Dirt!

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Listen to Song Samples
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Release date: 1983
  1. John McGill | ListenMusic
  2. My One | ListenMusic
  3. Edifice Complex | ListenMusic
  4. Letters
  5. A Day Without Goodbye
  6. Not On My Guitar
  7. Lucky
  8. Dirt | ListenMusic
  9. Daddy Was A Radical
  10. Joyjam
  11. How Can I Keep From Singing?

Dirt! : Lyrics

JOHN McGILL
-- We happened upon him and his two dogs at the end of a narrow, winding
dirt road in County Donegal, southern Ireland, in 1982. Not many words
were spoken. We were mesmerized, both by the working canines in action,
and by the greenest landscape we'd ever seen. We were quite taken by
this quiet, proud man of the land - his sheep, his hounds, and a smile
that seemed to stretch the entire length of Ireland. 

Fog floating sideways couldn't be seen wrapping its arms around Glencolumbkille 
The mist on the mountain of yellow and green was barely revealing your man, John McGill 
Soft as the day, your man smiling tall, like the rain soaking through you, not one drop discerned 
Spoke but a bit there in West Donegal, and now I'm beginning to know what I learned 

John McGill, John McGill, tell me your tale, if you will 

Eyes on the herd, hounds close at hand, the lord of the field, supreme, benign 
The mountain resounded with Irish commands. Two collies were keeping the strays in line 
A dance of devotion and discipline there, divine choreography set in the hills 
And all the affection was filling the air, and they were as proud as their man, John McGill 

Blood vessel maps, high on his cheeks, showed me the footpaths he'd followed till then 
And gracing his grin, he'd a space between teeth, wide as the mouth of the fine river Glen 
Must've been keeping a secret in there. How did he come to be working the hills? 
Was he an old man? He didn't care. Just left me to ponder, did your man John McGill (to end of song) 

MY ONE-- The plan was to write an introspective song about who I am. Turned
out to be about the woman I love - the way she's ennriched and
enlightened my life and my music. Funny how songs steer you in honest
directions. 

I've laughed a lot in my lifetime. My guess is I'll be grinning till my time has come and gone 
Some may see me as a clown without a midway, just a funny man who sings between the lines 
What they can't see is how easy tears come to me, and that tiny line between the joy and all the pain 
I joke with many, hardly cry with any 
But never have I known just one it felt so fine to laugh and weep with 
Freed up all I feel so I could love again 

And it all rings true, and I'm thanking you, my one 

Singing is my love and my living, distracting folks from all their sorrows while we're together 
Reminding those souls who can't remember, how to feel, and not to fear what's going on beneath their skin 
There I was, needing to be noble. Left myself behind, as though I were immune 
Along you came and taught me without trying 
That I've got to do an inside job before I can do any healing 
Now I can't stop the music dancing out of me 

And I'm dancing to this song for you, my one 

I remember the first time I beheld your Gershwin eyes 
Just something about those chords of George 
Struck a nerve on reserve and your look drove me wild 
So naturally, I had to write like him. Then I could make your face do that, too 
Forget it. Not my style. No need to be jealous. Got this tune right here 
Well, it ain't no Porgy and Bess, but it's the best I can do 

And it's all so new to be your one, too, my one 

EDIFICE COMPLEX-- We who live in Vermont tend to be fairly possessive of the natural
beauty around us. Thus, it came as quite a shock to be asked to submit a
possible anthem for a fledgling organization called the Overzealous
Developers Association of America (ODAA). Here is my entry, and I'm
proud to say it was unanimously accepted as the ODAA's official song. 

Whenever I smell a meadow where buildings ought to be 
Got to roll up my limo window to avoid my allergy 
'cause growing things is wasteful. Farmland doesn't rate 
So I'll turn these fields to factories and fly home out of state. 

I've got this edifice complex and I hate my Mother Earth 
I'm the king of concrete thinking, and I'll get my money's worth 

Born under the sign of Condo, summer of '48 
That cramped, congested hospital room just made me salivate 
I take right after my daddy, a chip off the old cinder block 
At the zoo, he'd point to the cage and say: "Son, those chimps got all the luck" 

They were living in an edifice complex, and Pop hated his Mother Earth 
The original king of concrete thinking, and he got his money's worth 

Old McDonald's had a mall, E-I-E-I-O 
And on this mall were lots of stores, E-I-E-I-O 
With a big buck here and a big buck there 
Here a buck, there a buck, never more a live buck 
Old McDonald's had a mall, E-I-E-I 

Oh, give me a home where the rich slumlords roam 
And the fawns and the cubs used to play 
Where maples so tall were pastel in the fall 
Now the units are crowded all day 

When first I learned 'bout my complex, I was reading Sigmund Freud 
He taught me that development should always be enjoyed 
So I majored in mathematics. That's when I hit my stride 
Now I'll tell the world to multiply, so I can sub-divide 

I got this edifice complex.... 

