Full Force Galesburg 1 2 3

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Released: 1997
Label: Emperor Jones

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Liner notes



16 songs about people whose good intentions are having exactly the outcome you might have predicted if you weren't such a damned optimist.


I am a straightforward man, with no crime on my conscience,
But I was accused of being a spy for China.
So life, you see, is never very smooth business,
And now the present bristles with difficulties.

— Ho Chi Minh, Poems from Prison Diary, 4 Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959.

Small red potatoes in the rich black soil. Green young trees sucking up the river water. Oranges from Spain. Rain-chute running down the side of the trailer. Islands. Paper mills all the way out in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania. New banjo from Nashville. Calendar from De Smet and Van Diest 5 showing April on the wall, all wrong. Heading North through France for days but never getting out. Old barn, strange sounds. Gin. Sunlight. Almost broke my own heart down there in Vicksburg. 6 There is always an anchor somewhere. All that was left later was the vision of the two of us crossing the parking lot toward the blazing room off the interstate half an hour past Iowa over on the other side of the Mississippi. These songs are about what made that moment either possible or inevitable, depending on how you look at it.

IF THERE IS ONE THING I LOVE it's the weather this year: how it swings suddenly the wrong way just long enough to confuse the geese, who figure, what with the way the air's warmed up on a given day, that winter's over. North they go, and I hear them from where I am. They sing happily, flying in a looser formation than you'd think evolution would allow. They're headed home.

A FEW DAYS LATER, OF COURSE, the elements remember what they're about, and the clouds come closer to the earth than they should, and the fog hangs heavy on the ground, and I hear the sound again and look up: here they come again, flying much lower now and calling to one another for fear that one of them will get lost in their hasty retreat southward. It is now the middle of winter.

SOON IT WILL BE COLD ENOUGH to keep them south until the Spring thaw. It will be so cold that we will almost forget them. We will imagine that we have been this cold throughout our entire lives. We haven't. One find day they will soar through the skies above our small town again, heading North, and the full sun will be bright behind them. The humid air will stick to us like a death in the family. The geese will sing with a joy that even our dreams never approach.

WE MAY FREEZE, BUT WE WILL NEVER GO NUMB. In the summer we tend to forget this, and if an unexpected cold front frosts the crops we fear for our lives. We need not worry. The real danger lies, as we should have learned by now, elsewhere. There is a burning that not even a midwestern winter can kill.


Probably there are among those of you still reading a few who think the notes are a bit heavy-handed this time around, and you'd be right if it weren't for my hold-card: the original notes were a militant vegetarian rant which, among other things, described the lives of meat-eaters as "meaningless." From these notes I wish only to salvage their original impetus, which was the desire to thank the people who drove down from Canada to see me at the Satyricon in Portland 7 at the end of a long and exhausting tour. They were all vegetarians, see, and they lifted my spirits. This bit here is even longer than the original over-pious monologue which it replaces, but hey, at least it doesn't tell you carnivores that you're all going to Hell.

Will I ever tire of thanking Lalitree for her love and inspiration? Will I ever repay the debt I owe to Peter Hughes? Will the Parkinson family please stand up and take the bow they have coming to them? Will Paul Lukas 8 admit he's surprised when the Mets make the playoffs this year? Will Jaime Tugwell 9 get the "Sir" before his name which he so richly deserves? Will Sam Deese 10 be recognized as the man who has elevated degrading humor to an art form more complex and ultimately more important than post-modernism? The answer is probably "no" all all counts 11. This is the long way around saying that the above-named people are very dear to me indeed, and that I thank them for not beating me up. Or, in the case of Peter Hughes, for not beating me up more often.

FULL FORCE GALESBURG was recorded in Iowa, California and New Zealand in 1996 and 1997. Alastair GALBRAITH lent his timeless heart to "Evening in Stalingrad" and "Original Air-Blue Gown"; Peter HUGHES and Bob DURKEE got all liquored up and saved "Weekend in Western Illinois" and "Down Here" from a fiery doom. Bob also recorded the ones that lack wheel-grind and played bricoleur to the whole thing during a week when he would have had every right to just crawl into bed and refuse to come out 'til everybody agreed to leave him along. Thanks for all your help, Bob. It means a lot to me. I hate having to do this: All songs written by John Darnielle, © and ℗ 1997 Cadmean Dawn (ASCAP).


