new war songs collection, notes.

new war songs  This one was created from scratch specifically to be an introduction to this collection of anti-war songs; literally "needed a song" to pull the collection together for the audience.  Songs often can be interpreted in more than one way; and sometimes songs are written that way on purpose.  This song could be solely about how hard it is to be a soldier.  Period.  It could also be about how our world needs more peace advocates and more songs about peace on the airwaves.  If you disregard all the war images I've included, the song could simply be about crazy relationships, a theme revisited several times in the collection.  The phrase "new age pilgrim" was stolen from a book of the same title, written by a friend of my uncle Lee's, given to me as a present when I was about thirteen. 

jihad  This one is meant to convey deep respect for the soldiers, regardless of the religion, or nation, for which they fight.  I've always loved the study of comparative religion, and this song goes way back to my freshman year in college, that's where I wrote the main verse to this one, as part of a song called "Two Worlds" -- the descriptions of individuals preparing for battle were written more recently.  I first heard of the term "jihad" or "holy war" back in the eighties when Reagan was president -- a group calling themselves the Islamic Jihad who were making news for themselves in Lebanon, where suicide bombers blew up an american army barracks.  It wasn't until around 2001 that I first starting hearing an interpretation of the term in connection with the inner spiritual battle that everyone fights, not just militant extremists -- which is why I changed the title.


fear (in the name of security)  This is the second version of this one, the original was written in 1992 in response to the first Gulf War; it was shorter than the present version but was broader in scope.  The initial idea was a study of how fear can shape beliefs and behavior in general, not just political behavior, and the many ways in which we unwittingly terrorize one another, be we parents terrorizing kids, children terrorizing each other, or what have you. The present version is more along the lines of "Seig Hail", a song that didn't make the cut for this collection written in the eighties to accompany a short play I wrote about a state run news organization in Nazi Germany. 

plume de terre  Literally translated "apple of the earth" in French means potato.  This one was written in the late 90s, envisioned to be predominantly an instrumental piece, with the lyrics sung in a similar style to that of the song called "Fingers" by They Might Be Giants.  The line "I'm going to get me mine" is a direct quote of one of my former clients who was very upset and kept yelling this over and over and over, but he wasn't talking about potatoes.  I titled the song "apple of the earth" secondary to the biblical connotation for apple.  Though perhaps mine is more abstract, the lyrical content of this one I liken to "I Me Mine", by George Harrison of the Beatles.  Someone suggested recently that the song could have been about the Ireland potato revolt.  I didn't think of that, but it could be about that too I'm sure.

puppet factory
  Yes, the title of Metallica's "Master of Puppets" was in mind when I came up with the title of this one -- but the content of the song is original of course.  The line about "exchanging money on the side" came about in reference to "the compromise" with Turkey the Bush administration was considering in preparation for war with Iraq in 2003 -- paying Turkey to allow us to station our troops there while we prepared for war.  Yes, not everyone is going to buy into my perspective on the contemporary role corporations play in our empire building, but hey, its my song, I can say what I want.


peace on earth today  Originally there was a chorus to this one -- but the chorus ended up sounding a little too much like the one in "Peace On Earth" by U2; it wasn't a very good chorus anyway, so I left it out of the final version.  I wrote this song over the course of about four months, and as I hint in my comments for "propagate peace" below, the earlier version of this song had a longer ending -- one which I eventually decided could stand on its own as an independent work.

propagate peace  This is one of my favorites because its short and simple!  The part about "open hearts, minds, and doors", is from a United Methodist Church commercial getting a lot of air time when I was writing the lyrics for "peace on earth today".  This one was initially part of that song, the ending of it in fact, but I felt like it could pretty well stand on its own.  My dad is an elder in the Methodist Church, and currently is pastor of a small church in Croswell Michigan -- I probably wrote this song mostly for him. 

