Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Hexx

A hex (with one x) can stand for a couple of things. The first is the idea of a curse or spell that is placed on an individual or family by a witch. This can explain the lyrics of Pavement's "The Hexx".

The song carries on the theme of Terror Twilight of an impending doom. As stated many times in this here blog, the last Pavement record served notice that the band's run had come to an end, but that's getting redundant.

Malkmus describes various situations in which his subjects suffer from hexes of their own. Capistrano swallows that are supposed to return to their San Juan home, suddenly can't. Epileptic surgeons and fooled football players prepare as their failures are close at hand. One of the greatest Malk-metaphors demonstrates this point further.

Architecture students are like virgins with an itch they cannot scratch,
Never build a building till you're 50; what kind of life is that?
The 70's atmospherics support the gloom and doom of a hexed life. Bluesy guitar solos and wailing in the background set the mood of the track. One can picture a movie scene in which the protagonist is stumbling through a crowded hallway, intoxicated on some mind-altering substance, and dazed by his own failures as this music plays, drowning out the chaos around.

The other meaning to hex comes from a hexadecimal or a base-16 numbering system. Coincidentally, the song arguably has sixteen lines: five verses of two-lines each and a six-line chorus. Again, it's probably just a coincidence.

You're Killing Me

Fuzz and spit is how the opening and background of "You're Killing Me" might be described, the first track on the first release of the Pavement discography, Slay Tracks (1933-1969). The highly experimental and lo-fi (read "cheap") production value helped catapult Pavement to indie darlings, and they never looked back.

The song's noisy hiss, lack of percussion, and simple, repetitive lyrics made the song a tribute to the band's punk ethos. While so much of Pavement's later work appealed to the listener's intellect, this song had a guttural feel lacking once the band signed with Matador. However, the same sentiment can be found in songs like "Conduit for Sale" or "Fight this Generation".

Interestingly, some of the lyrics were the moniker for one of the earliest Pavement fan-sites, The Sign on the Door.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Unseen Power of the Picket Fence

"There's some bands I'd like to name-check/And one of them is REM."
And so begins Pavement's contribution to the alterna-compilation benefiting AIDS research and education, No Alternative. This homage to REM, the Athens-based band that made college rock mainstream, pays tribute to the band's influence on Pavement. Like any dedicated fan, SM describes both what made REM important (left standing after Sherman rapes the South) and disappointing ("Time After Time" was my least favorite song...). SM offers a song-by-song audit of REM's best (and earliest) work while relating the band's cultural significance to a fallen and broken South.

Some reporters asked REM front man Michael Stipe what he thought of the Pavement track. He was insulted they didn't like "Time After Time" but he was honored to be name-checked by such up-and-coming indie band. According to indie rock lore, Stipe suggested that the band could play the song as if serenading him on an MTV special featuring the songs, bands and issues of the compilation. Pavement declined.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spit on a Stranger

The spacey psychedelia of "Spit on a Stranger" opens up 1999's Terror Twilight, the final Pavement record, and listeners were bound to notice the change in the band's sound. The song's (and album's) first few seconds of drum beats almost start a different song altogether before warped guitar lines and a hippie-dippy bass line carry us to the first verse.

The song is a reflection on the band's long, tenuous relationship. This, in conjunction with the album's title referring to that eerie moment just as the sun sets, describes the strange feeling the one gets as the end approaches. You feel the end of the band as the record progresses.

The idea of "spit on a stranger" is an odd and cryptic one. (Of course, this is Pavement.) Just as the band's breakup (hell, their whole career) was awkward, spitting on a stranger can be just as strange. It's similar to accidentally grazing some one's rear or turning to make a comment to what you thought was your companion only to find a complete stranger standing there.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Starlings of the Slipstream

A slipstream is that area behind something moving through fluid (air, water, etc.) where the pressure is reduced. It's sort like when you wave your hand through water and there's this absence of liquid in your wake. Birds, like the starling, travel in flocks that help create these slipstreams. Mostly we think of geese flying in a V formation, but some birds just fly in a tight flock for the same effect.

The absence of pressure in this slipstream is the primary focus of this Pavement song. Think of the band as the starling. Pavement came along after many bands and indie labels cut a path through the music industry to make room for more eccentric, artistic styles. Bands in the early to mid-nineties were relieved from the pressure of selling millions of records, because a market had been created that allowed many musicians to quit their day jobs, release some records on Matador, and hit the road. I, for one, am thankful for this slipstream.

