09) Harrison

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.

09 Harrison (So You Don’t Have To)

by jeff pitcher — 2006-02-08 @ 02:57pm (EST) — Alt/Indie

while i believe the first two presidents in my bunch were great men, William Henry Harrison was an incredibly horrible and attrocious piece of shit. early in his political career he was the “aide-de-camp” to general “mad-anthony” wayne, who was ultimately responsible for a big portion of the genocide of native americans, and more acutely those living in what is now ohio. harrison’s prime task as a political leader was to obtain title to “indian lands,” give it to white settlers, and then defend it by systematically killing the indians.

in 1811 at the battle of tippicanoe, the indians led by tecumseh, attacked harrison’s army killing 190 of his soldiers, which led to his obsession with killing tecumseh. he was successful in this at the battle of the thames in 1813, after which the indians never again threatened the northwest territories.

just before his run for president, he began the whig party and proceeded to give the longest inaugural address in history (1hr 45min) outside in the snow, where he boasted of his accomplishments, saying that he had killed “17 roman proconsuls as dead as smelts.”

he contracted pneumonia days after his snowy address, and died having been president for less than a month…hence the chorus, where i sing that the reaper will claim him so that you (tecumseh) don’t have to. perhaps there is some small ounce of karmic retribution, of course not enough in my opinion to justify the breadth of his attrocities.

had i time (and the means) i would love to add vocal harmonies, cello, and mandolin. and i would fix the off-key vocals at the end. but work calls. such it is.


  1. Christian Kiefer | 2006-02-08 @ 05:16pm (EST)Beautiful. Your best song for this project thus far. “He will lay there just as dead as smelt.” Fucking hell that’s good.Reminds me some of Ryan Adams when he’s at his spookiest angle.
  2. Ben J. | 2006-02-08 @ 05:33pm (EST)Lovely. I also liked some of the background guitar parts – maybe coulda done some more abstract stuff with that for some kind of weird distorted other-wordly ambience.I love the air around your recordings too. I been stuck with computers too long…
  3. elizadonelittle | 2006-02-08 @ 10:24pm (EST)What a super opening line. I’m a big fan of opening lines, and this one gets my vote. The piano sounds great on this song too – good choice. In general, a rather ghostly offering. -lis
  4. CageyHouse | 2006-02-08 @ 11:26pm (EST)Love how it drifts around harmonically. Wow.
  5. Erin O’Brien | 2006-02-09 @ 12:48am (EST)I love the contrast here: gentle delivery of anything but gentle subject matter. Very compelling. The melody will stick with me tonight and I can definitely hear those harmonies you’re interested in adding.On another note, you and I broke bread and swapped songs at Jake & Helen’s when you passed through Madison on your epic bike journey. Good to cross paths again in cyberspace. eob
  6. lindy | 2006-02-09 @ 01:49am (EST)i like the “dead as smelt” line, too. this is, like your others, an interesting piece. what i’d like to hear is you experimenting with a little counterpoint. there’s a portion in the song where the vocals are running parallel with the piano. that’s the place i’d like to see some counterpoint. if you have time, try it out and see what you think.your instrumentation ideas are good. maybe a little oboe as well.
  7. Steven Wilson/Plasticsoul | 2006-02-12 @ 11:34pm (EST)The piano sounds amazing. What mic did you use on it? I love the reaper and pneumonia lyrics. Using his “dead as smelt” line against him is perfect. Not sure if this is corny or not…but I can hear a single indian tomtom drum coming in at the end of the song…the sound of Tecumseh’s victory. Loved it.
Published in: on May 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

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