war machine I had the title in mind for some time, but it took me awhile to finally decide what direction to take it in.  The lines about "government ox" and soldiers being "sent home in a box" was taken from a song called "temperatures steaming" that I wrote in the mid eighties; the rest of the material in this one is entirely new content.  The part I like the most is the list of killing machines -- I did that by brainstorming a list, then spending several days arranging the list to make it rhyme -- I used that same mechanism for the song "192".

join the campaign (parts 1-3)  Part 2 is nearly identical to the original version I wrote in 1987.  Parts 1 and 3 are complete revisions. The most significant change to part 2 was to try to create less of an anti-American or nationalistic sentiment, by altering all the sarcastic lines in the original version that had "now I know what it takes to be an American" to "now I know what it takes to be a grown man".  Parts 2-3 of the song still rely heavily on sarcasm, of course.  That picture of Goofy interviewing the President always cracks me up.  That picture in Part 3 where the lady is holding a sign that reads "take the red pill: wake up" -- thats a reference to The Matrix, in case you didn't know.

fairy tale  This one was pretty much finished in the 1980's, but a couple verses were completely rewritten when I was preparing this compilation.  The part of the mother turning off the TV was there in the original version but was expanded by a couple verses and word changes here and there to bring the whole thing closer to my original idea.

collateral damage  The original title was "Timothy Says", which is pretty telling in that the original melody I had in mind was the Velvet Underground's "Stephanie says".  It was quite awhile before I came up with an un-pirated melody to support the lyrics.  During one of his interviews McVeigh used the term "collateral damage" referring to the school children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing; a statement which outraged many of the surviving victims of his attack.  That's where the current title for this one comes from -- but of course my reference is much broader, to include a lot of other areas of devastation as well.  The verse about a father still loving his son, is a reference to Tim's father whom as apologist visited and prayed with many of the surviving victims of the bombing.  I was in Scotland when I read that Timothy McVeigh had been executed; there was a small column about it in the paper supplied by the hotel where I was staying.  I remember experiencing the sadness I feel whenever I hear someone has been executed.  The tone of the song I think derives mostly from that feeling.

brave new world  The first two of those verses about being "taught to" do various things are from a song I wrote in the eighties titled "words of freedom (in our history books)".  The rest of the song is entirely new content (late 2002 to 2003) and was greatly influenced by the book and the recent made-for-TV movie of the same title.

citizens without borders  "Brothers without borders" was the original title, written when I was in high school.  It won a peer award and was published in our high school's literary magazine.  Though not my favorite, seems like it is the single most remembered work of mine from those days -- had a stranger come up to me in college who could recite parts of it from memory; which was an embarrassing moment for me b/c I never thought of this one as being very good.  I added a couple lines and changed some words here and there in preparation for the release of this collection b/c some of those same feelings were still lingering.  I like it better now.

just another war song  In the present collection this song serves as a reprise for the song "new war songs".  Over the years I've had reservations about this one being too anti-military, and the result has been to severely  re-write it several times.  Was never really happy with how the re-writes turned out though, so what you're seeing is pretty close to the original version I wrote in the eighties.  The reference to 43 rd command is entirely made-up.  The reference to Lebanon is about the first "modern" middle eastern terrorist attack on the U.S. that I can recall.  A group referring to itself as the Islamic Jihad used a suicide bomber to drive into and subsequently blow up a military barracks we had there.  Killed several hundred military personnel I think.  The original version of this one was written within a year of that attack, when I was about fifteen.  "Be all that you can be" was the catch phrase of the military recruitment commercials when I was growing up -- since they don't really use that saying anymore, those parts of this song might not make sense to people younger than myself.  I've put the lines "be an army of one" in the final verses of the song in attempt to reference more recent recruitment commercials.

corporate colonization  "Freedom of the press belongs to the man that owns one" is a quote that one of my best friends from high school passed along to me -- he was living on this commune in college and we'd have these great conversations about all kinds of things when I visited.  I started writing the words to this one on one of those trips.  The idea about putting logos on our forehead comes from a real advertising campaign I came across for the Guardian -- a British newspaper that asked people to take a picture of themselves with the Guardian logo on their forehead in exchange for a possible prize.   I completed this song around the same time that I was writing "puppet factory", which is why there are similarities in their themes -- I was doing a lot of research into WTO protests at the time.  I love the picture of the baby with the television eyes -- most of the still images used for this one are compliments of adbusters, with the exception of the "boob tube" image (also a favorite), which I found in the french daily, Le Monde.