Pressure tends to ruin anything that's enjoyable or stimulating, not always, but often. The fact that Pavement could make interesting, timeless music and make money doing it, is a testament to this slipstream in the music scene.

The song doesn't have to be about indie rock, but it's one example. As people break from conventionality and do for themselves, the space they create becomes their own slipstream. I look at blogging, documentary film making, half of Portland and realize people all over are creating their own slipstreams. I know it's cheesy, but sometimes just the idea that we have some agency to do and create what we like makes me feel better.

One more thing...Does anyone else conjure up an image of Revenge of the Nerds during the second verse? (I put a spy-cam in a sorority/Ah-oo darlings on the split-screen)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Summer Babe

One of Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs, "Summer Babe" leads with an ode to Vanilla Ice's "Ice Baby" and continues with some of the most absurd lyrics ever put to tape. Eating her fingers? Mixing cocktails with a cigar? What's a protein delta strip?

The absurdity of SM's lyrics are only augmented by the tune's acidic guitar solos and outbursts. Even more ridiculous is the conventionally steady beat with high-hat accents and equally regular bass line. The only things the song is missing is some falsetto chorus lines and off-tune trumpet flourishes.

Thankfully, Pavement doesn't go overboard. The band creates a perfect pop song out of a playfulness missing from so much pop music over the past decade-and-a-half. The lo-fi production helps maintain the band's indie cred while the dramatics of drum play and SM's long note near the end make the song an epic piece to the indie rock canon.

"Summer Babe" was originally released as a 7" before appearing on Westing (by Musket and Sextant) and opening Slanted and Enchanted (as the "winter version"). Later, a live version was released on the re-issue of S&E. I only wish they'd release it again so that more people can understand what challenging, thoughtful music should feel like.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Stop Breathin'

I always thought this song was about a poor soldier coming to his end while fighting in the trenches of World War I, then someone suggested that it had more to do with losing a tennis match. Now, I don't know what to think.

That first volley could be a bombardment from the enemy that leaves our hero's corps depleted and running for cover. The protagonist does not make it out, but is somewhat thankful to not have to deal with the endless rounds of artillery dropped on his position. He's given up as he feels his life fading. The song even has this lullaby feel as if to see the dieing soldier is drifting off for the last time.

Then, suddenly he fights the medics as they struggle to keep lead character alive. He doesn't want to go on; he wants it to be over.

The other theory is that it's a similarly slow death only this time it's a tennis star losing an important match. He's tired of the endless play. He wishes his defeat would just come already. After he loses his final match, like the soldier, he will be forgotten, left alone to live out his days without the pressures of a professional tennis career to weigh on his conscience.

Either way, the protagonist just wants to be left alone to wallow in his own misery.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ann Don't Cry

Pavement rarely recorded a straight-forward break-up song, but "Ann Don't Cry" is as close as they came (outside of "Here"). The song is a veiled metaphor for another metaphor of the band's reality. Let me explain...

The song uses the metaphor of dying in a hospital to depict a slow, bitter-sweet breakup. With references to damage being done, "hope in a wonderful hospital man", and rooms with very, SM eludes to a breakup that was avoided but now must be dealt with. Is Ann crying because she's ill or is the relationship finally coming to an end?

The breakup feels like the end of the band. Again, damage had been done. SM (as were a few other band mates) was not having fun in Pavement anymore. Were the five friends the members of Pavement? I don't know if this is what SM was thinking, but it sure feels like it. This was a farewell album, and "Ann Don't Cry" might be the farewell song.

The tone and instrumentation of the song supports these theories. SM's vocals are not only sad but as disappointing as always. I don't mean that literally; it's just how I've always thought about his vocal styling. The depressing tempo and steady beat repeat until the sad little song ends.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Silence Kit

I remember being on an early version of a Pavement list serve. There was a long debate over "Silence Kit" and whether "kit" was actually "kid" and whether that kid was male or female. Quite pointless, actually. It's about as pointless as some guy blogging every other week about the meaning of Pavement songs.

For me (and probably a few others out there), the song is a farewell to Pavement's former drummer, Gary Young. From what I've read about Young, he was a nuisance, an amusing distraction, and a necessary evil rolled into one hand-standing anomaly. Although, many seem to prefer his drumming over the rest of Pavement's drummers, it was undeniable that Young was a loose canon while performing on tour. He often consumed too many chemicals, ruined performances by tossing cabbage at the audience, and pulled guns on band mates. All of this tomfoolery - and the fact Young couldn't keep time - contributed to his being dismissed prior to the release of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

The song opens with an awkward guitar solo, backed by flourishes of drumming. One cannot help but notice the perpetual cow bell in the background. Soon, SM breaks in, out of tune as always.

