This is the title track of the Camper Van Beethoven album of the same name. It was released in 2004. Remember i told you that CVB reformed in 2000 and we didn’t really tell anyone? In fact the band began to release new material as if it were “lost” and rediscovered tracks. We did two albums this way:Tusk and Camper Van Beethoven is Dead Long Live Camper Van Beethoven. In 2003-2004 we recorded the third of our post reunion records New Roman Times. This one of course was the official reunion record. The one that got all the press and fanfare. And it was a good thing because it was an extremely ambitious record. It would have been a shame to waste that on Tusk (as much as i love Tusk).
New Roman Times is a Sci-Fi Alternate Reality Rock Opera. It is intended as a political farce. A sarcastic commentary on the whole notion of a Red State/Blue State america. It is not directly a commentary on the Iraq war although i realize much of it reads that way.
It was 2003 and much of the media and our political elite seemed intent upon dividing us. God fearing Christians on one side vs decadent secularists on the other. Conservatives vs Liberals. Pro-war Hawks vs Anti-War Doves etc etc. It was relentless and with it we kept getting this map flashed on the TV screens. You’d see it on the TV screens in the airport, in bars, in the lobbies of hotels, always with the sound down and the closed capitoning crawl (with it’s occasionally hilarious mis-captions). A map of the US with a bunch of states colored red and a quite a few less (the ones with most of the population) colored blue. It was presented in the most somber manner. Like a holy artifact. Like the key piece of evidence in a trial.
That’s us? I mean stand in the Atlanta airport a while and look at the vast sea of humanity. You can really break it down into that? You can do the same at O’hare or DFW. Further most of this Red state Blue State stuff got all tied together into one nice neat little flaming shitball package centered on the invasion of Iraq.
The war in Afghanistan did not require such divisions and manipulations. There was a general -but not unanimous-sense Al Qaeda was a menace and we should probably do something about it. But Iraq did not enjoy that kind of semi-consensus. So a lot of coercion huffing and puffing was required. By 2003 it was like a virtual Civil War was being fought on the US airwaves.
So my natural reaction was to take this notion and exaggerate it. To follow it to an extreme conclusion. With tongue firmly in cheek I made an alternate reality where the Christian Republic of Texas opportunistically intervenes in the Republic of California’s Civil War. The story of course is told through the eyes of a young soldier in the Army of Texas. Of course my sympathies are more naturally with the Republic of California but as usual i wanted to tell the story through the eyes of ‘the other’ the Young Texan. Actually that’s a little too simplistic. I was torn. In real life i was born in Texas but raised in California. So once again it’s me doing battle with myself. All fiction is autobiographical.
Most conservatives would accept Texas as a symbol of the triumph of Individual rights and Freedoms. Most liberals would see California as that. In reality both are gross mischaracterizations, no matter what your political leanings. I was being mischievousand playful by pitting these two against each other.
And you know what? it was really fun to make this record. Once we had the concept the record came together really quickly. It was nearly effortless. It was like Camper Van Beethoven had not been dormant for 10 years.
Tinky Winky was banned in the Christian Republic of Texas. Elmo required a special permit. The Republic of California fined Jonathan Segel for holding his rabbit improperly.
As an aside. Always be afraid when the politicians and the elites chatter on about doing something in the “National Interest.” Or something that is in the best interest of Civilization, the Economy the Common Good etc. Beware anything and anyone that groups us all together and then applies “interests” to us as a group. This is almost always the beginning of some sad chapter in our history. There was a lot of talk like this in the lead up to the Iraq war.
Conversely from time to time our politicians or courts have stepped in to protect or expand an individual right. Often in the face of an argument that it was against the common good. It was often the beginning of a good chapter in our history. Think of various civil rights rulings.
Yet this talk of national interests and collective good is always seen as noble, despite it’s lousy track record. But when someone advocates for a particular individual right, they are oftentimes seen as dangerous, selfish or somehow immoral.It’s a weird contradiction that few (except those on the political fringes) seem to notice. I’m not saying we don’t have actual common interests. But if we don’t naturally and without coercionof any kind assemble as individuals around our “common interests” they are usually not our common interests. The false division of us into Red and Blue states of mind, was -IMHO- evil not because it was some divide and conquer ruse. It was evil because it re-enforced the false narrative about a “common good” that was actually just in the narrow interest of a powerful elite.
That’s what really got my dander up. This ends today divagation.
Official tote bag of the Army of the Republic of California.
The Song New Roman Times picks up in the middle of our story. It starts with the young Texan deployed somewhere in the middle east. A small war. A small intervention. Not unlike somalia or maybe afghanistan. He has been there for some time. He’s quite adept having been made a member of an elite unit ”The 51-7″. He is however disillusioned by the war and his experiences. Possibly because he is distracted in this way he steps on a land mine or IED and loses a leg. He is discharged back to texas where he returns to his hometown in the Rio Bend region of west texas. He is bitter and starts drinking heavily. His life there becomes a disaster and he makes his way to the texas occupied part of California to start over. Like so many before him. Las Vegas California.
My map is poorly drawn and the Republic of California should include a little more of southern nevada including Las Vegas.
The video for this doesn’t exactly stick to our story. It however is very evocative of the wounded soldiers plight.
Finally the chorus with the children singing “my daddy’s got your back my mommas got your back etc” was inspired by something i saw on the eve of the Iraq invasion. We were on tour and we stopped in a truck stop in northern georgia. All along the hallways down to the shower were dozens of drawings by children. They were portraits of their parents who were members of the National Guard (not regular army) that had been deployed to Iraq. One boys handwriting below the picture of his mom said. ”my momma’s got your back”. It was quite striking.
[A] [D] Ba ba ba[A] ba
[D] Ba ba ba[A] ba
[D] Ba ba ba ba ba ba
[F#m] I’m sitting[E] in the sand[A] staring at my[D] shoe
My daddy’s got you back
Hello Morpheus I think I’m going down
My brother’s got you back
REPEAT INTRO x2
The day we came home it was a shitty day
My brother’s got you back
Living in a town on the big Rio bend
My brother’s got you back
REPEAT INTRO x4