Zopilote Machine 1

Cover of Zopilote Machine Back of Zopilote Machine

Released: 1994 2
Label: Ajax

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Liner notes





Hello again. There are those who have complained, some of them rather loudly, about the abundance of untranslated quotations on Mountain Goats records. The following, written in English and left that way, is a sort of peace offering. Let it never be said that the Mountain Goats do not aim to please.

The wood underneath would win and win till the end of time. Of that there was no doubt possible, only the pain of hope perennially doomed to disappointment. It was so clear. Of course it was in the nature of the wood to rot with age. The polish, it was supposed, would catch the rot. But of course in the end it was the rot which imprisoned everything in its effortless embrace. It did not really have to fight. Being was enough. In the natural course of things it would always take the newness of the different kinds of polish and the vaunted cleansing power of the chemicals in them, and it would convert all to victorious filth, awaiting yet more polish again and again and again. And the wood was not alone.

— Ayi Kwei ARMAH. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Chapter One. 5

Of course, a careful reading of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius 6 would yield the same information, but what the hell: not everybody wants to read Apuleius. Go figure.

ZOPILOTE MACHINE is a 19-song mater ferricrepina magna ferocia 7 and was recorded entirely in California by the Mountain Goats and the Bright Mountain Choir 8.


We are Rosanne, Rachel, John, Amy and Saaarah. Bob DURKEE sequenced these; some of them were recorded with the invaluable assistance of Keith FITZ and Steve KRONK. Thank you Bob. Thank you Keith. Thank you Steve.


The cover photograph is by Marcella ZITA, who is simply the finest independent filmmaker on the West Coast. 9 The Mountain Goats Mandala on the booklet's back is paint-and-pencil on 20-lb. bond by Mark GIVENS, 10 whose constant and unflagging dedication makes our gratitude seem paltry.


The list of people who need to be thanked is too long, but to Leti, Dennis, Mark, Joel, 10 Tim, Russell, Franklin, Peter, and everyone at the Candy Bar our undying gratitude.

Table of contents

  1. Alpha Incipiens
  2. Azo Tle Nelli in Tlalticpac?
  3. Alpha Sun Hat
  4. The Black Ice Cream Song
  5. Sinaloan Milk Snake Song
  6. We Have Seen the Enemy
  7. Standard Bitter Love Song #7
  8. Quetzalcoatl Eats Plums
  9. Orange Ball of Love
  10. Orange Ball of Hate
  11. Bad Priestess
  12. Going to Bristol
  13. Young Caesar 2000
  14. Going to Lebanon
  15. Grendel's Mother
  16. Song for Tura Satana
  17. Alpha in Tauris
  18. Going to Georgia
  19. Quetzalcoatl Is Born

Alpha Incipiens 11 12

The morning comes to a stuttering halt
The cool breeze that blows is somebody's fault
The summer heat tries to burn through
And I look over toward you
But something's happening

The morning glories climb the wall
And you speak in a slow drawl
I'm trying to piece together what you're saying
But the birds are screeching and the hounds are baying
I don't remember there being any hounds around here

We lean back and we clink our glasses
Raise the drinks to our thirsty mouths, thick as molasses
Ice cold vodka eases in
As the low-pressure system brings the breezes in
And they sashay and pirouette above you
The only thing I know is that I love you
And I'm holding on

Azo Tle Nelli in Tlalticpac? 13 14 15

I was sitting in the street
When the news came my way
I was sitting in the street
When the news came my way
Good news
Good news
Good news
Good news

I was sitting in the street
When the messenger came by
I was sitting in the street
When the messenger came my way
Good news
Good news like a rare blood disorder
Good news
Good news

I was sitting in the street
I don't believe I've made it clear what exactly I mean by that
I was sitting in the middle of the street
The dust made its way to my legs even though my shirt was tucked in, and I saw
Colors forming in the west
Saw the bright feathers reflected in the sky
And now good news
Good news
Good news
Good news

Alpha Sun Hat 16

You say again that nothing's wrong
I'd really like to play along
Your ruby-red mouth is full and moist
I'd like to give in to your oboe-reed voice
But as sure as those are buzzards in the guava tree
You're looking real funny at me

One, two, three, four
That's not music you hear, that's the devil
That's not the sun up in the sky, it's a human heart
If you're planning your escape, you know I'm all for ya
As I watch the sun come up again over Tallahassee, Florida

The Black Ice Cream Song 17

And the heat came down
And the heat came down
I knew I was living in a long, long dream
When you fed me the black ice cream

And the heat rose up
And the heat rose up
I heard the loud, loud buzzing of our son's go-kart
And the ice cream was blacker than the devil's heart
It was August the 19th
Fixed my eyes on you
Fixed my eyes on you

Sinaloan Milk Snake Song

"Everybody ready?" "Uh, yeah!" "Mm-hm."

