Dripping Candle

Happy Cinco de Mayo one and all on a sterling spring day here in Chicago, U.S.A. Baby Teeth just got back yesterday from a super-fun romp through the East Coast, so we will be looking back into the vault for this week’s submission, “Dripping Candle,” a track that yet again shatters pre-existing 52 Teeth records for length and girth.

Many of you are likely already familiar with this song, which dates from 2005. It marks the beginning of my collaborations with the great Jonathan Messinger and his “Dollar Store” shows at the Hideout here in Chicago. The Dollar Store is primarily a literary series, wherein local writers receive an item from a real-life dollar store, write a story about the item, and present it to a very attentive audience. When Jonathan invited me to participate, asking me to submit a song instead of a story, it was this audience attentiveness, far outstripping that of a typical rock audience, that intimidated me — I knew that I couldn’t just throw something together about cars and girls like I usually do. I had to strive for a three-dimensional kaleidoscope. The item he gave me, by the way, was a candle in the shape of a grand monument, in front of which sat a tiny pharoah with his legs crossed. Thus, I decided to write a song about a pharoah new on the job and struggling with self-doubt, particularly in the face of the titanic legacy of his legendary father.

I began by ripping off one of the grandest guitar riffs I knew: that of Lou Reed’s “Dorita” (not a song about a snack chip) from the Magic and Loss album. What would happen if this riff were matched up with a beat from an 80s hair-metal ballad? I think I was subconsciously thinking of “Walk Like an Egyptian” also, on account of the Egyptian context of my dollar-store item. I don’t get around to dropping a chorus until the 2:24 mark — very bad form for a commercial-pop tune like this one. The chorus is accompanied by vintage “exotic” background chanting (“oh-whoa, oh-whoa oh-whoa”) that has no tie to any particular culture but rather exists as 80s shorthand for “outside of North America.” And then suddenly, the chorus closes with a bit of piano-and-vocal After-School-Special schlock, in which our pharoah expounds upon the paradox of being high-and-mighty, yet tiny inside: “Gonna settle disputes, build institutes / And be a great divinity / But next to you [dad] / I’ll just be little old me.”

At the 3:49 mark, the 80s ante gets upped further, when the morale-boosting moment begins. Think of any great cinematic training montage — from the Rocky movies maybe, or more to the point, the “Higher and Higher” montage from Wet Hot American Summer. At this point, the pharoah has transcended his self-doubt and now begins to assert his own legacy, sprinting across the launch pad before making his final leap at 6:00 sharp: “AAAAAAHHH!”


10 Responses to “Dripping Candle”
  1. Really, I’m the only dude to comment on that last one? Dang!

    Well this bad boy is absolutely anthemic; a mini-opera all its own, and a definite foot-stomper. This could be the overture for a Disney movie or a broadway play or something (excepting the Disney movie in the interests of the A-word’s inclusion), hah! The breakdown of that “just be little ol’ me” part with the piano & vocal is amazing; the dropping out of the other layers really brings home the point of just being “little old me” (as in both “and nobody else but me” and “and nothing greater than what I am”).

    I hope this one gets more comments. I also like the three-billion-part-harmony of the final stroke of it.

  2. oh man! i love this. epic and all over the place. there’s continuity, but there’s a whole spread of nice material, and some really satisfying moments of rockitude, and a couple of real comedy.

    “shoot your flame into my ass?” πŸ™‚

  3. Abraham says:

    P M S: Thanks as always for the awesome feedback. I was thinking, after seeing YOUR opera, that this one might be up your alley. It’s usually a good sign when you can write a part that makes yourself laugh, and that “li’l ol’ me” part still makes me smile.

    J S: Thank you my friend. Pushing the boundaries of decency is a passion of mine. (Along with the pursuit of occasional rockitude.)

  4. The Bubble King says:

    Listened! Busy times! This song is pretty fun, part of it seemed like it would be good in a video game!

  5. Whenever Mustardfish plays “Joey” by Concrete Blonde and Ron sings the part about the Gorilla mask, I laugh. I don’t think I have ever not laughed. It is so choice. The part where he sings “munchies” instead of “money” is also pretty solid gold and usually elicits a smile.

    [audio src="http://www.pancakeproductions.net/music/mustardfish/Mustardfish%20-%20Joey%20(ProTools%20Class%20Mix).mp3" /]

    (You may have to copy/paste that. Or go to http://www.pancakeproductions.net/music/mustardfish/mustardmisc.html and click on the “Joey” link yerself.)

  6. Abraham says:

    B B King: Cheers on that!

    P M S: I am rocking out to Joey right now! You know what they say about ProTools: pro gear, pro attitude.

  7. steve says:

    man, great track!
    yeah, i laughed pretty hard at the flame in the ass part as well…
    fun song abraham πŸ™‚

  8. Abraham says:

    Thanks so much Steve! Good to hear from ya. Yes, I admit, the “flame into my ass” was one of those rare lyrical moments in which you feel like you’re being guided by an otherworldly hand….

  9. Judah says:

    Long-lost meat loaf + bangles collaboration! This will be good in whatever installation of the ‘Karate Kid’ films we’re up to now (4?).

  10. Abraham says:

    Meat Loaf plus Bangles really gets to the heart of this one. Yes, the third quarter of this song is definitely ripe for a Karate Kid-esque motivational montage.

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