16 new songs. Spring and Summer 1997. Hi, Joel. 12

West Country Dream had a live version released on the Yoyo a Go Go 1999 compilation.

Table of contents

  1. New Britain
  2. Snow Owl
  3. West Country Dream
  4. Masher
  5. Chinese House Flowers
  6. Ontario
  7. Down Here
  8. Twin Human Highway Flares
  9. Weekend in Western Illinois
  10. US Mill
  11. Song for the Julian Calendar
  12. Maize Stalk Drinking Blood
  13. Evening in Stalingrad
  14. Minnesota
  15. Original Air-Blue Gown
  16. It's All Here in Brownsville

New Britain 13 14 15

You've had it up to here with my West Country 16 talk
You can hardly understand a word I say
Shortest tree around here is a hundred feet tall
It's gonna rain today

I try and tell you secrets 'til my face turns blue
I am not getting through to you
All away across the ocean they're gathering their strength again
Lining up along the country's length again

This morning I know who you are
This morning I know who you are

On the river, the sun is bright gold
And the things you try to say to me make my blood run cold
But I hold you anyway
And we stare into the sun all day

And you're about to leave again, I've learned to read your movements
And I'm learning how to read your mind
The sun climbs the sky for us above the Mississippi 17
And I feel you in my arms but you're hardly even with me

This morning I know who you are
This morning I know who you are

Snow Owl 18 19

You came down from heaven to the branch outside my window
Your feathers were the color of snow
The dice were loaded against us ever seeing each other
But one of us had nowhere else to go

In your eyes were all the colors that the rainbow forgot
Your wingspan was three feet wide or better
With your voice practicing notes from time's own beginning
You took apart the alphabet letter by letter

And here
Where it all stops for good
Where the cool waters run
Thought I saw a mouse kicking in your beak
It was only a skeleton

West Country Dream 20 21 22 16

Sure as a surgeon
You slipped your hand into the doorjam
Blood coursing through the air tonight
I know who I am

And I know who you are
Or who you were just an hour ago
Static interference on the radio tonight
I know what I know

Quick as lightning
You brought your hand back inside
And you shut the door behind you
It's too hot out there tonight

Breath rising and falling
Expansion, contraction
Why'd you tell me this
Were you looking for my reaction


Most of the brine has got to boil away
Most of the air has got to choke it
Most of June I spent in jail again
I don't mean jail exactly

Up in the pine tree
Red squirrel looking down at me

I am losing control of the language again
I am losing control of the language again

Most of the things I used to hold on to
Most of the things I used to say to you
Most of the ways I knew around the local roads
Are disappearing daily

High in the cottonwood
You were looking down at me and you sure looked good
Hair hanging down in the leaves
Neck tilted back to make a rainbow

I was losing control of the language again
I was losing control of the language again

Chinese House Flowers

Wax paper that I taped over the windows
Melted quick as chocolate in the heat
It'll probably never come off now
The windows look like frosted glass if you see them from the street

And the dim light that filters through
Cast a new light on you
It makes me get all misty because I remember something
And then I see your shadow

And I
I want to follow you all the way down this time
I want to see what it is you're going down for
I, I want you more than I want anything
I want you the way you were

You were lying in the moonlight
Outside in the grass
When I heard an animal voice somewhere in the dark
And I saw a wing shadow pass

And just then the gleam in your eye
Made my blood freeze
There was something up above us
Rustling in the branches of the trees

And I
I pressed up against you again
I could hear your heartbeat steady and hard and pure
I used to love you so much that I was sure it would kill me
And I want you the way you were

Ontario 23

I know what my weaknesses are
Probably better than you do
Revolutionary Chinese propaganda
The color of blue

I thought I knew what my weaknesses were anyway
And then the orange tree blossomed last Saturday 24
There was nothing in it but pain for me

I know what can hurt me real bad
And what can't hurt me anymore
I know how to rise up with the sun
And I am learning what sleep's good for

