Discography and Psychology of the Pandemic Blues Series
Here’s the story behind all ten of the lockdown songs:
Fake News was the first song to hit Facebook (April 3). It is a laundry list of grievances against our fake President, presented with sarcasm. A demonstration of poor Garageband production capabilities, I learned several things from this: (1) it takes a long time to assemble photos and add visual content to be able to produce with iMovie (thus, I curtailed it substantially); (2) I can’t sing, and (3) this was fun, I had more to say, and I’d better improve my Garageband skilz. I almost deleted this one.
Don’t Touch Me (April 5) reflects a melancholy sense that I (as a cancer survivor) really might face death if I wasn’t careful doing something as essential to survival as buying whiskey. This was before the fight over masks, social distancing and stay-at-home had really begun in earnest. The lustrous organ of Bob Mroz in the final recording and mixing of the song really added a whole new dimension.
Bye Bye Corona (April 8) represents a shift in attitude, a bit more optimistic (in hind sight, tragically pollyannaish) that we would “do what we must do to beat her at her game.” Boy did “we” fuck that up, and I don’t mean me. With Andy’s beautiful bass lines and Bobby’s classic piano, the final recording of Bye Bye Corona represented a vast improvement.
Be Thankful (April 10) was written and recorded in a single night when I was back in a blue mood, but by this time, Elizabeth and I had been quarantined together for some time, and we were really enjoying it together as we researched “the next great cable series” and set forth to exhaust all remaining new content. The lyrics will date me when I refer to “Dick Van Dyke, the Lucy Show and Ephrem Zimbalist,” but I swear, I did find all three, although not on the same channel. And the “afternoon of cooking shows” was very much my choice.
In Payroll Protection Blues (April 12), the blue mood continued, but this song shortly followed the announcement of the “Payroll Protection Program,” around which time “my temperature began to rise and my blood run cold,” when my bank of 45 years (the biggest bank in the country) told me I was ineligible. The cynicism is starting to take over.
Things got more sardonic with The Beginning of the End (April 15), which was written and recorded the night after Trump announced that he, as President, would make all decisions on which states would get pandemic support and which wouldn’t. “When the governors suggested that his facts were contested, he threatened them with the power of his purse.” I wanted to include this in the recordings, but by late June, the lyrics had become dated already, as closely aligned to the news of that day as they were. So I wrote new lyrics to the same song, and redubbed it, “We’re Community.” It preserves the sardonica, but finishes on a more upbeat message. “What we build we build together, because we’re community.”
When the gun-toting crazies invaded the Michigan State Capitol building with assault rifles, ammo belts and camo, screaming in cops’ faces about the tyranny of a face mask order, I almost threw something at the television, and I was back in the dark mood. Pandemic Blues (April 19) targets the obscene disconnect between Trump’s maliciously partisan and incompetent war with the states over managing a virus that was then beginning an inevitable climb to an apex that still hasn’t come. I was still thinking about the Michigan covidiots, though.
On April 23, I hit another low point with the almost molasses-sluggish Got Your Back. I was totally depressed by the incomprehensibly violent reaction of so many Americans to the idea of shared sacrifice for the common good, so I went after those morons a little bit. “Free speech is a priceless thing, but when subversion is your thing, that’s a bird of a whole different feather.”
The Same Boat (April 30) was inspired by a few of the early stories about big crowds flouting all the safety warnings, egged on by the exhortations of Trump. The crowded party boats in the Ozarks inspired the name. “We’re all riders at the mercy of the Captain of a ship in a time of tempest, and he sure has lost his grip.” Honestly, as I listen to it now, I don’t know where the optimism came from.
Do Your Duty (May 15) is the last of the project, coming right as Trump’s exhortations to “LIBERATE” the states and open up the economy were reaching a fever pitch. I was outraged that such recklessness and perfidy would continue to be humored among so many other Republicans. He was openly abusing democracy. “When armed men storming Capitols demanding the right to spread disease are praised as decent people, we all better get on our knees,” “we got to work together to do what we can to end this nightmare and restore accountability.” The song got reworked some in the studio, and the title was changed to Abusing Democracy, which just makes more sense.