"LITTLE BLUE EYES"
John Peel, you may know, was a brilliant music curator under the employ of the BBC for many many years. As part of his duties, he commissioned recording sessions from musicians traveling through London. On the first Palace Brothers trip through the UK and Europe, they were invited by Peel to record four songs at he BBC’s Maida Vale studios to be broadcast later on Peel’s show. In 1996, Drag City released two of these four songs on a 7” single, “Little Blue Eyes” and “The Spider’s Dude Was Often There”. Will Oldham was deeply inspired by cassettes of Peel sessions recorded by Pavement and Royal Trux, and prepared the four songs especially for the occasion. The ensemble was made up of Rian Murphy (drums), David Pajo (electric guitar), Paul Oldham (bass), and Henrique Prince (violin). At the time, Sasha Jansen was a graphic artist renting office space in the same building as Drag City’s space. Dan Koretzky was aware that she was of a different ilk than other artists DC had previously worked with and suggested to Oldham that a collaboration might prove interesting. Hence the distinct visuals of the “Little Blue Eyes” sleeve.The "Little Blue Eyes" single is streaming from your favorite e-tailer now.
"EVERY MOTHER'S SON"
“Every Mother’s Son” is a Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Brett Ralph had made a Skynard mix tape for Oldham, and for some reason this particular song made an impression. Oldham changed a lyric in the song from “winning horse” to “winning pig”. Michael Udris recorded the performance in a dark living room in Providence, Rhode Island. Colin Gagon played the piano and Bob Arellano the guitar. The group also recorded “No More Rides”, a song that Oldham had written for a Sally Timms recording session. These two recordings were released as a 7” single. The cover art was an engraving by Diane Radford; a limited edition of the sleeves were letter-pressed by hand by Radford.
ARISE THEREFORE was the beginning of a new thing. All of the Palace adventures were about discovery, maybe? And here with ARISE exploration begins. Will Oldham once again asked Steve Albini to record the songs, this time in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. It was to be an ensemble of Oldham’s mentor/hero/friends, with Ned Oldham playing bass, and David Grubbs playing piano. Once again, Britt Walford was invited in but he demurred. In Walford’s stead, Oldham invited a small dusty electronic box called a Maya-tone to play drums (it belonged to brother Paul Oldham). And once again, Albini spent significant time pulling apart the tape machine at the studio and bringing it up to snuff. There was rehearsal/prep built into the process; Ned and Will ran through all of the songs in Birmingham while Grubbs had a cassette of all of the songs with Maya’s beats in place. A good time was had by all out there in the woods, in the winter. Gene Booth made the drawing for the cover of the record. The songs were all Oldham originals except for “You Have Cum in Your Hair and Your Dick is Hanging Out”, which was written by Bryan Rich with Oldham. Rich had no title for the song, and during the recording sessions Albini told a joke with “You have cum...” as its punchline. ARISE THEREFORE was released without an over-arching “artist credit”. It’s necessary to have a recording attributed to an individual or group so that record stores (and now streaming services) have a way to organize their inventory. All of the records that Will Oldham has overseen prior to and following ARISE have an ‘artist’ attribution attached for the sake of easing the record’s way through the systems and into the ears of listeners. Though ARISE remains physically unattributed (there is no single artist given credit for the record on the artwork), it has been successively superficially (with a cover sticker) credited to “Palace Music”, then “Will Oldham”, and more recently “Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy”. At times, Drag City/Oldham/Palace would augment a new release with extra goodies for initial distribution to direct accounts. A direct account is when a record store buys from the label rather than a distributor. The catalog price for a store is slightly higher than for a distributor and the store has, ideally, a more intimate relationship with the eventual record-buying audience. Oldham had recorded songs and incidental music for an independent film called THE BROKEN GIANT (directed by Estep Nagy), and a CD of this music was included with the first shipments of ARISE to direct accounts. Later this release was repackaged and retitled BLACK RICH MUSIC (the original title for the film had been THIS BLACK RICH COUNTRY; and one of the songs was written by Bryan Rich under the nom de guerre Roy Black). As well, when licensing records to Japan in the 1990’s, it was not uncommon to add bonus tracks or otherwise to augment a release in order to make a record more attractive to Japanese buyers, since it was usually more expensive for Japanese music fans to buy Japanese release than it was for them to purchase imported CDs. With this in mind, a bonus track was added to the ARISE CD, “Black Rich Tune”. Arise Therefore is streaming at your favorite e-tailer now
Fun Fact #1: the Arise design team of Osborn/Oldham/Booth was honored when the title sequence in the Shane Black comedy-thriller KISS KISS BANG BANG paid visual tribute to the ARISE cover.
Fun fact #2: The lead actor in THE BROKEN GIANT was a young Will Arnett. He plays a conflicted man of God in the film. At one point in the film, his character makes fire come from the palms of his hands (pictured in the artwork for the CD); at another point, he preaches at length from the Book of Job (text from which is printed on the CD face). Both were signs of things to come when Arnett embodied, wonderfully, Gob Bluth in the television series ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.