#73 South California Revisited – St. Cajetan.

South California as proposed by secessionists.

05 St. Cajetan

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I was browsing the web last night and came across this NY Times article about the Inland Empire and 10 other counties wanting to secede from the state of California. The idea is to form their own state called South California. Not to be confused with the Mexican states of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur (Lower California North and Lower California South). If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you already know about the Inland Empire of California. It’s geography and how it differs significantly from the rest of the state. But here’s the quick synopsis.

The Inland Empire, Mojave Desert and much of the Central Valley (think Bakersfield) are very different than the rest of the state. It is poorer, more agricultural than a lot of California. It is also populated by a lot of people that moved along the southern wagon trails, railroads, highways and interstates from the Southern States of the US to the California. Also there was a significant Mormon migration (The Mormons once envisioned their own seperate nation that included this area of California).

The City of San Bernardino was first the center Morman migration to California and next a significant Pro- confederate settlement during the Civil War. This area has often acted like it wanted to be part of something other than California. And much of the time it has shared a sort of affinity with the US Southern States.

When my family first moved to California from Spain. (My father was in the US Air Force) I saw so many “confederate”* flags I assumed that Southern California was somehow part of the Confederacy. That wasn’t that far fetched. Indeed it tried.

From KCETs excellent history of secessionists in California (both from the Union and state of California):

On August 25, 1861, troops under the command of Major William Scott Ketchum secretly moved into San Bernardino amid rumors of rebellion. The next month, in the nearby mining town of Belleville (close to the present-day site of Big Bear Lake), the presence of Union dragoons in the streets quashed a election-day riot by secessionists.

Sweet Home San Bernardino.

To further the feeling that I was living in a lonely outpost of The South or at least Texas, Southern Rock became enormously popular in the Inland Empire. I know Lynyrd Skynyrd was enormously popular everywhere in the US but in the Inland Empire that popularity extended far down into the lower echelons of Southern Rock ie Charlie Daniels Band, Molly Hatchet,The Outlaws etc. Green Grass and High Tides was as important an high school parking lot anthem as Stairway to Heaven. Indeed in the late 70′s it was not un-common for local FM station KCAL to boast of playing a 1/2 hour of uninterrupted southern rock.

And why shouldn’t this stuff have been staples of FM rock radio? all through the 70′s, the stuff wasn’t that different from what The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin were playing. Both played southern blues and gospel based rock. The difference between the english blues rockers and the southern blues rockers had mostly to do with their public persona. The Stones and Led Zeppelin may have sang about the working man the poor and downtrodden from time to time, but they decidedly cultivated an image as being part of some sophisticated elite. Albeit a dangerous, decadent and hedonistic elite. Contrast that to the Allman Brothers earthy notion of “The Family” or Lynyrd Skynyrds sneering contempt for elites and northerners. You got the feeling that the English bands sang the blues ( and sang it well) but the southern rockers actually lived it. They were still decadent and hedonistic but it was a down home working man’s kind of hedonism. Hell raising. Boys being boys.

As the the New York times article nicely notes there is also a recurring sense of victimhood in the Inland Empire. Similar to what you find in the south. In the Inland Empire it goes like this: the hard working, poorer inland californians have a better and more traditional way of life but it is constantly under attack from northern, sacramento or big city elites. “And if we were just left alone to run their own affairs things would be so much better”. Does this sound familiar? This is not to say that like the other southerners they at times do have a point.

I believe it was that subtle subtext that made southern rock so appealing in the Inland Empire. That and the family ties to the US south.

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All of this was intended as an explanation of how two california boys, myself and Johnny Hickman , became well versed in southern rock.

I classify St. Cajetan as a southern rock song. It’s what we were intending to create with that song. Hear the southern rock “oooo’s’ in the chorus backing vocals? The stomping drone of the guitars and drums. The fabulously overplayed climatic guitar solo. If we had 4 guitar players there would have been a 4 part guitarmony at the end.

Its also the song on the first Cracker album that most differentiated it from Camper Van Beethoven. While Camper could expertly play with the Jimmy Page/ Peter Green english blues rock oeuvre, mythologizing it in a semiotic/Roland Barthes sort of way, CVB never really played with the southern rock sound (despite the fact Greg Lisher sounds so much like Dickey Betts at times it’s uncanny). As one of the ways of differentiating Cracker from CVB we went a step farther and embraced southern rock. This is not to say we weren’t embracing it in the same post-modern** way that CVB embraced Led Zeppelin, we weren’t trying to be 100% authentic. It was a tip of the hat to southern rock from a couple of South California rockers.

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St. Cajetan was named after the performance space in Denver. An old Catholic Church in Denver now part of the university there. Camper Van Beethoven was playing a show in this venue and I was sitting around with an acoustic guitar backstage. I came up with that riff and named it “St Cajetan”. Camper Van Beethoven broke up before i could ever turn that riff into a song. So this was probably the first or second Cracker song.

Loosely the supplicant in the song is asking St. Cajetan for a cool drink of fresh water. Which is not water at all. Salt water being being heartache. Nothing more to it.

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*I know this is a misnomer the flag commonly called the confederate flag was not actually the confederate flag.

** All ROCK IS POST-MODERN. IT IS AT THE HEART OF THE GENRE. THERE IS NO AUTHENTICITY. ROCK WAS BORN AS A MONGREL. STOP ARGUING ABOUT IT.

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St. Cajetan

[A(-Am-A-A7-A embellishment)]
[F#m]-[D]
[A]-[G]-[D]-[F#m]-[E]
[A]-[Cm]-[A]-[G]-[A]

You know I don’t feel well.
I gotta thirst in my mouth.
And all I want is a cool drink of water.
You know I don’t feel well.
I got salt in my wounds.
And all I want is a cool drink of water.

Can you hear me, St. Cajetan?
I once knew a well so sweet.
I put my lips, my lips to the pail to drink.
But I would give it all up for some water.

You know I don’t feel well.
Got the salty taste of my tears.
And all I want is some relief from this.

You know I don’t feel well
Been tossed and turned on this ocean.
And all I want is this one wish.

Can you hear me, St. Cajetan?
All I want is a cool drink of water.
Can you hear me, St. Cajetan?
All I want is a cool drink of water.
Can you hear me, St. Cajetan?
All I want is a cool drink of water.

Can you hear me?
Can you hear me?
Can you hear me, St. Cajetan?


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