Waiting for the Fall - A Retrospective

Original Liner Notes

Dear listener,

In 2003 the good folks at AK Press released a "best of" CD consisting of songs selected by the AK Press collective, mostly from CDs recorded between 1998-2002. I recently took an informal poll of my friends and fans on Facebook asking for their suggestions for what a more current "best of" CD would look like. You'll find the songs on this Retrospective, Waiting for the Fall, differ quite a bit from either AK Press's selections or from those of the folks who responded to my poll.

In the case of AK Press of course this is partly because that "best of" CD was put out a long time ago. But otherwise I guess in terms of my own songwriting, although I wouldn't put out a Retrospective CD without a couple of satirical songs, this CD is heavy on ballads. I chose these songs below mainly for two reasons: because I think they represent some of my best songwriting efforts from different periods and because I've got a really good version of them recorded to use for this project. These songs were culled from a longer list of songs that fit both of those requirements but that would have been too long for a single CD.

The culling process there was all about making a CD that would hopefully hang together as a recording. Even in the digital age where so much music comes to people as an individual song download or a track on Last FM, there is an art form in putting together a good set, whether it's for a concert or a recording, a set that hangs together from beginning to end. If it were a concert it'd definitely have more upbeat, funny songs in it. For a recording I hope you agree that a ballad-heavy kind of thing can work well.

Aside from "Everything Looks the Same," which was taken from a recording I made in Houston one day and only released on the web, all of the songs below were at some point released on a CD. The dates below correspond to the following CDs:

1998: We Just Want the World
2000: Live at Club Passim
2001: Living in these Times
2002: Hang a Flag in the Window
2003: The Return
2004: Songs for Mahmud
2005: For the Moment
2006: Halliburton Boardroom Massacre
2007: The Commons

For information about musicians that have appeared on these recordings or other information about the CDs from which these songs were taken, please go to the "lyrics" section of http://www.davidrovics.com. To buy copies of the CD click on "buy stuff." To help spread the word about this CD or to support my efforts to publicize it please click on "support the arts." To download individual tracks for free or for a donation click on "audio/video."

Thanks for your support. It's immensely appreciated. Particularly for a retrospective CD it seems worth mentioning that I wouldn't be privileged enough to play music for a living if it weren't for people like you. There are far too many people to thank. My thanks go especially to the thousands of people around the world who have organized and publicized shows for me, downloaded songs or bought CDs, copied them and otherwise spread the music around, put me up, fed me and shared with me their time (and occasionally their weed and their hot tubs). My profound thanks go to those people who have made small or large contributions in answer to my call to help me publicize this CD and other past releases.

And of course my thanks go to those around the world today and throughout history who have tried to make the world a better place, without whom I'd have nothing to write about, and without whom the world would really suck.


Song for Hugh Thompson (1998)

Early in my years of touring as a solo act I was reading a local paper at a cafe in Virginia and there was an article about Hugh Thompson receiving a belated award from the Army, after they found out the government of Viet Nam was about to give him an award, too. I was told that his mates from Veterans for Peace played this song at his funeral.

Song for My Broken Heart (2000)

I think this is the best love song I've ever written, and certainly the one people ask about most. In fact people ask about it more than they ask about any other song, probably, which should tell me something, perhaps. I wrote it after being dumped in Minneapolis in 1999. This version of it was recorded live at Club Passim, with Sean Staples doing a transcendent mandolin part.

The Dying Firefighter (2001)

This was my second (and far better) attempt at writing a song about 9/11. I wrote it a few days after 9/11, in New Haven, after reading a bunch of first-hand accounts from rescue workers, including one particularly leftwing one who was a friend of Rob and Jennifer, if I recall. This recording was made live at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York, in late September.

Jenin (2002)

I wrote this in Canterbury, England, just before my first-ever gig with Attila the Stockbroker. I wouldn't call it clairvoyance or anything, but immediately after I wrote this song I went inside the cafe and heard the news about the paralegal from Jenin who blew herself up after the Israelis killed her parents.

Times Gone By (2003)

Another love song I wrote which I think works very well, especially with the slide, drums, bass and all that. This is from The Return, which is not the first CD that features Sean Staples as a musician but is the first CD of mine that Sean produced.

The Death of Rachel Corrie (2003)

I'm on a lot of email lists, and I only skim most of it at best. I was paying somewhat closer attention to the ISM list than to most other ones I was on, but I was especially on the lookout for new stuff Rachel Corrie wrote, because I was impressed with her writing style. I wrote this song just after hearing of her death, which happened days before the US started bombing Iraq again. Oddly enough, I did a show at Evergreen State College on the day the bombs started falling, which is where Rachel had been a student.

They're Building A Wall (2007)

This version of the song was recorded live at Club Passim in 2007, but I originally recorded it in 2004. They're still building that horrible wall, but when I wrote the song they had only just begun the evil project.

Saint Patrick Battalion (2007)

I originally wrote this song in 2000 and first recorded it in 2001 at Caffe Lena. I was doing an opening set for Howard Zinn in Cambridge and he mentioned the San Patricios in his talk. I searched on the internet for more information and wrote this song during the course of the Turning Point Road Show with John Johnson and other folks while we were in Kentucky.

What If You Knew (2004)

Against my own better judgement I set out to write another one of those songs where you try to say way too much in the course of a few minutes, a la "Glory and Fame," "Who Will Tell the People," etc. This one worked really well, though, I think.