The band's frustration with their former drummer comes through in the lyrics. They didn't want to babysit an immature, burnt-out punk that was a moderate-at-best musician and a mess on stage. Young obviously had a load of baggage that the other band members did not have time for. In the final verse, SM calls for the kit while Young saunters off to masturbate in an ecstasy-fueled state.

Gary Young later became known as "Plantman" thanks to a forgettable post-Pavement effort. I wonder whatever happened to Pavement's original drummer...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Easily Fooled

A b-side to the "Rattled By The Rush" (aka "Rattled By La Rush") song has been running through my head, lately. "Easily Fooled" is this jammy piece of happy that found its way onto La Rush's backside as well as the comprehensive Wowee Zowee re-issue, Sordid Sentinels. On the latter, the song appears twice: once as the original recording and then as a live recording in Holland.

Waiting for life to accidentally get better is what's fooling us all. It's like all those guys in line at your gas station, waiting patiently for that one lottery ticket that will be their salvation, when, all along, they could've saved all the money they spent on lotto tickets to buy that Hummer they've been eying. Your girlfriend will get better looking, if you wait long enough. Your band will be on MTV and headline Lollapalooza if you just wait for it. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the point.

This great wait is the same thing that keeps most of us spinning our wheels, waiting for that American dream or some shit like that to come to fruition. It's what makes the working poor vote for conservative politicians in hopes of the trickle down to take effect. People continually take out more and more credit with a plan to pay it off later when their ship comes in. How foolish. That ship will never come.

The song's head-bobbing jamminess bridges the band's material between their final three albums. The off-kilter, stoned performance demonstrates WZ-era Pavement to a T. This song would have fit perfectly with "We Dance" and "Rattled By The Rush" if the rest of WZ stuck with this folky aesthetic. The lyrics suit the clarity and dominant theme of alienation found on the next release, Brighten the Corners. (I'm thinking "We Are Underused" and "Fin".) Pavement's third album was their most accessible and Dead-invoking which is where this song seems to be headed. I can't think of one career-spanning song in Pavement's catalog, but "Easily Fooled" does the second half of their tenure great justice.

I've always had this feeling that Pavement's greatness would be realized by the masses, but I guess I too was easily fooled.
PavementEasily Fooled

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Box Elder

When I told my brother that we were moving to Misery, he responded, "You'll have to find Box Elder." Sadly, I don't think Box Elder, MO exists. And if it did, I'm not sure that's really where SM and the boys intended to go.

Even if they didn't actually want to go to Misery, "Box Elder" perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being young and bored with your surroundings, so much that you just want "to get the fuck out of this town."

The is a narrative describing the last conversation with a girlfriend as a guy realizes he has to leave his little town and its dull comfort. It has little to do with the other person in the room and more to do with that "distant voice" calling the protagonist to leave. He has other things to do and places to go. If he stays in this old, familiar setting, he'll burst. His mind wanders as he finally decides to skip town. The Box Elder part might just be the irony of heading to another crappy small town. Who knows?

Recorded in Gary Young's home "studio", the band began its humble career with this clever, 2-and-half-minute ditty. The production is lo-fi and scrappy. The guitars jingle and jangle over feedback and Gary Young's steady beats carry you out of town. This song was among the first ever recorded in Pavement's history, making its way on their debut release, Slay Tracks (1933-1969).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Serpentine Pad

"Serpentine Pad" always felt like Pavement's take on the Sex Pistols. SM sings in this phony British accent about fighting the corporations and some other nonsense over a hap-hazard performance by the other band members. It may be the closest thing the band ever did to a 1977-ish punk song about the anti-establishment.

The music is bottom heavy as Ibold drives the song and the feedback-happy guitars take a back seat. Besides Malkmus' poor Johnny Rotten impersonation, this is one of the clearest recordings of Nastanovich's screaming back-up vocals.

Pavement's humor truly comes through on "Serpentine Pad". From the sloppy guitar work to the fake accent to the silly punk rock lyrics, this track demonstrates how the band can make you wanna' rock out as well as giggle. A song like "Serpentine Pad" convinces me that this band never took itself too seriously, and that's refreshing.