I thought I'd figured out the world and its circular way
And then I saw the sun fall down out of the sky the other day
There was nothing in it but pain for me

Squirrels climbing trees in bloom
Soft yellow light spilling into the room
My favorite records
My favorite books
The people I love
The people I almost love

Light beckoning
Wind whistling
Hey, hey
Hey, hey
Day breaking
River rolling 25
Hey, hey
La la la la la

Down Here 26


On Venus it rains sulfuric acid 27
But the raindrops evaporate before they hit the ground
Japanese red-crowned crane 28 by the water here 29
Trouble in town

I feel like I'm gonna drown down here
It's all coming down, down here

Hurricanes in from Australia
Tore up the neighborhood
A telegram from Lithuania 30
And the news is not good

And I don't speak the language down here
It's all coming down, down here

Johnson Johnson is my name
Brooklyn is my station
Heaven is my resting place
God is my salvation 31

Twin Human Highway Flares 32 33

You turned to me and asked me if I'd always be your boy
As we drove across the river into western Illinois 17
And on the railroad bridge, half a mile of solid steel
Wheels were spinning out sparks, scraping at the rails
Wind in your hair all right
Sunset spilling through the rear window
Your white t-shirt hugging your shoulders, beaded with sweat

On the day that I become so forgetful
That all of this melts away
I will burn all the calendars that counted the years down to
Such a worthless day

As we walked across the parking lot toward the motel office
We were walking with a benediction on us
Light was everywhere, the building stood against the sky
Like a monument to desperation two floors high
Mile and a half from the river
We went back to the car to get our overnight bags
Sunset spilling through your earrings all over your body

When we shut the motel room door behind us
We knew we'd hit the mother lode
On the day that I forget you
I hope my heart explodes

Weekend in Western Illinois 34 35

The land's opening up like a blanket
And the dandelions spread themselves thickly out
Along the fields which are evidently endless

And we are hotly in love with one another
We've got an unquenchable thirst in our throats
We are for some reason all the time bleeding
And we are friendless

And we love these dogs
That roll on the lawns here in Galesburg 3
Because they seem to know something nobody else knows
It is written in the smiles on their faces
And it rings in their high, young voices
We are burning up all of our choices up here where the tall grass grows 36
Up here in Galesburg

The sky's opening up like an old wound
And the rain on our bodies is warm tonight
And the ground underneath us shakes in the cracking thunder

We can taste fresh blood in our mouths again
There is no chance of getting enough of it
And we tally up all up all our possessions
We're going under

Yeah, we love these dogs
That lull in the rain here in Galesburg
As the new season rocks them in its terrible arms
Yeah, they howl as though the world were ending
As we are watching the sky unwinding
And some of our promises were binding up here where our dreams take form
Up here in Galesburg
Up here in Galesburg

US Mill

Way up north
Down the road a little
Back in New England
Right here in the middle

And all the way out west
We had our ears to the ground
All of our dreams resting in the same spot
Listening for the old sound

And it was ringing as clear as crystal
And it was shining as bright as gold
Grain gathering on the stone floor
And we were spring-heeled and we were real cold

All summer long
Deep into autumn
In a high room
And down here in the bottom
Down here in the bottom

Song for the Julian Calendar 37 38

Sun twinkling on the river this eve
I tasted chocolate on my tongue
Darkness climbing up the ladders to the sky
Rung by agonizing rung

I heard firecrackers popping next door
Wondered what it was I'd bargained for
When I laid quiet on the floor
And you were knocking

Let me be your witness
Let me walk out on the edge
Sun refused to shine on my backyard today 39
Darkness climbing up the house coming through the window ledge

I saw the firecrackers bursting on the sidewalk
Heard you talking your baby talk
Saw the bright lights again and I felt the shock
When you were knocking

Maize Stalk Drinking Blood 40

Lying in the hot sun today
Watching the clouds run away
Thought a little while about you
The sky was a petrifying blue

And while the geese flew past for no reason at all
I let the sky fall
This is an empty country and I am the king
And I should not be allowed to touch anything

I picked myself up off the ground
Shook the grass from my hair and I walked around
Felt the warm sun in my eye
Strangers were passing by

