Monday, 20 July 2015

#59. Jimmy Carter Flies Over Yonder – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass
Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: saxophone
Brendan Hoffmann: vocals, guitar
Matt Neal: vocals, guitar

Lyrics by Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Music by Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson, Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal.
Written 2002?
Recorded at the Barker residence, October 2-10, 2003.
Produced by 21st Century Ox.
Recorded and mixed by Harry Fahey. 
Additional engineering by Dave Wilson.
Additional recording and mixing by Matt Neal and Brendan Hoffmann at Foster Street, Warrnambool, and Hoffa’s House, Warrnambool.



Most people have a place in their past where they would regularly gather to drink and hang out, back when drinking and hanging out was still a novel thing to do. For me, that place was The Love Shed.

 It's looks so inviting. That's Dion and Regan Barker, 
enjoying The Love Shed ambience. PIC: Brendan Hoffmann.

Shortly before my 19th birthday, I moved into a house in Warrnambool with fellow 21st Century Ox guitarist Brendan Hoffmann and his girlfriend at the time. I slept on a mattress on the floor in the spare room and in between working at 6am most mornings at the Target warehouse, I hung out and got drunk in the haze of The Love Shed, which was the rather ironically sweet name we gave to the double garage.

Dion and Hoffa jamming on a summer's night in The Love Shed. PIC: Matt Neal.

In The Love Shed we would jam occasionally, write disturbingly profane radio plays for our radio show on 3WAY FM, play hackysack, create murals, and throw the kind of parties that would occasionally lead the cops to throw open the rollerdoors dramatically from time to time.

The murals, which we made every visitor contribute to. PICS: Matt Neal.

It was a grungy, smelly, cold garage, with nothing much in it except for a few couches and a CD player, but it was home. Every night of the week – every single fucking night – there would be people hanging out, drinking and smoking in The Love Shed, listening to Pink Floyd, Primus, Tool, or something of that ilk.

Regan, Hoffa and Lee Ronald, probably on a Monday night. PIC: Matt Neal. 

The reason I bring this up is because this song was written in The Love Shed, and for that reason this song is irrevocably linked to that place. I wrote quite a few songs while living there with Hoffa (including The Canadian Song, Hackysack and Cliched), but this was one of the songs we wrote together.

Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey.

Why Jimmy Carter? I’m not entirely sure why the 39th president of the United States became the subject of this song, but I think it had something to do with Hunter S Thompson. During The Love Shed days, Hunter was an obsession of mine (and part of the reason I have the nickname The Doctor) as well as a few of the other Love Shed regulars. One of his books – The Great Shark Hunt – got passed around a bit at that time, and I believe the sections in it regarding Jimmy Carter got talked. At least, that’s the only plausible reason I can come up for us writing this absurd song that re-imagines Carter as some kind of superhero.

Aside from what we’d read in The Great Shark Hunt, Hoffa and I knew nothing about Jimmy Carter, but we cobbled together this bizarre faux campaign song. It’s one of the better tunes we wrote, I think – it’s a decidedly Ween-ish piece of delirously demented pop.

Why use a real photo of Jimmy Carter when you can use The Simpsons?

I like the way our vocals work together, but I particularly like the interlocking rhythms of our guitar lines. Hoffa also came up with the bass line, which adds another varied rhythm to the mix.

I didn’t realise there was a proper recording of this song until I was digging through old files in preparation for this blog, but I was glad to stumble upon this version which was tracked during the hazily remembered and probably best forgotten epoch known as Dion’s Week Of Debauchery. I could recall how the song went, but I didn’t recall the layered sax sections so tastefully placed by Ox’s resident sax-man Matt Hewson.

Hewy, rockin' the long hair and the sax with Ox.

“This was one of my favourites, although listening back, the sax lines aren't so good,” the ever-humble Hewy said.

“They seem to clutter up the tune a bit, although the lines at the end are ok. The ending sounds great, but in the chorus I kinda think the horns interfere a bit. Maybe it's just me. But it's a sweet tune - I'm obviously focused on the horns.”

Personally I think the horn arrangement helps make this song. Rediscovering this recording was one of the real treats in putting this blog together. In fact, I only recorded my vocal parts for it last year - more than a decade after all the other bits were recorded. Not sure why my parts were never done, but it was nice to finally finish it off.

As a further point of reference, this is what I looked like 
when I co-wrote the damned thing.


This kind of poly-rhythmic alt-pop, where everyone had their little job to do that locked together to make a greater whole, seemed to be the direction Ox was heading in at the time of Dion’s Week Of Debauchery. Sadly it was to be something of a last hurrah for the band, and we slowly drifted apart after that without ever properly breaking up, leaving behind an unfinished second album that would have contained gems like this one.

Lyrics:

Look to the sky
A superhero to save you all
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder
A fabulous guy
A people person to stand up tall
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder

He loves god and he loves you
He loves god and he loves you
Yeah he's loving you, yeah you

Give him a try
I'm sure you'll adore his Southern drawl
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder
He'll never lie
Unlike those other bastards before
Jimmy Carter flies over yonder

Bonus live version

Recorded at the Barker residence, October 2-10, 2003.
Recorded and mixed by Dave Wilson.

For the sake of completeness (and because Harry went to the trouble of finding these recordings), here we are running through the song live in Dion's loungeroom during the week of debauchery.

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