Big Red Sessions & Ten New Songs (double album)

by David Rovics

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    Updated version of the CD including "Song for Chelsea Manning," "I'm A Better Anarchist Than You," "Burn It Down" and "Last Lincoln Veteran." (The CD is not a double album -- the double album is only for download, and on the thumb drive.)

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about

In early 2011 I wrote "Song for Bradley Manning" (later "Song for Chelsea Manning"). The Arab Spring kicked off and I wrote a song about that. I started thinking, it's been 6 years (at the time) since I did a real studio album. Which was before my daughter was born, back when I could afford to do such things. So I did a fundraising campaign to make a studio record (without Kickstarter or any of that on this occasion), raised $7,000, then pitched in several thousand of my own money, booked a whole bunch of time at Big Red Studio and a bunch of stellar Portland area musicians that Billy Oskay knew, and made this record.

Ten New Songs came later in 2011, and was a 2-day project involving me singing and playing acoustic guitar, and coming in later to record vocal harmonies with myself.

credits

released January 14, 2015

This album was very much co-produced by me and Billy Oskay, with emphasis on the latter. Of all the projects I've done with Billy, this one is his favorite, and I can see why. Each song has a distinctly different feel, which is at least as much to do with Billy's arrangement ideas than anything else. And the brilliance of the musicians involved, who were:

Vocals and acoustic guitar: David Rovics
Electric guitars: Nick Angelo, Tim Murphy
Bass: Arcellus Sykes
Drums: Demitrius Keller
Keys: Asher Fulero
Harmonium and fiddle: Billy Oskay

Claps and crowd (on “East Tennessee” and “Burn It Down”):
Lauren Sinead, Jackie Emm, Tessa Makai, Sienna Ohia, Reiko Maeda, Zach Simon, Ed Howler, Lizzy Marie

Produced by David Rovics and Billy Oskay
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Billy Oskay at Big Red Studio
Production ideas and mixing assistance: Nick Angelo
Assistant engineer: Jim Cuda
Studio intern: Zach Stamler

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David Rovics Portland, Oregon

"Absolutely brilliant. David Rovics says exactly what needs to be said."
Ian McMillan, BBC

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Track Name: Tunisia 2011
Mohamed had a vegetable stand, this was his family's plight
Ever since his father died on a construction site
He was one of six siblings and now this would be his fate
Working the streets of the city to put food on everybody's plate
He couldn't afford the bribes the cops would make him pay
So sometimes they'd knock his cart over and get him back that way
Last December they smashed his scales to put him in his place
And then for good measure a cop spat in Mohamed's face

He went to see the governor, maybe there was something he could do
Word came from on high -- we don't talk to people like you
Mohamed Bouazizi now was living on a wire
He went and bought some paint thinner and he set himself on fire
Word spread through the region and soon you'd hear the same
Of proud and desperate people going up in flame
Sometimes windows open, sometimes the floor, it creaks
But no one knew what would happen in only a few weeks

When the dictator ran away

People tried to hold a march for the immolated dead
Police met them there with truncheons and bullets to the head
People headed to the capital, they would not be deterred
Sometimes this is just what happens to a dream deferred
The police kept up the attack -- thousands wounded, hundreds killed
With blood the streets were covered, with gas the air was filled
But the people held their ground -- Tunisia's daughters and their sons
And one day the cops had had enough -- they just put down their guns

When the dictator ran away

Now someone had to deal with this rebellious riffraff
So Ben Ali called a meeting of his chiefs of staff
He said these terrorists have decided to go out on the attack
It's time for you, the Army, to take our country back
It's time for you, the Army, to go and make a stand
Show these terrorists that we are in command
It's time to gun these criminals down -- that's what he said, now go
The general got his orders and the general said no

When the dictator ran away

Ben Ali got in a plane, tried to go to France
But he was a hot potato so he did a little dance
Ended up in Jidda to live there in exile
While his fellow warlords shiver from the Tigris to the Nile
All across Arabia you can hear them talk and sing
Those who'd dare throw off their shackles, who would shout "let freedom ring" Where we'll be by next year is for anyone to say
But many will recall where they were on the day

