeks prior to the recording of this song and struggling to come up with lyrics I was happy with, I decided to make it an instrumental. And in place of words, I would have musicians come in and solo where the lyrics would have otherwise gone. And with two weeks notice, who better to call on than the greatest improvers I know
A quick note on Bag: Theory
..These guys are an improv band that started out years ago as Paper Bag (you can read more about them at www.paperbagtheory.com ). Tom was often a contributing member of this band. Anyway, I called the Bag guys up a couple of days before I was going into the studio and asked if they would contribute. And this is what I got! And this is the story behind the title of the song. I simply merged our band names together. Nothing more.
As for the spoken word at the end of this song, this was tracked by the gracious poet and long time friend of Toms, Dave McIntyre. But hes not the author of these words. The words were actually written by Tom years ago for an unfinished Death & Taxe$ song called A Little Knife Music. I thought they worked well here.
It Is Now Becoming Fantastic
Again, I stole this line. I actually read it in Trey Gunns on-line diary regarding a King Crimson rehearsal. And I thought, what a great song title!
And what a great chance this would be for me to write about something happy and non-miserable, for a change.
But this song seems to be a sort of double edged sword for me. This would be the last song ever written with Tom. As a matter of fact, we settled on an official arrangement of this song on our very last practice. And we were so happy with it. For me, it was great because I thought it hinted strongly at a fresh direction we might be taking musically. And it had a lot of enthusiasm within the song. And it excited me to see Tom excited about this song. Up until that point in the writing process for this album, Toms contributions (compositionally) had been very slight. Mainly due to his struggling with his condition and battling fatigue and headaches. But while this song was being arranged, he seemed, for a moment, to be enthused about everything. And soon started to bring ideas to the table. So once again, for me, this song had such life and things were actually getting Fantastic. And I remember being so happy about finishing this song that I couldnt wait until the next rehearsal to play it again. Unfortunately, that would never happen. On the night of our next rehearsal day, I got a call from his wife saying that Tom just wasnt feeling well enough to practice. And later, I received a call much more devastating.
First of all, like an idiot, I forgot to credit Tom with songwriting credit on the CD. But he and I share 50/50 credit on this one. This song was actually written during the theenigmathatisman recording sessions while Don Medina was sitting in during the time we were looking for a permanent drummer to replace Mark Hanson. This is why I invited Don to record the drum tracks for this song. We were so happy with the song at the time (perhaps me more so than Tom) that I wanted this to be the opening track of theenigmathatisman CD. But we didnt want to postpone the CD anymore than it already had been, nor did we want the CD to be any longer. And at that point, Tom was still working on the lyrics. So we decided to wait. Later on, the song was completed with Tom singing lead vocal. It was titled Phrygians Riff. But after playing it a couple of times, he decided that he wanted to re-approach the song lyrically. He was having difficulty singing his original melody line for the song because of the headaches and tension that were increasing. And he mentioned that he was thinking of changing the title to Famous Strangeness. Well, we never heard or saw the lyrics that Tom had in mind for this re-working, but I remembered the name he gave it. So I called upon John Stack and asked him to work with this title. And the recording on the CD is what he came up with. And now Im glad we waited to put this song on CD. Killer riffs are now complemented with killer vocals.
Terrifying Anticipations of the Unspeakable
This is an improv that we recorded on a rehearsal night sometime around August before Tom passed away. We used to rehearse on scaled down equipment in Toms room in his Encino house. Dean would play my old beat up Pearl export drum set with heads over 10 years old; I would play through half of a marshall stack; and Tom would play his regular gear. All this in a room about 12 x 10. Not much wiggle room. But I sometimes found room to set up a single mic to record rehearsals.
Anyway, this improv has Tom playing both his bass pedals and his bass; and of course me and Dean playing our usual. I decided to loop the bell tolls throughout the song for dramatic effect. You AC/DC fans should recognize where I stole those tolls from!
And lastly we asked poet and friend, Dave McIntyre to write a poem to go over it to end the album. I thought it was an effective way to end the album. Tom was a true fan of the improvised method. And it was a great source that D&T used for songwriting. It was such an important part of the band that, starting with theenigmathatisman CD, we always wanted to include an improv piece on our CDs.
I chose this title for this piece because I remember how chilling and exhilarating the feeling I had as we were playing it. And I wanted the title to reflect that. Im often drawn to haunting music. And ever since I saw the movie Amadeus for the first time, I remember thinking how weird (or cool) it was that Amadeus (as legend has it) may have unknowingly been paid to compose music for a funeral, that not only may have been partially responsible for hastening his death, but would ultimately be used for his own funeral. This was an immediate sad thought that crossed my mind as we sat there playing this. Ill leave it at that.
Let There Be Light
This is Me and Tom on a Saturday getting together to write as we used to years ago with the tape rolling. This was not long after I joined the band. Me on guitar, and Tom on his first Chapman Stick. This was originally the intro to the song The Enigma That is Man when he played that song on his Stick. It was dropped when Tom decided to use bass on that song. But I thought it was important to have Toms Stick playing on this CD sense he was such a fan of the instrument. And not to mention, a delightful way to end the album.