What we discovered listening to these old songs, some dating back to our high school years, is that they divide into two very separate categories. The first category consists of songs inspired by New Wave bands such as Elvis Costello and The Knack who had very catchy, Sixties British Invasion style Pop Rock but with very sexual and subversive lyrics. In the Sixties lyricists had to put their nasty jokes and sexual innuendo "between the lines". In the Eighties they were the lines. Our New Wave / Hard Rock band, Womanizer, specialized in "naughty" songs although we always felt they had a sense of humor about them. The other group of old tunes could only be categorized as odd. These were our "arty" tunes that tended to be a bit more experimental musically, and lyrically unique. Most of them didn't fit in with our live set although we did release three as singles with animated videos over the years and four of them were included in our live multi-media stage show, Rock & Roll Rehab.
We decided to take these oddities and put them together in an album of their own. When we did this we discovered something very similar to the Born To You album; they appeared to tell a story. When we recorded The Tooners' Rocktasia CD we were aware that each of the songs illustrated a different emotion, anger, fear, love, lust, grief, etc. With this new collection of old songs it seems each song is about a particular belief and together they tell the story of one man's spiritual journey through life, told backwards.
There are two ways of telling a story. Imagine you meet someone on the street you haven't seen since high school and he asks you to tell him what you've done since then. You can either start at the beginning and tell him what you did right after you saw him last and progress forward to the present time or you can tell him what your situation is like now and then tell him what led to that, and what happened before that, and what led you to that situation, and so on. Telling a story backwards has one advantage in that it has a definite ending which is actually its beginning. Telling a story from the past to the present only presents a temporary finish since it will continue on into the future, hopefully.
And so our new album, The Haight, is a story told backwards. Mainly because the music flows better with the songs in this order. The inspiration for the record comes from a book I wrote a while back called The Haight.
I had what I thought was an interesting idea concerning religion and I wanted to express this idea but who am I to espouse a philosophy? I'm a cartoonist, animator and rock musician, why would anyone be interested in what I have to say? But maybe if I didn't say it, maybe if someone else, someone more interesting, said it people might like to hear it. I thought of the various context in which these ideas might be expressed, naturally, and I decided these thoughts could best be expressed by a stoner. That way if he seems too far out it's simply because he's tripping. Also, my friends and I, although a few years too young to have been actual hippies, were of that mindset and totally into the cultural scene as it was happening back in 1967. I may have been a junior high school student and living in Los Angeles at the time but I was also a guitarist in an "Acid Rock" band, an Underground cartoonist and psychedelic poster artist. My friends and I all played in Rock bands, had long hair, wore Beatles boots, corduroy flares with wide belts, Cossack shirts and lovebeads. We were what was called "Weekend Warriors". And so I wrote a book of fiction, semi-autobiographical, about a group of hippies living in Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love called The Haight.
The Tooners' The Haight CD HERE.
#1. NOTHINGNESS - This song starts the CD and begins the character's reminiscence. He is a grandpa now, fifty years since The Summer Of Love, and is tucking his young grand daughter into bed for the night. As did his parents, and a lot of parents in the 1950s, he recites a popular bedtime prayer; "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take". What an awful thing to make a child say before going to sleep! "If I should DIE before I wake!" But to his surprise this prompts the little girl to ask him a question, "What happens to me when I die?" Although this is a common question young children have, it catches him off guard as he believes that is something her parents or clergy should be asked. He blurts out an answer that he himself hasn't ever fully realized he believes. A question that is at its basis; is there a survival of personality and awareness after death or is there nothing after death? His spontaneous answer is that Consciousness did not evolve from physical reality, as we're taught in school, but that Consciousness creates physical reality. As author Eckhart Tolle says, paraphrasing Seth in the Jane Roberts books, "You can't lose your life, you are life". To his amazement the little girl seems to instantly grasp this concept, a concept he himself doesn't fully understand fifty years on, when she uses video games as an example. This was the song I initially wrote to express this idea before I wrote the book and it has since been developed as a concept called Biocentrism.
Now let's go to the last song on the CD and progress forward. This is going forward in time according to the story but backwards according to the song order.
