Protein Source of the Future... NOW! 1

Cover of Protein Source of the Future... NOW! Back of Protein Source of the Future... NOW!

Released: 1999; 2002
Label: Ajax; 3 Beads of Sweat

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Liner notes

(booklet): 2

Ye-dina gṛhe, bhajana dekhi, gṛhete goloka bhāya. 3
– BhaktivinoSri Chaitanya Saraswat Mathda Ṭhākura 4

Let me break with tradition and tell you right off how those words would sound in the mother tongue. They're from a song in Hindi, and their meaning is: "One day while performing devotional practices, I saw my house transformed into Goloka Vrndavana, the spiritual world." What you hold in your hands is the first in a series of three volumes which will collect the songs from various cassettes, compilations, and singles, and which will endeavor by various means to effect a similar transformation. From the outset I'd like to warn any purists among you that neither The Hound Chronicles nor Hot Garden Stomp will be included here, since those two will appear together on a single CD at a later date. The only party still absent once I finish cleaning house will be Taboo VI: The Homecoming, the existence of which I do not deny, but which I am in no hurry to reexpose to the harsh light of the sun.

In collecting these songs, there seemed to me two general approaches possible. The first was to put everything together in chronological order, which possibility to me was completely intolerable. The second possibility, and the one I've opted for, was to regard the material as though it'd just been found among a bunch of tapes in an airtight container buried in the snow, and to approach the task of piecing them together into coherent sequence with the cruel hand of a propagandist. Needless to say, I can only remain faithful to such an approach for a while before my vanity gets in the way. Ever since agreeing to these reissues, I've been of two minds about what I should say about the songs themselves. I wish that they were unified by a single theme, some bone on which I'd been disconsolately gnawing without a break over the past six or seven years, but of course they're not; had I that sort of unity of vision, I suspect I'd be writing philosophical treatises instead of dreaming up the circumstances in which these bitter little dramatic monologues take place. If there is in fact any thread that can be traced through all these songs, it's the voice of Qoheleth insisting that all is vanity; 5 the narrators of these songs seem often to give near-apocalyptic weight to their petty grievances, and I am quite sure that some of them would gladly trade the fate of the world for a few hours of relative happiness. Ideally I would have placed these records in the tiny music libraries of 50-watt radio stations on the outskirts of Huntsville, Alabama, 6 or Blind River, Ontario, 7 where the sole proprietors of such stations would regard them with an uneasy respect that was always just one step away from deep mistrust.

If, however, such stations and their proprietors do in fact exist — I can't bring myself to let go of the hope that they do — they are not the audience that has graciously adopted my songs as their own. To this audience I owe a debt of gratitude greater than I would have dared to imagine on the day that I bought a 3/4-sized guitar from a strange little store in Norwalk, California. On that day I began transforming my house into something other than what it was, and you all have been generous enough to look at the same house and give me the benefit of the doubt. The following notes, though riddled with the lies and half-truths which have become something of a trademark with me, offer a few differing perspectives of that house. Here's hoping that whoever lives there now has figured out how to turn down the radiator.

— John Darnielle, Iowa, March 1998


The man on the front and the soybean sprig on the CD were drawn by Lalitree. A thousand people to thank, but let's limit it to these: Dennis Callaci, Tim Adams, Russell Hill, Jod, Simon Joyner, Chris Deden, Tim Alborn. The Bright Mountain Choir: Rachel Ware, Roseanne Lindley, Sarah Coleman, and Amy Piatt. Giana Bernardini. The aforementioned Lalitree. Special thanks to Classix Nouveaux, 9 wherever you are. Anybody here think that Classix Nouveaux will ever hear about this? Yeah, me neither, but it can't hurt.


Fig. 1 Recent "fad" sources of protein such as stray radio waves or test-weapon satellite broadcasts from unverifiable sources are often painful and ineffective.

Protein Source of the Future... NOW! compiles songs from four Mountain Goats releases: Why You All So Thief?, Chile de Árbol, Philyra, and Yam, the King of Crops. The remaining four songs are taken from three old and rare compilation releases, Our Salvation Is In Hand, Pawnshop Reverb, and The Long Secret (and to a lesser extent, Abridged Perversion, which rereleased The Window Song).

Table of contents

  1. Going to Tennessee
  2. Pure Heat
  3. Hand Ball
  4. The Window Song
  5. Night of the Mules
  6. Going to Malibu
  7. Billy the Kid's Dream of the Magic Shoes
  8. Fresh Berries for You
  9. Alphabetizing
  10. Third Snow Song
  11. The Monkey Song
  12. Love Cuts the Strings
  13. Pure Honey
  14. Duke Ellington
  15. Seed Song
  16. Quetzalcoatal Comes Through
  17. Omega Blaster
  18. Coco-Yam Song
  19. Alagemo
  20. Two Thousand Seasons
  21. Chinese Rifle Song
  22. Yam, the King of Crops
  23. Alpha Omega

Going to Tennessee

Going to Tennessee is annotated with Why You All So Thief?

