Talkin’ Tracks: No other love
Chuck Prophet sat down with writer Alex Green to discuss the songs on No Other Love.
Alex Green: "WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME" - A bluesy number with horny swagger. A rave-up like Jon Spencer piggybacked on Joe Tex's shoulders. An apparent tale of infidelity at a bridal shower when the narrator's girlfriend drinks too much and climbs all over some dude like a jungle gym. The worst part: the narrator is the last one to find out.
Chuck Prophet: "The real clincher is when it gets to the bridge and he discovers that the Chippendale dancer in question was his best friend Jerome. Oh no! Not Jerome! This is the kinda news that gets around. The horror—the shame. Ah...I'm just playing ya'll. Stick around for the outro. How often do ya get to hear someone play bottleneck bass through an envelope filter? You may never again."
AG: "AFTER THE RAIN" - A hushed and gorgeous ballad that looks ahead to spring. The leaves are turning color; you take off your boots and walk in the water. Found strings, brushes on a snare and grandma's metronome.
CP: "That's me playing the punch bowl on the chorus. My favorite bit. And we should give special mention to Stephie - the only singer I know who can effortlessly barnacle onto my vocals. Not to mention, brave those mouth-to-mouth duets night after night. Not for the squeamish, I tell ya."
AG: "I BOW DOWN AND PRAY TO EVERY WOMAN I SEE" - Swamp changes augmented by a bossa nova groove. A tour-de-force that finds Prophet in a playful, associative mood. Name another song that mentions both Sissy Spacek and dropping acid at Disneyland? Didn't think you could.
CP: "Back in middle school in Orange County, radical meant taking acid at Disneyland. Ah...the good old days. Kinda like `To All The Girls I've Loved Before' only not as good.
"They don't make those Southern exploitation movies any more, do they? Jerry Reed, Burt Reynolds... small towns, crooked sheriffs, corrupt politicians and most of all, those custom color Pontiac Firebirds and Trans Ams. I always dug Jerry "Guitar Man" Reed. A real underrated songwriter, as they say... `Amos Moses,' `When You're Hot You're Hot'. Masterful! He used to make the rounds on the afternoon talk show circuit. I'd watch with my mom after school while she did the ironing. He'd panel with the host holding a guitar and always show off a little. I seem to recall he was a mind-numbing, devastatingly great guitarist. Anyway, I kinda lost track of those movies - `Gator' anyone?"
AG: "RUN PRIMO, RUN" - A modern-day folktale of fellow hoodlums who pilot a failed scheme all the way to the bitter end in a border town you've probably never been to. Replete with a snare drum piped through a twin reverb and mariachi horns, its dark grooves punctuate the imminent desperation of our two heroes - or villains. Think Raymond Chandler in a Hawaiian shirt somewhere in Florida.
CP: "Too many miles in an Econoline sitting on a Fender Twin Reverb reading Elmore Leonard with a flashlight in the dark I suspect. Based on a true story... the names were changed... you know the rest. What can I tell you about Primo and Sonny? Sonny hates pretentious assholes and strip malls exploding around him. And Primo never did like to be talked down to. In their day, they had wars to protest. There were real sides. Four students were shot to death by National Guardsmen at Kent State. Hell, even Patty Hearst wielded a machine gun. Just a little harmless fun, `til somebody gets hurt.
"It was a simple plan. Of course the heist went terribly wrong - they always do. Down the road, Sonny developed a conscience or fell into a paranoid funk, depending on whom you talk to. And as they say, only the truth can set you free. Besides, after a couple of drinks, Sonny never could keep his mouth shut. Now it's not just between Sonny and his Higher Power. Primo had better run. The money's gone and there's no statute of limitations on murder. Primo says, `Damn, Sonny—I got kids!'
" I thought I was paying tribute to Hubert Sumlin with those repetitive one note Tele stings, until Justin the engineer spun around on his stool and said, `Rad dude, sounds like Cypress Hill!' I guess `it's all good' as the kids say."
AG: "STORM ACROSS THE SEA" - Heavily under the influence of Tony Joe White/Jeannie C. Riley and all those great southern exploitation story songs from "Son Of A Preacher Man" to "Midnight Train To Georgia" and every stop between. The production: a marriage of eras—the rhythm section sounds like they're on loan from D'Angelo. Dripping wah-wah, gooey molasses electric wurlitzer.
CP: "I wrote this with klipschutz in a couple of minutes one Sunday in his basement flat in S.F. We were both getting hungry and halfheartedly finished it off. Three verses before lunch I always say. It just wouldn't go away. We must have rewritten it a dozen times. After the first line, `someone call the ambulance, she's completely nude standing on a fence' and the string figure that follows it, people should get the idea that something's about to go down. It would be foolish to follow `I woke up this morning, duh, duh, duh duh' with all those grandiose strings ... wouldn't it?"
AG: "NO OTHER LOVE" - A spare and slinky number with pedal steel and soaring strings. An honest and intimate meditation, whose mantra, `no other love,' allows the narrator to go anywhere. Beautiful. Some people call it skywriting.
