"That spring we found ourselves in flavored water and abundant songs. Shacked up in Lil' Pink, patio time, fountains, ancient sea scape. 'What few know about El Paso...' Benmont said. 'The way things transition.' He kept saying that 'the mountain was just right.' It was a real high-wire act if I have ever seen one. An electric high-wire act. No net, no nothing. The songs spoke for themselves. I'm not sure what they were saying, but they wouldn't shut up, I know that."
"We drove out to White Sands, New Mexico. It was a photo shoot ostensibly intended for an album, but later I discovered that there was no new album. All the same it was an astounding day. Deep, electric, awkward. Benmont kept referring to himself as 'Old Chief What's-His-Name.' Also, 'Whale Bones,' talking about a beach at the end of existence, talking about 'The Whale Road.' At the end of it, a new moon on the rise, Benmont looked at me and said, 'I'm just glad a cat's got nine lives, you know what I mean?' I will never forget that."
Though Bess was pregnant, it should be noted that Benmont was the swollen one. The bank account was empty and from the outside the band's prospects appeared to be dim, but the songs were plentiful. Ringing things in open tunings. Dollar later called 'em "an endless stream of beaten-up haikoos in worn denim."
"If you got the songs, everything else will take care of itself."
“I had a bunch of records. I loved music. Used to play it all the time. That was something Benmont and I had in common from the beginning. He would come hang out when I was playing records. He wanted to read the album sleeves, look at the pictures. Then it got to the point where he was just playing my records by himself. He’d have one picked out and would play it over and over for days. Just sitting there, listening to it very closely. Then he’d pick up the album jacket, read the lyrics and credits and story notes very carefully. Play the album again. And he must have went through my entire collection like that. Very methodical. He would always get spellbound by things, and my record collection was deeply spellbinding to him.
I dated a number of musicians. That’s just the kind of guy I liked back then. I liked going to bars, hearing bands play. I liked the bands. This one guy I was seeing for a while, Doug, he had this band called Creature Comfort, you know, a bar band, a rock band, played a bunch of covers and stuff. One weekend they were playing a day gig, an annual arts festival up in downtown Suzy, outside, and I thought it’d be neat to take Benmont and Bess to the show. I usually tried to keep my boyfriends separate from my life with the kids. Mainly because the kids just weren’t into it. Benmont wanted nothing to do with anybody I was hanging out with like that. He liked a lot of my friends, but not anybody who he knew I was actively dating. He didn’t like any of them. When I told him we were going to see Doug’s band however, he was suddenly very intrigued. So we packed a little picnic, drove into town, settled down in the grass. There were people everywhere, it was sunny out. A real beautiful day. And Benmont was loving it. He couldn’t stop watching people come and go, but especially the band. He was watching them set up, do sound check, all that. Couldn’t take his eyes off of them. He didn’t want to eat any of the lunch I’d packed or anything. He didn’t want to miss anything.
And then the band started playing. I could just see Benmont’s eyes go round. He stood there enraptured. He was so focused on every little thing that was happening on stage. His entire body changed. I can still see his head bobbing, his muscles twitching to the music, his fingers moving in time like they were playing a guitar. It went on like this through the band’s entire set. Benmont later said he learned how to play rock and roll in that one day.
Benmont asked Doug to come over and bring his guitar. Doug was more than happy to. He thought Benmont was such a cool kid. He brought over a couple of acoustic guitars and the two of them sat outside on the deck and Benmont learned some chords and some chord progressions, Doug played a few songs. You could just see Benmont’s mind working so hard. All his focus on this instrument and what Doug was showing him. Doug and I went out that night, but Doug left a guitar with Benmont. I remember he didn’t really want to play until we left. He was waiting for us to leave. I got home later that night and I could see Benmont’s bedroom light was still on. And it was late. As I approached, I heard him playing the guitar, but he was just hitting on a chord or something, he was playing a real song. And I could hear him singing quietly. I went close to his door and listened for a minute. He was singing his song ‘Rattle Box.’ I could hear him singing, ‘I carry every little piece of everything in this rattle box,’ and I was so struck. I remember thinking, ‘Where did that come from?’ But then he stopped, he knew I was listening. I didn’t want to distract him so I just said, ‘Goodnight, I love you.’
The next morning I woke up and he was still in his room, still playing. He’d written his first record that night. He had written all of Dizzy Face. He had Bess in there, and he was teaching her some parts, teaching her the lyrics, and she was singing along with him.