Pure Heat

Pure Heat is annotated with Why You All So Thief?

Hand Ball 10 11 12

I am the dry meat that fills the mouth
I am the fire that burns without wood
I am Evil Forest
I kill a man on the day that his life seems sweetest to him 13

I did not come to play handball
I did not come to play handball

The Window Song 14 15

A knocking sound, it woke me up
But my legs were feeling weak
I stared up at the ceiling and I saw you at the window
But my mouth wouldn't let me speak

I know you, you're the one
I've spent three seasons trying
To pretend that I never knew

Something pulled me off the bed
And the same thing moved the muscles in my legs
I moved toward your voice and my body got so light
I could have walked on eggs right then and not broken a one of them

I know you, you're the one
I've spent three seasons trying
To pretend that I never knew

I know you, you're the one
I've spent three seasons trying
To pretend that I never knew

I know you, you're the one
I've spent three seasons trying
To pretend that I never knew

I know you, you're the one
I've spent three seasons trying
To pretend that I never knew


Night of the Mules

Night of the Mules is annotated with Chile de Árbol.

Going to Malibu

Going to Malibu is annotated with Chile de Árbol.

Billy the Kid's Dream of the Magic Shoes

Billy the Kid's Dream of the Magic Shoes is annotated with Chile de Árbol.

Fresh Berries for You

Fresh Berries for You is annotated with Chile de Árbol.


Alphabetizing is annotated with Chile de Árbol.

Third Snow Song

Third Snow Song is annotated with Philyra.

The Monkey Song

The Monkey Song is annotated with Philyra.

Love Cuts the Strings

Love Cuts the Strings is annotated with Philyra.

Pure Honey

Pure Honey is annotated with Philyra.

Duke Ellington 16 17 18 19

Light hit the rings
Glimmering on his fingers
The light came down

And his hands hit the keys
It utterly wasted me
In Sweden

Horns punched the air
The aftermath fell around everywhere

I saw the spotlight land on his rings
And I'd had just about enough of losing things
In Sweden
In 1962
Quite some distance from you

Seed Song

Seed Song is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.

Quetzalcoatal Comes Through

Quetzalcoatal Comes Through is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.

Omega Blaster

Omega Blaster is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.

Coco-Yam Song

Coco-Yam Song is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.


Alagemo is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.

Two Thousand Seasons

Two Thousand Seasons is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.

Chinese Rifle Song

Chinese Rifle Song is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.

Yam, the King of Crops

Yam, the King of Crops is annotated with Yam, the King of Crops.

Alpha Omega 20 21 11

On the morning you went away
The air was humid and the sky was gray
I had boiled peanuts for breakfast from Cairo, Georgia 22

The air was wet, my face was wetter
The pink flowers along the western window made me feel better
I turned the air conditioner on
Found the note on scented stationary, you were long gone
I had boiled peanuts for breakfast from Cairo, Georgia

I popped the top off the aluminum can
Let the brine slide down my fingers, man
It was warm, it was warm on my skin
But I felt the cold blast moving on in
I had boiled peanuts for breakfast from Cairo, Georgia


Caliclimber almost always receives tremendous gratitude from me for providing high quality scans of the albums on his Flickr page. However, today I offer him an especially huge thank you for transcribing the entirety of the liner notes in the booklet. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  1. Protein Source of the Future... NOW!, Nall, retrieved April 27, 2014.
  2. Our Salvation Is In Hand, Nall, retrieved April 27, 2014.
  3. Pawnshop Reverb, Nall, retrieved April 27, 2014.
  4. Abridged Perversion, Nall, retrieved April 27, 2014.
  5. The Long Secret, Nall, retrieved April 27, 2014.


  1. This phrase is the subtitle of a reprint for William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi's cookbook, The Book of Tofu, now reprinted many times. It's not clear to me that the first edition used the subtitle, so I am referencing the oldest copy that I can verify had it.

    Shurtleff, William, and Aoyagi, Akiko (1983). The Book of Tofu: Protein Source of the Future... Now! Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. 

  2. A good deal of the liner notes are explanatory comments on individual songs or groups of songs. These are footnoted with the songs rather than being transcribed here. 

  3. A quote from one of Bhaktivinoda Thakura's book of devotional songs, Saranagati, printed in 1893 and describing the process of surrendering to Krishna. Translated, this reads, "On days when I see devotional service going on within my home, I feel that Goloka has manifested there."

    Goloka is the home of Krishna.

    Thakura, Bhaktivinoda (2011). Saranagati. Śrī Chaitanya Sāraswat Maṭh President-Sevāite-Āchārya Oṁ Viṣṇupād Viśva-guru Aṣṭottara-śata-śrī, translator. Nabadwip, West Bengal: Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. 