I shinnied 41 up the black walnut tree 42
Let the hard blue sky fall right through me
And I saw the sad young cardinals trying to sing
And I should not be allowed to touch anything

Evening in Stalingrad 43

When you were nineteen I first laid eyes on you
The small stream that ran through the center of town carried your name to me
Your hair was dark and your eyes were a frosty blue
And then they put me in jail 'til you were 23

When you were 24 we took to drinking and dancing
We boxed with our shadows like a couple of kangaroos
And then we went down to Chechnya 44 for the weekend
Your eyes were glacial and your promises all rang true

And things are happening here while we sleep
I can feel it in my boiling brain
And I'm dreaming in blood-red color
When I see the Stolypin car 45 riding through the light rain

They'll have to carry me out on my back
They'll have to tear me to pieces all right
We are warm in our hidden room down here
We've got stars in our eyes tonight

Minnesota 46 47

Seeds came in the mail today from Holland 48
And the language on the package is wonderful and strange
All sorts of flowers that grow up from the earth
In goodly colors gloriously arranged 49
I circled the house and I scattered them around
Let the water sink down into the soil
Stared a long time at the residue
Blood, milk, and oil
God, the humidity is something
Our shirts are soaked clean through
But the house is throbbing and the heat keeps coming
And I keep looking at you

And then you're singing in Dutch to me
And I recognize the song
And it seems so old and so fragile
And I haven't heard it in so long
We may throw the windows open later
But we are not as far west as you suppose we are
Hot wind coming off the water
Sky gone crazy with stars 50
While we stay here, we imagine we're alive
We see shadows on the walls
There's something waiting for us in the hot, wet air 51
Sweat, water, and alcohol
Just the old blood
Rising up through the wooden floor again
Just the old love
Asking for more again

Original Air-Blue Gown 52

Rain all burned away
The horseflies are an iridescent green
Plums boiled down to pulp
Drying on a screen

Bright red air inside the house here
I can barely draw breath
Dark blue shapes pop behind my eyelids
I am not afraid of death

And on the television
Black and white footage of the young Cassius Clay 53
My God, my God, my God
He was something

Fists flashing as he comes toward the screen
Sailing headlong into nothing
And disappearing
Out there in the clearing
Floating down a slight breeze
That plays along the edges of the leaves
It's you
It's you
It's you

It's All Here in Brownsville 54 55

"One, two."

Meanwhile out where nothing starts
Out where the railyard ends
The sun up above us is trying to kill himself
We were watching the skies again

Why do we come down to Brownsville
Year after year after year
This was the question we never even posed
Ringing like a siren in our ears

Down on the Mexican border
In the unfathomable heat
With our shirts tied around our waists
And the world at our feet

We looked at one another's bodies
Figured we looked all right
Ready to die if we had to
Watching the skies all night

And I was sure my heart would break
When the sun sank down into California
I felt your breath on my neck, it was hot and good and pure
And I wanted to warn you

It's all coming apart again
It's all coming apart again
It's all coming apart again
It's all coming apart again


Thanks to Johnp for pointing out the Van Morrison reference in the title! And Caliclimber is awesome — his Flickr page provided the album images. I hereby dedicate Evening in Stalingrad to him. Go check out his site, it rocks. Thanks also to Evan Perez for noting the interpolation of Trouble in Mind in Song for the Julian Calendar, and to Steve Brinson for finding the right translation of the Ho Chi Minh poem in the liner notes.

  1. Full Force Galesburg, Nall, retrieved May 4, 2014.


  1. John describes that the couple whom he's singing about in Full Force Galesburg is different from those in Sweden and in other series, "a little angrier and a little less easy to sympathize with". The songs are at least loosely connected. VPRO session, February 17, 2000; KJHK interview, March 2, 1997, transcribed by Jon Nall, retrieved July 16, 2014.

    Full Force Galesburg was written mostly in an off-campus apartment in Grinnell, Iowa, presumably while Lalitree was still a student there. Zoop, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 17, 2007.

    The cover image depicts Durga, a fierce version of Parvati, riding her tiger mount. Beneath her, two other Hindu deities, Hanuman and Krishna, are dancing. 