Sun melts everything down
And the hills are reduced to nothing
The whole house shakes
And you can see that the coach is coming
You lean down and you pick up the small soft eggs
In the dust outside my door
I hold them in my hands
They are warm and the air is warming up now

I've got a message for you
If I could only remember
I've got a message for you
But you're gonna have to come and get it

La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la

Ever since I came here
All I could think about is water
Last night they brought the fat lamb in from the fold
But I couldn't bring myself to do anything about it
I remember California
I remember Malibu 18
I remember the states and the names of the cities
But I don't remember you

And I've got a message for you
If I could only remember
I've got a message for you
But you're gonna have to come and get it I've got a message for you
I've got a message for you

Two, three, four
La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la
Woo, hup, hup, hup, hup, hup

We Have Seen the Enemy 19

Everything I've told you is true
So imagine my surprise when I blink my eyes
And realize that I've been talking to you
And I've told you everything
Even the parts I'd meant to leave out
And I shake my hair
And I look about

And the wild dogs are hungry
And the wild dogs howl
And the wild dogs in the mountains to the north of us
Come down

Standard Bitter Love Song #7 20

You smile at me in total defiance of all decency
You got it down to a science, that innocent look
You got it practiced real good
But I know you'd kill me if you could stand the sight of blood
If I'd been a fly on the wall a little earlier
If I'd been one of the innumerable flies in this room
If I'd been a fly on the wall a little earlier
It would've been real different around here

And you try to speak, but the buzzing's too loud
And it's hard to make you out through the dense black cloud
That surrounds us both, that's just as well
You call them up, let the whole house go to hell
If I'd have been one of these flies
I would have lodged myself firmly underneath your eyelid
If I'd have been one of these flies a little earlier
It would've been real different around here

Quetzalcoatl Eats Plums 21 22

I meant to leave the house this morning
And begin making my way toward where you are
I meant to leave the house this morning
I made it halfway across the front yard

But the plum tree hung heavy in my head
And the plum tree hung heavy in my heart
And the plum tree hung heavy over me

So I tore off to the phone
To call you and tell you something, but I couldn't remember what
Because through the clean, clean windows
Saw the plum tree's leaves as red as fresh blood

But the plum tree hung heavy in my head
And the plum tree hung heavy in my heart
And the plum tree hung heavy over me

Orange Ball of Love 23

When I catch sight of your face
And the late light falling on it
I feel scared and I scope the area out
For a good place to hide

When I feel the way your fingers
Wiggle in my palm
I feel warm and I feel good

And I know that you're wearing a wire
And as the sun becomes a blazing orange ball of fire
I lose interest in this
And other such inconsequential questions

When you kick off your shoes
And I see the wet grass give way underneath your feet
And the sunset soars up once more over its burial ground
Well, you look so sweet

And I know you'll be turning me in
But I also know your real name's not Amy Lynn
And as the orange globe rears up to swallow us too
I see you look at me to figure out what I know about you
Well, I'm not telling
I'm not telling you anything

Orange Ball of Hate 24 25

When I hear the screeching weather vane
In the wild wind and the pissing rain
I know that one of us, I'm not saying who
Has got rocks in her head, the rain comes through
The open window, but you don't think so
I sure do love you
I sure do love you

When I notice that the radio is broken
And I see you standing there in the doorway soaking 26
The water drizzles off of you down to the floor
And I say that I don't want to live in New England anymore
Some flower petals stick to your skin
I grab hold of your hip and I pull you in

When the building establishes control
When the thunder from the north begins to roll
Down our way, I know I've been right all along
And you start singing that stupid children's song
You think I don't know it, but I just don't feel like singing it
I sure do love you
I sure do love you