When the dictator ran away
Track Name: Song for Chelsea Manning
Private Manning was an analyst if what they say is true
She was paid to read reports and find the patterns sifting through
As she read the data the patterns did emerge
Patterns that were clear both before and since the Surge
Patterns of abuse of the most horrific kind
Gunning down civilians out of view and out of mind
Gunning down the opposition in the middle of the night
Sending off the scholars to be tortured out of sight
Sometimes you need desperate measures when you live in desperate times
And Private Manning saw she was looking at war crimes
She wondered what to do to allow the dead to speak
She finally decided to contact Wikileaks

Now it's all out on the table and everybody knows
The emperor is naked, he's not wearing any clothes

Now Adrian Lamo has to live within his skin
He stabbed Chelsea in the back, called the cops and turned her in
But not before the soldier took half a million files
If you printed all the pages they'd stretch on for miles
Evidence against the state right from the horse's mouth
Machinations in the west, bombings in the south
A treasure trove of details for all the globe to see
How much they need to lie and kill for democracy
How many drone strikes have hit villages leaving everyone to die
They blamed on someone else – the official line, "Not I"
How many coups have been plotted by ambassadors who say
That free and fair elections be the order of the day

Chorus

Now the Genie's out of the bottle and they're trying to stuff it back
And stop it from illuminating everything we lack
Such as the rule of law or playing by the book
Look you can read it, it's right here, the ship of state is run by crooks
And they vilify the messengers, call them every name
For daring to blow the whistle on the nature of their game
The game of taking lives and endangering the rest
In order for the wealthy few to do what they do best
Dominate the world for the corporate elite
But now their cover's blown from their head down to their feet
And now the stars and stripes is looking much more like a rag
The lid is off the box, the cat's out of the bag

Chorus
Track Name: Riot Dog
Lots of folks are revolting
They've had enough of this shit
The rich are getting richer
They're saying “that's it”
But with Louk it's different, that's clear
As he emerges from the fog
Let's hear it for Loukanikos
The ri - ot dog

It's a fight between people
But he is no pawn
He knows exactly
Which side he's on
In the machine of capital
He is no cog
Let's hear it for Loukanikos
The riot dog

When a smoke bomb comes towards him
He kicks it back at the fuzz
No he acts a bit different
Than a normal dog does
He's got a fan page on Facebook
But he's got no time for a blog
Let's hear it for Loukanikos
The riot dog
Track Name: Cordova
I am a fisherman, so were my parents
Here in Cordova on Prince William Sound
I'm not a treehugger but I love the mountains
And hauling in the gill net with the ocean all around
Life was good here, you could raise a family
With a hundred thousand tons of Herring sent out every year
1989, the tanker grounded
Nothing has ever been the same around here

Senator Stephens said not one drop
Of oil would spill on Alaska's shores
And if it happened it would be cleaned up
But our beaches were still covered, as was the ocean floor
Four years passed, each run collapsed
It was then we knew for sure the Herring weren't coming back
Exxon's promises of compensation
Were about as empty as a used up paper sack

It was August 20th, 1993
When we fishermen decided something must be done
We packed some groceries, we made some banners
We headed out to Valdez Narrows beneath the midnight sun
One hundred vessels took to the water
Pushed through a storm and to the Valdez sea
We lined up our boats, formed a blockade
And waited for whatever might be

A tanker was approaching
It was a sight to see there in the twilight of the day
We saw it turning and we all cheered and cried
As tanker after tanker after tanker turned away
A Coast Guard gunship from Seattle
Would take three days to get up to the sound
We held the line til then, then we went back
Home to Cordova, to this hallowed, oiled ground

I am a fisherman, so were my parents
Here in Cordova on Prince William Sound
Track Name: Sugihara
He was raised in Gifu on the islands of Japan
He was sent off to Manchuria, that's how this tale began
For his next assignment in the diplomatic corps
Was far-off Lithuania and the European war
My grandfather was from Krakow – the Nazis came, he fled
He took his family to Vilnius so they might not end up dead
But the Panzers were advancing and he knew they had to go
But he had to have a visa and all the embassies said no

There was only one final possibility
The last consulate left open, the Third Reich's Asian ally
There in Lithuania there was no time to lose
They came asking for a visa, thousands of Polish Jews
The diplomat called Tokyo, “can I grant them this reprieve?”
Three times he got his answer, “tell them all to leave”
He looked into their eyes, talked to his family
He and his wife decided we must set these people free