  2. The title Full Force Galesburg alludes strongly to the Van Morrison song Full Force Gale, released in 1979 on his album Into the Music. The song uses the metaphor of being lifted upwards by a gale to describe a religious feeling of finding solace, hope, and rebirth in his faith in God.

    Thanks to Johnp from the forums for pointing this reference out to me! 

  3. As alluded to in Weekend in Western Illinois, Galesburg is a city in Western Illinois and the county seat of Knox County. John has confirmed that he's referring to the Illinois Galesburg. KJHK interview, March 2, 1997, transcribed by Jon Nall, retrieved July 16, 2014.  2

  4. Hồ Chí Minh was a Vietnamese revolutionary communist leader who successfully led the Việt Minh independence movement against France and Japan in the 1940s, and later opposed the United States as the leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the Vietnam War through the 1960s until his death in 1969. In 1942, he was arrested in China on charges of being a spy. Prison Diary is a collection of the poems he wrote during his fourteen-month imprisonment.

    Unfortunately, I was unable to find the edition that John used here. However, an astute reader found another which reveals this to be the third stanza of a poem reprinted in full below with the title Hard is the Road of Life (p. 135):

    Having climbed over steep mountains and high peaks,
    How should I expect on the plains to meet greater danger?
    In the mountains, I met the tiger and came out unscathed,
    On the plains, I encountered men, and was thrown into prison.

    I was a representative of Viet-Nam
    On my way to China to meet an important personage.
    On the quiet road a sudden storm broke loose,
    And I was thrust into jail as an honored guest.

    I am a straightfoward man, with no crime on my conscience,
    But I was accused of being a spy for China.
    So life, you see, is never a very smooth business,
    And now the present bristles with difficulties.

    The poem is somewhat unusual in being so long; most poems in the book are four lines exactly, with some exceptions other than this.

    Minh, Ho Chi (1967). Ho Chi Minh on Revolution: Selected Writings, 1920–66. Bernard B. Fall, editor. New York: Signet.

    Thank you to Steve Brinson for finding a copy of the same translation used here! 

  5. De Smet and Van Diest was a Belgian gasoline company before being acquired by Total, a major international petroleum company. 

  6. Vicksburg is the name of several American cities. Given the context here, my best guess is that this refers to Vicksburg, Mississippi, a large city located on the banks of the Mississippi River. 

  7. Named after the famous work of Roman fiction, the Satyricon was a well-known alternative music nightclub in the Old Town district of Portland until its close in 2003. 

  8. Paul Lukas is a baseball commentator and Mets fan. At the time of Full Force Galesburg, the 1997 season was underway, in which the Mets finished as third in the National League East, failing ultimately to secure a postseason spot. 

  9. Jaime Tugwell was (and perhaps still is) an employee of Rough Trade Records in London; one of the first people outside the United States to stock Mountain Goats records. 

  10. Richard Samuel Deese is a poet, professor of history at Boston University, and native of Claremont, California, where he most likely met John. 

  11. The doubling of "all" instead of "on all counts" is the original text. 

  12. Referring to Joel Huschle, for whom Song for Mark and Joel was written. Joel appears throughout the Mountain Goats canon in liner notes and songs. 

  13. A music video for New Britain was made by some fans shortly after the release of Full Force Galesburg. Excited, John supported them, but John's casual dislike of the haircut of the lead hurt the feelings of the filmmakers and the film was never released. Webster Hall, New York, November 9, 2008. 

  14. New Britain is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  15. A reference to the album New Britain by the English band Whitehouse, released in

    1. Like their other albums, this set the stage for industrial music to come.

    Other allusions in this title include the following. New Britain is an island in Papua New Guinea. However, given the West Country line (see footnote below) and other references throughout the album to southwestern England, it seems more likely that this is set in England and refers primarily to a newness related to or new incarnation of Great Britain, the island in northwestern Europe belonging to the United Kingdom which contains England, Scotland, and Wales.

    New Britain is also the name of a melody which was eventually attached to the now-famous folk hymn Amazing Grace in 1835, the tune to which it is still sung today. New Britain itself was an amalgam of two melodies originally published in 1829 by Charles Spilman and Benjamin Shaw. 

