Release Date: 12/95 and 9/96
Album: KEEP YOURSELF AMUSED
Writer: ADAM MARSLAND
Let me tell you all about a bittersweet goddess
She thinks she's a geek and a freak but she's just being modest
She's got red hair and likes the thrift shop amenities
And if you're not at your best she could suggest an herbal remedy
The cult of guys that dig her
Is growing ever bigger
And everyone in sight wants to write a song About Jill
And every boy that I know is going to the pop show to see Jill
And every man on the street worships at the feet of Jill
The state of things has gone awry and that's why I wrote this song about...
She plays and sings in the coolest band I know
She's got an organ in her hand and she rocks it to and fro
The jerks at work give her crap 'cause she's female
It's a computer gig and sometimes she'll send me a cool idea via e-mail
Another cup of java
Temper flow like lava
The seven inch musicians are all changing ambitions and now they're all waxing lascivious
The girl with accordion is going to get bored again
'Cause she's so oblivious
Wow! Lots to say about this song.
The mid '90s pop scene in L.A. was truly magical. You had bills (some of which I booked) with Baby Lemonade, Wondermints and The Negro Problem all playing together, and everyone knew each other. If you had a new song, you knew it had to be good because Stew or Mike Randle was going to be in the audience critiquing it. This kind of scene began to attract a lot of people and bands -- one of the shows we put together drew 900 people at the House of Blues on a Monday -- and in some ways this song is a snapshot of that time.
Jill Meschke was the accordionist in the original Negro Problem (as well as another seminal Silver Lake band that's still around, the Abe Lincoln Story) and a huge draw in the band. So many guys in our scene had a crush on her that it was getting kind of ridiculous, which is what motivated this song. In many ways Jill was an archetype of dorky cool and so she made a good song subject. She was smart, a computer programmer, had blazing red hair, and really looked hot in a short second hand dress playing the accordion. People accused me of having a thing for her but we actually never got along very well. The first time I ever met Jill was at a party in Silver Lake...there was a violin on the shelf and I was just about to pick it up and Jill walks in and says "is that yours?" I'm a 20-something drunk guy and I'm like "no." And she's like "then put that down." So I guess it's safe to say I was a little terrified of her. Later I wound up taking her place in the band, after she married a younger guy and suddenly moved off to live in Colorado, shortly after the first Negro Problem album came out.
The big influence on "About Jill" is actually Gilbert and Sullivan. I was trying to write a punk rock version of something like "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General." You can really tell that on the sky-high bridge that Rob sings, the musical comedy storyline, and some of the obscure wordplay. I was particularly pleased with the bit about seven inch musicians waxing lascivious. There's about four puns just in that one line. "aa" is a type of lava, by the way. Only obsessive Scrabble players know that word.
The other big influence on this song is Robbie Rist. I nicked the first half of the line ("let me tell you all...") of the song from a song of his called "Looks Count," which he did with his band Wonderboy. At the time of the recording of this song Wonderboy was on hiatus and their drummer Paul Presson was playing with us. When I first played the song for him, he came up with the thunderous continuous snare fill through the verse. I didn't realize until much later that this was Wally had reprised his drum beat from..."Looks Count!" So Robbie basically got ripped off twice on this song. (He later covered one of my songs, "Special," and in revenge he gave himself the songwriting credit. No, I'm just kidding!)
We debuted this song at the Roxy in front of a packed house. We were opening for The Negro Problem, so we totally sprung this song on them. I passed her on the way up to the dressing room, and I'll never forget the look she gave me. She was so pissed! She eventually forgave me. Sort of.
This became Cockeyed Ghost's first single for the Aerial Flipout label (which was a co-op with The Negro Problem and some other Silverlake bands), recorded with Earle Mankey in our first sessions with him that also yielded "Dirty Bastard." The original track really sounded lackluster -- not Earle's fault, we just had muddy tones and performance -- and I took it home and obsessed over it for about two weeks. I came back and basically took over the session with specific changes in the mix and EQ -- the only time I did that with Earle -- and I'm really proud of that because I think this track just smokes, one of my very favorite of the early Cockeyed Ghost recordings. It also helped gain Earle's respect for our opinions which made working with him easier, although in retrospect I wish we'd had less input than we did, because sometimes we're rocking so hard it just sounds messy and cluttered. A lot of that first album just sounds rushed and breathless to me, but I wouldn't change a thing about this track, except maybe to brighten the guitar tone a bit. "About Jill" sounds like it's going to explode right out of the speakers. The three key changes didn't hurt.
When I was cutting the lead guitar track I kept blowing it and Earle and Rob were getting mad at me. We were on a very limited budget and they were getting ready to pull the plug. I finally had it together and then wham! I played so hard I broke a string. Not wanting to piss them off further and get cut off, I just kept playing and that's what you hear at the end of the song.
"About Jill" wound up being the opening track on our first album, KEEP YOURSELF AMUSED, and wow! What an opener. We get requests for it to this day.
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