Videos from The American Songbook: Redacted!
All the vids in one place!
Since the release of The American Songbook: Redacted studio album back in October I’ve been working on videos for the songs, with the goal of eventually putting them together with introductions and wraparound material from the live show for a complete visual album. In the meantime I thought, ”wouldn’t it be great if there were a place where all the released videos were nicely organized so people could easily enjoy them?”
So I did that! It’s right here! I’ll add to this post as new videos come out. Enjoy!
Beep! Beep! Outta the Way!
Henry Ford, the car guy, was so revered that he offered his opinions on subjects outside of the auto industry. To that end, he bought the Dearborn Independent to disseminate his views, including his hatred of the new popular music “jazz” that the kids were listening and dancing to. And like everything Henry Ford hated, he blamed it on Jewish people.
So, to make fun of him for his dislike of jazz, and to remind everyone what a dick he was about it, I wrote him this jazz song. Enjoy!
Plug Your Ears and Sing!
Stephen Foster was one of America’s first songwriting superstars, and a lot of his songs were written for the minstrel shows of the 1850s, since they were the predominant form of popular entertainment in the 19th Century. We don’t learn much about that history, or the history of racism in the U.S., and with several states enacting laws banning the teaching of divisive concepts, we’re ensuring that the next generation will learn even less.
So that’s what I wrote my Foster-style song about: people being so uncomfortable with history they’d rather it not be taught at all. Some people would prefer you just Plug Your Ears and Sing!
The Ballad of Lou Pearlman
Fraudsters and con artists are as ingrained in U.S. history as robber barons, pioneers, inventors, and innovators. In a country that celebrates outside-the-box thinkers, sometimes people think outside the box of what’s legal. They’re the flipside of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet (more about Henry Ford soon).
So when it came time to pick an American fraudster to profile in The American Songbook: Redacted (let’s do AS:R from here on out) I had plenty to choose from. Madoff? Boring. Ponzi? Fascinating! But there was one guy who did something with the money he conned that no one else did. He gave us boybands!
Behold, The Ballad of Lou Pearlman!
Corporations Are People Too!
I wanted to make sure there was at least one really peppy, uplifting number in AS:R so I took inspiration from some of the sunshine pop of the 60s and 70s, songs like Age of Aquarius, Up With People, Kids are People Too! Subject-wise I wanted to tackle a concept that has long fascinated and aggravated me: corporate personhood.
With the help of my good friend Dan Pavelich, who did the amazing illustrations and character design, I came up with this bubbly, overly-optimistic tune Corporations Are People Too!
The Invisible Hand
In addition to history I wanted to examine some fundamental myths we have as a culture, and one of the big ones for us is that the free market will create the best of all possible worlds. From Reagan to tech-bro libertarians there is an unquestioned (and unprovable) belief that letting everyone pursue their own self interest will result in an efficient and just distribution of resources.
This concept is summed up in Scottish philosopher Adam Smith’s metaphor of “the invisible hand.” As in: the market will be guided as if by an invisible hand to the best possible outcomes.
To me “the invisible hand” sounds less like a metaphor for capitalism and more like a villainous organization in a James Bond movie, so I decided to write a James Bond-style movie theme on the subject. I’m incredibly proud of the arrangement I did for the song on the album and absolutely blown away by the visuals my friends Peggy & Steve put together for the video.
Cue voiceover by Don LaFontaine: “In a world where events are controlled by an unseeable force, one man… must fight… to make fun of it all…”
The Invisible Hand
The Great Disappointment of 1844
The end of the world, specifically people interpreting the Book of Revelation to try to predict it, is an idea deeply embedded in the American psyche, and I don’t think we truly appreciate how much it informs a lot of people’s worldview. Growing up my dad watched a lot of evangelical Christian shows and read a lot of books like The Late Great Planet Earth, that tied current events to various Bible prophesies.
Everyone who’s ever predicted the end of the world has one thing in common: they’ve all been wrong. Including the time in 1844 when so many people were convinced the world was going to end within the year that when it didn’t it was called The Great Disappointment.
And since “Great Disappointment” makes a great title for an emo song, not to mention that waiting for a Second Coming has the angsty teen vibes of waiting for your parents to pick you up a the movies, I wrote an emo song about it.
The Great Disappointment of 1844
The People That Were Already Here
Another concept that looms large in the American personality is the Frontier Myth, the idea that America is an open land of opportunity where rugged individuals will succeed if they are strong and have the grit. While that’s a lovely idea it completely overlooks the fact that there were tons of people already living in the American west so it wasn’t exactly wide open, available land.
Stories and songs about cowboys and western adventurers were hugely popular in America, from the river towns of the Midwest to the cities back east. So to examine this myth, and to bump it up against the reality of western expansion, I wrote a western song. I even played a lap steel!
The video came out on a bank holiday in mid-October, now known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the background picture is one I actually took down in Marfa, Texas!
Please enjoy The People That Were Already Here
In the 80s & 90s there was a moral panic in which accusations of ritual satanic abuse got so out of hand people were convicted of crimes on no evidence and entire communities turned against each other. It got thrown into overdrive by a debunked memoir called Michelle Remembers, and fueled by sensationalist coverage everywhere from Geraldo to 60 minutes.
Soon people were looking for the devil everywhere, including in heavy metal music, which makes heavy metal the perfect genre with which to satirize this ridiculousness.
It’s a subject that needs to be ridiculed because people are still throwing accusations of devils and demons today (I’m looking at you Lauren Boebert,) so I implore you no to forget the Satanic Panic