Thank you for your service
Memento homo quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris. As in, it's become kind of traditional to post a version of this song on Ash Wednesday for Song for Odin -- inapt as it may be to smoosh those things together (though to be fair the inaptness is in the name itself and the Anglo-Saxons had no trouble doing it.) But where was I? Oh right, Odin, æsc Wodnesdæg, sackcloth, ashes... It's not just because of the word "ashes" but also because of the general theme of penitence which the song, at least, appropriates. Anyhow, here we go, rolling with it.
So here it is, "Sackcloth and Ashes" from a show in Forlì, Italy, November 1997, during one of our many tours with the Groovie Ghoulies in that era:
Everything else aside, the bare fact of having written a successful pop song with that title is something I'm kind of proud of per se.
And yes it is so successful, insofar as it is still remembered and listened to twenty-five years later. There are many songs that made a lot more money about which you couldn't say that now. And okay, to be honest, I'd probably have preferred the money: but that was not to be, obviously. So I'm left with the... you know, the people still remembering it thing, and hey, I'll take it. It'll turn to dust with everything else, of course, and sooner rather than later like as not. Till then though, I say unto you, those who are among the still listening: thank you for your service.
I've written this song up extensively, three times before in this series, and you can read more about it there if you like (see links in notes below.) But I'll quote from one of them:
'It’s a song that could arguably bear some analysis, but I don’t think it’s seemly for a songwriter to analyze his own song and I’m not going to do that.
'I will say it is a good one, one that “works”, and a testament to that is how popular and meaningful it has been to many people who have no idea whatsoever of what “sackcloth and ashes” means or implies. (I remember one kid, stretching to reach for a context he could grasp, issue the request: can you please play that one song, “Suck Cock and Asses”? It wasn’t a joke, he was quite sincere, but, well it was funny nonetheless. My initial thought was, this sounds like a job for Pansy Division, and I think I mentioned it to Jon Ginoli, but nothing ever came of it. That I know of.) I think it probably gains something from the slight mystery, and the theme of penitence, and the ungainliness of the position of the morose lovelorn martyr, does come across regardless, and it is “relatable.” Kevin Army criticized the vocabulary quite strongly (“tresses,” “querulous”) but it absolutely suits narrator’s aggrandizing agenda and I kept them in. I mean, obviously I did. Despite the vocabulary, the abstruseness, and general tricksiness of the song, it doesn’t come across as over-written, which is its own kind of miracle. Considering how over-written it actually is, I mean.'
Sometimes I stumble blindly into a good one, and this was one of those times.
All that remains is to say: Gesælig æsc Wodnesdæg to eow. I hope you all have a good one, whatever that may mean.
-- studio recording: https://youtu.be/VxVaJg-Y-sk
-- playlist of songs posted from this show: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLommF46BbnARkzz_pA3v1rkpVxA61_0MU
-- previous "Sackcloth and Ashes" write-ups:
-- Songs for Odin playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLommF46BbnATopffORs0YkspebJHka2o_#music#songs#video#punkrock#minds