Although I never met him, when all is said and done
I am Sugihara's son

Disobeying orders that they knew to be wrong
Sempo and Yukiko started writing all day long
A month's worth of visas in every twenty-hour day
Sempo and Yukiko could turn no refugee away
Word came from the empire, it's time to turn it in
You're closing down your consulate and moving to Berlin
They knew they did the right thing, of this they had no doubt
They threw visas through the window as their train pulled out

Chorus

My grandfather crossed Siberia for five times the normal cost
Fearing for the future with every minute lost
He got the ferry to Kobe then to Occupied Shanghai
There he spent the war years while back home his people died
Sugihara-san did not seek any praise from anyone
When he died the paper said his neighbors knew not what he'd done
But there are forty thousand people living lives today
Without Sempo Sugihara I would not be here now to say

Chorus
Track Name: I'm A Better Anarchist Than You
I don't drive a car because they run on gas
but if I did it'd run on biomass
I ride a bike or sometimes a skateboard
so fuck off all you drivers and your yuppie hordes
sitting all day in the traffic queues
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't eat meat I just live on moldy chives
or the donuts that I found in last week's dumpster dives
look at you people in that restaurant I think you are so sad
when you coulda been eating bagels like the ones that i just had
I think it is a shame all the bourgeois things you do
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't wear leather and I like my clothes in black
and I made a really cool hammock from a moldy coffee sack
I like to hop on freight trains I think that is so cool
it's so much funner doing this than being stuck in school
I can't believe you're wearing those brand new shiny shoes
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't have sex and there will be no sequel
because heterosexual relationships are inherently unequal
I'll just keep on moshing to Anti-Flag and Crass
until there are no differences in gender, race or class
all you brainwashed breeders you just haven't got a clue
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't believe in leaders I think consensus is the key
I don't believe is stupid notions like representative democracy
whether or not it works I know it is the case
that only direct action can save the human race
so when I see you in your voting booth then I know it's true
I'm a better anarchist than you

I am not a pacifist I like throwing bricks
and when the cops have caught me and i've taken a few licks
I always feel lucky if I get a bloody nose
because I feel so militant and everybody knows
by the time the riot is all through
I'm a better anarchist than you
Track Name: East Tennessee
I grew up on this mountain
Came back here to dwell
Maybe have a family
Plant some corn and dig a well
I was all done with the Army
Back from Vietnam
Where I learned how to shoot a rifle
And how to set a bomb

I grew up on this mountain
It's in my very soul
So when the company moved next door
Started digging for the coal
Tearing up the mountain
With drillers and draglines
I knew then what needed
To happen to those mines

10, 9, 8 Sometimes that's just how it goes
3, 2, 1 Get out before it blows

The guard, he was sleeping
On duty thru the night
I stepped gently on the ground
And stayed well out of sight
I tied sticks to the equipment
Switched the timer on
Then I knew that in ten seconds
These dozers would be gone

Chorus

I had to leave the mountain
I headed to the west
The cops were on my trail
And I figured it was best
And I figured I did my small part
To make the world free
In my humble manner
In East Tennessee

Chorus
Track Name: John Brown
Owen Brown was an abolitionist
John was Owen's son
He grew up in New England
He was born in Torrington
John Brown was a tanner
And a man of many skills
And he stood up for the workers
Who toiled in the mills
He stood up for the Indians
He stood up for the women
For the oppressed and the exploited
This good man stood with them
So when Kansas was bleeding
He went and joined the fray
If the slave-trade wanted Kansas
Then the slave traders had to pay

Riding through the Kansas prairie
With a fine and loyal band
Glory, Hallelujah Beecher's Bible in his hand

With two thousand of New England's
Best and bravest sons
Captain Brown fought in Kansas
With a Bible and a gun
When Free Lawrence was on fire
Lighting up the night
The ruffians would flee
John Brown would stand and fight
Lincoln called him a fanatic
And he was a Christian who
Thought you should do unto others
As you'd have others do unto you
Christ said love your neighbor
And if your neighbor's held in slavery
He was one who felt his duty
Was to fight to set them free

Chorus

He drove the slave trade out of Kansas
Then went to bordering Missouri
Raided the plantations
No compromise, said he
Broke the chains and shackles
Rode at night to Canada
Out of the nightmare
The devil's friend, America
He was caught in Harper's Ferry
His family lying dead
They questioned him for hours
As he lay there and bled
They hanged him on the gallows
And laid him in his grave
John Brown was a Christian
And he died to free the slave

