#15-Joe Stalins Cadillac- Camper Van Beethoven. The Cadillac as the Ship of State. Plato sucks!

Joe Stalin’s Cadillac-Camper Van Beethoven

In a period of 17 months Camper Van Beethoven released it’s first three albums.  And Since the first album Telephone Free Landslide Victory, kind of percolated for a while before it started to catch on, it was like all three of those albums came out in 1986.  Even the Village Voice seemed to agree as all three records were in the 1986 top 100 albums of 1986 or whatever that poll was called.  (It has some cutesy name).

Cool.  1985-1986 we were on a freakin’ roll.  It was partly because we had this album writing formula.  A few Instrumentals a couple country-ish numbers, then a reference to A) weed /psychedelics, B) space aliens, C) a good conspiracy theory, and/or D) Soviets/Communists/Cold War. Et Voila!  un album de Camper Van Beethoven!

We didn’t know we had that formula at the time, but later when we combined all of those at once into one record for New Roman Times (2004) it was revealed to us.

Each of us.  In a dream.  The Archangel Azrael revealed it to each of us, sequentially, on successive nights, in alphabetical order according to how are names are spelled with the hebrew alphabet.

I made up that last part. well just exaggerated.   It wasn’t Azrael but a much much less important Archangel.  You think Azrael has time for some band on an independent label?  Their own label at that?  No it was an Archangel named Vesythint or something like that.  He mumbled.

No seriously that is pretty much the Camper Van Beethoven formula.  And New Roman Times does use all of those themes.

Where was I?  Oh yes Joe Stalin’s Cadillac.  Well it’s the kind of song you would write when you’re kind of high. Check.  Its country-ish. Check. And Check out Chris Molla- not greg- on that Ricky Skaggs telecaster solo.  For a tunic, snood and clog wearing fake hippy from Redlands California he could really do some chicken scratching. Joe Stalin. Commie.  Check. Pinochet.  Cold war. Check. You get the idea.

The words?  it’s easy.  We were not really politically coherent as a band but we all seemed to flirt with the ideas of various anarchists, luddites and libertarians.  In general we liked anything anti-authoritarian. So Jo stalin’s cadillac was the ship of state.  A platonic idea.  Only men deemed fit to govern should govern us? No way.  That’s bullshit.  That’s why I “wanna drive my cadillac off a bridge”.  The song names off various dictators (and US presidents) on the left and right to equate them.  We were voting for none of the above.

“we’re just peeing along the side of the road in LBJs cadillac”

I still don’t know if the whole LBJ pissing along the side of the road (or on his secret service agents as they surrounded him) is an urban myth or not. But it is clear he liked to use the word piss and pissing in his metaphors.  He purportedly chided the Canadian Prime Minister for his Anti-Vietnam War stance by saying ” You Pissed on my Rug!  Shades of Big Lebowski?  He also supposedly didn’t want J Edgar Hoover fired because he wanted him “inside the tent pissing out,  not outside the tent pissing in”.

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Joe Stalin’s Cadillac
This is Joe Stalin’s Cadillac
[Am] We’re just drivin’ ’round the [F] block in Joe Stalin’s Cadil-[C7]-lac

L.B.J.’s Cadillac
L.B.J.’s Cadillac
We’re just peein’ on the side of the road in L.B.J.’s Cadillac


Aw, this is Somoza’s Cadillac
This is Somoza’s Cadillac
We’re just drivin’ ’round the block in Somoza’s Cadillac

General Pinochet’s Cadillac
General Pinochet’s Cadillac
Can’t go left in General Pinochet’s Cadillac


Well my Cadillac is Johnson’s Cadillac,
Is Stalin’s Cadillac, is Somoza’s Cadillac,
Is General Pinochet’s Cadillac is lucifers is Reagan’s Cadillac

Gonna drive my Cadillac off a bridge
Gonna drive my Cadillac of a bridge
If I can find a bridge I’ll drive my Cadillac off a bridge

Where’s the bridge?
Has anybody seen the bridge?

26 Responses to “#15-Joe Stalins Cadillac- Camper Van Beethoven. The Cadillac as the Ship of State. Plato sucks!”

  1. Michael Crane Says:

    Love reading your stuff!

  2. Michael Dill Says:

    I always thought the line “Has anybody seen the bridge” was a poke at Led Zeplin’s “The Crunge”. Am I right about that?

  3. Michael Dill Says:

    One of my favorite songs from II & III! (Well, only if someone put a gun to my head and made me pick a favorite- they’re all good)

  4. John Rigney Says:

    Reading 300 is unquestionably the best part of my day. Do I find this sad? No. My life is full of joy and happiness. This just makes it that much better.

  5. Take it to the bridge! – James Brown

  6. I guess I never looked up the lyrics, I always thought you were singing Moses’ not Samoza’s as in:

    “Aw, this is Moses’ Cadillac
    This is Moses’ Cadillac
    We’re just drivin’ ’round the block in Moses’ Cadillac”


  7. B1g D1pper Says:

    I said in an earlier comment string that “All Her Favorite Fruit” was my favorite CVB song. Check that. I forgot about Joe Stalin’s Cadillac. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures to have the iPod on shuffle and have this song come up. It never fits with the song that played before it…but always sounds perfect.

    David — do you still feel as anti-authoritarian as you were in the mid 80s?

  8. This blog makes my sense of conceptual continuity very happy!

    Nice job on the actual title, Mike!!! I thought it was Soviet Spies, the plural, but my inner judge said to give you credit for the correct answer.

    • It is etched in the inner circle of the record. I read that the album title was hidden on the record, but I originally took that as meaning the cover painting, which was a false lead.

    • I couldn’t remember and had to look. But it’s “Soviet spys…”, at least on the one in the box set.

      • Yeah, it does say that there, and on the original cd sleeve, too… but not on the vinyl. Plus, on the Live and Evil recording, Victor and David seem to instruct the crowd to repeat “spy swims”.
        This is a conundrum. Spys isn’t even the plural of spy.

  9. Is the real title of the “self titled” album “Pitch-A-Tent 02″? That’s the only thing on the album cover that I can find that resembles a title.

  10. yep – always got this one… the explanation confirms what i’ve always implicitly understood about this song. felt much the same way, and appreciated the zep reference. thanks.

  11. Albany John Says:

    I always thought the last verse was saying the word Mitch instead of Is so it was Mitch Stalin’s Caddy etc. WOW was I way off

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