Wednesday, August 29, 2018

“I was writing about self-deception, and deceiving myself while I was doing it.”

Logged in last week to see a picture of my friend situated beneath the crummiest headline possible. Now his family, colleagues and friends — including me — are recalibrating.

I have been listening to this collection of 24 T Bone Burnett songs — a lot.

“I’ve written a lot of really tough songs; I’ve been really tough on my characters a lot of times. But at the same time I know that any discussion of morality begins with one’s self, and the person I was really dealing with in all those songs was myself.”*
Burnett’s reticence toward these songs contributes to their draw, for me.

Some of his ambivalence (to put it mildly) has to do with production issues — of the eight songs he included in his 40 song retrospective from 2006, Burnett went back into the studio and painstakingly re-recorded five.
But Burnett’s aversion to revisiting the rest of this material feels more personal. He seems to dislike the young punk situated in that particular time and place, the dude who had the brass to give direct expression to his darkest shadows and commit it all to the reel-to-reel.
“All these songs are about ridiculous people. ‘Strange Combination’ is about an awful person. [‘Amnesia And Jealousy (Oh! Lana!)’] is about a terrible person. ‘Having A Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Her’ is a completely sardonic song addressed to a phony lover. The only thing close to redeeming is ‘My Life And The Women Who Lived It,’ but even the title is kind of a horrible thought.
“Is there a moment of light on this record? I don’t think so. I was just starting to come out of a dark personal time, and was working these things out of my system. My original title was Beneath The Trap Door. That’s how it felt.”**
Ridiculous, terrible people — people I can nevertheless to some degree recognize within myself. Pretty much exactly what I need to hear right now.

*Blog heading and LA Times quote are from T Bone Burnett: A Life In Pursuit, Lloyd Sachs.

**Liner notes to the 2007 re-release of Trap Door/Proof Through The Night/Behind The Trap Door.

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