Bad Priestess

When I see you in your new blue jeans
I know you're lying
And I know what it means
When I see you take your place among the poor
I know you're a fraud for sure
Bad priestess
Bad priestess

So the sunlight plays its games along your eyes
And it has the same effect on a thousand other guys
And I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the pull too
But the sunlight makes me strong and I know about you
Bad priestess

Bad priestess
On a Thursday as the sun goes does
Bad priestess
With a super-special eyelash trick
Bad priestess
Bad priestess

Going to Bristol 27 28

I looked you up and down
I liked everything I saw
From the fragile outline of your hips
To the trembling movements in your jaw
But then the coffee cup shattered on the kitchen floor
You said that you couldn't take it anymore
I knew you were leaving
I knew you were going to Bristol

I watched you pack your bags
Saw you head up to the door
But when the key broke off in the deadbolt lock
You said that you couldn't take it anymore
That was the second time you said that in one day
Why don't you just sit still, it's going to be OK
Going to Bristol
Going to Bristol
Going to Bristol
Going to Bristol

Young Caesar 2000 29

When I was twelve years old
They put me on the throne
When I was twelve years old
They made me king
From the ocean south of here to the northern hemisphere
They made me everything
Now I'm thirteen
And no one takes me seriously
Now I'm thirteen
And they're trying to take away control
I don't know how stupid
You all think I am
But as sure as flowers grow along the western wall
Heads are gonna roll

Going to Lebanon 30 31

I saw your arms hanging at your side
Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide
Saw you moving, real slow
Nowhere to run to, nowhere to go
I heard the wind blow
I saw your sash come untied
Blue water, white sky

Up in the cedars we were too far away
For the radio to tell us the time of day
But there was moisture in the air
And I heard the city call
They could go on burning
To hell with them all
Your liquid movements
The water rushing by
Blue water, white sky

World's surface was as smooth as glass
They saw the hour coming and they didn't let it pass
I heard you say my name twice through your teeth
I saw you coming down to me, I was underneath you
It's been coming for some time
You close your eyes
Blue water, white sky

I heard the wind blow
I saw your sash come untied
Blue water, white sky

Grendel's Mother 32

The cave mouth shines
By pure force of will
I look down on the world
From the top of this lonesome hill
And you can run
And run some more
From here all the way to Singapore 33
But I will carry you home in my teeth

In the great hall you drink red wine
You chew meat off the bone
I beat down a new path to the castle
I come naked and alone
I laid my son on the bier, I burned the wreath
Fire overhead, water underneath 34
And you can stand up, or you can run
You and I both know what you've done
And I will carry you home
I will carry you home
I will carry you home in my teeth

Song for Tura Satana 35 36

Doll Squad's at the drive-in 37
It's 1973
And the fruit is full and fat this year on the orange trees
Which grow in clusters
The city's 60 miles away
As the sunset tries desperately
To break through the gray
And the stardust
Came down
Royal blue
As the San Bernardino sky 38
Showered over you

Coming home early
Is always a mistake
But when see that woman on the sofa
Something in you breaks
You got a celluloid tendency to flare out and blaze
And the report sounds once like a failed hymn of praise
And the stardust
Came down
Royal blue
As the San Bernardino sky
Showered over you

Alpha in Tauris 39 40 41

My hand brushes against the lock of hair that hangs down past your ear to your jaw
My hand brushes against the lock of hair that hangs down past your ear to your jaw
It's real neat
The moment's sweet but it's all wrong

And we're pictures of decency when we wave goodbye outside
We're pictures of decency when we wave goodbye outside
Yeah, I'm the model of composure out there
But you oughta see me shaking later on

My brain gets flooded six hours later
My brain gets flooded over six hours later
And rivers run with pictures of you as I stare up at the blood-red moon
Lying out front on the lawn

Going to Georgia 42 43 44

The most remarkable thing about coming home to you
Is the feeling of being in motion again
It's the most extraordinary thing in the world
I have two big hands and a heart pumping blood
And a 1967 Colt .45 45 with a busted safety catch
The world shines
As I cross the Macon county line 46
Going to Georgia

