The Sound Of His Own Voice

Produced by Scott McCaughey & John Wesley Harding
Mixed by Tucker Martine with Scott McCaughey at Flora, Portland, OR
Recorded by Adam Selzer at Type Foundry, Portland, OR
Additional recording by Scott McCaughey at the Record Pile, Portland, OR.
Mastered by Emily Lazar & Joe LaPorta at The Lodge, NYC
Cover photograph by Jamie Baldridge
Album Design by Sheila Sachs

The King Charles Trio is:
Peter Buck
Jenny Conlee-Drizos
Chris Funk
Scott McCaughey
John Moen
Nate Query

With Their Beautiful Assistants:
Steve Berlin
Rosanne Cash
Daniel Lamb
Victor Nash
John Roderick
Laura Veirs

Sing Your Own Song
Vocals, acoustic guitar: Wes
Backing vocals: Scott, John, Wes & John Roderick
Mellotron: Scott
12-string guitar: Peter
Electric guitar, banjo: Chris
Piano, Hammond organ: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums: John

I Should Have Stopped
Vocals, acoustic guitar: Wes
Vocals: Laura
Backing vocals: John & Scott
12-string guitar: Peter
Electric guitar: Chris
Piano: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums: John

Captain Courageous (On Disko Island)
Vocals, acoustic guitars, pump organ: Wes
Synthesizer, backing vocals: Scott
12-string guitar: Peter
French horn, trumpet: Victor
Pedal steel: Chris
Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ: Jenny
Bass, cello: Nate
Drums, backing vocals: John

I Might Be Dead
Vocals, acoustic guitars: Wes
Mellotron, backing vocals: Scott
Leslie & 12-string guitars: Peter
Electric guitars: Chris
Hammond organ: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums, backing vocals: John

Uncle Dad
Vocal, acoustic guitar: Wes
Backing vocals: Scott & John
Vocal: Tilda Stace
12-string guitar: Peter
Handclaps: John, Wes, Chris, Jenny, Scott
Electric guitar: Chris
Piano: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums: John
Tilda Stace recorded by Dan Gutierrez at WXPN, Philadelphia 1/14/11

The Way We Weren’t
Vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar (1st solo): Wes
Mellotron, electric guitar, tambourine, backing vocals: Scott
12-string guitar: Peter
Electric guitar (2nd solo): Chris
Piano, Hammond organ: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums, backing vocals: John

There’s a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used to Be)
Vocal, acoustic guitar: Wes
Wurlitzer electric piano, tambourine, backing vocals: Scott
Mandolin: Peter
Electric guitar: Chris
Accordion, Hammond organ: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums, backing vocals: John

The Colloquy of Mole & Mr Eye
Mr Eye, acoustic guitar, harmonica: Wes
Mole: John Roderick
Mandolin: Peter
Saxophone: Steve
Trombone: Daniel
Trumpet: Victor
Banjo: Chris
Accordion, piano: Jenny
Upright bass: Nate
Drums: John

Gentleman Caller
Vocals: Wes
Tambourine, maracas, cowbell, backing vocals: Scott
12-string guitar: Peter
Electric guitars: Chris
Piano, Hammond organ: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums, backing vocals: John

Calling Off the Experiment
Vocals: Wes
Synths, Crumar Performer, tambourine, backing vocals: Scott
12-string guitar: Peter
Electric guitar: Chris
Piano, Microkorg & Farfisa organ: Jenny
Bass, cellos: Nate
Drums, backing vocals: John

The Examiners
Vocal: Wes
Backing vocals: Laura
Crumar Performer: Scott
Beatbox: Whippany Rhythm Master
12-string guitar, E-bow: Peter
Baritone sax: Steve
Electric guitars: Chris
Pump organ: Jenny
Upright bass: Nate
Drums, vibraphone: John

Good News (& Bad News)
Vocal, acoustic guitars: Wes
Harmony vocal: Rosanne
Mellotron: Scott
12-string guitar: Peter
Pedal steel: Chris
Fender Rhodes: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums: John
Rosanne Cash recorded by Matt Gill at Shelter Island Sound, NYC 12/6/10

