25 Guitars

25 Guitars

Southern California has more washed up stars than Mexican and Thai restaurants combined. Any AA or NA meeting is going to have at least an Emmy or Grammy winner or two and maybe an Oscar winner, ya never know.

Most of them had an orderly descent from the firmament, cushioned by gradually fading popularity, side jobs, new careers.

But the idea that grabbed me from the very first line out of my mouth as I wrote this song (“Go back home and tell all the kids / this is what it’s like when your hero hits the skids”) was a guy who suddenly seemed to just snap, throwing away or losing everything almost overnight.

As I saw the protagonist (AYoS fans will be nodding their heads knowingly, they can see it coming now), he had doomed himself by abandoning the girl back home in his ambition and lust for adventure. (What? You were thinking his business manager embezzled all his dough?)

I wanted to capture that tractionless, slow-mo panic as everyday chores become herculean challenges and doubt erodes the most basic presumptions. I also wanted to give expression to my estimation of the moral depth of the music business in LA.

It’s worth noting — as I think there’s room for unintended interpretation in these lines — with the reference to a “noose” I was looking to suggest a phantasmagoric public execution — against the expected context of suicide. To me, the “bottom dropping out” is the trap door in the gallows. He laughs the whole way down because it’s such a relief when he finally quits trying to hold his life together.

And — at the risk of overexplaining (oops, too late) when he wakes up in the gutter and he’s dreaming that he dreamed he threw it all away — he’s not really talking about the condo and the 25 guitars.

25 Guitars

Go back home and
tell all the kids
this is what it’s like
when their hero hits the skids

go out to the farm and
tell my ma and pa
the higher you climb
the farther you must fall

I started out thinking
that I’d always know the score
now I hardly know
what I was counting for

I lost my one true love
my agent and my car
my condo and my dog
and twenty five guitars

but baby I was lost before
I ever got to town
I threw the map away
the day I let you down

yeah I hit the big time
but the big time it hits back
and all the way up
I was looking back

Wake me up and say its all a dream
we could drink coffee and talk about what it all means
I dreamed I dreamed I threw it all away
If I could just wake up back in your arms today

I was on the fat side of heaven
how come it felt like hell
each day was a struggle
one day I just fell

The bottom dropped out
I laughed the whole way down
with a noose around yer neck
LA is a much nicer town

Wake me up and say its all a dream
we could drink coffee and talk about what it all means
I dreamed I dreamed I threw it all away
If I could just wake up back in your arms today

Go back home and tell all the kids
this is what it’s like when their hero hits the skids

(C)1997, TK Major

 

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