#9. THE HAIGHT - In this song a man is remembering the time when he told his parents he was going to visit San Francisco for his summer vacation in 1967 and their surprisingly extreme reaction. His adventure in Haight-Ashbury begins his lifelong spiritual journey. This song represents Utopian-ism.
#8. I'M HIGH - Apparently his parents had something to be worried about. In this song he discovers psychedelic drugs which open his mind to deeper realities. This song represents Shamanism. See the I'm High video HERE.
#7. THE CATACOMB - Shortly after the Hippie Movement of 1967 and perhaps in some measure because of it, Christianity developed a youth movement known as the Jesus Freaks. Many young people, like our hero, looking for answers, turned to mainstream religion in the late 1960s and early Seventies after drugs proved not to be an answer but indicated that a deeper knowledge is available. The early Christians were similar to the Hippies in that they were both seen as a group persecuted for their beliefs and driven underground for their safety. The Hippie term "underground" as applied to the press, music, film, etc. is derived from the early Christians being forced into the catacombs under Rome for protection. Literally "underground". This song represents mainstream religion, particularly Christianity.
#6. I WISH YOU'D LOVE ME - Although it sounds like a love song it could be about a girl's devotion to a religious leader such as Jesus or a cult leader of which there were many in the Sixties and Seventies. Our hero is getting disillusioned by religion at this point mainly because of what he sees as mindless adoration for "leaders" especially when they infringe on his own would-be relationships. This song represents cults and hero-worship.
#4. GROWING OLD - Eventually the system of science and modern Humanism fights back and any notion of an afterlife, alternative dimensions of reality or Heaven and Hell is dismissed as old fashion superstition. However, between the personal, subjective mystical experiences our hero has already had in his life thus far and the bleak, depressing reality Humanism offers, he chooses to venture on. This song is about Humanism.
#3. FAITH HEALER - The New Age Movement began in the Sixties with the promise that modern science and technology wouldn't disprove religion or render it obsolete but rather would prove its validity by proving its concepts and beliefs scientifically. Although that promise still holds true, the "truth" is, as to be expected, extremely complicated and difficult to comprehend. The New Age Movement soon resorted to the usual dogma and ritual to which other religions de-evolved. Instead of the years of study necessary to understand the concepts behind the New Age Movement, one could simply wear a crystal necklace or a pyramid hat. It became like mainstream religion when it reduced Transcendental Meditation to simple prayer, mantras became hymns and to be a "Christian" meant going to church and giving it money. Today, to begin to understand the concepts behind the original New Age Movement, one would need to take graduate courses in Quantum Physics. This song is about our hero's ultimate disappointment in the New Age Movement.
#2. DRAWINGS FROM MY MIND - After decades of Spiritual adventurism our hero comes to understand that although what one's religious beliefs are is extremely important, personally, as such believes greatly influence our own perceived experience such as expecting to go to a Heaven or a Hell, ultimately the TRUTH is the TRUTH. It may be a arduous journey having to navigate through our own preconceived beliefs but eventually what will be, will be. Eventually the monk sitting on a mountain top contemplating his own navel will, if he does in fact achieve self realization, realize that life is not meant to be spent on a mountain top. As bleak, dangerous, depressing, fruitless and meaningless life may appear at times, it's supposed to be experienced in its fullness. The meaning of life, what the reason is for virtually ANYTHING that happens to us, good or bad, is for one reason; TO SEE WHAT WE'LL DO. Our hero's grand daughter is right. We're like characters in a video game. We are ultimately here to play the game, to have the experience that is our life, NOT to figure out how the game is programed or how the computer works. This song represents the state of mind of someone who has learned that eventually the journey leads to a destination and that destination is to be fully focused in the HERE and NOW. It is every day reality.
These songs are written by Neal Warner (Nothingness, Faith Healer, Seance, The Catacomb, I'm High, The Haight) and Greg Piper (Drawings From My Mind, Growing Old, I Wish You'd Love Me) and performed by The Tooners: Greg Piper, Neal Warner, Buzz Brissette, Jerry Strull and Pat Mehan with Susie Piper, Al Weiss, Michael Montrose, Gareth Fishbaum and Davey Justice.