“And when it was all done, when the show was all over -- that last night that The Line got it together there at Leeds -- I came upon Benmont and he was just lying there on the ground, in the staging area, and he was crying. No, weeping is the better word; he was weeping. And I said to him -- I’ll never forget this -- I said to him, “What is it, Jefferson?” And he just kinda looked up at me, everything pouring out of his eyes, and he says, “It’s the music.” – Gussy Ferguson, in an excerpt from The Blacker The Berry, The Sweeter The Juice: An Oral History of Blackberry County Line (Kangaroo Court, 2011)
Hollywood's Barge-Mouthed Lass -- she tells you all about the shows she loves and the people she hates. She tells you all about the people she loves and the shows she hates. A wet spot in the corner of her mouth, a catch. A circling to and fro. She says she's going to do it all. A wall-eyed looking around, lazy and vicious.
She sees a shiny thing just within reach...and she goes.
There then a mighty upheaval. A terrible jerking asunder. The world come down. An endless moving of lips with no real sound coming out save sucking.
We were going to go in there and play "Good Friend, Bad Friend". A poor plan well executed.
But that I could remember the look on everybody's face.
"You are in the Liars Club. Just not the local chapter. Not yet, Ambassador. But keep making the rounds, keep making all the dinners and all the parties. Keep writing your own press."
There was trouble all along Blackberry County Line. The Dog Ate Crimson was recorded during a confusing time period, to eight-track recorder. An apartment somewhere. A room that was all couch, the windows blacked out. Lafe plays lead guitar, Dollar plays everything else. We were going to call ourselves Glass-Eyed Mariner but it didn't work out, and I'm not entirely sure as to why. We were supposed to get this stuff into Melcher's hands. No luck no nada.
That was everything going away all the time, as if pulled from the body's visceral core by a gravity outward.
1) Both He and Vivien Suffered from Disordered Nerves
2) Cold Blowy Southern Californ
3) Ozark Faultline
4) Cash Jobs Cutting Things
5) Me and My Class Issues and I
6) Erosion's Landfill
7) First Step Outside the Acropolis
8) The Habbit (Parts One, Two, and Three)
9) The Damp Mask
Everyone sucked on the same wet cigarette until the light came up -- it was the last we had. Somebody said, "Let's share." I wanted to go back there and get in bed with you but I didn't. The guitars came out, I'm singing "Dog in the Butter" and it's the way it was -- a mind roasting in the body’s juices. The smell of me unwashed, cooked. Just about ready. Just about done. Tremors rose from the tips of toes up, my chest heaved. Hair rose. "Sea Born Shivers." Rising, Lord. The eyes are telling us to go. We only have so long. "Yawn Goh Chasm." A stretch from the top of the head back. Release. And like that, the all of us went. Up onto feet, tall, headlong. Forwarding. Long, moving long and at great length, the feet moving body, the body mind. Outland. This then, the other thing. "Downcountry." No shadows, no yesterdays, nothing. A yowling valley-wide. Coming to, a scrambling. And now every thing can be seen. The detail of every little and big thing. The every surface, the every underneath. An aching complexity. The every thread of every yearn. Where it began again and again. Where you always ended, began again. You forever looking, down and in and in. Falling. Oh Lord, I'm gone -- and that’s the story of my life. That's the love of my life.
You wish to come back. You wish to come back. You wish to come back.
Those were simpler, more complicated times. Dingle-dangle go the notions of change in your backpocket. Your silver things, your teeth, all the things cashed in, forgotten, refused. Sunlight cleans the room, but what of you? We were blue, and then grey, and then going off to war. I can still see you there in my mind, so ragged and bold. There was a long-running joke about checking under the toilet seat before sitting down to do your business. A rural legend about the Brown Recluse, the spider. That they like to lurk, among other hidden places, in the dark cool underneath toilet seat, especially at night. And if you don't look before you seat, you might get a surprise. That's the idea we were going for. I wrote "Brown Recluse," and then a couple of the other songs, and there seemed to be just the perfect mix of folks stopping by, playing some parts. Dollar was there. Randall. Bella Rose. Even Lafe came in, dropping something heavy, something heavenly on top of "Stonewall Jimson," and then that fabled final instrumental passage of "The Battle of Troy Robinett" -- guitar like to render you new again. Lost language. I heard it, I can tell you. It was close. Breathtaking. Dangerous. I thought for a while there I was going back in time, living inside of caves, living off the land. Short-faced bears, giant cats. A group of us camped out on the face of the thing, the sheer bangered face of the Earth, living out there. But always with the Brown Recluse. The very word brown. Also the word maroon. I almost had a thought in my mind.