Liner Notes for
Fire of Life
Here are the liner notes which Robert composed for Fire of Life originally included in the album. Additionally, he has currently written addendum for several of the songs.
1. Fire of Life:
The lyrics were written during the winter of 1969-70, at a time when I had immersed myself in reading selections from the Carmina Burana, a corpus of some three hundred lyrical, satirical, drinking, gaming and crusading ballads from a thirteenth century manuscript uncovered in a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria. During this same period, I was studying Nietzsche’s commentaries on Dionysian vitalism and his great prose poem Thus Spake Zarathustra. The music to which the lyrics were set as well as Nicholas’ unique guitar style, evokes the Dionysian spirit in which the poem had been written.
“Fire of Life” premiered on the original 7-inch promotional record along with “Icarus”, released jointly by Storm and Cthulhu Records in 1995. It subsequently appeared on the full CD Fire of Life in 1996, and on that album’s re-release in both CD and LP format by HauRuck! in 1999. A new recording of the song was also included on the four-CD Neofolk compendium Looking For Europe, Auerbach Tonträger, 2005.
2. Sweet Eve:
The lyrics obviously deal with love lost, not an uncommon theme for ballads, for most of us sooner or later experience the pangs of real romantic love in our youth. Though such youthful ardor passes—as most things must—first love usually leaves an indelible watermark on our consciousness that never quite disappears altogether. Though the duration of this particular romance lasted from one autumn to the following spring, this remains a song that never fails to evoke anew in me the feelings I felt when first I wrote the poem.
A newly recorded version of “Sweet Eve” will be included on the forthcoming Lament album.
3. Bleeding Out Your Feelings Evermore:
The lyrics to this song were composed sometime in 1971 while I shared an apartment with a good friend, and fellow poet, John Trent DePugh. It was during the metaphysical ferment of the psychedelic era. We were both into what we termed at the time “The Question.” Many days and nights were spent by us both thrashing about for philosophical and metaphysical answers to this “Question.” Later I was to realize that what we had termed “The Question” was, in reality, the Grail Quest of old. Through personal journals, poetry, song, late night Socratic discourses and interminable pacing to-and-fro through the apartment, we strove to hammer our thoughts into some coherent unity. This song was about John, but in a similar sense also applicable to myself. About a year later Nicholas set the lyric to the hauntingly strange Baroque melody that accompanies it.
John DePugh at the time was a drummer and lyricist with the psychedelic band Phantasia. [See World in Sound (www.worldinsound.com) who released their music in 2003.] John and I shared an apartment, formerly a dentist’s office. He was continuously writing song poems and using me as a sounding board for them. This association perhaps more then anything inspired me to try my skills at lyric song poems. Prior to this, I wrote only prose poems.
A newly recorded version will appear on a future Changes collection of our psychedelic ballads.
4. The Saddest Thing:
Another theme of love lost, with the distinction that it included the dissolution of a marriage and all the attendant grief. Originally I had written it as a prose poem but never finished it. One evening, while Nicholas and I dug around for a new song to put together, I found this half completed poem in my notebook and re-wrote it with a ballad end-rhyme in about ten minutes. Nicholas picked up his guitar and in an additional ten minutes had completed the melody. We tried it out and were quite satisfied with the result.
A new rendition of “The Saddest Thing” (recorded in 2005) will be included on Changes’ next album, Lament, which is in its final stages of completion.
5. Early Morning Hours of the Night:
This was written amidst the circumstances described in the song. I was living in a crumbling house in Silver City, New Mexico, variously referred to as the “House with the Painted Windows” or “Hand-Out Hotel”. It was the one place that seldom, if ever, turned anyone away coming off the road. I had originally arrived in Silver City with Nicholas when we performed a concert at the local college. I returned about a month later to live there and devote myself to oil painting. I subsequently had a one-man show, selling enough to purchase a used van. Some six months later I was about to embark in this old Chevy van on a two thousand mile sojourn north. The van dropped its transmission on the first steep upgrade and had to be towed back to town that same morning. It would be some four or five months before I would actually leave for my destination, as one misadventure after another occurred. The positive side to it all was that I met Karen, the lady to whom I was married for twenty-five years. Had I been successful in leaving when I first attempted to, we would never have met. We returned to Chicago and Karen joined Changes’ line-up with Nicholas and I. It was during this period that Nicholas composed the music.
I wrote this poem while in the process of reading Faust for the first time in 1971, while living a rather Hermetic existence. In it I tried to invoke one facet of the Faustian spirit. Nicholas scored the melody shortly afterward.
A new rendition of “Memorabilia” will appear on Changes’ Lament.