The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway is that it's you
And that you're standing in the doorway
And you smile as you ease the gun from my hands and I'm
Frozen with joy right where I stand
The world throws its light underneath your hair
Forty miles from Atlanta this is nowhere
Going to Georgia

The world shines
As I cross the Macon county line
Going to Georgia

Quetzalcoatl Is Born 47 22 48 49

"... me, he touched me, and suddenly..." 50

It's a cold night in Sonora 51
And the stars are out in full force
It's a moment the world has been waiting for
When you set the world back on course
Into the fire you go 52
Into the fire you go

It's a strange gathering around you
And the Lord of the Snails is born 49
Five minutes before you take on divinity
You hear the crackling, well, you hear the snapping corn 53
Into the fire you go
Into the fire you go
Into the fire you go
Into the fire you go


Yet another thanks to the brilliant Caliclimber, whose excellent Flickr page provided the album art, and who provided detailed scans of the liner notes, along with fact-checking of history. Thanks also to Joel Fell for pointing out that the Colt .45 in Going to Georgia is more likely a M1911 pistol than the revolver.

  1. Zopilote Machine, Nall, retrieved October 11, 2013.


  1. "Zopilote" is Spanish for Coragyps atratus, the black vulture. 

  2. Zopilote Machine was also rereleased by 3 Beads of Sweat on CD and vinyl in 2005. 

  3. A line from one of the Orphic Gold Tablets unearthed in Thurii and elsewhere, which gave instructions to the dead in the Orphic religion, a set of beliefs related to Ancient Greek religion. Several tablets reference falling into milk:

    "Greetings, you who have suffered the painful thing; you have never endured this before.
    You have become a god instead of a mortal. A kid you fell into milk.
    Rejoice, rejoice." Journey on the right-hand road
    to holy meadows and groves of Persephone.

    Another tablet reads:

    I have sunk beneath the breast of the Lady, the Chthonian Queen,
    I have approached the longed-for crown with swift feet.
    "Happy and blessed, you will be a god instead of a mortal."
    A kid I fell into milk.

    The line in question has generated great curiosity and fewer answers. At present, a guess seems to be that "falling into milk" is a metaphor for experiencing bliss, however, we don't seem to truly know.

    Graf, Fritz (2007). Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets. New York: Routledge.

    Pajares, Alberto Bernabé, and San Cristóbal, Ana Isabel Jiménez (2008). Instructions for the Netherworld: The Orphic Gold Tablets. Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers. 

  4. I discussed these lines with a professional Latin translator, and they gave this translation:

    Thus said the young son
    But the son was ignorant
    Day by day he grew more stupid
    Great gods, this boy is a great pain to me

    They clarified that the final line could also translate to "Great gods, this boy is a pain to me, who is older", depending on the interpretation of magno. The lines, to the best of their and my knowledge, are original.  2 3 4

  5. Ayi Kwei Armah is a Ghanian writer, known for writing a number of books, among them Two Thousand Seasons, a book about colonialism in Africa and the inspiration for the identically-titled Mountain Goats song.

    The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born was Armah's first novel and focuses on coming to terms with the still imperfect political state of Ghana after independence. 

  6. Apuleius' Metamorphoses, more commonly known as The Golden Ass, is a Roman Latin novel and the only such novel to survive intact to the modern day. The story follows a man, Lucius, desperate to learn magic, who accidentally turns himself into a donkey. 

  7. According to the same translator, these Latin words translate to "chain-rattling, high-ferocity mother". The translator informed me that mater is probably being used as an Anglicism to mean something formidable, rather than being used in a characteristic Latin fashion. Ferricrepina (or ferricrepinas, as it was originally used) was invented by Plautus for his play Asinaria. In that context, the lines were:


    Vbi flent nequam homines, qui polentam pinsitant.
    apud fústitudinas, ferricrepinas insulas,
    ubi vivos homines mortui incursant boves.

    Libanus, a slave, is begging Demaenetus, his master, not to send him to a place where he must do brutal work. Translated, this reads:

    Why, in the islands of club-land and rattle-chains, where dead oxen attack living men.

    Plautus (1895). Asinaria. Friedrich Leo, translator. Berlin: Weidmann. Perseus Digital Library, retrieved May 1, 2014. 