(Sorry for the clip. It was all I could find.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Our Singer

The end of Slanted and Enchanted comes in the form of "Our Singer", and it's just what SM has been waiting for: the horizon of Pavement's first full-length release brought to us by Gary Young's sloppy drumming. It's a victorious conclusion to an album that would later be touted as one of the decade's best. (Whatever that means.) It felt like SM was triumphantly proclaiming that an age of disappointment was upon us.

"I've dreamt of this, but it never comes."
Disappointment? It's what Generation X is/was about. Let's lower our expectations and strive for greatness that never comes. This album brought in the slacker generation as well as anything grunge or Beck could conjure.

The nineties were full contradictions that demonstrated Gen X's ambition to fall just short. An idealistic Bill Clinton left his legacy on a plump interne's dress. All the indie bands full of integrity jumped for major labels and then came crawling back drug-addicted and broke. The rebirth of John Hughes-influenced movies only sent us into a tailspin of crappy teenage flicks with no angst and no Peter Gabriel. Internet start-ups made some major cash for Gen X only to have the bubble burst before the millennium. The nineties failed to meet our lowered expectations over and over.

Pavement thrived in this environment. Gary Young could not play, and Stephen Malkmus could not sing. They perfectly reflected the times. "Our Singer" stated SaE's place in making the nineties the slacker of all decades.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


"What about the voice of Geddy Lee?/How did it get so high?/I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy/I know him and he does/Then you're my fact checking cuz"

These were the lyrics I'd recite everyday to Brittany, a plump fifth grader in my second year of teaching. I'd ponder about the voice of Geddy Lee, and she'd respond that he does, in fact, have a high-pitched voice. Of course, it helped that her parents were huge Rush fans and had named Brittany's older brother after the falsetto-singing, bass guitar virtuoso from Toronto. Undoubtedly, Brittany's parents became big fans of Geddy Lee's unique delivery while listening to songs like "Tom Sawyer" or "Working Man" on FM rock stations.

"Stereo" is Pavement's version of R.E.M.'s collaboration with KRS-One in 1991's "Radio Song". SM's delivery is somewhat rap-like but with absurdity dominating his narrative as opposed to the overtly political message of "Radio Song". Instead of complaining about the shortcomings of corporate radio, Pavement chooses to marvel at the diversity of ridiculousness found all across the dial, including their own songs.

The lyrics highlight some amusing anecdotes that illustrate this variety. Observations of farm reports, sports call-in shows, and conservative talk radio with the ever-present classic rock dominate SM's listening experience. This multitude of material is only broken when the band hears their own song on the radio and (somewhat predictably) goes wild with delight.

As Brighten the Corners' opener, "Stereo" demonstrates a much more focused band with a more conventional sound (for radio possibly?) than the previous release, Wowee Zowee. Maybe the band backed off the weed or actually rehearsed together, but whatever they did, BtC marks a point in the band's history when the songs began to resemble a more traditional rock sound that could find a place on radio. (This, of course, ignores the fact that "Cut Your Hair" was a minor radio hit.) Although, it was still their own version of that tradition, BtC wasn't anything like the classic rock, including Rush.

Friday, August 10, 2007


"Greenlander" appeared on the compilation Born to Choose in 1993. I have often thought of this song as one of the top 5 quintessential hidden indie gems of the early 90's. Born was a compilation put out by Rykodisc to support NARAL and other women's charities. R.E.M., Tom Waits, and others also contributed to the comp.

I discovered the song at about the same time I was discovering a world of music beyond radio and MTV. I wrote a letter in response to some liner notes on a 7" by this Columbus band, Tiara (whom Isaac Brock would tell me several years later were "fucking awesome".) In my letter, I called them "Pavement-esque" which they appreciated being that Pavement was a major influence. Also, I sent two blank tapes for some additional songs. Tiara graciously filled both tapes. One of the tracks was a cover of "Greenlander" that actually rivals the original. Needless to say, my siblings and I wore that tape out and still talk about it from time to time.

Strangely enough, my girlfriend left me for the bassist in Tiara. We had a long, slow good-bye that ended on a cold New Year's Eve at a Waffle House.

The song describes a couple performing ceremonies in the arctic wilderness of Greenland in hopes of cementing their lives together. The cold and darkness are metaphors for their icy relationship as it creeps to an end despite their best hopes and efforts. SM even describes a future of ice skating and children that will never happen. Mistakes are made and no amount of tradition or ceremony can stop the relationship from ending.

