Back in February of 2006, Jefferson Pitcher, J. Matthew Gerken, and I set about writing and recording the original demos for these Presidents songs as part of the February Album Writing Month challenge (www.fawm.org). We wrote and did demo recordings of 42 songs (all but G.W. Bush) in Februrary–28 days and 42 songs. Sheesh.
In any case, as part of that, we wrote little texts to accompany each new song as we got them up on the FAWM website. I like looking through them now as they seem part of a crazy, crazy time.
Burr Settles, a fine songwriter in his own right and the FAWM-lord, was kind enough to get me an html backup of all the original texts we wrote, and it includes the comments other songwriters wrote on the demos as we got them up. I’m including those as well.
01 Washington (Washington Dreams of the Hippopotamus)
Jeff Pitcher, Matthew Gerken and I are embarking on a project wherein we will write one song each for each president up through but not including the current one. By luck of the draw, I got the first president, and so my song.
A really rough, completely unpolished demo, then. (Probably the roughest thing I’ve ever let go “public.”)
As for the song itself:
I read that Washington’s dentures were not made of wood but of human teeth and the teeth of hippopotami. The song tells of a terrible nightmare that Washington has towards the end of his life, wherein the dead and toothless hippo comes for him for the lies he has told during his life. Those lies include (in the dream or perhaps in reality) the inagural speech (which forms the first verse) and his love for his wife (which forms the very end of the song).
Go team! I can’t wait to hear Adams (from Matthew) and Jefferson (from Jefferson).
- Eric Distad | 2006-02-02 @ 11:33am (EST)Powdered wigs and piggy eyes! Love it. I’d love to see the whole lyrics posted. I think they are brilliant. (The song is plenty polished for FAWM)Musically I dig the progression – I don’t think I’d change anything there.. just add a percussion track maybe or other little polish things… but the whole thing is very solid. The harmonies are great!
I’m really looking forward to hear more. (Can’t wait till you guys get to Old Hickory… I was just listening to lecture about him… talk about a character!)
- Ben J. | 2006-02-02 @ 01:14pm (EST)Like it, and like your vocal delivery too. Would be nice to hear this with a fuller production, but that’s not the point 😉 Accomplished lyrics, if a little “wordy” in places. Good stuff!
- Steven Moser | 2006-02-02 @ 01:40pm (EST)This song is great! The melody and chorch changes bring home the story behind the lyrics in a haunting way. I love the subject matter…really nothing I can say about this one…great job!
- Burr Settles | 2006-02-02 @ 02:49pm (EST)i really like it… in that the story is framed around (hippo) has little to do with the image most of have when we think washington. the intro is pretty nice like it is… in a studio version i’d hold off on percussion until the second verse (“martha…”) looking forward to hearing the rest of this series.i think i might have given up on my concept this year. we’ll see when i actually have time to start writing songs. that’s okay, i’ve already broken my other new years resolutions…
- Christian Kiefer | 2006-02-02 @ 05:38pm (EST)Ben J.: I agree that it’s rather wordy. Maybe I can parse out some of the lyrics in some later rewrite while retaining the song’s overall lyrical feel. Thanks for your comments Eric, Steven & Burr. Looking forward to Matthew’s John Adams and Jeff Pitcher’s Tom Jefferson! Rawk!
- tomtomtom | 2006-02-02 @ 05:49pm (EST)very cool song Christian, I’m looking forward to more…. I love that you went with the hippo theme, a very original take on Washington.
- elizadonelittle | 2006-02-02 @ 10:31pm (EST)nice chorus, ck. amazing, actually – a catchy chorus about g.wash. also, i enjoyed the wig on the bedpost image. very sugar ray. are you guys serious about doing all the presidents? full marks for ambition! xox
- jeff pitcher | 2006-02-03 @ 11:15am (EST)this song is just great. the purple head. george, gnashing his hippo teeth. what a great image. that guitar sounds so damn good too. yes, i am biased.
- j matthew gerken | 2006-02-04 @ 04:37pm (EST)This song is gorgeous. It reminds me of that Nick Drake song we did at DuNord. Great recording. I was one of the several folks that got to hear this song performed live last night with Fidel Castro playing drums. It was really one of the more special shows I have ever attended. The great new material you played reminds me of how brilliant you are; what an active and beautiful mind!
- Steven Wilson/Plasticsoul | 2006-02-05 @ 01:28am (EST)”Come back to claim his ivory prize” – gotta love that. Great chord progression. Damn fine lyrics. The melody line of the chorus is haunting..especially when it get’s to the “believe me” line. Good stuff Christian.