Songs for Peter Hughes 1 2 3

Cover of Songs for Peter Hughes Back of Songs for Peter Hughes

Released: 1995
Label: Sonic Squid

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Liner notes

PETER HUGHES HAS BAILED ME OUT MORE TIMES THAN I CARE TO COUNT. Hi, it's us. We recorded these four songs in early 1995 with the kind assistance of Bob DURKEE. One of them we didn't write but we're not saying which. THAT'S HIM ON THE COVER. HE MAY HAVE PROTESTANT BLOOD BUT THE MAN IS A SAINT. These are the names of the songs: Seite Eins: 4 Short Song About the 10 Freeway. No, I Can't. Seite Zwei: 4 Song for Dana Plato. The Sign. I HOPE HE GETS EVERYTHING HE EVER WANTS OUT OF LIVE AND NEVER REGRETS ANYTHING. Gregor and everybody else at GOAR 5 have been extremely helpful and patient with us. Thanks, guys. ONE TIME HE DIDN'T EVEN NEED TO SAY ANYTHING. EVERYBODY ELSE WAS SAYING SOMETHING AND IT WASN'T HELPING. PETER KNEW WHAT I NEEDED. "No, I Can't" originally appeared on Transmissions to Horace in a markedly different version. "Song for Dana Plato" takes place in Las Vegas, NV, closer to downtown than the strip, 6 in case anyone's curious. WHEREFORE THESE SONGS ARE ALL FOR HIM, AND IF HE EVER COMES UP TO YOU AND TELLS YOU TO GIVE HIM YOUR COPY, YOU'RE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO HAND IT OVER. The Mountain Goats are John and Rachel. MAY THE ALMIGHTY GOD BESTOW MANIFOLD BLESSINGS ON PETER AND THOSE HE LOVES. So long.

Songs for Peter Hughes was included in its entirety on the compilation Bitter Melon Farm.

Table of contents

  1. Short Song About the 10 Freeway
  2. No, I Can't
  3. Song for Dana Plato
  4. The Sign

Short Song About the 10 Freeway 7 8

Evening came on like a big red wing
And the dying sun spilt its colors on everything
And as the night came on
You burst into song
And you scraped your car up against the guardrail

And God is present in the sweeping gesture
But the Devil is in the details 9

No, I Can't

No, I Can't is annotated with Transmissions to Horace.

Song for Dana Plato 10 11 12

Three month ride
Sticks in your mind as though the insides of your head were a big screen
Coming in on the evening wind
It's the unmistakable scent of Brilliantine 13
What kind of memory serves, what kind of world is it
Comes headlong at you and then swerves at the last possible second
It's this one
Yeah, it's this one

And it's easy to slow down
And it's easy to slow down
And it's easy just to lie out by the blue pools in the squinting sun and slow down
And it's easy to slow down

And in situations like these
It's sometimes useful to think of life as one long continuous evening
That never turns into night
Hey, hey

The Sign 14 15 16

"I never get tired of this."

I've got a new life
You would hardly recognize me
I'm so glad
How could a person like me
Care for you
Why should I bother
When you're not the one for me

I saw the sign
And it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
Love is demanding
Without understanding
Yeah, I saw the sign
And it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
And no one's gonna drag you up

Under the pale moon
For so many years I'd wonder
Who you are
How could a person like you
Bring me joy
Under the pale moon
Where I see a lot of stars 17

I saw the sign
And it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
Love is demanding
Without understanding
Yeah, I saw the sign
And it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
And no one's gonna drag you up
To get into the light where you belong 18

I saw the sign 19
And it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
Love is demanding
Without understanding
Yeah, I saw the sign
And it opened up my eyes
I saw the sign
And no one's gonna drag you up
To get into the light where you belong


  1. Talking about the record in the Bitter Melon Farm liner notes, John writes:

    Actually, it was supposed to have been called Sons for Peter Hughes, and was a controversial experiment in the conversion of sound into matter. I said some incantations and boiled a bunch of aromatics in vinegar, and the book said that the result should have been four genetically perfect replicas of my friend Peter. He and I would then employ them as gardeners, housekeepers, and so forth, freeing us up for the very important work that lay ahead of us — at the time we were involved in delicate contract negotiations with the Vatican which were supposed to have resulted in an official Papal bull proclaiming Exit House the official Inland Empire Band of the Holy See until the final judgment, at which point the torch was to have been passed on to either the Bux or the Crunch Sisters, I can't remember which. Long story short: technical mixup ends with the spells on digital audio tape rather than in the bowels of the nether regions; postal mixup results in said tape winding up in Bremen, where Gregor Kessler, chancellor pro tem of Germany and a keen businessman, sends the tape to the Czech Republic, where it was pressed in a limited edition of 600, the first hundred or so on red vinyl. The fade-out at the end of "No, I Can't" was the idea of the nameless Czech engineer who, hearing the way we'd run out of tape while recording the song, couldn't deal with it and so muscled his way anonymously into history. 

  2. Peter Hughes is presently the bassist and occasional a singer in the Mountain Goats as well as a member of DiskothiQ. At the time of this EP, Hughes sang on Nine Black Poppies and was playing with Nothing Painted Blue, another Inland Empire band whose songs the Mountain Goats have covered. 