  8. The Bright Mountain Choir were a group of four women, Rachel Ware (now Zooi), Sarah Arslanian, Amy Piatt, and Roseanne Lindley, who never recorded together all at once, but who sang in various combinations on many early Mountain Goats records. 

  9. John mentions that he's lost touch with Zita and doesn't know where to find this film anymore in his interview with Space City Rock (2001). I have been unable to find any further information about Zita, but would love to hear more if you know something. My best guess is that Zita is another local from the Inland Empire scene. Zita also contributed the cover to Sweden

  10. The same Mark and Joel of Song for Mark and Joel 2

  11. "It's a love song, kind of." — CBGB, New York, July 23, 1999

    Pronounced with a hard C: in-KIP-ee-ens. John explains that this is probably affected, but does it anyway. Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 23, 2011; Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012.

    With incipiens meaning "beginning" in Latin, it is the first song in the Alpha series, confirmed at the Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012. 

  12. Alpha Incipiens is part of the Alpha couple series

  13. "[This song] took its title from an Aztec poem, it's called 'Azo Tle Nelli in Tlalticpac?', which I'm probably pronouncing wrong, but as I understood it then, it was a formulaic thing that was said at the end of some religious poems... [meaning] 'is that the only thing in the world?' It's about the apocalypse." — Hopscotch, Durham, September 8, 2012 

  14. Azo Tle Nelli in Tlalticpac? is part of the informal series of Aztec songs

  15. Taken from an old Nahuatl poem, called Xochicuicatl, meaning Flower Song. The verse in question reads:

    Noyuh quichihua con teuctlon timaloa yecan quetzalmaquiztla matilolticoya conahuiltia icelteotlhuia achcanon azo a yan ipalnemoa achcanon azo tle nel in tlalticpac ohuaya.


    Thus do the nobles glorify themselves with things of beauty, honor and delight, that they may please the one only god, though one knows not the dwelling of the Giver of Life, one knows not whether he is on earth.

    Brinton, Daniel G (1890). Ancient Nahuatl Poetry. Archived by Project Gutenberg, retrieved April 10, 2014. 

  16. Alpha Sun Hat is part of the Alpha couple series and the informal series of Biblical references

  17. An alternate version of The Black Ice Cream Song exists, in which John, pretending to be someone else as the band the Yamaraja Racers, covers the song himself. The song was released on a tribute tape to the Mountain Goats, by an English fan who would prefer not to be named, called A Postcard to the Mountain Goats, on the Baccanalian Revel label. It was rereleased on a collection of the two Yamaraja Racers songs, also on Baccanalian Revel.

    One other Yamaraja Racers cover exists, Chanson du Bon Chose

  18. Malibu is a wealthy city on the California coast in Los Angeles. 

  19. A likely reference to the famous Pogo quotation, "Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us", stated by Pogo in an Earth Day comic as he is disgusted by our destruction of the Earth. Walt Kelly, the author of Pogo, was himself referencing a commander from the War of 1812, who stated, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." 

  20. Standard Bitter Love Song #7 is part of the Standard Bitter Love Song series

  21. Quetzalcoatl Eats Plums is part of the informal series of Aztec songs

  22. Quetzalcoatl is a major Aztec deity. Meaning "feathered serpent", Quetzalcoatl is one of many winged snake deities throughout history in South and Central America. He is a creator god, credited with making the fifth incarnation, or 'sun', of humanity, which was considered to be the present era. He was additionally considered to be the deity who provided human beings with maize and the calendar, among other gifts.  2

  23. Orange Ball of Love is part of the Orange Ball of ... series

  24. "If you wanted this for the wrong personal reasons, I hope they get better. — Zoop II, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 14, 2009

    "This is a song that takes place in California... it's about that moment in which you know it's not going to get any better, but you're going to prove to somebody just exactly how strong you are." — Cow Haus, Tallahassee, February 6, 1998

    "It's about the point at which in a dissolving relationship the line between the sex center of your brain and the anger center gets crossed." — Argo, Denton, September 11, 1996

    John has discussed Orange Ball of Hate in the context of other Alpha songs, suggesting that it is both about the Alpha couple and one of the few songs specifically sung from one member of the couple — specifically, the husband, given the gendered pronoun in the opening verse. William Caxton Fan Club, Hi! Tallahassee has been one of my favorite albums..., retrieved March 3, 2022. 

