This was an early attempt at semi-epic narrative song writing. About 1996 or so. I’d been listening to Dylan, and the emulation is clearly there in terms of, if not writing, at least song length. Lots of rather embarrassingly strained metaphors. Ah well.
Intended it as a fable about religious and racial bigotry. Dramatic for the sake of drama. I feel pretty embarassed listening to this now.
There’s at least four difference voices in this song: the narrator, the kid, the priest/pastor/wizard, the little bird. No real vocal differentiation between the characters in the recording, though, aside from a little edge on the priest’s lines.
Big change for the instrumental bridge—jumps into 3/4, some unusual chordal movement.
Voice breaks a little near the end. Cute.
There was a small white church near the house where I grew up in SE Portland. But it had a white slatted steeple that looked biggish from the ground. I think this whole song got started when I glanced up at it one day, walking by.
Pray! Religious theme pun.
Yonder? Yonder is a great word—I’m fond of it—but I don’t think it was well deployed, here.
“little bird”: first of many bird-related idioms shoehorned into the song. A little bird told me.
“Crows”, here, was code for black people in a white world, or more generally Others, aliens, oppressed people. I don’t know if the use of “pigeonfolk” on the previous line had some meaning other than that, hey, there a lot of pigeons in Portland and in that actual church’s steeple in particular.
First mention of the pastor/priest/wizard/antagonist character. My mom is Catholic, but liberal and laidback in her approach to it, and for my own part I lost interest in the whole thing by the time I was ten. And so I grew up casually thinking that Catholicism = Christianity. It wasn’t till I started dating a non-denominational girl late in high school that I started to really perceive of the distinct contrasts between various Christian denominations, and realize what an interesting beast of rituals and conspiracies Catholicism was in the eyes of non-Catholics. Which is all a background for the clarification that, while the character in this song was not intended to be, or not to be, Catholic, I was at the time using “pastor” as a direct synonym for “priest” —the guy in church who led the service was a priest, and that was that. You might call him “pastor” sometimes, just to be saucy. Right? Right.
Huff of rage? What’s a huff of rage? Fly off in a huff, sure. Fly off in a rage, even. But there’s something fundamentally non-raging about huffiness; if I’m in a huff, I’m not in a rage, I’m just a little miffed, a little pissed. Verdict: I was really reaching for rhyme and meter here, and damn the semantic consequences.