#24 Low- Cracker: Musings On Why Hits Are Written Fast. Big Dipper Was Slow. KOL and our Special Ops Pigeons.

Low- Cracker (not tom petty you windowlickers)

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Statistically it’s not that odd that we got to this song so quickly. It’s occurrence in the 24th post is well within 2 standard deviations and given that the song appears on at least 5 albums, (and so it appears multiple times on my list of 300 songs) it’s occurrence so early is barely statistically odd. Barely beyond one standard deviation. Spock wouldn’t even raise one eyebrow. Did I lose you? Good.

Low or as it’s usually listed on file stealing sites LIKE-BEING-STONED_TOM_PETTY is the biggest hit of all my hits. This is the song that made the album Kerosene Hat a platinum record. It is played pretty regularly on the radio in the US and Canada still. 17 years on the radio! It has become something that radio folks call a gold or recurrent record. The fascinating thing about this is that it adds up to almost as many spins as a record that is a current hit. Cumulatively it is a bigger revenue generator than your typical top forty pop hit. It has produced a steady stream of income for Johnny Hickman and I for 17 years. ”Base-a-ball been berry berry good to me.”

Chico Esquela. Baseball was very profitable for him.

Sometimes people walk up to us and say, don’t you ever get sick of playing Low? No we don’t. There is a certain zen to playing the same song thousands of times. It involves making yourself play it as if it’s a brand new song. You clear your head of all thoughts. A moment of visualization before you start the song and then you go. It is approached with the same mindset that one approaches a well rehearsed Karate move. This Zen-like approach to the song reveals a deeper more transcendental beauty to the player. Therein lies the secret.

Of course we get fucking tired of playing the song.

Not every night am I in the mood to play this song. However I do understand that there are many people in the audience who know this and only a couple other of our songs. They paid good money to come to see us, so we better play it and we better play it like we mean it or we should get off the stage. There are only a handful of times that Cracker has not performed this song. I’m kind of put off by artists that won’t play their hits. Fuck ‘em they should be shat on by pigeons. If this were a Thomas Pynchon novel at this point there would be a little snippet of song sung by the steno pool girls.

Sung to the chorus of Guarded By Monkeys:

you are so pussified

you should be shat on by pigeons

fake rocker diva fit.

Kings of Leon cancelled their St Louis show after a 3 songs because they were shat on by pigeons. I guess the scarf didn’t help. Cracker played a radio festival show in Florida where the radio station gave out commemorative license plates to the audience. These quickly became metal frisbees. WE didn’t leave the stage.


But alas I divagate. I’m always divagating. Especially when the subject is Divas. I shouldn’t apologize. Some people seem to enjoy my divagations. In fact I often divagate during my divagations. Like this: I just checked my spelling with the built in Apple dictionary app and here is the usage example for the word divagate:

Yeats divagated into Virgil’s territory only once

Whisky Tango Foxtrot! Yeats again. It truly must be a sign of The Second Coming. I mentioned this Yeats poem once on purpose then it pops up two more times all on it’s own!

Low was written in about 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Which is pretty remarkable since the song clocks in at 4:36. Did we perform some sort of matrix-like time bending to achieve this or am I exaggerating? Here’s a clue: I am always lying.

The weird thing about hits is that they are often written very quickly. I’m serious. Wham Bam Hit Song Mam. They just sort of fall together. Also they never seem like hits at the time. They just seem like simple and fun little songs to play and you move on to something else. It’s always a surprise when the Under Assistant West Cost Promotion Man says “that’s your hit”. Bands don’t relate to their songs the way civilians* do.

Notice I Slyly avoid explaining the autobiographical details of this song. Suffice it to say it’s a portrait of Santa Cruz circa 1985 embedded like some Rolling Stone reporter in a song of unrequited love.

Conversely I probably worked on the song Big Dipper over a period of 3 or 4 months. I had the idea and some of the words, and the general melody of the music but It took a long time to shape that into a song. Then one night Ben Mize got me really stoned in the kitchen of Barrie Bucks house and played me the song West of Rome by Vic Chestnut. It wasn’t even released yet. I asked for a cassette copy. That got me over the first hump. I figured out the narrative voice and finished the words two nights later. This song also was a difficult song to arrange for the full band. And even harder to get that arrangement to work on tape.. Producer Dennis Herring, who will typically not stop working on the arrangement and overdubs until he’s worn the tape so thin you can see right through it, called this one a bitch. We estimated 25% of the time we spent recording the album The Golden Age was this song.

The Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz. Big Dipper is antiquated slang for any roller coaster. And the Giant Dipper is often infested with Cracker Special Ops shitting seagulls. They turned on their master once while i was standing in line (before i pushed that dull turnstile) KOL beware!

Low? Well we were jamming at sound check in Portland Oregon. La Luna or whatever it happened to be called that week. Something was going wrong with the front of house so Johnny, Davey Faragher, Michael Urbano and I were jamming and began to fall into this groove. Johnny searched around for some licks for a while and by the time the front of house was fixed the music to this song was done, and I even had a chorus “be with you girl like being low…” It was about 30 minutes.

When it came to recording. It was the second song that we recorded for Kerosene Hat. I remember Producer Don Smith saying “let’s do something easy how bout that being stoned song”. 3 or 4 takes later we had virtually the entire recording. My lead vocal is live. The only overdubs are the little harmony on the chorus and Johnny Hickman’s guitar “solo”. In fact the Guitar solo took longer than anything else.

Sometimes when it comes time to overdubs Johnny’s brain grows dramatically in size until he resembles one of those space aliens. The size of his brain demands most of the body’s blood flow and oxygen. It thus interferes with the functioning of his limbs. By this i mean Guitar Lead Overthink ™. This disorder is not unique to Johnny. Every lead guitarist is afflicted with this disorder to one degree or another. It’s also sometimes called George Harrison’s Syndrome. As soon as you say the words “overdub the solo” they feel sudden and intense pressure. Now instead of riffing up a spontaneous burst of raw guitar inspiration. It’s as if they feel required to write a part and that part must be Masterpiece. It must be:

A guitar solo that will redefine rock music.

A guitar solo that will be a turning point in human history.

A guitar solo that will bring about a new age of enlightment and prosperity.

Lead guitarists can’t help it. Overthink is hardwired into the neural pathways in their brains That’s why it’s best to distract them by placing them in front of a live audience.

I’m listening to the lead right now. I think eventually Don Smith turned on 3 or 4 different versions of the lead at the same time and ran it through the Cooper Time Cube.

(BTW if Don Smith had not have passed away earlier this year i’m sure he would be laughing his ass off at my description of Lead Guitar Overthink™ )

But back to Johnny and his lead. And back to heartily defend him!

Johnnys motto is “ Even Mariah Carey is inspired. You must go beyond inspired to disturbed” And it’s hard to get there sitting in a chair in the control room or playing the same snippet of song over and over again while wearing headphones.. Guitar solos should never be overdubs. Because they then become parts. And then terrible things happen. Don’t believe me? Just listen to the end of Hotel California.

The Cooper Time Cube Doubles as Garden Hose Storage Device. This was a huge breakthrough because before the invention of the Cooper Time Cube audio engineers never had a place to store the control room garden hose.

Finally one note on the strange phenomenon that some idiots believe Low to be a Tom Petty song. The only conceivable way this could be happening is if you owned only an illegal MP3 or CD copy of the song. Otherwise you would look at the CD and provided you can read (a dodgy assumption) you would say “oh wow dude this is a cracker CD”. However if you go to any of the file stealing services and search “like being stoned tom petty” you will find thousands incidents of Crackers low mislabled. So I guess when it pops up in a thief’s iTunes library the bootlegger has labeled the song “Tom Petty”. And it becomes Tom Petty to these idiots. This song is so blatantly bootlegged that there are constantly idiots posting on our Youtube page claiming this to be a Tom Petty song. We are quite merciless with these folks as they are idiots AND they stole the song from us. Please feel free to visit our YouTube channel Crackerrocks and heap abuse on these people. We prefer to call them Windowlickers as it really gets their ire up and often they will offer to meet you somewhere so that they might engage you in The Man Dance.

*Civilians is our slang for those outside the music business. Those who actually buy are songs and don’t play in bands. English musicians and crew prefer the term punters. But we find that is a little disrespectful to those who are providing us with a living.