The World in Song
Vocals, Microkorg bass, acoustic guitars: Wes
Autoharp, tubular bells, acoustic guitars, percussion, backing vocals: Scott
Mandolin, 12-string guitar: Peter
Baritone sax: Steve
Handclaps: Wes, Scott, Chris, Jenny, John, Rebecca Gates & Joanna Bolme
Electric guitars: Chris
Piano, Hammond organ, Nord synth: Jenny
Bass: Nate
Drums, tympani, acoustic guitars, backing vocals: John

All songs written by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions/ASCAP) except I Should Have Stopped by John Wesley Harding & Rob Seidenberg (Plangent Visions/Silk Mountain Songs), The Way We Weren’t by John Wesley Harding & Ed Masley (Plangent Visions/Penns Woods Music, BMI) and The Examiners – a poem by John Whitworth, set to music by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions/ASCAP)

Rosanne Cash appears courtesy of Manhattan Records/EMI Music
Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee-Drizos, Nate Query, John Moen of The Decemberists appear courtesy of Capitol Records
Scott McCaughey appears courtesy of Yep Roc Records
Peter Buck appears courtesy of Warner Brothers Records
John Roderick appears courtesy of Barsuk
Laura Veirs appears courtesy of Tennessee
Tilda Stace appears courtesy of her parents

Sing Your Own Song

Long ago I had a dream
A man came up to me
He gave me paper and a pen
And a cast-iron guarantee
He said “Write six words, make the next line rhyme
Learn four basic chords
When you’ve got the third line, well, in next to no time
You’ll be wanting more”

Well, I didn’t wanna know about a quid pro quo
Or why he was picking on me
Guess he didn’t know that I was tired of school
And bored of poetry
So I played along, stifled a yawn
Perhaps he was wrong in the head
And when I woke, I found a note
And this is what it said:

You can write your own words
You can sing your own song
And it doesn’t really matter if you’re out of tune
Or if no one sings along
You can write your own words
And you can make your own rules
And it doesn’t really matter how cool you are
Or what grades you got at school
When you sing your own song

So I took the advice, suffice it to say
That the rest is mystery
And if anyone out there’s nervous or scared
I suggest you listen to me

You can write your own words
You can sing your own song
And it doesn’t really matter if you’re out of tune
Or if no one sings along
Cos if you do what you like
And you like what to do
Then someone somewhere knows you’re there
And the world may come to you
When you sing your own song

Now I’m married and I have two kids
And we sing songs all the time
My four-year-old just makes them up
Sometimes with explanatory mime
No one’s told her that it’s difficult yet
That isn’t in her head
So we sing her song all evening long
Right until it’s time for bed

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

I Should Have Stopped

I remember you when we were both at school
For one short week we shared the same carpool
(Hey, hey) Then I saw you today
You’re looking pretty special in your disco hat
As you do your dirty laundry at the laundromat
Life has intervened but nothing’s changed
Your eyes looked kinda tired
But you basically looked the same, the same

You were never really that good at sports
But you kissed me on a dare behind the tennis courts
(Hey, hey) You’d been all the way
I always was afraid of your fearsome friends
You used to disappear with them for long weekends
One day you left, Monday never came
And there you were standing
In the wash and fold again

I should have stopped and said Hello but I didn’t
I’ll go back to the mess at home
I should have stopped and said Let’s go but I couldn’t
Leave my memories alone

We were very nearly in the same school play
But I ended up as prompter for the matinees
(Hey, hey) You were Salome
But I saw you in your bra in the costume tent
I ran across the stage in embarrassment
Even now, it’s harder not to stare at you
Sorting out the whites from the colours in your underwear

I should have stopped and said Hello but I didn’t
I’ll go back to the mess at home
I should have stopped and said Let’s go but I couldn’t
Leave my memories alone

Because it’s ancient history and we are not the same
And we will never know the mystery again

I should have stopped and said Hello but I didn’t
I’ll go back to the mess at home
I should have stopped and said Let’s go but I couldn’t
Leave my memories alone

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding & Rob Seidenberg (Plangent Visions/Silk Mountain Songs)

Captain Courageous (On Disko Island)

Captain Courageous
Looking outrageous in his finery
Fingers his shotgun
Knowing the outcome isn’t binary
Death cannot daunt him
Ghosts cannot haunt him
Nobody wants him, because he’s...