LETTERS
-- Kids have taught me much more, over the years, than I could ever
impart to them. This song represents an example of the lessons I've
learned. Here are three letters from kids to their leaders, in Jordan,
Russia and the U.S.A. Children could, and hopefully will, write much
more eloquently than I. 

Dear Your Royal Highness: 
	I was seven in May and I live in Amman and I am wondering.
Yesterday, I heard the planes, and somebody told me we hate the
Israelis. Should I hate them, too? I'm smart in school. I'm a good
soccer goalie and I can sing songs. I'm learning to cook. I can't wait
to be older so I can smoke pipes and drive cars like Papa. But I don't
know, 'cause everybody's mad about oil and missiles and fighting and
nobody's talking about growing up, except me. That's why I'm scared. 
	Your friend, Moustafa 

Dear Mr. Premier: 
	I am Tanya. I am eight and I live with my mama and my sister and Sasha,
my cat. My father's in the army. He's never in Kiev, so he writes long
letters where he's guarding the border to save us from China. I love the
cosmonauts and ballet dancers floating in space. I love to watch
swimming and track on TV. I want to be a baker when I'm big. But all the
children here are worried, 'cause all their fathers are worried. Is
there gonna be a war, Premier? Please tell me. I want to know. I'm
happy. That's why I'm scared. 
	Sincerely, Tanya 

Dear Mr. President: 
	I'm in fourth grade. How are you? I'm fine, all except I'm scared.
Yesterday, the man on TV said we're building big bombs that kill kids
like me and grown-ups like Grandpa. I live in Vermont, I go swimming in
summer, the leaves turn in the fall. Then the snow's great for sledding,
Dad gets grumpy in April, but I love to bake mud pies and I'm learning
ukulele. But sir, please tell me, should I finish my vegetables so I'll
be big and strong, just like my dad, even if everybody's dead from the
bombs? That's why I'm scared.
	David, age 9 

A DAY WITHOUT GOODBYE
-- Not too long ago, a loved one came up to me and asked: "Couldn't we
have a day, some time, without a 'goodbye' in it?" One of the few
downsides to making music for a living hit home. This one's for folks
whose work takes them away from family. 

Postcards in the pantry sure get old. Memos on the mirror seem so cold 
I can picture all your words so well when I'm alone. All I really long for is your eyes 

Oh, for a day without goodbye. A big old day, just you and I 
Imagine, babe, what a crazy scheme. It must've been a dream 

Wee hours on the highway to unwind. Emptiness is filling up my mind 
Talk shows fading in and out, but they don't talk to me. It's gnawing at my senses all the time 

Life has been a medley of so-long's. It wears on one, just singing longing songs 
We've been sharing pillows, now, a couple of years or so. I sure would like to share the daytime, too 

NOT ON MY GUITAR
-- Singing for a living not only wreaks havoc on relationships, but
occasionally on equipment, as well. A couple of vaguely true stories,
now: A pooch's eloquent comment on my music, as I awaited the train that
would take me back to college in Philadelphia from Connecticut; and an
incident that could very well happen in any bar. The final dream
sequence is pure fiction. 

Well, I was standing at the Stamford station. My six-string was standing there, too (just in case). 
The Philly train was late. I was about to get irate when this dog made a daring debut 
Now the Corgi in question meant business, nostrils a-flaring as he walked 
Big eyes glared at my Gibson. He made his final approach and I talked. Fast: 

Whatever you're gonna do, don't do it on my guitar 
I wouldn't, if I were you. It won't get you very far 
I recommend trees and tires, and putting out forest fires 
Do what you will, but not on my guitar you don't 

Then there was the night in the barroom, one of those human-sacrifice affairs 
My tunes were going over like "Limey" jokes in Dover, when a stumbler with a tumbler neared my chair 
"You do anything decent?" slurred the big guy. I couldn't help but notice he was green 
My tongue took a break, and I stammered, but words came as he raised his glass and leaned: 

Whatever you're gonna do.... 

You can fill my socks and shoes, soak the putter I never use 
I'll even let you do it in my hair 
Go ahead and have a ball in the closet in the hall 
Do anything, I don't care what, and have a nice day 
Don't even think about touching that thing, unless you're gonna play 

Just the other day I had this nightmare, busted for a bad joke in school 
I was ordered to report to Gibson County Court, and the judge turned out to be that barroom fool 
He said: "You do anything decent?" I said: "No, sir." Then he found me guilty of the charge. 
That Corgi came a-running with the sentence. 
They made me watch the two of them do it all over my guitar. Woke up, screaming: 

LUCKY
-- This was written for the Vermont Special Winter Olympics. As so often
happens, however, it turned out to be for all of us. 

