Don't look down, the ground might be burning
We're turning the corner now, we might run into God
From the Plains of the Buffalo, to the wild dogs of Mexico
To the loves that have laid us low…gotta leave that behind.
A Heavy Metal rock star, on the way down, was quoted: "I knew it was all over when I looked up from different stages every night and always saw a Ferris Wheel." I love that quote. Perspective. The realization you've been relegated to the State Fair and Carny circuit, down from Indian Casinos, and the next stop is the freak show and biting the heads off of live chickens. But I've been there…in every T.S. Eliot verse and situation that you can imagine. I can recall backing up the nightclub act "Onyx and Pharaoh," a muscle-bound black man dancing around with an enormous boa constrictor. One night he put the snake's head in his mouth, for too long, and killed it. He performed the midnight show with a dead snake. Drum roll. And then there was "Big Jimmy," the 300 pound female impersonator, who stripped down to only a road sign that covered his rear end which said: "Do Not Enter!" Friend, we are talking: "There's no business like show business." Slave auctions, topless roller skating, sword swallowers, midgets, mud wrestling. Been there. And now I'm happy to have the fruit platter in the dressing room and a bottle of clean water for the stage. And a towel. And the songs.
Have I been too far? Have I seen too much?
Working in the shadows of the big Ferris wheel?
It's been 10,000 nights in the sawdust and mud shows
Walking a tight rope, for a room and a meal….don't look down.
"Don’t Look Down," is a celebration of the Minstrel Road. Survival of the emotionally fit. Adventures in the skin trade. Reflection: Michael Jackson died with enough drugs in his body to sedate the entire population of Somalia; whilst his personal anesthetist slipped out the back door. The press forgets they condemned him as a child molester; now hail him as a hero worth 200 commemorative magazines and a million dollar L.A. farewell. Americans are good at crying magazine tears. Wax figurines will eventually melt as the climate dissipates into reality TV and talent shows. We're hurting for heroes and songs. Hurting bad. Forty years ago, July 20, 1969, we landed a man on the moon (so they say). The ghosts of John Updike, Arthur Miller and Norman Mailer are still trying to figure the significance of that - and how we are supposed to FEEL about it - like the significance of Michael Jackson. They are telling us it's a big deal, but why do we feel confused and empty? And hyped?
In 1969 I watched the moon landing from a cinema in Ibadan, Nigeria, with 200 drunk Yoruba tribesman who were laughing their asses off, because the spaceship looked phony and toy-like. I was with them.(See "East of Woodstock, West of Viet Nam." First chorus.) Hearing Bob Dylan sing "Desolation Row" at the Hollywood Bowl (and seeing the Beatles there) were more culturally significant events; fer yers truly. Resonant for the ages.
St. Mary, Mother of Patience,
St. Joseph of the hammer and nail
Build me a ladder to the Heart of the Matter
High above the moon tonight….on this carnival trail.
All I'm asking for is a little deliverance, and the time and space to write another song. Like the noir actor Sterling Hayden, drunk and penniless on the old Johnny Carson T.V. show, begging for a free room: "Someone please give me a room overlooking the Hudson River…just lend me a portable typewriter and a mattress to sleep on and I'll write you a goddamn novel, sir." Amen. Don’t Look Down. The earth might be burning. Tickets please.
(This is #9 in a series of 12 song sketches off the coming album: Blood and Candle Smoke.Out Sept 15.)