Captain Courageous
Isn’t contagious but he’s quarantined
Set him in aspic
Now that the politics are Florentine
Blows cannot strike him
Soundmen don’t mic him
Nobody’s like him, because he’s
Captain Courageous, he’ll never age
But we can’t turn the page on
Captain Courageous

Captain Courageous
Doesn’t engage us as he struts the stage
Captain Colossal
He’s just the fossil of a bygone age
Death don’t await him
Critics don’t rate him
Nobody hates him, because he’s
Captain Courageous, he’ll never age
But we can’t turn the page on
Captain Courageous

He was once all the rage
Now he stands like a statue with one arm in the air
And it’s Queens and it’s Brooklyn and his armies are there
And as he salutes, a bird messes the nest of his hair
Poor Captain!
His leather’s imperial; disease’s venereal

Death cannot daunt him
Ghosts cannot haunt him
Nobody wants him, because he’s
Captain Courageous, he’ll never age
But we can’t turn the page on
Captain Courageous, he’ll never age

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

I Might Be Dead

I might be dead
I might just be relaxed
I might be dead
But I’m still paying tax
I might have had a heart attack
I think I want my money back

I might be dead
I might be off my face
I might be dead
But I’m still on the database
Is your address book up to date?
Guess we know my fate

But I can remember
How good it felt
To be with you
Maybe you
Remember it too

I might be dead
For all you notice me
I might be dead
Son of obituary
Yeah, you made a mess of me
One more of you, one less of me

But then…
You might be dead
Just to call my bluff
You might be dead
Had enough of love
There can’t be fireflies every night
Please move towards my light

And can you remember
How good it felt
To be with me
Maybe it wasn’t
Baby, remind me

We might be dead
We might just be asleep
We might be dead
Perhaps our dreams are cheap
You didn’t mean to be dead weight
I didn’t meant to be late

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

Uncle Dad

He comes a-knockin’ on a Friday night
With a box of Black Magic and a bottle of white
And if she’s with him, she waits outside
Watch her do her lipstick in the passenger light
Mum gets quiet, mum gets sad
She sits in the kitchen, lost in the want ads

Mum, she makes the breakfast, walks us all to school
Works at the municipal swimming pool
It’s sad he moved so far away
He’s doing up his new house so that we can stay
How we smiled, how we laughed
When he turned up in a sports car

No-one’s quite as much fun as Uncle
No-one’s quite as much fun as Uncle
No-one’s quite as much fun as Uncle Dad
He’s there without warning, he’s gone in the morning
It never gets boring
Uncle Dad

Careful where you tiptoe on the firing range
Gets a little tense at the hostage exchange
Not all the hostages want to go
I’m the peacemaker and I go with the flow
Out to the car and in the backseat
On with the seatbelt, out with the sweets

Chorus…
He’s there in the driveway; blimey, it’s friday
His car’s so untidy
Uncle Dad

I remember once when he came in for a drink
And he was there in the morning
Sitting in the kitchen with a mug of instant coffee,
Yawning
Mum was smiling when we went to school
Later she was in mourning

It’s always presents and it’s always treats
Back home it’s TV and it’s just repeats
She says he thinks that life’s one long cartoon
He wishes Mum would get a boyfriend soon
Yeah we like her, Auntie Jane
But it’s great to get home again, though ...

