Soft Light: A Disco Riff on TS Eliot

Back in high school, I had a teacher named Joe Griffin who turned me on to TS Eliot. I think we spent the first semester of my senior year reading Murder in the Cathedral. It’s a play in which a bishop knows he’s going to get murdered by a king but does nothing to save himself because he has principles (or something along those lines). And though the temptation to write a song based on that one was exceedingly difficult to resist, I decided to go with another classic, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Of course, I’m not the first person to write a song that riffs on “Prufrock.” Crash Test Dummies had a hit in the nineties with “Afternoons & Coffeespoons.” It’s from the part of the poem where the narrator, J. Alfred Prufrock, muses, “For I have known them all already, known them all:/Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,/I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

Prufrock, as you may recall, is a bit of a sad sack. He stands in a corner like a wallflower through the entire poem, trying and failing to muster the courage to ask a woman to meet him for a cup of tea sometime. My version of the story has the woman noticing him and taking charge of the situation despite his thinning hair. If you want to know why, you’ll have to listen to the song, but here’s a hint: it’s all about lighting.

New Song…

I’m putting the finishing touches on a new song. This one is a disco version of TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” (More on that in a later post!) It’s also influenced by Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” I’m hoping to have the song ready to go sometime this week. In the meantime, here are the two songs that influenced my latest efforts…

Track-by-Track: “Blood Flows Silver”

There was a week in the summer of 2015 when I recorded a number* of backing tracks with the intention of eventually writing and recording lyrics for those tracks. Of course, that was towards the end of the summer, and when a new school year started, those plans had to go on hold.  I called the collection Progressions, and I think the title of this track was “Progression 04” (though it could have been “Progression 09”).

In any case, I put the tracks on my iPod, and every now and then I’d hear one while I was driving to work. This one always got stuck in my head whenever I heard it, and at one point I wrote in my journal that a video for that track would depict a lonely robot rolling around a park trying to make friends. In an odd way, I suppose that’s what’s going on throughout Thank You for Holding, though instead of rolling around a park, the robot is trying to chat up someone who most likely died centuries ago…

The song’s lyrics, though, take a slightly different tack. In some ways, I think of “Blood Flows Silver” as a kind of sequel to “Johnny’s Secret Army” from my Garden Variety EP — but this time around, the army has fallen on some hard times. Like anyone who might have survived whatever imaginary apocalypse rocked my lonely robot’s world, they’re still plugging along and trying to survive, but their numbers are shrinking. I’m also guessing that they’re cyborgs of some kind, which might explain why their blood flows silver.

One of the lyrics I was a little worried about was, “We dream of gods returning/Fiddle while Rome is burning.” My concern was that the allusion to Rome burning (while Nero fiddles) in the second line would leave people wondering what I was talking about, but the same week the album came out, Stephen Colbert used this Tweet as the punchline of a joke on The Tonight Show:Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 2.13.44 PM

So maybe it wasn’t too obscure a reference after all!

Blood Flows Silver

We play this game like no one else does.
We’ve played so long it’s hard to say if
We play the game or the game plays us,
Or even if there’s still a game to play.
We dream of gods returning,
Fiddle while Rome is burning.
The blood flows silver in our veins.

We take the road where the road takes us.
We drift like shadows on the wall.
We live the dream til morning wakes us.
We tell ourselves we’ll never fall.
We chase our favorite vices
With tea and cakes an ices.**
The blood flows silver in our veins.

They hit us hard we hit them harder.
We fight with nothing left to lose.
Each time we chalk up a new martyr,
We shake it off with pills and booze.
We take our daily doses
To ward off our psychoses.
The blood runs silver in our veins.

*That number was twelve.

**Another potentially obscure allusion. Apologies to TS Eliot.