Notes on the songs...
[from the original album liner notes]




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[with notes by Leo Kottke]

 

The Driving of the Year Nail
From an old Etruscan drawing of a sperm cell..
[from the original album liner notes] Played in standard tuning.

"We didn't know about sequencing, so the record (6- and 12 String Guitar) is in the order it was recorded. That was exactly how it went down. "The Driving of the Year Nail" was the first song. The record took 3 1/2 hours to do, and I all had to do was sit down and play everything I ever knew. We did it in a warehouse with sheets hanging around me for a studio. They were sort of the walls. [Laughs.]
    In one of Joseph Campbell's books there was a drawing that was reproduced, concerning the Driving of the Year Nail. It was a sperm cell with a man, a woman, a goat, and a small bush in it.  [Laughs].
    That was the name of some kind of Etruscan calendar celebration. It is about the new year. I think it is Etruscan, even though it seem sunlikely, since we don't know a damn thing about the Etruscans.[Laughs.] I just remember being crazy about the phrase.
[from Anthology liner notes]

The Last of the Arkansas Greyhounds
A terror-filled escape on a bus from a man fired from Beaumont Ranch.


Ojo
Ojo Caliente where the Zuni hid from Estaban, the Moor, and the Spaniards.
[from the original album liner notes] Played in standard tuning.

"Ojo" was a word that I thought I had made up, but it turns out to be, among other things, the name of a Mexican curse which means "cave eye". I don't know what "cave eye" is, but in the beginning, it wasjust my word and I like the sound of it. If somebody gives you the Ojo, it is "cave eye".
I later recorded "Ojo" on A Shout Toward Noon. I think I prefer the original, but what I think about the Private Music cut is it has a modulation in it that I didn't figure out until about 20 years later. [Laughs.]
    A lot of my tunes have something featured that makes them a "first" for me and, at the same time, nails it home. I will never forget them. "Ojo" is one of them. That may be why I made up that word, because I had a real problem in that tune. I knew what the melody wanted to do, and I could feel it, but I couldn't make it happen. I sat down and worked on one bar of that thing for 12 hours straight. I remember coming out of it in a kind of daze. I was looking for a way of turning a rhythm around within a bar, in order to support what the melody had to do. That "j" [in the word Ojo] is where the rhythm turns around.
    I turned out to be leading with the index finger at a point that you would normally only lead with the thumb. That was the first time I solved that kind of problem, and it was very liberating. "Ojo" has a global effect for me. Right away, I could put that to use everywhere. After that, I had a way of moving through structures without sounding so structured.
    By the time I had discovered the thing in "Ojo," I discovered that the guitar could be a toy. If you got loose enough with it, it could stretch itself. The real rhythm actually lifts you off your feet. It actually pops you up, but it won't happen without that surprise. I was happy with that, and I thought I had something worth putting on tape.
    This business of turning the beat around was really the nut of the whole thing. It was a technical kind of release that really got the ball rolling -- that and John [Fahey] saying give me a whole record of this stuff.
[from Anthology liner notes]

Crow River Waltz
A prayer for the demise of the canoe and the radar trap without which Federal prisons will have to be rebuilt to accommodate prepubescence.
[from the original album liner notes] Done in Open G tuning. The Crow River is located in Southern Minnesota.

The Sailor's Grave on the Prairie
Originally written to commemorate Nedicks and a Minneapolis musician's
contempt for the three A.M. cheeseburger with a nickel slice of raw.
[from the original album liner notes]

This is a song about a drunk that I've played here before.
    This is a guy that I took home one night.  He didn't know where he lived, which he confessed after I'd driven him around for about an hour.  So I just let him off and wrote this song out of sympathy for the people whose house he decided to walked into.
    But I'd like to play it tonight, instead of playing it for that drunk from Minneapolis... or actually, I should say "ex-saxophone player," that's probably kinder. I'll play this for the guy who came here tonight dressed as a Quaalude. Played in Open G tuning.


Vaseline Machine Gun
1) for waking up nude in a sleeping bag on the shore of the Atlantic surrounded by a volley ball game at high noon, and 2) for the end of the volley ball game.
[from the original album liner notes] This later became Machine No. 2 on Mudlark and back to Vaseline Machine Gun on Standing in My Shoes. Done in Open G.

It is a title that I wish I had never thought of. It doesn't mean the same thing to me that it meant in 1967, or whenever I wrote that thing. I still love the piece, but I have to live with the title. I thought it was poetry back then, and now I think it is failed poetry. [Laughs] I honestly can't remember whether I thought it was a metaphor. A lot of my titles aren't. They just stand there, because they trigger something that feels the same as the tune.
For as long as I have been alive, and as long as I hope to be alive, [the year] 1968 was a s tough as it gets. Friends of mind died in all kinds of ways, and a lot of people were just getting started.
    I had been in the Navy in the submarine service. We were tied up on the Thames River, in London, where I was stationed. We were one of the outside boats standing watch. I remember standing on the Halbeak, which was the boat I was assigned to, and we have been told to expect two canoe loads of Peaceniks. That was the actual word they used -- Peaceniks. I was told to load my clip. So I was standing under that huge bridge they've got with a loaded. 45, expecting two canoe loads of Peaceniks. Nothing ever felt sillier to me, and nothing was ever more obvious then. We have a submarine, and they have two canoes. Why don't we go inside and close the door. End of problem. But it wasn't how it was going to work. The Peaceniks never showed up.
    More than anything else, I'm sure that at the time, something about "Vaseline Machine Gun" sounded good to me. It is the most rerecorded tune I have got. I usually don't revisit things, but that one I just rerecorded for a brand new record at the producer's suggestion. It felt about right this time, mainly because I am willing to fess up to the title now.
[from Anthology liner notes]

Jack Fig
A reluctant lament.
[from the original album liner notes] Done in Open G.

Watermelon
While at Watermelon Park Music Festival I had the opportunity to play
banjo in the middle of the night for a wandering drunk. When I finished he vomited -- an astute comment on my playing. Made me feel very distinguished.
[from the original album liner notes] Played in Open D.

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
The engineer called this the ancient joy of man's desire. (Bach had twenty children because his organ didn't have any stops).
[from the original album liner notes] Played in Open G tuning.

The Fisherman
This is about the mad fishermen of the North whose ice fishing spots
resemble national shrines.
[from the original album liner notes] Standard tuning.

The Tennessee Toad
Who made an epic journey from Ohio to Tennessee.
[from the original album liner notes] "A little song about marital discord, despair. Or the lack of it maybe." Played in open C tuning.

Busted Bicycle
Reluctance
[from the original album liner notes] Open C tuning.

I was standng on the roof of the Minneapolis coffeehouse that I started out playing in, called The Scholar. It was where Bob Dylan started, and Simon & Garfunkel played there early on. ("Mississippi") John Hurt and quite a few people managed to blow through.
    ["Spider"] John Koerner [the legendary blues guitarist of '60s Elektra recording artists Koerner,. Ray & Glover] and I had been admiring his new bicycle, which was chained to a lamppost down the street, when a cab came around the corner and hit John's new bicycle and busted it. John is another one of those guys who hasn't gotten enough recognition for what he does.
[from Anthology liner notes]

The Brain of Purple Mountain
From A.L. Tennyson.
[from the original album liner notes] Standard tuning.

Coolidge Rising
While rising from the sink, cupboard doors opened and engulfed his head; while turning to the right to avoid the whole incident he walked into a refrigerator -- which afforded a good chin rest for staring at some bananas in a basket.

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