June 21, 2017
I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor
#7: ‘Out the Door’
Hey folks, how y'all doin’? For this latest, electrifying edition of ‘I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through’ I present to you the story behind ‘Out the Door’, the first song on side two of 2014’s Day 5. I’ve got a lot to say this time around, so let’s jump right in!
Don’t search for all the answers at once. A path is formed by laying one stone at a time.
- ‘The Giant’, appearing to Special Agent Dale Cooper in a vision
(Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 1, 1990)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, we’ll start there. It is a royal pain in the ass 75% of the time. Okay, to be fair more like 90% of the time. Creatively speaking it has the potential to be a useful asset when you can get it working for you. I say this, because many times when I’ve focused it in the right direction it has helped me to constructively zone in on and provide great attention to detail in my work. Mostly though, it’s frustratingly crippling. I was diagnosed with this crooked crutch of a mental malady when I was 17 and I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of, except it fit me to a T.
Essentially OCD makes it very hard--nay, damn near impossible--to be in the moment. It’s like trying to think of everything all at once. Thoughts block other thoughts ad infinitum and whether looking back or forward the glass is always half empty. I make lists upon lists upon lists and even when I write it all down (which I ALWAYS do!) I still have a heck of a time running over and over stuff in my head. I count things. It’s usually stupid stuff; objects hanging on the wall, the number of cherry tomatoes I put in my salad, how many guitars I own (even though I know how many I have) and when the last time I restrung or played each of them was. I even make lists of other lists. When it grabs hold of me it can become downright embarrassing and hard to hide, making me paranoid and ultimately angry at myself. Sometimes its regret or it can even be good stuff, but it doesn’t matter.
It’s a sad, sad situation when you can’t be here and now
Maybe you’ve heard the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Well, I’ve got to admit succumbing to the suffocation of self-doubt and insecurity feels like a monster feeding upon itself. My brain gets stuck in negative thought patterns like a broken record I wanna fucking smash. When it reaches the point where I get angry at others for interrupting my internal ‘looping’ and they become affected/annoyed by it, it’s safe to say I’ve lost control of my shit. Now if that doesn’t qualify as insanity, well then…Let me put it this way, it makes me feel like I wanna die, except I’m too insane to even pull that off!
So where am I going with this? Here’s the deal. Despite the best of intentions the futility of obsessing over these lists upon lists makes it a miracle for me to actually accomplish my desired goals/tasks. So many times I’ve thought I had everything figured out but I couldn’t get started even though I could picture it all clearly in my head. Long story short, I’m lucky if I ever get ‘out the door’.
When we began work on songs for our third record I dug this one out and introduced it to the band. The music I’d had in my pocket for about a decade at that point but I’d never fully fleshed it out into a song. It had a catchy melody and my lyrical mumblings always seemed to favor the phrase ‘out the door’ but that was as far as it got.
At the time I originally wrote the music I was in the middle of a manic spell (yeah, for those not already aware I’m also bipolar). It was January, 2000 and I spent the better part of 48 hours seated at my old piano. I composed a ‘suite’ that must have been comprised of, oh, about half a dozen ‘movements’, several of which were later broken up into separate finished songs of their own. A few of those have surfaced on HW albums over the years. This one was the second to last piece of that saga if I remember correctly. It had a nice little bounce to it, very McCartney ala ‘Martha My Dear’ (The Beatles, 1968) or something like that. Anyway, I filed it like so many others on the shelf in the back of my mind. When I did pull it up I was joking around, but the band liked it. This wasn’t the first time a ‘back burner’ idea resurfaced and I decided it was actually better than I’d given it credit for.
Around this time I had started implementing piano into our sound more and this song began to take shape. One of the first things I recall when we first jammed it out involved a silly ‘soap opera-style’ organ intro. Dave spontaneously busted into this goofy improvised preacher sermon bit. The specific content varied each time, but it always concluded with the phrase “…and he was cloaked in baby blue…” Call it convenience, serendipity or whatever, this wound up the first lyric in the song. I was off and running from there!
Baby blue don’t let them see you
The gist of the lyric springs from my paranoia in regards to my OCD being uncomfortably outwardly apparent. I briefly digress into what they termed in the mental hospital as ‘going global’. This entails blaming your problems on the world en masse when you can’t deal with them. Thing is, it actually makes it harder to see where you’re at or to know where to start i.e. “putting one foot in front of the other”. “Is it my imagination or has the whole world just gone mad?” is a legit question, albeit irrelevant to one’s own personal crisis immediately at hand. “Does anybody really care at all?” Why should they? This gets turned on its head at the end of the song when I resolve that “I’ll be alright, I always was before” as I rhetorically muse about the whole world getting it together if we can ever collectively change (get ‘out the door’). Mostly though, I’m singing to myself to not take things so seriously. It’s okay to be a little crazy.
During the mixing stage of Day 5 I had a flash of insight. At the time the band had undergone personnel changes. I had already fashioned/sequenced a 10 song album out of a bunch of songs recorded by our original line-up. The album was to have been called This Time You Know and I’d selected what I thought were the 10 strongest songs from those sessions. Once Luke and Skyler joined the band we recorded 5 new songs for an EP. It dawned on me to take those new songs, all of which I really liked, and put them together with the 5 best of the best from the other songs intended for the album. I decided to put the tracks featuring the new incarnation of the band on side one and side two would be a ‘suite’ of sorts containing the keepers from the originally planned album.
There were a few songs we’d recorded that for one reason or another I just wasn’t feeling all the way anymore. Maybe I’d changed my mind about a lyrical sentiment here or there, but I still liked elements of the song. So, I took various bits (background harmonies, etc.) and edited them together connecting all the songs on the second side. Basically, I ‘strip-mined’ a song called ‘Tried and True’ (incidentally, another one from that same manic piano session way back when I wrote ‘Out the Door’). These fragments served as segues between songs. In retrospect I’m glad the original album didn’t get finished earlier as this wouldn’t have occurred to me at the time. I think ultimately it really benefited as a result.
So, that’s basically it. Oh yeah, one more thing! That preacher bit I mentioned that Dave did somehow never got recorded. I envisioned ‘Out the Door’ opening side two and introduced the “Tried and True” fragment concept straight away as a fade in/intro that merged into the cheesy organ intro. But what to put over the top of the cheese where the spoken part had initially been? I remembered the first day we recorded the basic rhythm tracks for the album. Dave played drums while I played a rhythm guitar guide track. We were getting some ‘cross-talk’ from half of a CB radio conversation happening somewhere coming through my amp. It was totally random but I surmised it might slide neatly into place if I floated it in over the organ business. I still don’t quite know exactly why it works, it just felt right. Chalk it up to a happy accident manipulated to serve the song. Spontaneity is a good thing for a guy like me. It helps to not get so hung up on the mystery of it all. It can even be fun!
Whew! Okay, I swear I’m finally finished with this diatribe (can you tell I was manic when I wrote it?). Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to make a list of what I have and haven’t got done today and may or may not get done tomorrow, at which point I’ll probably repeat the process. Still, I like to think that each time I’m getting a little closer (to what, I have no idea).
And I’m sure this time eventually we’ll find it and we’ll all get wise if we ever get out the door...
And we’re finally here and shit yeah its cool and shouldn’t it be – or something like that
- Robert Pollard
(Guided by Voices, 'Echos Myron,' 1994)
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