Chorus
Track Name: Burn It Down
Rodney Coronado was arrested for a speech
That he gave one evening by the San Diego beach
He stated his opinions, they sounded just like mine
And now they want to put him behind bars til 2029

The prosecutor said the problem was the speech it showed intent
I couldn’t figure out exactly what he meant
You can’t describe an action and say you thought that it was swell
So what’ll happen when we sing this, who the heck can tell

We don’t like the condo and we’re gonna burn it down
Corporate terrorists, drive them out of town
We’ll bring a lot of gasoline, pour it on the floor
Light a match, say a prayer and run right out the door
Burn it down, burn it down, we’re going to burn it down
Burn it down, burn it down, burn it down

Now if you just sang that chorus then you just broke the law
To be an eco-terrorist now you just gotta flap your jaw
And hey who knows by the time you have a chance to blink
Whether you’re a criminal might depend on what you think

We don’t like the bulldozers and we’re gonna burn them down
Corporate terrorists, drive them out of town
We’ll bring a lot of gasoline, pour it on the floor
Light a match, say a prayer and run right out the door
Burn it down, burn it down, we’re going to burn it down
Burn it down, burn it down, burn it down

First they came for Rod, maybe next they come for you
And I’ll tell you what I think all of us should do
Sing this song with me, raise your fist and caterwaul
If we fight together they can’t arrest us all

We don’t like the Wal-Mart and we’re gonna burn it down
Corporate terrorists, drive them out of town
We’ll bring a lot of gasoline, pour it on the floor
Light a match, say a prayer and run right out the door
Burn it down, burn it down, we’re going to burn it down
Burn it down, burn it down, burn it down
Track Name: Song for the Mavi Marmara
In '48 they were driven out at the point of a machine gun
Families fled in fear to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon
They fled around the globe, firmly held in terror's grip
And about a million refugees ended up in the tiny Gaza Strip
In 1967 the IDF moved in
And the refugees in Gaza became refugees again
Settlers took their farmland, soldiers took the ports
And the people were surrounded by military forts

In 2007 they cut it off completely
No access to the borders, no access to the sea
The world began to see this unavoidable stamp
The most crowded place on Earth was now a concentration camp
Israeli jet fighters bombed Gaza from the air
And they kept out the supplies needed to rebuild and repair
They kept out the convoys of humanitarian aid
Anemic children going hungry, crushed and burned in bombing raids

From around the world good people tried
To get across the border to the other side
Almost all of them were turned away
Deported back to Turkey, Jordan, France, the USA
They were barred from ever coming back
Adam and Huwaida decided on a different tack
They loaded up a boat and managed to get through
That's when activists in Istanbul decided what they had to do

Armed with food and wheelchairs
And prosthetic limbs for victims of the bombing raids to wear
They packed cement by the ton
They had a few kitchen knives but not a single gun
They were determined to reach the bay
To break the siege of Gaza and not be turned away
As they left Turkish waters everybody wished them well
As for what would happen, only the Apartheid state could tell

All aboard the Mavi Marmara
Sailing toward Goliath's kingdom armed with nothing but a stone
All aboard the Mavi Marmara
Tell the children of Jerusalem you are not alone

Seven hundred people on board this Turkish ferry
They were sixty miles from the shore out in the open sea
In international waters with no plans for turning back
That's when Netanyahu told his soldiers to attack
They came down from helicopters, fired guns from Zodiacs
They shot some people in their heads and shot others in their backs
The captain raised a white flag high into the air
The soldiers kept on shooting beneath the floodlight's glare

The soldiers kept on shooting, it was a free fire zone
So many dead and wounded, just how many isn't known
So many dead and wounded, blood flowing on the floor
The soldiers kept on shooting sixty miles from the shore
Medics tried to treat the wounded, all they could do was watch them bleed
The soldiers wouldn't let them get the urgent help they need
Masked troopers held their hostages, the Navy towed the ship
Just for trying to sail to the Gaza Strip

Chorus

They took every laptop, every camera and cell phone
This is what Goliath does to those who dare to throw a stone
The ghost of the Exodus is shouting at the sky
But Netanyahu isn't listening, he's just watching people die
For days nobody knew just what happened on that boat
Because everyone was held in jail and dead men do not float
All the world will remember what happened on that night
And to end the siege of Gaza more will go and join the fight

Chorus
Track Name: Pirate Santa
Santa and his elves worked on the North Pole
Making toys to take to kids around the Earth
They worked all year to try to fill the orders
Then they flew the toys from Portland out to Perth
Then the whole economy collapsed
And everyone was getting fired
Santa said it's time to close the workshop
Santa said more urgent measures are required