7. Horizons That I See:
Written somewhere in the great desert of the southwest, while hitchhiking south toward the Mexican border—it as one of those blistering, glaringly hot days in which nothing but local traffic had passed. On such days one could seemingly walk forever, making little progress across a vast landscape. I had been on the road for some two years at this time. My travels had taken me from Montreal to the Yucatan and many places in between. Nicholas wrote the melody about a year later.
8. Satanic Hymn #2:
As I recall this was written about 1970. Apocalypse was in the air, so to speak. We had just encountered The Process, an English end-of-the-world sect which was very high profile in major American cities during the late Sixties and early Seventies. It was at the Process coffeehouse that we first ventured out before a live audience. They were very indulgent of our first efforts and extremely supportive and encouraging. It was at the Cavern Coffeehouse of the Process that we cut our proverbial teeth at live entertaining. After honing up our act performing on weekends there, we finally landed our first paying job: A weekend at the Kingston Mines Company Store on North Halstead Street in Chicago. We had gone down for an audition on an open mic night at the suggestion of Frank Painer, a Chicago artist we played for down on the lakefront. We played for three evenings from eight in the evening till three in the morning. Most memorable that weekend was a contingent of a dozen black-clad members from the Process who filed in with military precision, taking front-row seats. One could almost feel a vibration of fear course through the other patrons of the café. The group stayed for our first couple of sets, applauding loudly at the end of each number. Several came up to the stage and offered their encouragement and thanks before leaving. The other memorable event that night was one of the most terrific electrical storms I’ve ever experienced before or since. The words and chords to “Satanic Hymn #2” have long since been lost. The fragment, which appears here, was discovered on an old reel-to-reel practice tape from the period—unfortunately being over twenty years old this was all that was usable. We offer it here for the curiosity piece it is, and perhaps the first Satanic ballad, written before Black Sabbath and the birth of heavy metal.
As for “Satanic Hymn #1,” no known traces are now to be found!
9. R.I.P. Van Winkle’s Pipe Dream:
This was a psychedelic-era updating of Washington Irving’s Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. The late Sixties and Seventies produced many R.I.P. Van Winkles among us!
A new version was recorded in 2006. We plan to include it in our psychedelic collection.
10. The Stranger in the Mirror (Pt. 3) also known as Legends--Part 3 (Eddic):
Recorded here is one part of an approximately thirty-minute song. This grew out of a long time love affair with myths and legends, which both Nicholas and I shared. It was created in the late Sixties. We felt we had broken new—or perhaps old—ground when we put this long ballad together. There was nothing else like it around at the time. It was a ballad calling for a revival, in the midst of this materialistic consumer world we live in, of what was best and most noble from the past. Part Three deals with the Teutonic myths and pre-dates the rise, by many years, of the current movement of Odinism or Asatrú, the native religion of Northern Europe. This ballad was one of our mainstays when Changes played at various medieval fairs.
Taproot Productions released the complete six-part ballad of Legends as a CD album in 1998 and released as an LP more recently (2006) by HauRuck! with additional musical interludes and enhanced sound.
11. Twilight of the West:
The lyrics for this eight-minute eulogy took their inspiration from Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West and Ulick Varange’s Imperium. Though originally written in 1969-’70, this ballad seems to have more apparent meaning today then when it was first composed, as much of what it alludes to has become after-the-fact. Thought to have been lost and irretrievable, and early rehearsal rendition of “Twilight” was recently discovered, recorded in mono on what is probably the oldest of our tapes. It almost didn’t make it to this retrospective due to the deterioration of the original master. The tape, which started off with another song, repeatedly stretched and broke during our attempts to play it back, only running smoothly just as “Twilight” began. The recording is far from perfect, but despite the flaws it still retains a certain power. We offer it here as yet another curiosity from the past—and warning for our present and future.
“Twilight of The West,” since its inception, has been one of Changes’ more controversial songs. Why that is the case I am still not entirely certain. Perhaps it has something to do with some of the sources I’ve mentioned over the years being elements in its inspiration - most notably Oswald Spengler, German philosopher of history and author of The Decline of the West. Essentially this work attempts to formulate a philosophy of history.
Spengler’s philosophy is pessimistic in his predictions concerning our civilization and does not conform to the “have a nice day” smiley-faced Chamber of Commerce optimism we are generally proffered in our schools, media, and religions. It stands firmly opposed to the Marxist/Christian concept of history being an unbroken time line of progress toward some grand finale of “pie in the sky” (some heavenly reward) or “pie in the mud” (material abundance in some workers’ paradise.)
Most all of what Spengler prophesied has already come to fruition. We who are members of this Western Civilization need only await the twilight’s final gleaming.
I am certain that I would have composed this song poem or some variant of it had I never read and studied Oswald Spengler’s writings, based simply on my own subjective observations and the ongoing events that have shaped my environment and existence. They seem axiomatic in that sense.