  16. The West Country is a rural region in southwestern England encompassing Cornwall at the southwestern end and continuing east through Devon and Somerset to Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Dorset. The dialect is influenced by the native speech of Cornish, a Celtic language, and has been stigmatized by the association with rural farming and simplicity. This region is referenced both in New Britain and West Country Dream 2

  17. The Mississippi River forms the western boundary of Illinois; this could refer to crossing that river almost anywhere along the Illinois border.  2

  18. Snow Owl is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  19. The snowy owl, Bubo scandiacus, is a species of large owls living in the Arctic tundra regions, whether in North America or Eurasia. Wingspans of adults range from four to five feet. Occasionally snowy owls come as far south as the lower 48 American states or southern Russia, but these sightings are rare. Like other owls, snowy owls are carnivores. 

  20. "So, you are in love, you've been in love for what seems like the entirety of your real life, and what preceded it — it either didn't count or it happened to somebody else, and so — so, you're in love, but then, what happens, 'cause it's my song, it also all goes to hell. And so, what's left is a lot of fear. A godawful amount of fear." — Empty Bottle, Chicago, December 6, 1997. See also Cow Haus, Tallahassee, February 6, 1998.

    John has specified that the people in this song live in Yorkshire. Crossing Border, Amsterdam, October 9, 1999. 

  21. West Country Dream is part of the informal series of alternate versions

  22. A live version of West Country Dream was released on the Yoyo a Go Go 1999 compilation. 

  23. John has explained that this refers to the southern California town Ontario, which sits adjacent to Claremont and Pomona where he grew up. Slattery's, Dublin, November 22, 1996. 

  24. Also sung, "And then the orange tree burst into white bloom the other day". WFUV session, December 17, 2012. 

  25. Sometimes, these lines are mixed up or added to. For example, this has also been sung:

    Day breaking
    River beckoning
    Hey, hey
    Hey, hey
    Sun falling
    River calling
    Hey, hey
    La la la la la la la la la la la

    WFUV session, December 17, 2012. 

  26. Down Here is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  27. Venus, the second planet from the sun, has a harsh atmosphere comprised almost entirely of carbon dioxide but containing clouds of sulfur dioxide, the combination of which leads to sulfuric acid droplets. As the ensuing severe greenhouse effect leads to an average surface temperature of over 460 °C, these droplets do indeed evaporate before landing, called virga.

    Krasnopolsky VA, Parshev VA (1981). Chemical composition of the atmosphere of Venus. Nature, 292(5824), 610 – 613. 

  28. The red-crowned or Japanese crane, or Grus japonensis, is a large endangered crane species native to Siberia, China, and parts of Japan, mythologized as a sign of luck. 

  29. Nall initially transcribed this lyric as "japanese red clowns train by the water here" in an absolutely fantastic mishear of the lyric. Although he's corrected it, it remains on his site as an alternate lyric. It's been reported to me that subsequent to Nall's transcription, John has played this song and sung it with this lyric, however, I've never heard a recording of such. If you have, please get in touch

  30. Lithuania is a northern European country located on the Baltic Sea. A Baltic state, it gained independence from the Soviet Union after World War I. 

  31. This stanza uses an old, often-used snowclone that found its way into gravestones, folk songs, literature, and prayers, that fits the form:

    X is my name
    Y is my station
    Heaven is my resting place
    God is my salvation

    with X taking the writer's name, Y their home, and with station occasionally being replaced with nation and salvation with expectation, among other modifications. Members of the Mudcat forums, associated with the Digital Tradition Folk Song Database, were able to collect many examples of this formulation, some dating to 1799.

    The specific example of Johnson Johnson used here seems to originate with the folk song The Two Brothers or The Twa Brothers, one of the ballads collected by Francis James Child (as Child Ballad 49). While many versions lack this final stanza, some later versions add it in. See for example Brave Boys: New England Traditions in Folk Music, released by New World Records, which includes such a recording made in

    1. The song itself depicts the murder of a boy by his brother. 
  32. "There are two people in this song — or three, if you count the highway, which I generally do. They look a lot like me and the woman who would later become my wife, driving from Chicago to northern Iowa on a summer day. Only I don't think that ever happened. I know we never had any '50s road movie conversations like the one that opens the song. We weren't, at the point in time when this song would have had to've taken place for it to be true, using overnight bags. We had suitcases. And there wasn't enough backstory between us for buildings to appear as 'monument[s] of desperation.'