CP: "I involuntarily wrote this song in a hotel during a commercial break in one sitting ... top to bottom! All three chords and two lines or whatever it is. We were `rehearsaling' some stuff and setting up mics to record demos at Pigshead Studio/Rehearsals. It was so cold that day in that cement bunker of a studio, I can remember seeing my breath in front of my face. Tim Mooney surreptitiously recorded us running it down. Not the first take: he actually recorded us learning it. That's why it takes so long for the band to come in. They're pretty quick - by the time we're two verses in, key change and all, they got all three of the chords in the right order. No point in trying to recreate that crime scene or write a second verse for that matter ... not that I didn't try in vain. We later recovered the original multi-track cassette it was first captured on and Greg Liesz and I over-dubbed onto it in my living room. Hats off to Tim Mooney for rolling the tape. Now that's production! And props to Jason Borger, who charted the beautiful string arrangement."
AG: "ELOUISE" (self-help boogaloo 2001) - Farfisa and bajo sexto guitars rage in this Mexican rock and roll border nugget fiesta. No shortage of secret sauce.
CP: "He drives a late model Lexus. There's a stack of self-help books on the passenger seat. He's not necessarily a bad guy. He's accepting applications for a mate. Must have a positive outlook and a sympathetic ear and a few other specific qualifications. A song that might build character to sing night after night. I have no idea. That's a nod to Senator Condit with the Modesto reference. There's always something to pull out of the air - or maybe it's the fact that wherever I go there's a TV on in the background. Not that I have any beef with TV. You go fight the power. I'm staying at home. There's got to be something on!
"God knows why, but did you know that for some reason, a lot of Germans settled around San Antonio, Texas? Obviously, they brought their accordions with them. It's been well documented. In the `60s, when the world went electric, any self-respecting Beatles fan traded in their accordion for a Farfisa organ. It's true! Or maybe I just made all this up. Sir Doug, Question Mark ... I can't get enough of that shit. I recommend you go out and get the Texas Tornado's greatest hits today. It just might make you a better person. Mixing this song, we tried our damndest to find a reverb setting that sounded like a corrugated tin shack. Apparently, they haven't made one yet. Give it time, though."
AG: "THAT'S HOW MUCH I NEED YOUR LOVE" - A lover's plea in the tradition of Andrew Marvel, but way hornier. Swaggering, pulsing, and smooth. Duane Eddy meets the Gorillaz at Lou Rawls' house.
CP: "When we cut the track, we were amazed at how Max was able to lock in the omni chord beat box with the band, until it occurred to us that we were playing to him! It's just a blues really, over a Casiotone beat box. Stephie came up with that cool background siren vocal part. I'd like to hear Bon Scott sing this song, or better yet, Mark Kozelek. It's a kind of predatorial thing, isn't it? Not quite Andre Williams, but heck, my parents are gonna hear this. And God knows, I've done enough to embarrass them already."
AG: "SUMMERTIME THING" - Recorded under the influence of Dr. Dre/Tupac Shakur. A sun-soaked urban shuffle that pays homage to the summer. You can feel the sweat down your back, the sting of debt, and you know it's going to end, but you just don't care. This one has bounce...with steam. California soul that tips its hat to Roger Trout with the vocoder in the chorus. Pedal steel and vocoder are a deadly combo-you don't find that everyday.
CP: "Am I deluded or is it a hit? I'd like to have a hit. Instead of living like a community college student, maybe I could start to live like a grad student? Or maybe get one of those custom guitars with my name written across the fretboard in mother of pearl. I can see the video now: girls in bikinis singing into blow dryers... Yeah!" We played this song recently and a Mission boho Clark Kent eyewear-donning hipster said to me, `Chuck, I don't mean any disrespect, but that song put me right back where I was the first time I heard `Night Moves.' Bob Seger? No offense taken!"
AG: "WHAT MAKES THE MONKEY DANCE" - Adolescent character studies for the sexually confused. A rootsy hip-hop meditation that asks some pretty important questions. The answers are forthcoming.
CP: "There's nothing unhealthy about it. Some things you can't learn in books ... so just throw away the owner's manual. We don't need Dr. Ruth to tell us that - or do we? With only two chords toggling back and forth, your mind tends to wander. I try to imagine Cleopatra dressed as Venus, the goddess of love, reclining under a gold canopy, fanned by boys in Cupid costumes. Or that fleeting moment when at a stoplight on Mission Street - the windows down - Santo and Johnny spilling out of the radio ... a low rider pulls along side, pumping the 808 at bone rattling volume, and for a split second it all comes together in harmony like chocolate in the peanut butter. That's the sound I was chasing. And I guess I'll keep chasing it until something reaches out and grabs me! I laid down a track of my attempt at a human beat box and we built it up from there."
AG: "OLD FRIENDS" - And that's the thing about small town gossip—you know so much you forget to talk about the things that actually happened. A track featuring nylon string guitar over a bossa nova pre-set beat.
CP: "Stephie played the one note samba `string' in an homage to Nilsson's `Everybody's Talkin'.' There are some secrets we all take to the grave. Then again, if you can't laugh at yourself, make fun of other people. That's what I always say."