Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

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Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Oedepus on June 20th, 2011, 2:50 am

Isn't this song awesome? one of the instant classics from davidenryb. The first time I heard it, just a few seconds in, I was absolutely hooked. I wonder why he holds back the chorus until the second part, but it just makes you want it more, the chorus on this song is a wild beast being unleashed.

It's well worth tracking down the EP, (released on cd and vinyl)

Image

In Boxvox.net, the Back in the box single was posted with this caption:

“Back in the Box” the 1994 seven-song "David Byrne" CD: design and photography by Deborah Norcross.
I like the blurry photo of the little box, and of course I want to know, what did it once contain that we are now meant to imagine going back in the box?


Interesting question!

it has a couple of remixes, the Milano performance of Gypsy Woman, a live version of Cool Water, and a mysterious song called "A woman's secret" in ambient form, which is taken from the elusive "A woman's secret and a young man's dream" musical score. It's an interesting track, divided in 3 sections. On the other hand, the 3 track single offers a different live version of Gypsy Woman, and a live version of the much played Girls on my mind.

During the In constant motion tour, Back in the box was pretty close to the album rendition, minus the "if I don't make no decisions" part, for some reason they didn't do the drum prelude. On all the bootlegs I've heard, the solo is a bit different too, he added some really cool effects and alterations. On No titles please in particular, the solo is amazing. And then during the Feelings tour, the song adapted to the tour's needs, I loved the electronic drums! I can't imagine the song fitting with the arrangements of the string era, but I would love it if it returned to upcoming tours, I think it's one of his strongest singles.

The enryb album is very well arranged in it's order, this song has the perfect spot.
The music video, which has been shared here, is pretty rare, and it's quite good, my only complaint is that sloppy editing, they cut short the solo and then jump right into the decision part, it doesn't work at all. Plus with so many long videos nowdays (Like Gaga's 10 minute snooze fests) I wonder who the hell decided that Back in the box was too long.

Lyrics:

The sun shines on the living
The sun shines on the dead
The sun shines on you and me
Wherever we lay our heads

The sun shines on the evil
The sun shines on the good
It doesn't favour righteousness
Although you wish it would

Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny
Are you still awake?
Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny
I'm terribly scared

And now I need an oasis
A place to hide from the day
I'd like a little dark tiny room
Where the music plays

Maybe you just lost somebody
Maybe your whole world has changed
The sun don't really care about that
It shines on anyway

Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny
Are you still awake?
Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny
I'm terribly scared

I'm going back in the box
Back in the box
Back in the box again
Back in the box
Back in the box
Back in the box again

And now love's terrifying
But I cannot hide what I want
You cannot hear me or see me now
Because I've gone back in the box

If I don't make no decisions
Then I won't make no mistakes
But through all those tiny holes
Well the light's still getting in

I'm going back in the box
Back in the box
Back in the box again
I'm going back in the box
Back in the box
Back in the box again ...
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
please, with an extra-large bed, a TV, and one of those little
refrigerators that you have to open with a key. Credit card? You got it!
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Aspiemom on June 21st, 2011, 2:51 am

Great pick, Oe! This song cracks me up. It’s so over the top!

You said you were “hooked” quickly. I think the guitar solo at the beginning is a “hook,” and it tracks the melody of the chorus that DB makes us wait so long to hear. What a tease! I like the rhythms in these melodies too. The “Back in the Box” chorus starts near the end of a measure (last 1/8 note, I think, like the drumming on “Angels”), and rarely starts anything on a downbeat. But the “Johnny, O Johnny” part has no syncopation at all, making it simpler and a little breather. I read that DB said songs are tricks. This is a good one.

The sun shining on the evil and the good might be a reference to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:45. Jesus is explaining that people should love their enemies, because God makes his sun shine on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. The song turns it into an accusation- maybe God shouldn’t let the sun shine on the evil; maybe God should favor the righteous. Screw this- I’m outta here.

I actually have the 7-song cd you described, thanks to you pointing it out earlier. Maybe the three songs (“Back in the Box,” “Gypsy Woman,” and “Cool Water”) were put together because they all have the singer shaking his fist at a silent God. “Gypsy Woman” has “Why, God, why?” but also “da da dee, da da da,” and I’m not sure what to make of it. “Cool Water” asks “Are we nothing in Your eyes? Someone answer! Someone answer!” I miss the oboe on the live version.

What was in that box? It kind of looks like a baby chicken!
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Oedepus on June 21st, 2011, 5:19 pm

Yeah, a wind up chicken toy!
you got good eye, I always thought it looked like some strange device.

I'm glad you tracked down the EP, it's a great cd.

I'm sure I heard of Johnny in another DB song, but I can't remember it right now. Or am I dreaming?
I love the scratches on the second guitar, it gives the song such a raw feeling.