  25. Orange Ball of Hate is part of the Alpha couple series and Orange Ball of ... series

  26. Alterately sung, "And I see you standing there in the doorway smoking". — Zoop II, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 14, 2009 

  27. Going to Bristol is part of the Going to ... series

  28. Bristol is a large city in southwest England. 

  29. I cannot find a Caesar whose biography matches this story, so I am guessing that this is using Caesar metaphorically as a title, rather than referring to a specific Caesar. 

  30. Going to Lebanon is part of the Going to ... series

  31. Lebanon is a country bordered by Syria and Israel on the coast of the eastern Mediterranean. 

  32. Grendel's mother is a major antagonist in Beowulf, an anonymously-authored Old English poem written between the 8th and 11th centuries. In the poem, the Scandinavian hero, Beowulf, slays Grendel, a monster attacking Beowulf's Danish allies. Grendel's mother then attacks their hall as well, dying in the attempt. Upon returning home and being crowned king, Beowulf dies after killing a dragon.

    This chronicles Grendel's mother's mourning of Grendel. 

  33. Singapore is a city-state in southeast Asia, bordered by Malaysia and Indonesia. 

  34. This sounds to be a description of a boat burial

  35. Song for Tura Satana is part of the Song for ... series

  36. Tura Satana was a cult actress and stripper. Originally from Japan, she spent much of her life and career in the Los Angeles area. 

  37. The Doll Squad was a low budget, low quality action film starring Tura Satana and several other women fighting for the CIA in skintight suits against bioterrorism. 

  38. San Bernardino is a Southern California Inland Empire city located east of Los Angeles. 

  39. "It's about a person who's having a romantic affair with someone much older than himself, cloaking the whole thing in songs about other people." — Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, April 20, 2014 

  40. Alpha in Tauris is part of the Alpha couple series

  41. Most likely an allusion to Iphigenia in Tauris, a dramatic play by Euripides. In his previous play, Iphigenia in Aulis, Agamemnon is ordered by the goddess Diana's oracle to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, so that he can be victorious against the Scythians. While Agamemnon believes the sacrifice to be completed, Diana rescued Iphigenia from the altar, placing her as Diana's priestess in Tauris, Scythia. Iphigenia in Tauris resumes the story with Iphigenia being pressured to sacrifice two Greeks in retribution for her own attempted sacrifice. As she discovers one to be her brother, she helps with their escape, becoming the priestess of Artemis at Brauron. 

  42. An encore staple for the band, John has played this song many, many times live. There is a fantastic authorship story in which John was robbed on his way to buy cigarettes at a gas station on Christmas Eve, two days before writing the song, and was therefore unable to buy cigarettes, hence the aggression in the lyrics. Letters to Santa, Chicago, December 7, 2011.

    In recent years, he has repudiated the song for its purported misogynistic streak. "I don't play 'Going to Georgia' any more because I can't really reconcile how buoyant it is with how much I dislike its narrator — when I wrote it, I enjoyed that tension, but I was more of an aesthete then and now I think more with my gut. My gut tells me the whole deal with 'Going to Georgia' is bogus, so that's that. A better song would be one from the perspective of the person whose former partner has shown up on the porch of his/her house with a damn gun, that's the hero of the song whose story is more interesting from where I'm at now. " William Caxton Fan Club, At which point do you decide that a song is to be exiled..., retrieved April 10, 2014. See also William Caxton Fan Club, Hi! So I totally get that you don't play "Going to Georgia" any more..., retrieved April 10, 2014.

    "When I wrote that song, Georgia was a distant, mythical country, you know, that someone would only go to under dire circumstances." — China Clipper, Olympia, June 18, 2005. See also 40 Watt Club, Athens, Georgia, August 10, 2006.

    "This song is like doing twenty Hail Marys and five Our Fathers." — Bimbo's 365 Club, San Francisco, February 29, 2008 

  43. Going to Georgia is part of the Going to ... series

  44. Georgia is a state in the American South. 

  45. The Colt Single Action Army, commonly called a Colt .45, is a popular, large revolver capable of firing 6 rounds, and was the standard military revolver in the late 19th century. As this original model lacked a safety catch, and the firearm was manufactured in 1967, another possibility is that the firearm was a Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol rather than the traditional revolver associated with the Colt .45 name. 