  3. The album Songs for Peter Hughes is part of the Song for ... series

  4. These phrases mean "Side One" and "Side Two" in German.  2

  5. Goar was a German music magazine operating in the late 1980s through 1990s which released a 7" vinyl EP with many issues. The Mountain Goats released two songs on Goar #11 also in 1995, Creature Song and Pure Sound, sharing space with Refrigerator. Other than the release date, however, I'm not sure of a connection between the two EPs. 

  6. Referring to Dana Plato's arrest for robbing a video story in Las Vegas; see annotation for more information. 

  7. Short Song About the 10 Freeway is part of the Song for ... series and the informal series of Biblical references

  8. Interstate 10 is a major American freeway, spanning the entire country from Santa Monica, California, to Jacksonville, Florida. Germane to John's life, it passes through Claremont in Southern California, where he attended college and spent a number of pivotal years of his life. 

  9. The Devil is in the details is an old idiom of uncertain origin, dating back to the early 19th century, if not earlier. 

  10. "I wrote a song about [Dana Plato] when she was — before she died a long, long time ago when she was just robbing Vegas drug stores, and — I know, because it was funny, it was like former child star does what former child stars do and rob stuff — and then she died in a trailer in Oklahoma and it was tragic and twenty years later her son followed her and this is called Tyler Lambert's Grave." — Soho Restaurant, Santa Barbara, June 24, 2011. See also his interview about Tyler Lambert's Grave, Williams, Joe (2011). Tell Me About That Song: John Darnielle, Frontman of the Mountain Goats. Seattle Weekly.

    "I grew up in the generation of junkies who sort of had this weird ability to fixate on <static> cultural figure all at once... You sort of try to sometimes pick yours, your celebrity who's gonna burn out. I was successful, and Dana Plato died, and I was sad." — Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, November 22, 2009

    "It is a song about a person who got lost, and, I think — I'm pretty sure when I wrote it is was before she got completely lost and died." — 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, November 27, 2009 

  11. Song for Dana Plato is part of the Song for ... series

  12. Dana Plato was a former child star famous for playing Kimberley Drummond on the American sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. Plato was let go from the show when she became pregnant, as that didn't fit the producer's wholesome image for the show. She struggled with drug abuse and poverty for the rest of her life. Four years after this song was written, she committed suicide on May 8, 1999, overdosing on carisoprodol and alcohol in her trailer at the age of 34. Her son, Tyler Lambert, committed suicide the next year by shooting himself in the head on May 6, 2010, 25 years old.

    In the liner notes, John mentions that the song takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada. Plato lived in Las Vegas for a short period of time, and was arrested there in 1991 for robbing a video store for less than $200 with a pellet gun.

    Sporkin, Elizabeth (1991). Diff'rent Strokes, Fallen Stars. People Magazine.

    The Mountain Goats have also written a song about Tyler Lambert, Tyler Lambert's Grave

  13. Brilliantine is a men's hair product or pomade, dating to the late 19th century. 

  14. A favorite of fans, often shouted for at shows and sometimes closing them, now played sparingly. There are many tellings of the long story told about this song, here's part of one of them. Watch the video if you can, it contains the dance and it's wonderful.

    "I've really grown to hate this song. I mean, and I loved it so much, once... I heard it and like any reasonable person would, I said, 'Well, that's the greatest song of all time. I'm going to go buy that right now." ... Me and Rachel went on our first off-the-West-Coast tour; we played shows in Chicago and Columbus, it was a hell of a tour. And on the way from Columbus into Chicago, we heard The Sign on the radio, somebody got up and turned the station. And I said, 'What is wrong with you? Does God hate you or something? Has He not taught you how to love? Is that what's wrong with you? Is that why you changed the station just now, Liz?' 'Dude, you have to chill. I can just turn it back to the station.' 'We've already missed part of the song. You know, you can just fucking drop me off by the side of the road here and I'll starve to death now, now that you've ruined my life.' So she turned the song back, and [I] preached my gospel. I'm pretty convincing when I want to be, and so then we pulled off in Gary, Indiana, and bought the whole album on cassette. Put it into the tape deck — just kept rewinding. Listened to it once, twice, three times, four times, five times, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. By the time we got into Chicago, we had choreographed a dance. I believe I can remember it." — Zoop, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 17, 2007

    See also The Chameleon, San Francisco, January 15, 1995; Argo, Denton, September 11, 1996; Capitol Theater, Olympia, Yo-Yo-a-Go-Go Festival, July 16, 1997; Empty Bottle, Chicago, December 6, 1997; Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 23, 2001; 40 Watt Club, Athens, Georgia, August 3, 2001; Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, October 23, 2002; Black Cat, Washington, DC, October 11, 2004; Bottom of the Hill, March 2, 2008; American Theater Company, Chicago, May 16, 2010.

    "Naw I'm burned out on it. Last couple times I'm playing it I'm like 'what is really the point of this? telling a joke everybody already knows? strollin' down those 90s-hits memory lane?'"

    William Caxton Fan Club. Is there any way that you could play your cover of The Sign when you're in Asheville?, retrieved May 1, 2014. 

  15. The Sign is part of the informal series of cover songs

  16. The Sign was a massive hit pop song by Swedish pop group Ace of Base, released in 1993 on the album Happy Nation. 

  17. John makes fun of this line a fair amount. See Zoop, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 17, 2007; American Theater Company, Chicago, May 16, 2010. 

  18. "[This] lyric is completely incomprehensible." — Empty Bottle, Chicago, December 6, 1997 

  19. For the next five lines, Rachel sings "I saw the sign, I saw the sign" as backing vocals.