Burn Down

Release Date: 8/09

Album: GO WEST






Daylight came creeping
Through the window and onto my face
The taste of anticipation
For a moment I couldn't trace
But now I am 22 years old
Today is the day I will hit the road
Chasing down purple mountain vistas
And none shall dare resist us

Those last goodbyes, tearful and brief
Are now dotted lines vanishing underneath
This automobile that drove us to college
And once there we never dared acknowledge
But now I am young and scared and free
With mp3s and truckers on CBs
Cheerleading our way across the U.S.A.
This is my time, this is the day

That I will drive these lanes
Flung from coast to coast
To the angel streets
To Mulholland's ghost
I impatiently wait my turn
To Burn Down The World

Daylight swallowed the east
In our rear view mirror
But we never slacked our speed
Passing blackened barns
And shipwrecked farms
Wondering if their occupants ever felt the need to escape these amber waves of pain
Via plane or boat or train
And were they now sleeping off regrets
For the destinies they never met?

And I'll haunt these roads
Like a Cockeyed Ghost
Raise a truckstop glass
To our asphalt host
This is the moment that I have earned
To Burn Down The World


Adam - vocals, piano, guitars
Evie Sands - vocals, lead guitar
Teresa Cowles - bass, vocals
Kurt Medlin - drums
Ken Pace - sax
Probyn Gregory - trumpet

Adam sez:

"Burn Down The World," which is the first proper track on GO WEST, is deceiving in that it's about the only song on the album that sounds like it could have been on YOU DON'T KNOW ME. With good reason: the music was written at the same time as the other songs on YOU DON'T KNOW ME and it was originally supposed to be on that album, but I could never get a set of lyrics I was happy with, so I dropped it. I did eventually finish a set of lyrics, but they were unusually and specifically political for me (about the Bush administration), and they never quite worked so I just let the whole thing drop.

A few years later, in 2006, I was out with the band staying at Jeff Green's house in Bloomington, Indiana. I took a walk with Teresa and I suddenly had a brainstorm that allowed the entire concept of GO WEST to fall into place, and that was to make "Burn Down The World" sort of "Ludlow 6:18" in reverse, the story of a young man driving west and starting out his life, and the idea of starting out your adult life and the difficulties you encountered as you got older would then frame the events that followed. Miraculously, all of the songs I'd already written for the proposed new album fit somewhere in that storyline, and since the big roadblock for me to making a new album was having something coherent to say, it was at this point GO WEST was born...and in fact the album was originally titled BURN DOWN THE WORLD.

That was all well and good, but it took me another year or so before I actually wound up writing the lyrics to tell that story. What happened was starting in 2005 I had serious health problems. It's still not quite certain what happened but it was probably an ear infection that migrated into my jaw, which then swelled up, aggravating existing neck problems and created all kinds of issues with my hearing and with my sinuses. It took years to recover a normal life and I had a bunch of surgeries related to that and to an earlier knee injury in a short period of time. One of these was to remove a cyst in my sinus cavity and for some inexplicable reason, the doctor decided that this relatively minor procedure required me to stay overnight at the hospital. I was really pissed off about this and I had nothing to do, so I figured I would buckle down and finally finish up this song, and except for a few duff lines I figured I'd fix later, I typed up all these lyrics on my laptop at the middle of the night in my bed at Cedars Sinai between nurse checkups. The band performed it a number of times with those lyrics and I didn't get around to fixing the bad lines until literally Evie and Teresa were checking the microphone levels to record the driving, gospel-flavored backup vocals that bolster the choruses. At that point I frantically went to the computer with Evie and Teresa standing behind me offering suggestions and criticism and came up with the "Mulholland's ghost" bit and a few other things, we stuck them to the wall, and then did the vocals, which came out perfect, by the way. I was hoping for that gospel soul choir sound and we nailed it.

Speaking of which, the throaty lead vocal on "Burn Down The World" is one of my proudest vocal moments. One of the great things about recording vocals at home is you can try something out at any time, and early on in the recording I got a bad throat infection. I would never rent studio time to do a vocal in that condition, but with the microphone set up in my room, there was no reason not to give it a shot to see what happened. The first try I sounded like an 80 year old blues guy, which was cool but didn't make sense for a song about a 22 year-old, but after another day my voice had healed enough that I got some really great, soulful vocals, much raspier than my normal voice. The other key to this song was changing my approach on the rhythm guitars, which shifted the vibe of the song from Steely Dan to more Rolling Stones. I asked Ken Pace to make his sax solo walk the line between those two styles, and he really nailed it (this is the first of my songs to feature a horn section). (The whole band is featured on this song, with Evie doing the actual solo work on guitar)

This song was one of the most problematic mixes on the album, surprising in that unlike most of the songs, the bulk of it was done in a proper recording studio. There were just too many instruments to balance. After several months, I finally did a full remix myself, just one day before we had to wrap the mastering on the album, and finally perfected it. Even then, Earle and I manually adjusted the volume throughout the song, because the beginning is so much quieter than the end that if you turned up the beginning, the ending with all the instruments and vocal energy would get so compressed and distorted it would just sound like absolute shit. The idea with this album was to start out with something great, and just get better and better...but it meant the first few songs had to really smoke. This song gave me a bunch of gray hairs but in the end, I'm glad we hung in there, because we got it right.

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