  46. Macon County is the name of several counties in the Unites States, but most obviously would refer to Macon County, Georgia, a rural county west of the Interstate 75 freeway. 

  47. Quetzalcoatl Is Born is part of the informal series of Aztec songs

  48. There are several versions of the myth of Quetzalcoatl's birth. Among these stories are that he was the son of the goddess Chimalman after she "swallowed a precious green stone". Another states that he was "the son of a mother who already has four thousand children who have left her and now form the stars of the Milky Way". Saddened by the loss of her children to the stars, she wept, and the god Onteotl pitied her and gave her a sacred quetzal feather, which impregnated her with the twins of Quetzalcoatl ("the greatest of her children") and "his dark twin brother, Tezcatlipoca". As Quetzalcoatl is identified with the planet Venus, his second version explained why the stars flee when Venus, the morning star, rose, heralding the day.

    Yet another version is that during a battle between the Toltecs and the Chichimecas, Chimalman disguised herself as a Toltec soldier and visited Mixcoatl, the god and chief of the Toltecs, whom she loved. Mixcoatl mistakenly believed her to be from the Chichimecas, and so shot her with four arrows. One of these pierced her womb, impregnating her with the child Quetzalcoatl, then dying in childbirth. These stories blend a narrative of Quetzalcoatl as a deity and being a great, but human, hero and leader of the Toltecs.

    None of those stories seem to be what this song describes, however. For that, see below.

    León-Portilla, Miguel and Shorris, Earl (2001). In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature — Pre-Columbian to the Present. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-02010-X

    Bierlein, JF (1999). Living Myths: How Myth Gives Meaning to Human Experience. New York: Ballantine Publishing. ISBN 0-34542207-4 

  49. This story is a retelling of the creation of the 'fifth sun' in Aztec mythology. (The Aztecs considered themselves to be living in the era of the fifth sun.) Documented by Uruguayan journalist and writer Eduardo Galeano as El sol y la luna (The sun and the moon), one version of the myth is as follows:

    Al primer sol, el sol de agua, se lo llevó la inundación. Todos los que en el mundo moraban se convirtieron en peces.

    Al segundo sol lo devoraron los tigres.

    Al tercero lo arrasó una lluvia de fuego, que incendió a las gentes.

    Al cuarto sol, el sol de viento, lo borró la tempestad. Las personas se volvieron monos y por los montes se esparcieron.

    Pensativos, los dioses se reunieron en Teotihuacán.

    —¿Quién se ocupará de traer el alba?

    El Señor de los Caracoles, famoso por su fuerza y su hermosura, dio un paso adelante.

    — Yo seré el sol —dijo.

    —¿Quién más?


    Todos miraron al Pequeño Dios Purulento, el más feo y desgraciado de los dioses, y decidieron:


    El Señor de los Caracoles y el Pequeño Dios Purulento se retiraron a los cerros que ahora son las pirámides del sol y de la luna. Allí, en ayunas, meditaron.

    Después los dioses juntaron leña, armaron una hoguera enorme y los llamaron.

    El Pequeño Dios Purulento tomó impulso y se arrojó a las llamas. En seguida emergió, incandescente, en el cielo.

    El Señor de los Caracoles miró la fogata con el ceño fruncido. Avanzó, retrocedió, se detuvo. Dio un par de vueltas. Como no se decidía, tuvieron que empujarlo. Con mucha demora se alzó en el cielo. Los dioses, furiosos, lo abofetearon. Le golpearon la cara con un conejo, una y otra vez, hasta que le mataron el brillo. Así, el arrogante Señor de los Caracoles se convirtió en la luna. Las manchas de la luna son las cicatrices de aquel castigo.

    Pero el sol resplandeciente no se movía. El gavilán de obsidiana voló hacia el Pequeño Dios Purulento:

    —¿Por qué no andas?

    Y respondió el despreciado, el maloliente, el jorobado, el cojo:

    —Porque quiero la sangre y el reino.

    Este quinto sol, el sol del movimiento, alumbró a los toltecas y alumbra a los aztecas. Tiene garras y se alimenta de corazones humanos.

    Translated by Frank Thomas Smith, this reads:

    The first sun, the water sun, was carried off by the flood. All who lived in the world were turned into fishes.