In that sun part, I think David's character giving harsh commentary on reality, a kind of a get over yourself advice, although it doesn't come off as mean, it's just perspective. I take it as a "toughen up" sort of comment. But then he goes back in the box ;) so it seems like the character himself has given up before us. I identify with the chorus sentiment, sometimes you want to get away from everything, so it's a pretty uplifting song despite all the irony.

I sense something being told with the EP tracklist as well, although the story is rather abstract, the titles on the remixes are interesting too. In regards to Gypsy Woman and Cool Water, they made other appereances on an extremely rare ep called "Songs for swinging lovers: electro acoustic music for the mind and soul" so there's another storyline.
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Aspiemom on June 22nd, 2011, 2:59 am

Oedepus wrote:Yeah, a wind up chicken toy!
you got good eye, I always thought it looked like some strange device.

Okay, but what’s the meaning of a wind up chicken toy box? I got nothin’.

I'm sure I heard of Johnny in another DB song, but I can't remember it right now. Or am I dreaming?


Yep, “There’ll be a celebration when Johnny comes marching home” from “The Civil Wars.” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” was a Northern song during the United States’ Civil War. It’s a happy song about having a party when Johnny the soldier returns home intact from a Union victory. Strangely, it is based on an Irish tune about Johnny coming home maimed, but the American who altered it claimed to have based it on an African-American spiritual! Heaven forbid that our musicians steal from white people! Here’s the song if you’re interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX3cCy1mCtE So, is Johnny a returning soldier in “Back in the Box” also? Why is Johnny asleep? Is our singer sleeping with a guy?

In that sun part, I think David's character giving harsh commentary on reality, a kind of a get over yourself advice, although it doesn't come off as mean, it's just perspective. I take it as a "toughen up" sort of comment. But then he goes back in the box ;) so it seems like the character himself has given up before us. I identify with the chorus sentiment, sometimes you want to get away from everything, so it's a pretty uplifting song despite all the irony.


I think everybody wants a box sometimes, but probably some people need it more often than others. Sartre wrote a whole play about where the torture of hell was described as being trapped in a room with two other people! Anyway, our singer apparently has been in the box before, so maybe he emerges once in awhile and then goes back in to recharge. I have trouble explaining to people sometimes in a polite way that I just need to get away from them for awhile. Maybe that’s why this song strikes me as funny. It’s so honest. I usually lie to try to avoid telling them that their continued presence is like nails scratched across a blackboard.

I sense something being told with the EP tracklist as well, although the story is rather abstract, the titles on the remixes are interesting too. In regards to Gypsy Woman and Cool Water, they made other appereances on an extremely rare ep called "Songs for swinging lovers: electro acoustic music for the mind and soul" so there's another storyline.


Yeah, I get a kick out of “Contemporary Hermit Mix,” although listening to a remix reminds me of eating lunchmeat. It’s processed and you’re not quite sure what you’re getting. It loses something when musicians can’t hear and respond to each other, I think.

“Songs for Swinging Lovers” is the title of a Sinatra album that Dan Levitin thinks is his best. Sinatra irritates me. I used to think it was his pitch, but now I think it’s his coolness. The title on the DB album might be mocking it a bit? What else is on the EP?
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Oedepus on June 22nd, 2011, 4:23 am

Aspiemom wrote:Okay, but what’s the meaning of a wind up chicken toy box? I got nothin’.


Quite a puzzler!

Aspiemom wrote:Here’s the song if you’re interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX3cCy1mCtE So, is Johnny a returning soldier in “Back in the Box” also? Why is Johnny asleep? Is our singer sleeping with a guy?


Thank you, Listening now. Ahh I love the Civil Wars song, odd that I forgot Johhny was there.
Putting them in a context of war adds some light to the Johhny verse. Are you still awake? I'm terribly scared, it does fit with the image of 2 soldiers on the way to something dreadful.

Aspiemom wrote:I think everybody wants a box sometimes, but probably some people need it more often than others. Sartre wrote a whole play about where the torture of hell was described as being trapped in a room with two other people! Anyway, our singer apparently has been in the box before, so maybe he emerges once in awhile and then goes back in to recharge. I have trouble explaining to people sometimes in a polite way that I just need to get away from them for awhile. Maybe that’s why this song strikes me as funny. It’s so honest. I usually lie to try to avoid telling them that their continued presence is like nails scratched across a blackboard.


I feel the same way, although I do have to do a lot of activities alone (and not by personal choice) I often crave company, but at the same time, I can get fed up with some friends quickly. Sometimes we spend time apart and when we reunite the conversations are amazing. The box is quite a nice thing actually.

Aspiemom wrote:Yeah, I get a kick out of “Contemporary Hermit Mix,” although listening to a remix reminds me of eating lunchmeat. It’s processed and you’re not quite sure what you’re getting. It loses something when musicians can’t hear and respond to each other, I think.


David Byrne remixes are few and some of them very hard to find, so I enjoy plenty of them. I have been trying to get the Poor Boy remix for half a year now, it's ridiculous.

