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Written by Josh Millard
Year: 1996
Recordings:
Lyrics:
Little kid looked up the big white church
At the tower in which hung the bell
He thought that he saw some movement there
But from what he just could not tell
He said to his father
For my sake pray tell
What lives in yonder heights
His dad said nothing son
His eyes were a smoking gun
But the kid gave up without a fight

Next day the kid met a little bird
Who said I'll tell you what I know
Up in that cage live some pigeonfolk
Though in truth they look a bit like crows
The child stood agape
What are they doing there
And what do you mean by cage
Said they were put there by the bastard
That your Pa calls Pastor
And he flew off in a huff of rage

Once upon a time
It wasn't so long ago
That you ran away from anything
That you didn't know
And those eyes
Those alien eyes
Are they blind
Or are they wise

The kid in and he asked the priest
About the pigeons in the tower above
The priest said those things are genetic whores
Incapable even of love
The child said just because you put 'em in that cage
Doesn't mean they'll die or fade away
The priest said just as they're in that cage
It don't matter to me either way

The kid climbed that night by the light of the moon
And was met by sparkling eyes
He saw their skin in the light but not a feather in sight
And the child had grown suddenly wise
A voice from below
Hey Birdboy, cried the preacher
Hey Birdboy, that is your name
God hates the gun
But it has to be done
Because you and I are not the same

Little kid looked down at the big white church
From the tower in which hung the bell
Dying in the arms of his feathered friends
And damning the pastor to hell
He turned to his soul
And he heard the toll
That said the wizard had not won
And he turned to the sky
With a look in his eye
That said the fight
The fight
Oh the fight had just begun

Alien Eyes

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.

One Comment

  1. DigitalSeraphim wrote:

    Actually, this is one of my favorites of of the pre-WPI recordings. The opening of a song I’ve been listening to recently reminded me of the opening of this song, and so I had to come listen to it today :^)

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

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