  4. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura was a Bengalese Vaishnava, scholar, and High Court judge in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

  5. Qoheleth is the name of the author of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, itself a translation into Latin from his name in Greek, which means Gatherer. The work is of anonymous origin, most likely written in the third century BC. In the book, he describes the vanity of trying to find meaning in our lives, encouraging people to enjoy what they have, do good, and obey God even in the absence of comprehension. 

  6. Huntsville is a medium-sized city in northern Alabama as described. 

  7. Blind River is a small town on Lake Huron on the southern border of Ontario, Canada. 

  8. A parody of the slogan of anonymous origin, "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God". 

  9. Classix Nouveaux were an English pop band in the 1980s. 

  10. "You'll get nothing from me, do you hear? Nothing! Anything I know about this odd little song will go with me to the grave." — Protein Source of the Future... NOW! liner notes

    A truly phenomenal version of this is on the WNUR session, March 8, 2002, and John tells the story about it at Zoop II, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 14, 2009, but you'll have to listen to it for yourself. 

  11. Both Handball and Alpha Omega were originally released on the Our Salvation Is In Hand compilation. The compilation was released by Theme Park Records in the UK but contained a lot of Inland Empire tape musicians.  2

  12. Handball is the name of several sports, most notably a competitive Olympic sport in which two teams attempt to throw a ball into their opponent's goal. Handball can also refer to American handball, in which two players bounce a ball off of a wall in such a way that their competitor cannot strike it back, or four square, a playground children's game. None of these games are discussed in Things Fall Apart. 

  13. These lines, like those of many songs on Yam, the King of Crops, are taken directly from Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's seminal work of African literature, Things Fall Apart. During an egwugwu ceremony, in which spirits filled the bodies of the clan leaders while trying to rule on a conflict, the head of the egwugwu, Evil Forest, speaks (p. 93):

    "We have heard both sides of this case," said Evil Forest. "Our duty is not to blame this man or to praise that, but to settle the dispute." He turned to Uzowulu's group and allowed a short pause.

    "Uzowulu's body, I salute you," he said.

    "Our father, my hand has touched the ground," replied Uzowulu, touching the earth.

    "Uzowulu's body, do you know me?"

    "How can I know you, father? You are beyond our knowledge," Uzowulu replied.

    "I am Evil Forest. I kill a man on the day that his life seems sweetest to him."

    "That is true," replied Uzowulu.

    "Go to your in-laws with a pot of wine and beg your wife to return to you. It is not bravery when a man fights with a woman." He turned to Odukwe, and allowed a brief pause.

    "Odukwe's body, I greet you," he said.

    "My hand is on the ground," replied Odukwe.

    "Do you know me?"

    "No man can know you," replied Odukwe.

    "I am Evil Forest, I am Dry-meat-that-fills-the-mouth, I am Fire-that-burns-without-faggots. If your in-law brings wine to you, let your sister go with him. I salute you." He pulled his staff from the hard earth and thrust it back.

    Achebe, Chinua (1953). Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor Books, 1994. ISBN 0-385-47454-7 

  14. "The first song ever recorded with the Bright Mountain Choir. There are no known instruments capable of measuring how long ago this was." — Protein Source of the Future... NOW! liner notes 

  15. Originally released on the Pawnshop Reverb compilation in 1992 and then later on the Abridged Perversion compilation, both from Shrimper. 

  16. "One of two pieces written for the song-cycle Sweden and intentionally left off of the album. Standing all by itself, this song took on, for me, an almost mystical sadness. Then again, I'm always pretty sentimental where the names of dead jazz musicians are involved." 

  17. Duke Ellington is part of the informal series of outtakes

  18. Originally released on The Long Secret, a 1995 compilation CD by Harriet Records, which also included the Extra Glenns song Process of Elimination. 

  19. Duke Ellington was a celebrated jazz bandleader, composer, and pianist in the early to mid 20th century. I'm not aware of any connection to him in Sweden; by 1962 he was near the end of his life but still leading his orchestra, dying in 1974. 

  20. Originally intended to be the last song written of the Alpha series, until the writing of Tallahassee. This song remains the end of the Alpha couple's story as hinted at by the use of omega, the last letter in the Greek alphabet. As pointed out by Wild Creature, potentially also referring to Omega, Georgia, a small town only 50 miles from Cairo. In the liner notes, John writes:

    The series known as "Songs from Alpha Privitive" concludes here, having begun at a ski lodge some years earlier. Some deaths just will not be cheated no matter how good you get.

    This is confirmed at Capitol Theater, Olympia, Yo-Yo-a-Go-Go Festival, July 16, 1997; WFMU session, October 19, 2000; VPRO session, Amstel Festival, December 7, 2002; KEXP session, August 21, 2006. 

  21. Alpha Omega is part of the Alpha couple series

  22. Cairo, Georgia, pronounced KAY-ro, is a town in southern Georgia near the Tallahassee border.