terrorist (parts 1-3)  This one was written very deliberately following the events of September 11th.  The reason there are three parts to this song is mainly because I couldn't figure out  how to arrange the material any other way, and I didn't want to cut anything out.  The phrase "anger is a lock pick" I read in an internet chat room concerning the 9/11 attacks.  The line "there's no such thing as a winnable war" was used by Sting in his song "Russians", one of my favorite anti-war songs from the last years of the cold war era; he rhymed it with "[...winnable war] is a lie we don't believe anymore".

green fields forever  I love that picture of the soldier with the cat.  The mood the photos create together in this one is right on target.  I wrote another one like this several years later which I just flat out called "promiseland" (not included in this collection).  The reference to green fields also shows up in "plume de terre", which I wrote much later.  I guess I could call these my three Moses' songs.  There's a serious problem with "green fields" in that I wrote it to the tune of "Bullet The Blue Sky" by U2 -- not on purpose, I just really loved that song when it came out, and so it was in my head when I wrote this one.  Anyway, I have never found a replacement that I like as much, so it remains without a soundtrack at the moment.

the lunatics in our shoes  I started this one in the early years of college, but it remained in fragment form for quite awhile before I realized that all I really had was a good title -- the rest of the song was just filler.  So I set it aside and basically forgot about it.  In retrospect I realize that I wrote a song called "lab animals" my junior year in college that had a similar theme, but was more Eleanor-Rigby-like in mechanism, creating portraits of several different people.  It wasn't until many years after college that the details really started to come together into anything like it is today.  I still  consider it subject to significant revision -- I'm not happy with it yet, but I think its one of those that potentially could turn out pretty good.

love conquers all  This one came together pretty fast.  The original version was just the first three verses.  The part about love coming down from heaven was inspired from the movie Philadelphia where Tom Hanks is interpreting a scene from an opera he's listening to -- one of my favorite parts of that movie.

the"some are one" song  The line about keeping hope alive was triggered by Jessie Jackson's presidential campaign that was going on at the time that I wrote the first version of this one.  Had a couple different names early on, including "some smell roses".  Wrote the original version very quickly my freshman year in college, most recently revised it in the spring of 2003.

only a dream  I wrote this one in high school to accompany a short story I wrote called "Just trying to help you".  The story was 20 pages long, won an award just for its length I think.  It was about a guy in a military sanitarium and the future Vietnam-style war in Nicaragua that put him there.  The story was inspired by the Iran-Contra affair that was just beginning to become public at the time.  So in a way it could be dedicated to people who are severely injured or killed in military operations that are never made public.

what's the music for?  This one is a revision, based on an old one that I originally wrote in the eighties. The music to the first version, in retrospect, was very heavily influenced by the track "South Hampton Dock", off Pink Floyd's Final Cut, of which I was listening to a lot in those days.  The themes are very similar as well.  The revision more than doubles the content of the original I wrote -- the first and last verses remain essentially unchanged.  Here's one of the pictures I didn't use:

192 (these are our nations)  From the start the idea was to include a complete list of all the nations -- but I had no idea how many nations there are in the world, and found it very difficult to find a source, other than the United Nations, that would provide an answer.  So I ended up taking the number recognized by the United Nations, which is one hundred and ninety-one.  The reason why the name of the song is 192 is because I added Palestine.  Once I had the list, I just kept rearranging the names until I could get them to rhyme.  And yes, I completely stole the line in the song about  "terror is our common enemy" from the sign that little boy is holding in the first picture.  The chorus came together pretty fast.  The picture of the Norman Rockwell looking mosaic was taken by my mother when we were visting the U.N.; the mosaic is in the hallway just outside the General Assembly. 

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