    The second sun was devoured by tigers.

    The third was destroyed by a firestorm, which burned up the people.

    The fourth sun, the wind sun, was wiped away by the storm. The people turned into monkeys and scattered in the woods.

    Deep in thought, the gods met in Teotihuacán.

    "Who will take care of bringing the dawn?"

    The Lord of the Snails, famous for his strength and beauty, stepped forward.

    "I will be the sun," he said.

    "Who else?


    The all looked at Little God Purulent, the ugliest and unluckiest of the gods, and they decided:


    The Lord of the Snails and Little God Purulent retired to the hills, which are now the pyramids of the sun and of the moon. There, fasting, they mediated.

    Then the gods gathered firewood, built an enormous bonfire, and called them.

    The Little God Purulent braced himself and jumped into the flames. He immediately emerged incandescent in the sky.

    The Lord of the Snails looked frowning at the fire. He advanced, retreated, stopped. He turned around a few times. As he didn't make up his mind, they had to push him. After much delay he rose into the sky. Furious, the gods slapped his face. They hit his face with a rabbit, again and again, until they killed his brightness. Thus, the arrogant Lord of the Snails became the moon. The stains on the moon are the scars of that punishment.

    But the resplendent sun did not move. The sparrow hawk of obsidian (lava) flew to the Little God Purulent:

    "Why don't you move?"

    And the despised, the purulent, the hunchback, the cripple, answered:

    "Because I want the blood and the kingdom."

    This fifth sun, the sun of movement, illuminated the Toltecs and illuminates the Aztecs. It has claws and feeds on human hearts.

    The Lord of Snails is also translated as the Lord of Shells, and was originally called Tecuciztecatl, and the Little God Purulent as the Small Syphilitic God, originally Nanahuatzin. This story demonstrates how in the Aztec and Toltec cosmology, the despised and miserable can rise through courage and sacrifice, and the beautiful and wealthy can destroy themselves through arrogance and cowardice.

    Galeano, Eduardo (1982). Memoria del fuego I: Los Nacimientos. Madrid: Editores Siglo XXI. ISBN 84-323-0440-9

    For an English translation, see Galeano, Eduardo (1985). Memory of Fire I: Genesis. Cedric Belfrage, translator. New York: Nation Books. ISBN 0-393-31773-0

    Smith, Frank Thomas (2002). The Sun and the Moon. Southern Cross Review, 19.

    Marin, Guillermo (2000). Los viejos abuelos: nuestra raíz indígena. Marie Eugenie La Rué de Eibich, translator. Oaxaca: Universidad José Vasconcelos de Oaxaca. OCLC 50432272  2

  50. This sound clip is from Barbra Streisand's 1965 song, "He Touched Me". 

  51. Sonora is one of the northwesternmost states of Mexico. It contains the large Sonoran Desert, which spans from Sonora through Baja California, Baja California Sur, and up into the United States in southern California and Arizona.

    Sonora is also a town in California, the county seat of Tuolumne County, located near Yosemite National Park, and being on the route to Sonora Pass, an important pass across the Sierra Nevada north of Tioga Pass Road in Yosemite. 

  52. Given that the 'you' in the song appears to jump first, is said to "take on divinity", and the Lord of the Snails is named separately, I believe the 'you' is the Little God Purulent mentioned above

  53. Quetzalcoatl, as mentioned above, gave the gift of maize, or corn, to the Aztec people in Aztec mythology. As the Irish folklorist Padraic Colum retells the story:

    There was a time when they did not have maize, when they lived upon roots and on what they gained in the chase. Maize there was, but it was hidden within a mountain, and no one could come to where it was. Different gods had tried to rend the mountain apart that they might come to where the maize was; but this could not be done. Then Quetzalcoatl took the form of a black ant; with a red ant to guide him he went within the mountain Tonacatepetl, and he came to where the maize was: he took the grain, and laboriously he bore it back to men. Then men planted fields with maize; they had crops for the first time; they built cities, and they lived settled lives, and Quetzalcoatl showed them all the crafts that they could learn from him. They honoured him who dwelt in the shining house.

    Colum, Padraic (1930). Orpheus: Myths of the World. New York: Macmillan Company.