Santa saddled up his reindeer
And with the skull and bones unfurled
Santa went and joined the pirates
For the good of the children of the world

Santa flew down to the Gulf of Aden
Waited for a good ship to attack
The crew gave up without a fight Santa put the toys all in a sack
Santa headed to Moldova Gave out everything and then
He flew back to the Gulf of Aden To go and do it all again

Chorus

The world's navies tried to catch him
But Santa always got away
Like Robin Hood with super powers
There upon his flying sleigh
Eventually they got him In a helicopter raid
But not before he inspired many more
To take up the pirate trade

Chorus
Track Name: Up the Provos
Under foreign rule and the British Crown's command
His father fought for Ireland fifty years before
But the Free State cut their losses and the English won the war
And when internment without trial was the order of the day
When his brother was arrested and his friends were blown away
When he was beaten near to death he decided come what may
He would throw his lot in with the Provos and he joined the IRA

In the Occupied Six Counties perhaps it never will be known
All the foreign soldiers in Armagh and Tyrone
Who decided to head back across the Irish Sea
So they wouldn't have to meet the man from south of Derry
He never wavered in his battle for Irish liberty
And the Crown would soon regret the day they made him their enemy
The Brits called it “bandit country” and it filled them all with fright
In the border lands, he who walked the hills at night

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
Three little words that filled the British Crown with dread
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes

Once he was surrounded by the SAS
How he might escape was anybody's guess
In his boots and camouflage he didn't miss a beat
He walked right past the soldiers and out into the street
Once he came upon a checkpoint, the soldier didn't want to die
He recognized our Francis and the soldier waved him by
He didn't want to find out if he could take what he could give
He knew there'd be a shootout and the soldier chose to live

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
And from this farmer's son better men had fled
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes

He was the North's most wanted man with his photo everywhere But he eluded capture with his wit and dyed blond hair For six years he was active, three times as long as most He became a legend, north to south and coast to coast
He came upon two soldiers out one night on patrol They shot him in the firefight and the bullets took their toll He crawled off into the bushes but they found him the next day Put him on a stretcher and they carried him away

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
With a shattered bone and a body full of lead
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes

They beat him and they tortured him and they gave him eighty years
When they brought him to the H-Blocks he was greeted there with cheers
He went right onto the blanket and when the hunger strike began
He was the first to volunteer along with Bobby Sands
He was an Irish soldier and that's how he did his time
He knew he was no criminal when occupation was the crime
Bobby Sands had passed beyond us, where Francis soon would be
And although he couldn't stand and he could barely see

“Up the Provos,” that's what he said
As they carried him to hospital to lay in his death bed
With a rifle on his shoulder, a timer and a fuse
Long may we remember Commandante Francis Hughes
Track Name: The Last Lincoln Veteran
They were old when I was young
Now they're all but passed away
Now it's just a second hand
Memory of the day
When from all around the world
They sailed off to Spain
Where they fought against the fascists
Where so many men were slain
Who will recall the days
When they all stood side by side
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

Beside Martin Luther King
Or in a Veterans Parade
You could see the men who made the journey
To join the Fifteenth Brigade
When men of many nations
Of most every creed and hue
Catholics and Protestants
Atheists and Jews
Joined together in the trenches
To turn back the fascist tide
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

The working class of many countries
Joined in a desperate bid
With what weapons they could find
They fought to save Madrid
From Brussels and Berlin
Galway and London town
Who will recall the Brigadistas
Who tried to take the fascists down
There beside the Spanish people
Even the figs and olives cried
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

The Republic had the people
But the fascists had the tanks
Il Duce and Der Fuhrer
Deserve only some of Franco's thanks
'Cause the fuel to move the armor
Came from the USA
And the men that they gunned down
Were from New York and Frisco Bay
Uncle Sam said he was neutral
Who will remember how he lied
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

Some say people get conservative
The older that they age
They say that being radical
Is just a youthful stage
But the finest communist I've known
Lived to 95
And he spent his whole life fighting
For humanity to thrive
To forget these fallen heroes
Is something I cannot abide
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died
Now that the last Lincoln Veteran died

There's a valley in Spain called Jaramy
It's a place that we all know so well
It was there that we gave of our manhood
Where so many of our brave comrades fell