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”.
|[INTRO & BREAK:]
Joe Stalin’s Cadillac
Aw, this is Somoza’s Cadillac
General Pinochet’s Cadillac
Well my Cadillac is Johnson’s Cadillac,
Gonna drive my Cadillac off a bridge
Where’s the bridge?