The More Gardens Song (2004)

The More Gardens group in New York City have started up hundreds of illegal gardens around the five boroughs. Someone from the organization asked me if I'd write a song for their fundraising compilation CD, and this is what came of that request. I haven't written a decent song yet about my dear, deceased brother Brad Will, but this is the song I always sing in his memory, since he was a longtime active member of More Gardens, along with many other groups.

Everything Looks the Same (2004)

I was especially prolific during this period, and recorded the equivalent of a full-length CD that I only managed to release online. This was perhaps the best song from that recording, which I made at a home studio somewhere in Houston soon after buying a 12-string guitar. (My apologies to whoever's studio that was, I don't remember the name...) I was spending a lot of time in Houston with the future mother of my daughter, and though I had lots of good times in that city it definitely inspired a lot of songs about malls and car culture such as this one (and "Beyond the Mall," "60,000 More" and others).

Burn It Down (2007)

And the malls should all burn -- whether it's a controlled burn with the fire department keeping an eye or an illegal ELF action, I don't care, as long as it's done soon, and globally, starting with the USA. But since 1997 it's basically illegal just to say that...

Like I Think About You (2005)

Although there were some good songs on For The Moment and especially some great parts recorded by Sean Staples and others, the CD overall suffered from being done in stages in three different cities by people who weren't physically working together. This song worked well, though, as did some others. It's about an old friend who I'll probably never see again.

Waiting For the Fall (2006)

From the CD Halliburton Boardroom Massacre, which I wish I had called something else (many Americans just don't have a sense of humor these days, not to mention a proper sense of outrage). A song about the brutal American occupation of Iraq which I wrote after reading something by Robert Fisk, while hanging out with Attila the Stockbroker and friends in Southwick. One of my first attempts at writing something at least vaguely punk rock, with Sean Staples demonstrating his musical versatility by orchestrating some pretty darn punk rock accompaniment.

Falluja (2007)

This was recorded live at Club Passim with Allie Rosenblatt and Eric Royer. I wrote the song around 2004 or so, after the so-called Battle of Falluja, during which the US military destroyed most of the city and killed untold numbers of men, women, and children with chemical weapons, bombs, and artillery. Outside of the US this is the kind of vicious, mechanized slaughter that is immediately brought to mind when people hear the name of that once-beautiful city, which was known for centuries as the City of Mosques. To most people in the US, unfortunately, the name of this city just elicits the usual ignorant, blank look.

Four Blank Slates (2006)

Another example of Sean Staples' versatile production abilities, this is a melancholy song about one of many places in the US that memorializes the dead from past wars, wherein visitors may find several blank slates already in place, in preparation for the next crop of death from the next war of aggression.

When Johnny Came Marching Home (2006)

This song features a brilliant organ solo by Jabe, among other things. The title and theme is from the old song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," about the physically and emotionally maimed returning veterans who have no place in the society they supposedly fought for. (Lyrically and musically however it bears little resemblance to the song that inspired it.)

Crashing Down (2006)

This is another of my first attempts at writing something in the punk vein, basically inspired by hearing a set by Attila's friend TV Smith. One of many songs on the Halliburton CD that features Eric Royer's experiments in punk rock banjo playing, which I insisted had to be a major feature of the CD. (Sean was skeptical at first, but he came around...)

New Orleans (2007)

This is a live version of the song which I originally recorded on the Halliburton CD. I wrote the song in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, while thousands of people were in the process of dying of neglect. Oddly enough I wrote it from a hotel room in another once-destroyed coastal city, Beirut, which was itself to be destroyed once again a year later by the Israelis.

Black Flag Flying (2007)

Another live recording of a song about hidden history. A rare thank you to NPR for interviewing Marcus Rediker, which is where I heard about his book, Villains of all Nations, which is where I got the material for this song about pirates. Go pirates!

I'm A Better Anarchist Than You (2007)

I wrote this song after a visit to a gathering in northern Maine at which I decided that sometimes your parents are right -- sometimes "anarchists" really are just stupid kids who don't like their parents. Most anarchists seem to agree, and the song has become the closest thing to an underground hit in the anarchist community that I've ever had (with the possible exception of "Black Flag Flying").

Behind the Barricades (2002)

I was safely in Bonn, Germany singing at various protests around some big international climate meetings there, when Carlo Giuliani was killed by the police outside the G8 meetings in Genoa, Italy in 2001?. Starhawk wrote a nice piece about the importance of mourning the dead, among other things, and I wrote this song after reading her essay.

Life Is Beautiful (2006)

A love song, with some of the prettiest banjo accompaniment I've ever heard.

Song for Hugh Thompson 3:08
Song for My Broken Heart 4:00
The Dying Firefighter 4:12
Jenin (Hang) 4:07
Times Gone By 3:47
The Death of Rachel Corrie 2:46
They're Building A Wall (Commons) 3:21
Saint Patrick Battalion (Commons) 4:51
What If You Knew 2:22
The More Gardens Song 2:59
Everything Looks the Same 3:01
Burn It Down 3:23
Like I Think About You 3:29
Waiting For the Fall 3:17
Falluja (Commons) 4:08
Four Blank Slates 3:45
When Johnny Came Marching Home 3:15
Crashing Down 2:25
New Orleans 4:24
Black Flag Flying 3:46
I'm A Better Anarchist Than You 2:32*
Behind the Barricades (Hang) 2:04
Life Is Beautiful (Commons) 2:56

*FCC Warning: This song contains a bad word.