The music is pretty straightforward despite the obvious tuning that, to me at the time, sounded so foreign and bizarre when stripped down. The tunings and tempo help feed into the slow descent of the described relationship. It's sad but beautiful, sort of how I picture Greenland.

These images conjured up by the words and music of "Greenlander" represent that depressing winter for me perfectly.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Folk Jam

I remember reading a review for Terror Twilight and how the jam band inside of Pavement, which had been festering for several years in their live act, was ready to unleash itself upon an unsuspecting fan base. References to Phish and the Grateful Dead were being thrown around. This was after the so-called "classic rock" ode that was Brighten the Corners was released in '97.

I don't care what the critics write. Pavement can never be labeled as "classic rock" or a "jam band". Sure, the band had classic moments and often liked to carry on a jam two or three minutes too long, but are they really compatible with the Dead or Zeppelin? I think not.

In their constant drive to define Pavement, critics attached these limiting labels to our heroes in order to make sense of why we love them. Maybe the fact that they were so undefinable makes them so beloved. I've been just as guilty of this as any real critic, but I've accepted that Pavement is just Pavement (with a nod to the Fall).

Regardless, the reviews and a song titled "Folk Jam" worried me. Were they literally trying to play a folky-jammy sort of mishmash? Was this their last hurrah of pot-induced folky, hippie jams? Of course not.

"Folk Jam" opens with this rolling tempo of guitars and drums that reminds one of a Garcia song until SM breaks in with his classically humorless delivery of a humorous tale. The protagonist wants something more out of his family history and life than what is there. The song celebrates the universal shortcomings of family. (This is either a jab SM's aging band mates or a lament of his own wasted life.)

The folky part primarily refers to the song's aesthetics, not so much the message. Despite the sound, your'e quickly reminded that this is a true Pavement song with lines like "Well, pardon my birth/I just slipped out" and "Beware the head of state says that she believes in leprechauns/Irish folktales scare the shit out of me". These have to be two of my favorite lines in their entire catalog.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Transport Is Arranged

Brighten the Corners was the beginning of the end to the Pavement we all loved. Members were getting married and moving to exotic locales like Louisville and Idaho. The mid-tempo jams that were hinted at on Wowee Zowee were further developed on this album with "Transport Is Arranged" as a prime example.

It would not do justice to SM's stream of consciousness monologue to dissect it word-for-word, but the tone of the message can be interpreted. (Of course, any interpretation will be put through numerous criticisms, but isn't that what blogging is about?)

The song's lyrics, in tone if not in cryptic meaning, expressed Malkmus' uncomfortableness with the direction of the band and its members. Although the lyrics are not as literal as the tracks "Old to Begin" or "Fin", the feeling of discomfort with maturity is clearly expressed. SM is trying to get out of this predetermined maze that is adulthood which has claimed his band mates, but, in the end, he can't run away and leave it all behind. Even the escape is methodically calculated or arranged.

The song means a lot more to me now as a thirty-two-year-old than it did in my senior year of college. The pressures of home-ownership (moving this weekend) and impending parenthood (babies all around!) are revealing the plan for my life that I did not intend when I was 18, 21, or even throughout my 20's. There's something unnerving about fate, especially when it involves responsibility and maturity.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Range Life

"Range Life" is one of my favorite alt-country farces of all-time (along with the Lemonheads' "Big Gay Heart"). The song describes an aging hippie (I hate hippies!) remembering his days in the limelight and as a skater-punk of the streets. He longs for that slow country life, the range life, so he can settle down.

The interesting part of the song is the third verse in which the hippie calls out the rock gods of the time, the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots. Much was made of the Smashing Pumpkins being described as "nature kids" who "have no function". Billy Corgan was so insulted that he supposedly refused to play Lollapalooza if Pavement was on the bill. Whatever. Pavement played the next year at my favorite Lollapalooza (right after a stirring set by Sinead O'Connor!).

