Liner Notes: Welcome To Poisonville

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Hammett (Plays on Opening Screen)

A dream sequence from Red Harvest, Hammett’s great book about the cleaning-up of a corrupt city, Personville. His private dick masterfully pits the rival gangs against each other, breaking the Pinkerton Detective agency rules, but achieving his aim. Here the words are underpinned by treated guitars, rain-soaked traffic, orchestral percussion, and distorted and eerie jazz pianos. Mark’s cello tracks the narrator as he darkly crosses the Continental United States in the grip of a nightmare. At the centre of the song is a guitar solo that owes a debt to the great Jeff Beck. It was created by Mark playing six separate takes and then jamming phrases together in the editing so that they don’t sound like a ‘played’ solo (well, Jeff plays like that, but few others do…)

Air Algiers

I loved this song when I first heard it on Celebration, an album that captured the highlights of the 1970 Big Sur Folk Festival. The whole record is pretty great, the Beach Boys playing Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Kris Kristofferson terrific on The Law Is For The Protection Of The People, even Linda Ronstadt backed by a protean version of The Eagles, ripping through Hank’s Lovesick Blues. Joe McDonald played this wonderfully as an acoustic 12-bar blues, all stalking menace. We’ve done it as an electric 12-bar with an oud put through a bass amp and Mark playing Middle Eastern guitar on a keyboard with a pitch bend. Raise Your Hand!

Windmills Of Your Mind

An early single purchase, on Reprise, if I remember correctly, if my mind wasn’t spun and twisted by the psychedelic nonsense of the Bergman’s attempts to be down with the freaky kids. I remember playing it over and over again, that circular melody the hook. I recorded this drunkenly, late one night, having downloaded some approximate chords from the net. I didn’t know the chords (You could tell? Really?) and I sell short the beautiful melody. But hey, what’s wrong with the sense-memory of thirty-five years ago? My wife, Michele, had been transcribing hours and hours of interviews with and about Scott Walker for Steven Kijak’s great documentary 30 Century Man, and I had become obsessed, watching him in the studio on the DVDs she was working from. So some of his approach filtered in to this, especially in the ‘clouds’ of piano, an instrument that I can’t play. But Scott teaches that one should not be afraid of such small inconvieniences. It’s the intent, dammit!

This Land Is Your Land

First thing I ever recorded on Garageband, as detailed in a piece I pitched to The Guardian, (read it in the Info section of the site). I’m not sure why I chose to record this as a test, but it is such a great song, and the chains of images are fantastic, still inspiring Bob Dylan years later to write all those great from/to lines (“from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras” in Idiot Wind, for example). Mark felt compelled to get Jack White on its ass one day (it was originally all done with Apple Loops) and it thus entered version 2, the one you hear on the site. I was trying to get the drum feel and sound that Ry Cooder got on his soundtrack for the lamentable Ralph Macchio film Crossroads. The drummer he found, Frank Frost, I think, dragged an extraordinarily wild and primitive sound from his kit.

It Ain’t Me Babe

One of a great songwriter’s great songs. Jordan’s friend Alan dropped by and played a couple of blazing solos, which Mark then mixed, and mixed up. Folk Rock (with a side order of psychedelics) Lives!

Bob

The Guardian, November 2003

Look What They Done To My Song Ma

29 shillings and 11 pence from Dobell’s in 1970. What more can I say.

Special thanks to Bob Gumpert for allowing me to use his great photos.

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