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

The Way We Weren’t

Once you told me all about your dream
Life was Jim Beam, steam rooms and ice cream
And your name up in lights on some marquee
How surprising you didn’t mention me
Well, I’ve had time to think things through
I would love to turn on you
Memories of
The way we weren’t

In your bedroom, I strummed a dumb guitar
Said your name once and wondered where you were
Sang the chorus I don’t sing anymore
Your thesaurus, my favourite dinosaur
That was when love was allowed
That was then, love, this is now
It’s all about
The way we weren’t

I can see you stealing up the ceiling
When my feelings get the upper hand
I can see you standing on the landing
With your hand up as the group disbands

Maybe one day, I’ll try to forget
One day... but maybe not quite yet
Amnesia’s the only thing I fear
Don’t forget me next year at your premiere
Maybe when I’m 64
I won’t need you anymore
But now I want
The way we weren’t

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding & Ed Masley (Plangent Visions/Penns Woods Music, BMI)

Starbucks

There’s a freeway where we played football in the fields
Apartments on the pitch at Highbury
There’s a shed called Deer Creek
Of which my one critique
Is there’s no creek now and it’s all deer-free

There’s a Walgreens where there was no wall, just greenery
There’s a theme park in a palace in Tennessee
That tree there is a pylon
But some things you can rely on
There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be

There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be
There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be
There’s a hard luck story everywhere you look
But oh the glory!
There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be

There’s a stadium where we used to drink at Freddie’s
For a team that no one likes or wants or needs
Said they’d revitalize the place
There’s a million parking spaces
Maybe bedrooms for the homeless refugees

There’s a chain store where mom and pop once prospered
They’re divorced now and they live in penury
Kids grown up and moved away
I hear that happens anyway
There’s a Starbucks where they live, I guarantee

There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be
There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be
There’s a hard luck story everywhere you look
But oh the glory!
There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be

And I miss the old Starbucks
Though the new one’s just the same
It’s got coffee and CDs
It’s got the same name
In fact, I wouldn’t’ve even noticed
If you hadn’t told me
There’s a Starbucks where the Starbucks used to be

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

The Colloquy Of Mole & Mr. Eye

Tell me some tales of your life in the tunnels
I’ll sing you a song of life high above ground
I’m in a tower that couldn’t be higher
You’re in a bower a hundred miles down
I’m in the air, the world’s out of my hair
My heads in the clouds and I read by the moon
I’m in the stars and you are sub-radar
Digging your home with a rusty old spoon

Hey little mole, what’s it like in your hole?
Why did you go underground? What kind of life have you found?

Tell me a tale of two hundred stories
I’ll sing you a song of a world down below
My ladder and steps don’t reach up to your basement
The lift in your building won’t go near this low
I dig the gloom in this womb of a room
I’m perfectly happy just shoring up walls
The worms they all need me, the little grubs feed me
I’m close to the core and there’s nowhere to fall

Hey Mr Eye, what’s it like in the sky?
Why did you fly off the ground? What kind of life have you found?

Tell me some tales of survival substrata
I’ll sing you a song of the high life up here
The air is so rarified, food is delivered
By people from earth whom you tip with a beer
I haven’t a care and I never go down where
The smoke is a joke and you’re scared all the time
I can see it so clearly but don’t want it near me
I’m the first superman to emerge from the slime

Hey little mole, what’s it like in your hole?
Why did you go underground? What kind of life have you found?

Hey Mr.Eye, there’s one thing we agree on
You’ll never come here and I’ll never go there
My eyes aren’t accustomed to all of your bright lights
Your lungs they would gasp for a good blast of air
We’ve made decisions, we’ve both had visions
Of something else, somewhere else, some other way
But your money bought you, my instincts taught me
The ground’s not the best place to live on today
Mole in his hole, Eye in the sky
That’s why we moved from the ground
Long live the life we have found

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

Gentleman Caller

Hey!
There’s a gentleman caller at the door
What is he there for?
There’s a gentleman caller at the door
He’s so assured

Better lock up your daughters
Launder their corsets
Submerge them in water
Secrete them in Dorset
Exiled, disgraced
In a much safer place