Malkmus often inserted other bands into the slots occupied by the Pumpkins and STP when playing the song live. I remember seeing them at Lollapalooza in Columbus, OH. He inserted Royal Trux as the "nature kids" and the Afghan Whigs as the "eligible bachelors". It was a clever nod to two great indie bands from Ohio (although, the Whigs weren't so indie at that time). The Trux recorded on Pavement's old label, Drag City.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

We Dance

As a disjointed acoustic guitar strums and piano keys tinkle beginning 1995's Wowee Zowee, you can hear the sucking sound coming from the executive board room...or was it a gurgling bong? Either way, executives run around frantically wondering what did they just purchase in their new distribution deal with Matador. Pavement was supposed to be the next next next Nirvana that was going to drag Atlantic Records out of the music industry doldrums. Where was the "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? "Jeremy"? "Blackhole Sun"? I often chuckle at this picture of suits loosening their collars, wiping sweat from their male-pattern-baldness, and leaping out of high-rise windows as SM states, "There is no castration fear." There may have been "castration fear" at Atlantic Records HQ the first day they listened to WZ.

"We Dance" begins Pavement's most experimental album that also happened to be their first (and only) release with the distribution advantages of mega-label Atlantic Records. (Of course, Capital later picked up the pieces.) The track sets the slow-to-mid-tempo experimental feel of an album that was ridiculed by critics and fans. It was only after the release of Brighten the Corners did fans finally appreciate the greatness that is Wowee Zowee. (This, coincidentally, was when I realized the "Pavement Factor" existed. The PF basically means that each release by a band is hated in comparison to the band's previous, classic release...until the band unleashes another dud. This may be why Pavement continues to re-release its albums in hopes that their fans will somehow fall in love with Terror Twilight.)

The country balladry that is "We Dance" may have come from their experiences in Memphis while recording WZ at the infamous Easley Studios. The song has this looseness as SM casually offers a dance, praise for your elders, and some Brazilian nuts while the sparse instrumentation sloppily prepares the listener for a new kind of Pavement, a stoned Pavement. It's probably the most soothing song ever penned by SM, but at the same time provides some uncertainty of what's to come.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Baptist Blacktick

B-sides don't get much better than this. "Baptist Blacktick" originally appeared on the "Summer Babe" 7", their only release on Drag City before heading off to Matador. It later appeared on DC's collection of early Pavement singles and EP's, Westing (by Musket and Sextant). That's where I discovered this gem, but I never really appreciated it until hearing the single. My cousin loaned me his copy as he bragged about grabbing it before it was ever placed on the shelf. I still have it and may never let it go.

Coming of age in the grunge era steered me toward more aggressive rock. Songs with great urgency attracted my attention. "Baptist" had that urgency with a large dose of sloppiness. The tempo is way faster than later Pavement material as Stephen Malkmus frantically tries to keep pace with his flat, California drawl.

The metaphor of a black tick (black-legged or deer tick?) sucking the life from our hero always painted a picture of this black-attired Baptist preacher who would ride around the Reconstruction-era South, distributing his own sort of divine justice, sort of an evil religious zealot in Zorro drag. It's too literal, but I thought he'd make a great comic book villain. Either way, he pisses off SM tremendously causing him to break from his deadpan delivery into a painful scream after achingly repeating the chorus. This is one of my all-time favorite moments in indie rock history:

"I'm just waiting, waiting for the Baptist/That fucker...ahhhhhh..."
It may have been the f-word that grabbed my attention, but it got to me. Still does.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Zurich Is Stained

"I can't sing it strong enough/'cause that kind of strength i just don't have"
On March 4, 1945, six US bombers mistakingly bombed Zurich, Switzerland, violating the 96th Article of War. The resulting court-marshal of Lieutenants Sincock and Balides may have been the first addressing a "friendly fire" incident. (Interestingly, actor James Stewart presided over the proceedings.) Seven people were killed as the bombers unloaded over 24 tons of bombs and incendiaries on Zurich.
"What does it mean, a mistake or two?"
Apparently, the bombers were misdirected due to faulty navigation devices. Sincock and Balides were in the lead plane with Sincock as the leader of the group and Balides as his navigator. The case was tossed on account of the mechanical malfunctions.
"You think it's easy, but you're wrong/I am not one-half of the problem."
As one-half of the defendants, Balides undoubtedly denied his guilt since he hadn't ordered any bombs to be dropped. (Both defendants testified, though it was not necessary.) He simply mis-informed his pilot that they were flying over Frieburg, Germany. And besides, he was only one-third of the navigation crew. So, he really wasn't one-half of the problem.
"Zurich is stained and it's not my fault/Just hold me back or let me run."
Since the case was dropped, Balides went on to fly other missions. One such mission was so successful that it resulted in several crew members being awarded medals. Balides was denied a medal due to his participation in the Zurich bombing.

Sources: Wikipedia & "The Bombing of Zurich" by Dr. Jonathan E. Helmreich