Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Nathan Bedford Forrest Conundrum

Like so many of our ideas, including most of our songs and concept for this whole record, it started as a joke. At our first show with Josh, Kelly introduced "Eli Whitney" by saying, "This song is about a man who changed Tennessee for all we know it." Someone near us immediately yelled out, "Nathan Bedford Forrest?" Kelly expertly handled it be simply saying, "No, even better, this song's about Eli Whitney." It took a few seconds into the song before what had been said truly registered, and it became a funny joke.

Then we developed the idea of writing a history record. A song about Nathan Bedford Forrest could fit in with the material really. At a subsequent practice last summer, I came up with the hokiest way to sing the words, "Nathan Bedford For-rest" while doubling the vocal melody with my bassline. It was fun to keep playing because the concept itself was funny, and it annoyed Kelly. And let's face it, annoying Kelly at practice is fun.

As time went on, I added a punkish Spider-Man-like refrain to the hokey bassline, and suddenly it was a little more like a song. Daniel and Josh have been known to join in on the impromptu jam of it every once in a while, but it hasn't led to anything definitive.

As the work from my second job has subsided for a week or two, I've been focusing on practicing bass and guitar and hopefully writing some contributions to this record. No real fruits have come from it just yet (though I turned the best one so far over to Kelly at practice on Saturday because he would be better at writing the verses for the chorus and jam that Daniel and I came up with), but I've been toying with different ideas that I left on the drawing board over the past few months. One of them was this corny little song about the famous Confederate cavalry general.

Most of our songs center somewhere around a smirk. We smirk when we first entertain the notion, we smirk when we can finally tell what Kelly is singing, we smirk when we play them, and we hope you'll smirk when you hear about Lynsey Lohan's preferred payment method or nuptials of the un-dead or the future battle for domination of the planet with a species of very fast cats. But Nathan Bedford Forrest? It dances a little too close to the line beyond ironic to uncomfortable. Even if we went out of our way to make sure the song didn't venerate him, even if we discussed the ways in which history has not correctly remembered the man, it's still a pretty sticky topic to have a song about the first grand wizard of the KKK, challenging people's perspective of our band in ways that I don't think would be the best.

Besides, I don't think Kelly would sing it anyway.

And my fiancee was pretty unhappy about the idea too.

So I am retiring the idea, although I seriously considered making an 8-track demo of it to include as a b-side on the "Deluxe Edition" of this record. But with ideas on my part coming much more slowly than I'd like, I think I'm going to permanently shelve this one in favor of songs about child labor in the industrial revolution or man's first flight. And "Bob Dole" does a pretty good job of getting out my need for an autobiographical song about a less-than-popular figure in the American psyche.

1 comment:

  1. A further peek into this great General's life shows that ANYTHING that we could possibly write about would difficult. Not just the KKK references, but what about his accusations of war crimes at Ft. Pillow? This guy was ruthless. The only general to join the confederacy as a private and come out as a general. He also stepped on alot of toes to get there. Forrest is just a difficult guy to put in some sort of lime light. He is a man that did great things but thats about it. The MAN himself was fueled with many troubles. It isn't so much I want to retire the idea of a song about this man, its more like I just CAN'T write anything about him. Because, personally, I don't feel like he's THAT great. Seriously...maybe living in Tennessee is a bad place to make that statement, but take a look around and tell me what you see? I thought so....

    If Angela thinks it's a bad idea, then you know it's bad.....


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