Finally here is the Video for Low. Directed by Carlos Grasso. Co-Starring Sandra Bernhardt.

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LOW

[D(add E)]-[C]-[E]-[G] [throughout]

Sometimes I wanna take you down.
Sometimes I wanna get you low.
Brush your hair back from your eyes.
Take you down let the river flow.

Sometimes I go and walk the street
Behind the green sheet of glass.
A million miles below their feet
A million miles, a million miles

CHORUS:
I’ll be with you girl
Like being low
hey hey hey like being stone.
I’ll be with you girl
Like being low
hey hey hey like being stone.

A million poppies gonna make me sleep.
Just one rose and knows your name
The fruit is rusting on the vine
The fruit is calling from the trees

Hey don’t you wanna go down
Like some junkie cosmonaut
A million miles below their feet
A million miles a million miles

REPEAT CHORUS

Blue blue is the sun.
Brown brown is the sky.
Green green of her eyes.
A million miles a million miles

Hey hey don’t you wanna go down
Like some disgraced cosmonaut
A million miles below their feet
A million miles a million miles

Big Dipper

: Am  .   C   .     F .     G       .     Am  . C   . F       .       G .
e|--------0---1-0--|----1p0-----------0h1|0-----0----|--------------------|
B|----1-3---1-----1|--------0h1-3-1-3----|-----------|----0h1-3-1-0-------|
G|--2--------------|---------------------|--2-----0--|--2-----------2-0---|
D|-----------------|---------------------|-----------|3-------------------|

[SECTION 1 (see tab):]
[Am]-[C]-[F]-[G(sus4)]

[Am] Cigarettes[C] and carrot juice[F]-[G(sus4)]
And get yourself a[Am] new tattoo[C] for those sleeveless[F] days of[G(sus4)] June

I’m sitting on the Cafe Zinho steps with a book I haven’t started yet
watching all the girls walk by

Could I take you[F] out
I’ll be yours without a[Dm] doubt
[C] on that big[G(sus4)] dipper

And if the sound of this it frightens you
we could play it real cool
and act somewhat indifferent

And hey June why did you have to come, why did you have to come around so soon
I wasn’t ready for all this nature

The terrible green green grass, and violent blooms of flowered dresses
and afternoons that make me sleepy

But we could wait awhile
before we push that dull turnstile
into the passage

Where thousands they had tread
and others sometimes fled
before their turn came

[REPEAT SECTION 1 x2]

And we could wait our lives
before our chance arrived
before the passage

From the top you can see Monterey
or think about San Jose
though I know it’s not that pleasant

And hey Jim Kerouac brother of the famous Jack
or so he likes to say “lucky bastard”

He’s sitting on the cafe Zinho steps with a girl I’m not over yet
watching all the world go by

Boy you are looking bad
Did I make you feel that sad
I’m honestly flattered

But if she asks me out
I’ll be hers without a doubt
on that big dipper

Cigarettes and carrot juice
and get yourself a new tattoo for those sleeveless days of June

I’m sitting on the cafe Zinho steps
I haven’t got the courage yet, I haven’t got the courage yet,

I haven’t got the[ending Am] courage yet


2 comments

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous

    Well, Big Dipper may have a bitch to record and produce in Herring's words, but I for one am glad it was finished. It's a great song, and The Golden Age probably my favorite Cracker album.

    Well, Big Dipper may have a bitch to record and produce in Herring's words, but I for one am glad it was finished. It's a great song, and The Golden Age probably my favorite Cracker album.

  • WILLIAM F BOLAND

    WILLIAM F BOLAND Columbia, SC

    Love both songs, but Big Dipper may be my favorite Cracker song of all. I think the Petty thing comes from this song getting popular at the exact same time Mary Jane's Last Dance did. Also both videos feature prominent actresses from that time. I'm sure once somebody uploaded it to Napster it got labeled wrong, and spread like wildfire.

    Love both songs, but Big Dipper may be my favorite Cracker song of all. I think the Petty thing comes from this song getting popular at the exact same time Mary Jane's Last Dance did. Also both videos feature prominent actresses from that time. I'm sure once somebody uploaded it to Napster it got labeled wrong, and spread like wildfire.

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