I feel the wind. It hugs my face. I'm sailing down at my own pace 
And everybody wins the race. So glad I'm here at all 
Watch me glide around the ice, smooth and fancy, once or twice 
I'd race you up to paradise, but we're already there 

We're lucky we can yell and scream. We're lucky we can laugh and dream 
We're lucky we can roll on the ground. We're lucky we've got friends around 

Winding through the piney scene. Never seen a woods so green 
Brightest whiteness in-between. What a place to be alive 
Thanks, Vermont, for being here. On your hills we know no fear 
With your love you've made it clear 

We're lucky.... 

We're lucky we've got our hope. We're lucky just to be on the slope 
We're lucky dogs can lick our face. So lucky just to be in the chase 

DIRT!
-- A third grader in Shrewsbury, Vermont once requested this song: "Do
the one about grown-ups sitting around drinking." Everyone's welcome to
his or her interpretation. It's actually a protest, by a simple person,
against a much-too-complicated world. If it means anything else to you,
I'd sure love to know. 

Daddy's on the brink of a dry martini, Mama's just an old fashioned girl 
Uncle Pete's a sucker for a straight-up stinger, and Granny is a-going pink squirrel 
Well, I'm faced with a family of guzzling guppies. Even my dog gets his licks 
They all call me nuts not to want some. Jeezum! I just turned six. Give me... 

Dirt! I can rock and roll around in 
Dirt! Mud pie a la mode 
Dirt! All covered by sundown. I'm a day crawler 

Normal kids go for the G.I. Joe games. I never went for green 
Then there's those a-sliding into snow games, cold and a little too clean 
Me, I'm working out in a big old sandbox, getting my sculpture done 
Michelangelo might've made more money, but he never had this much fun, slingin'... 

Dirt!.... 

Now, Rosemary grows very well in the dirt 
But she's never in the soil when she's wearing a skirt 
Sunflowers tower in it. How 'bout sons 
Can you dig it? Can you dig it? You can dig it! You can dig it! 

Dirt!.... 

Deck my pants with mud March 30, fa la la la la la la la la 
Tis the season to be dirty, fa la la la la la la la la 
All around me folks are moping, fa la la la la la la la la 
Earth forever, I am hoping, fa la la, singing... 

Dirt!.... 

DADDY WAS A RADICAL
-- Took me ten years to write this one after my father's death. He was a
print journalist and broadcaster who got into a lot of trouble for being
honest and outspoken. He taught me, among other things, that it's noble
to offend the right people (see "Edifice Complex" earlier on this
album), and not to be afraid of my emotions. He's also responsible for
much of my sense of humor, though it's not really fair to accuse him of
that, since he can't defend himself. Having a public figure for a parent
isn't the easiest thing in the world - for anyone. 

Daddy was a radical, whatever that may be. "Radical" they called him, but I called him "Dad" 
None could move me to laughter and tears like he did 
Maybe that's what they meant when they labeled him so 

Daddy penned poetry, like the masters I had to read. Rhymes that rang true to me offended someone 
Called him "un-American", and they wrote he was "Red" through and through 
I remember crimson rage when he watched kids at war 

We didn't mind sharing him, for the world seemed his family. Brother and husband, a father to all 
I never knew Daddy well, though he lived to see me reach twenty-two 
I cried not for him, but for all the empty eyes 

He'd a passion for life, a penchant for laughing 
Compassion for the living and a longing to know 
I felt his love well, though I knew him from a distance 
If I learned all he taught me, only living will tell 

Daddy was a radical, whatever that may be. "Radical" they called him, but I called him "Dad" 

JOYJAM
 "Joyjam" (instrumental) is a gift from me to all the outstanding
musicians and technicians who were a part of the DIRT project. I just
put	a few chords together and said to them all: "Here, folks - have
fun with this." And they did. Enjoy.

HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING?
-- An old hymn, claimed by the Quakers, Jews, upper and lower case
Christians of all denominations and enlightened people of all or no
religious persuasions. No wonder - it's one of the most ecumenically
spiritual pieces of music in the world. Doris Plenn updated the lyrics
in 1963. It certainly speaks to who I am and why I'm here. 

My life flows on in endless song, above Earth's lamentation 
I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation 
Above the tumult and the strife I hear its music ringing 
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing? 

What, though the tempest loudly roars, I hear the truth. It liveth. 
What, though the darkness 'round me close, songs in the night it giveth 
No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I'm clinging 
Since love is lord of Heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing? 

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear, and hear their death knell ringing 
When friends rejoice, both far and near, how can I keep from singing? 
In prison cell and dungeon vile, our thoughts to them are winging 
When friends by shame are undefiled, how can I keep from singing?