“Further Into Songs” is a PHW feature that allows artists to expound on the roots and influences behind great songs.
I had no idea what I (and in turn, you) was (were) in for when I asked Antiques, my official band of Summer 2K11, to share some thoughts on a song from their excellent recent album JWNS. The album, which has been blasting out of my car windows for a few weeks now, continues to impress both for its ramshackle charm and its echoes of vintage 90’s lo-fi and garage rock. Here Timothy Griffiths sheds some light on the fantastical manner that album highlight “Everybody! Do the Twist” was conceived:
The song “Everybody! Do the Twist!” originated in a series of images that came to me one night while I was having difficulty sleeping. One specific and disconcerting image kept returning to me, again and again, every time I closed my eyes. The image consisted of a gaunt Christ-figure formed entirely of bits of metal and wire and swathed in a large linen robe of sorts that billowed in the soft wind. The cloth was very sheer and it was easy for me to discern the grotesque outline of the metallic structure underneath. All around this ghastly apparition were gathered dozens of diminutive rat-faced men, appearing no larger than fifteen or twenty inches in height, though it was difficult to be certain of that, as I had little with which to compare them. They could have been giants at a distance, I suppose. In any case, these rat-faced things were perched on various platforms erected around the Christ-figure in a dizzying array; cantilevered, kaleidoscoping and swing-like constructions– it is impossible to accurately describe the nature of that bizarre edifice, or, indeed, how it remained standing. Each of the rat-faced men had a button or a lever on his platform, and these were pushed or pulled at times with a concerted fury, at other times with indifference, and sometimes not at all, seemingly at the whim of each individual, and the collective manipulation of these devices produced a corresponding movement of the Christ-figure, which writhed or compressed into a ball or spun wearily in circles. I found myself simultaneously horrified and, perversely, entertained by this scene, much in the way one is frightened, yet also titillated by the demoniac masterworks of Bosch and Bruegel. Sleep would not come to me while in this excited state, so I rose from my bed and began to pace around the room.
As I paced, I began to think about something a friend had told me a few days earlier, when we had chanced to meet at a restaurant called The Brawl, a favorite of mine. He, after consuming a few too many drinks, began to relate the utterly odd and tragic story of his father’s death at the hands of his mother. His mother, he told me, had worked for years in a small convenience store in the country, and was often alone in the store during the slow hours of the night. His father, unbeknownst to the other members of the family, was a prolific thief, responsible for a spate of armed robberies stretching across three counties. Whenever news of these robberies showed up on television, the husband would turn to the wife and say, “Honey, I know you’ve got that little silver pistol hidden under the counter at the store, but I want you to promise me, if you ever get held up, that you won’t even think of using it. It won’t do you no good and it’ll probably get you killed.” The wife always agreed to this request, as the pistol wasn’t hers (it belonged to the store’s owner) and she had never been entirely comfortable with having it under the counter. After the husband had heard several such reassurances from his wife, he decided he would rob the store. He entered the store in the middle of the night, dressed in clothes unfamiliar to his wife and with his face covered by a mask; he also carried a large rifle, which he had left unloaded. He yelled loudly for everyone to put their hands up, then he ordered his wife to open the cash drawer. The store’s only patron at that hour was an elderly man who often wandered in during the night and became trapped in the aisles. This elderly man, having become quite agitated at all the commotion, stumbled into a shelf of soup cans and managed to knock several of them onto the floor. Upon hearing this noise, the husband spun and pointed the rifle at the old man, his finger tense on the trigger. The wife, fearing for the elderly man’s life, pulled the silver pistol from beneath the counter and fired two bullets into her husband’s chest. As he lay on the floor, bleeding, she stripped off his mask and only then realized what she had done.
My friend told this story to me and confessed that lately he had been feeling more and more uncertain that his mother had been unaware of his father’s identity on that strange night. “How could she have missed it?” he asked me. “There had been dozens of thefts, all that money coming in, my father sneaking around at odd hours. She must have had some idea.” This terrible thought, that his mother had in fact knowingly murdered his father, was beginning to have a disturbing effect on my friend. He told me he had been drinking far too much. He told me that he had lost his job. I was deeply concerned for his well-being, but didn’t know what to say.
With these disharmonious and worrying thoughts clashing in my mind, I sat down and began to write the song that would eventually become “Everybody! Do the Twist!” It is my firm hope that the song conveys to you, the listener, some remnant of what I felt on that sleepless night.
Timothy M. Griffiths
MP3 :: Everybody! Do the Twist
(from JWNS. Buy here)
MP3 :: ETC