    "But the picture I get in my head, or got in my head when I was writing it in a Grinnell apartment circa 1996, was of my girlfriend and I heading a little ways west and digging in for a long life together. I think it's almost a symbolic scene for me in that way. On one tour we opened the set with it quite a few times, and I enjoyed it more and more each night. The characters in this song aren't keeping secrets from you; anything they don't tell you just isn't any of your business." — My Five Favorite Mountain Goats Characters, eMusic Magazine, February 15, 2008. Archived by the Internet Archive on February 22, 2008, retrieved July 16, 2014. See also Canopy Club, Urbana, October 12, 2005.

    "This is the first real love song I ever wrote for my wife." — Bowery Ballroom, New York, October 29, 2005. See also Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, October 23, 2002; Bottom of the Hill, May 26, 2004. John often introduces 02-75 as being the first love song written for his wife; it's not clear to me which came first.

    More than the other songs, Twin Human Highway Flares seems to represent the explanation of the album given in the liner notes, "All that was left later was the vision of the two of us crossing the parking lot toward the blazing room off the interstate half an hour past Iowa over on the other side of the Mississippi. These songs are about what made that moment either possible or inevitable, depending on how you look at it." 

  33. Twin Human Highway Flares is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  34. John has described Weekend in Western Illinois and It's All Here in Brownsville as being linked, both describing border towns: one on the Iowa-Illinois border, the other on the Texas-Mexico border. KJHK interview, March 2, 1997, transcribed by Jon Nall, retrieved July 16, 2014. 

  35. Illinois is a state in the American midwest bordering Lake Michigan to the northeast and the Mississippi River to the west. The preceding song, Twin Human Highway Flares, similarly is located in western Illinois. 

  36. Sometimes sung, "... where the tall corn grows". Zoop, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 17, 2007. 

  37. Song for the Julian Calendar is part of the Song for ... series

  38. The Julian calendar was a Roman calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE and lasting until the introduction of the currently-used Gregorian calendar in 1582, which changed the accounting of leap years to more accurately reflect astronomic reality. Prior to the Julian calendar, Romans used a 12-month calendar of 355 days, with a intercalary month of 27 days occasionally inserted between February and March to correct the calendar, and often manipulated for political ends; the Julian calendar ended this practice and had timekeeping rely solely on the sun. Some churches continue to use the Julian calendar today for their religious ceremonies. 

  39. This is very similar to the closing line of the chorus (sometimes, the opening verse) to the eight-bar blues standard Trouble in Mind, originally recorded by singer Thelma La Vizzo with writer Richard M. Jones on piano in 1924:

    Trouble in mind, I'm blue
    But I won't be blue always
    'Cause I know the sun's gonna shine
    In my back door someday

    The song has been recorded in various forms by dozens of artists over the years, including Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Lightnin' Hopkins, Hank Williams Jr., and many others.

    Thank you to Evan Perez for noticing this! 

  40. This is a confusing title. While I freely admit to being unsure of its meaning, my best guess is that it refers to an Mayan religious practice surrounding sacrifices. In these, a maize stalk would be placed on a stela, upon which the priest would drip blood. This practice could, however, be unrelated entirely to this song and be only a coincidence.

    Megged, Amos (2010). Social Memory in Ancient and Colonial Mesoamerica. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-11227-7 

  41. John has confirmed that this is actually "shinnied", meaning to climb a tree, rather than "shimmied", as Nall reports.

    Mountain Goats forums, WANTED: Most impressive tMG rhymes, August 6, 2008, retrieved June 16, 2015. 

  42. Black walnut, or Juglans nigra, is a species of walnut tree native to North America and predominating through the central to eastern United States and southern Canada. 

  43. Named Stalingrad after Joseph Stalin in 1925, eventually being renamed to its current name of Volgograd in 1961 as part of Khrushchev's de-Stalinization programs, this is a large city in Volgograd Oblast, western Russia. Originally, the city was named Tsaritsyn. 

