24) Cleveland

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.

24 Cleveland (2nd term) (Rubbermouth)

by jeff pitcher — 2006-02-18 @ 02:38pm (EST) — Alt/IndieFolk

i’m bored. not with the project, but with my songwriting. i found the same issue last year…simply that the further i move into the project, the more i become entirely nonplussed with my songwriting, ultimately concluding that it is predictable, that everything sounds the same, that it’s boring, etc.,etc. needless to say, this one was quite a bit of work for me for some reason, perhaps because i feel like it sounds WAY too much like the last one…i guess i just wasn’t done with that idea. i’m also unhappy with the lyrics on this one, especially the degree to which they need be explained. (see below) alas. i had intended to make them less oblique, but it just didn’t happen. i’m also unhappy with the ending, and had intended to do some spoken word samples and loop them, but in the end i just said fuck it. my computer wasn’t behaving. 

anyway, this whole song is about one event that occurred in the first months of Cleveland’s 2nd term. he discovered that he had verrucuous carcinoma, a potentially fatal form of mouth cancer. his vice president (adlai stevenson, a name that i regret not getting into the song) and he disagreed greatly on an a bill that had passed regarding laws, regulations, and worker’s rights in silver mines. cleveland wanted to repeal the bill, and stevenson wanted to keep it. (strange thinking back to a time when a presidential candidate would choose a running mate that he shared little in common with regarding political ideology, but it was the only shot he had at winning over voters on the line.) anyway, when he discovered the cancer, he was afraid that if word got out, the public would see him as weak, and he would lose political support thus giving adlai the strength to keep the bill. 

therefore, he had surgery on a yacht cruising up the long island sound in the middle of the night. two weeks later, he was back on the boat having a vulcanized rubber plate installed in his palate, so that his speech would be normal. shortly thereafter, someone leaked the story to the philadelpiha press, but he and his advisors said that he was travelling for leisure, got a bad toothache, and had the tooth extracted. a long history the world has of political leaders lying to the public. 

i had intended to use christian kiefer’s lyricsfrom his song about cleveland’s first term with entirely different music, but it just wasn’t working. i did though reference them in the second verse, stating that his “honeygirl,” would set him free. i also managed to creep his nickname “uncle jumbo” into the 2nd verse.

i like the unintentional fact that the word carcinoma when sung, sounds like cassanova. oh the irony.


  1. daniel78 | 2006-02-19 @ 12:51pm (EST)

    I can’t get the demo link to work… Lyrics look good though. Maybe they needed the explanation, but certainly having read it they make a lot of sense.

  2. j matthew gerken | 2006-02-21 @ 12:44pm (EST)

    Wow pretty ending. Beautiful songs. Funny words. I don���t know if it is the way you arranged it or my lack of sophistication, but this songs seems to have movements for some reason. Pretty melodies and singing. Well done again my friend.

  3. Jen Distad | 2006-02-21 @ 12:45pm (EST)

    I really like the guitar-work, especially the section after “they’ll never suspect me somehow.” This comes off as a really moody song. Love the background story and lyrics. I don’t mind at all that you had to give backstory. 

    A couple of (even more) general notes: 
    1) I LOVE this project you are a part of – a song for each president. I will probably come back in early March and listen to them in chronological order. 
    2) If you are getting sick of your music, try something completely different. Try doing a style that fits best in another land – Africa or India, or maybe a drinking song or sea shanty. Or maybe try something that would fit in with musical theater or a spoken word/sound art number. Or maybe if you have the resources, write a song on a different lead instrument (like piano, mandolin, didgeridoo, whatever’s to hand). These are just suggestions; take them for what their worth (2�� at best). (=

  4. Ben J. | 2006-02-21 @ 09:14pm (EST)

    I agree with Jen, if you get in that “it all sounds the same” place. Stay away from what you instinctively want to play. Start with percussion and have very little melodic stuff. Put the guitar down, and pick up something else. Write for an (imagined) different singer. Use a guitar in different ways to normal (percussive harmonics, tapping the case, capo up really high, bowing the strings, using some odd effects). Whatever. 

    But I’m sure you know all this stuff anyway – that rut place is more a state of mind than an objective assesment of what you’re doing, especially when it’s under these time constraints. Looking back a month or too later whn you’ve been able to get some distance I’m sure you’ll appreciate your work a bit more objectively, it’s only natural.

    Love the build in this song by the way. Love it. Really intense.

  5. daniel78 | 2006-02-22 @ 01:24pm (EST)

    wow, wasn’t expecting this to be so dark… I like i though, and it fits the lyrics well.
    I too love the ending – it feels like its going to build to another more angry sounding chorus…. might be worth trying.
    Nie work.

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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