Hey!
There’s a gentleman caller at the door
What is he there for?
There’s a gentleman caller at the door
He won’t be ignored

Better hide all your sons
Brush up on your Austin
Send them to business school
Harvard or Boston
To their dismay
They’re condemned to play croquet

You don’t know how it feels between meals
To know that someone’s here
Let’s open the door
Can’t wait anymore
Till you give the all-clear

Hey!
There’s a gentleman caller at the door
What is he there for?
There’s a gentleman caller at the door
There’s callers galore

[Instrumental verse]

But you don’t know how it feels between meals
To know that someone’s there
My stomach’s a pit
And I wanna fill it
With your worst nightmares
Someone heard my prayers

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

The Examiners

A poem by John Whitworth, set to music by John Wesley Harding

Where the house is cold and empty and the garden’s overgrown,
Where the letters lie unopened by a disconnected phone,
Where your footsteps echo strangely on each moonlit cobblestone,
Where a shadow streams behind you but the shadow’s not your own,
You may think the world’s your oyster but it’s bone, bone, bone:
They are there, the examiners are there

They assume it as an impost or they take it as a toll,
The contractors grant them all that they incontinently stole,
They will shrivel your ambition with their quality control,
They will dessicate your passion, then eviscerate your soul,
Wring your life out like a sponge and stuff your body down a hole,
They are there, they are there
They are there, the examiners are there

They can parse a Latin sentence; they’re as learned as Plotinus,
They’re as sharp as Ockham’s razor, as subtle as Aquinas,
They define us and refine us with their beta-query-minus,
They’re the wall-constructing Emperors of undiscovered Chinas,
They confine us, then malign us, in the end they undermine us,
They are there, they are there
They are there, the examiners are there

In the desert of your dreaming they are humped behind the dunes,
On the undiscovered planet with its seven circling moons,
They are ticking all the boxes, making sure you eat your prunes,
They are sending secret messages by helium balloons,
They are humming Bach cantatas, they are playing looney tunes
They are there, they are there
They are there, the examiners are there

They are there, they are there like a whisper on the air,
They are slippery and soapy with our hope and our despair,
So it’s idle if we bridle or pretend we never care,
If the questions are superfluous and the marking isn’t fair,
For we know they’re going to get us, we just don’t know when or where,
They are there, they are there
They are there, the examiners are there

Music by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions/ASCAP)

Good News (& Bad News)

Nothing has changed
As if we’re off the radar, far out of range
And the newspaper headlines
Are just the same
As yesterday

Everything’s still
Where there’s no way, well, I guess, there’s no will
And there isn’t even time to kill
Or while away
The time of day

And the good news is that there is no news
Nothing has changed at all
And the bad news is that there is no news
You don’t write
You don’t call

I’m in two minds
Don’t wanna fast forward and there’s no rewind
I know dirt can’t hurt me
I’m half resigned
and hope combined

So what are you for?
Your dead silence
Is hard to ignore
And so “no word” is all
I know for sure
Nothing more

But the good news is that there is no news
Nothing has changed at all
And the bad news is that there is no news
You don’t write
You don’t call

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)

The World In Song

I had a dream
At first, there was nothing, silence
Then a low sweet sound
That turned into a chord and we were born
And the stars they sang a melody
And breathed life into you and me
And nature danced to the law of this song
And we emerged to sing along
The whole world was harmony
And Look Out! Here we come!

Universe becomes a chorus
Let the world try to ignore us
Distant galaxies explore us
We’re the world in song
You and me are universal
We don’t need no more rehearsal
Welcome to our role reversal
We’re the world in song

Here’s what it means
We have been hidden for too long
It’s time we re-emerged
Out into the world to sing our song
Leave this room we’ve been holed up in
Open the door and let life begin -
A dream has told me something new
About the world that’s home and you
I woke up feeling good
And you look so beautiful asleep

Music and lyrics by John Wesley Harding (Plangent Visions Inc., ASCAP)