  44. Chechnya is a republic in southwestern Russia, which fought for independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and was eventually crushed by Russia in 1999. Depending on the year in which this song takes place, Chechnya could be independent (1917 – 1921 and 1991 – 1999), part of the Soviet Union (1921 – 1991), or part of Russia (after 1999), making such a vacation either extremely dangerous or indicative of some political or military relationship, or a simple trip south with no such overtones. 

  45. A stolypin car is a type of Russian railroad carriage designed to transport people and livestock to implement the Stolypin agricultural reforms in the 1900s. Such reforms aimed to eliminate collective agriculture and force a capitalist schema of farming. The cars were later used for passenger transportation and then by Soviet security forces for prisoners. 

  46. "It's a song about that point in the relationship, you've all been there, where you've been drunk for weeks, and you look across the table at the person you used to know, and you say, 'I used to know you, don't you live here?'" — 40 Watt Club, Athens, Georgia, August 3, 2001

    "This is a love song... it's about a couple of people plotting harm." — Opalis, Norman, Oklahoma, November 13, 2002 

  47. Minnesota is a midwestern American state bordering Canada to the north and Lake Superior to the east. It is one state away from Illinois. 

  48. Holland is a province in the western Netherlands, a densely-populated Dutch-speaking country in Western Europe bordering the North Sea. Outside of the Netherlands, Holland is commonly used to refer to the country as a whole. 

  49. These two lines are derived from Sonnet 70 of the English poet Edmund Spenser's sonnet cycle Amoretti, published in 1595. The sonnets describe his love for his eventual wife, Elizabeth Boyle, whom he had married by the time of the poems' publication. The full sonnet is as follows:


    Fresh spring the herald of loues mighty king,
    In whose cote armour richly are displayed
    all sorts of flowers the which on earth do spring
    in goodly colours gloriously arrayd:

    Goe to my loue, where she is careless layd,
    yet in her winters bowre not well awake:
    tell her the ioyous time wil not be staid
    vnlesse she doe him by the forelock take.

    Bid her therefore her selfe soone ready make,
    to wayt on lue amongst his louely crew:
    where euery one that misseth then her make
    shall be by him amearst with penance dew.

    Make hast therefore sweet loue, whilest it is prime,
    for none can call againe the passed time.

    Larsen, Kenneth J. (1997). Edmund Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion: A Critical Edition. Tempe: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies. 

  50. When asked if John was alluding to another work in this line, John indicated that to the best of his knowledge, he'd written it himself, although the line is common enough to be found elsewhere. Where does the phrase "the sky gone crazy with stars" come from?, William Caxton Fan Club, retrieved July 16, 2014. 

  51. Sometimes sung, "There's something waiting for us in the hot, wet air, I can smell it". El Rey, Los Angeles, June 23, 2011. 

  52. This title comes from the Thomas Hardy poem The Voice, written after the death of his estranged wife in 1912:

    Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
    Saying that now you are not as you were
    When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
    But as at first, when our day was fair.

    Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
    Standing as when I drew near to the town
    Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
    Even to the original air-blue gown!

    Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
    Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
    You being ever consigned to existlessness,
    Heard no more again far or near?

    Thus I; faltering forward,
    Leaves around me falling,
    Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward
    And the woman calling.

    Hardy, Thomas. The Voice. Poetry Foundation, retrieved July 16, 2014. 

  53. Cassius Clay was the birth name of Muhammad Ali, the famous heavyweight boxing champion. Ali changed his name after winning the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston in a 1964 upset; the use of Clay instead of Ali in this song implies a fight of Ali's prior to his name change, perhaps this famous fight (also alluded to in Love Love Love). 

  54. John has described Weekend in Western Illinois and It's All Here in Brownsville as being linked, both describing border towns: one on the Iowa-Illinois border, the other on the Texas-Mexico border. KJHK interview, March 2, 1997, transcribed by Jon Nall, retrieved July 16, 2014. 

  55. Many American cities and districts are named Brownsville. However, given the reference to the Mexican border, I belive this refers to Brownsville, Texas, a large city at the southernmost tip of Texas, directly across the border from Matamoros.