Aspiemom wrote:“Songs for Swinging Lovers” is the title of a Sinatra album that Dan Levitin thinks is his best. Sinatra irritates me. I used to think it was his pitch, but now I think it’s his coolness. The title on the DB album might be mocking it a bit? What else is on the EP?


It also has God's Child, And she was, Road to nowhere, Well and a STUNNING live version of "It goes back"
you might have heard that song on a compilation cd in it's studio format, but the Swinging Lovers version is a whole different deal, it's a lot longer, and the guitars are amazing. In the King Kong part, a distorted guitar comes in, it stays until the Joan Crawford part, the moment it kicks in, with the phrase it enters with, and the way it sounds, it's undescribable...It's definitely a highlight in David's Live recording history. The lyrics are from a Jack Kerouac text published in Playboy on June 1959. If you look at it, one wouldn't come up with a way to musicalize it easely, but David found the way and he took it to a whole different dimension. It's really an amazing rendition. Here's the text he sings:

http://home.earthlink.net/~copaceticcom ... rouac.html
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Aspiemom on June 23rd, 2011, 2:40 am

For “It Goes Back,” I could only find the charity album version that’s all percussion. :bawling: From your description, the live version must be better. Ginsburg’s text reminds me of Whitman, especially after DB divided it into phrases. Groovy. I agree with you that song order and selection can convey something. The “DavidByrne” album ending with “Buck Naked” is a great example. Now with IPod shuffle and individual song downloads, we lose some of that, just like we lost Side A and Side B when we went from records to cds.

Weirdly, when I Googled the phrase “It goes back,” the computer suggested I search for “It goes back in the box.” I got these self-help people talking about board games and how you should enjoy your life without being too competitive (because in the end it all goes back in the Monopoly box or whatever). One of them said you may find yourself in a beautiful house. . . .

Maybe “Back in the Box” is about two soldiers headed somewhere scary. I hear that our U.S. troops sometimes use drugs to escape the sensory overload and fear, which could be a kind of box too. A box could be a coffin too, but once you go into one of those, you stay there. BTW, what’s up with “the sun shines on the dead?” It doesn’t shine on their bodies six feet underground.

I’ve been thinking about how some songs get abandoned if they don’t turn into hits the first time around, even though some of us may love those songs. Once in awhile, they turn up somewhere, like “Miss America” on “Big Love.” Looks like “Dreamworld” will be re-released later this month on another charity album. http://consequenceofsound.net/2011/05/david-byrne-beck-beirut-set-for-red-hot-rio-2-compilation/ :jumpyjumpy:
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Oedepus on June 23rd, 2011, 4:13 am

Yeah it's quite a song!

Now that you put it thay way, no, it can't. So if we use our soldiers analogy, which is quite helpful, if they are on their way to a sure death, it might as well be sun shinning on dead men.

re: hit singles: How could it be Back in the box wasn't a chart topping success? it's incredibly accessible. I don't understand people ignoring his work when he makes it so easy to love. In regards to Miss America, I'm not sure what happened there, some people say it was a hit, others tell me they never saw it played on tv (reckon you had not seen the music video prior to the thread) so there's something weird going on there.
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Ruben on June 23rd, 2011, 3:46 pm

Oedepus wrote:re: hit singles: How could it be Back in the box wasn't a chart topping success? it's incredibly accessible. I don't understand people ignoring his work when he makes it so easy to love. In regards to Miss America, I'm not sure what happened there, some people say it was a hit, others tell me they never saw it played on tv (reckon you had not seen the music video prior to the thread) so there's something weird going on there.


Well, the "Miss America" music video got some TV airplay, I've seen it a couple of times on VH1, but that doesn't make it a hit... It wasn't a hit. In fact, I don't think DB had any solo "chart" hits, except for "Lazy" with X-Press 2 back in 2002 (#1 in the US Dance chart and #2 in the UK singles chart), and that's about it I think. "She's Mad" could be considered as a moderate hit, it reached #3 on the US Rock chart and the amazing music video got two MTV noms. "Angels" could be also considered as a very small hit. And then "Strange Overtones" was definetly a word-of-mouth hit thanks to the Internet and stuff... that's why it got into so many "Best singles of 2008" lists and things like that. DB's solo music isn't made for the Pop charts, that happens to a lot of veteran artists and that's it, there's nothing wrong with that. People don't ignore his work at all, in fact, he's got plenty of recognition everywhere as a true groundbreaking artist from people who know about real music and art. They are not the majority, but that's the way it has always been.
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Re: Song of the Week- June 19- "Back in the box"

Postby Oedepus on June 23rd, 2011, 7:24 pm

Well I'm kinda glad it is that way, I appreciate him being sort of our little secret treasure.
Howdy-do? This is Peter McCalister, the FATHER. I'd like a hotel room,
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