The Kennedy Suite
It's been a strange summer up her in the Great White North: cool temperatures and more rain than anyone can remember. But I haven't minded so much. Excellent sleeping weather and when it's not raining the air has been clean and the temperature has been perfect for biking around and enjoying our most amazing city. This is truly a great place to live (especially in the Summer). We have been off the road since May and it has given me a chance to to do a bit of fishing (no luck yet with the browns but the largemouth have been very game) and an opportunity to watch my team: the aggravatingly-horrible, ball-kicking-gong-show that is the Toronto Blue Jays. But mostly, we have been in our new studio (The Hangar) finishing off our next project, The Kennedy Suite.
The Kennedy Suite is one of those albums that is extremely difficult to describe. It's a rock opera, a musical, a song cycle, a melodic psychological exploration of the people, characters and events surrounding the assassination of John Kennedy. We didn't write it and we don't even perform all of the music on the album, but we are proudly putting our name to it and “presenting” it on our Latent Recordings label. It is one of the most intelligent, creative and moving piece of writing that I have come across in decades (ever since Jesus Christ Superstar entered my life at the impressionable age of eleven) and it is one of the most exciting and unique projects that we have been involved with in a long time. The narrative of the song cycle takes place over the course of the weekend of November 22 – 24, 1963. Starting with the Kennedys' arrival at Love Field in Dallas and ending with the President's funeral in Washington DC. Each song is written and sung from the perspective of someone, real or imagined, that had a connection to the assassination. JFK, Jackie, Ruby, RFK and Oswald are all represented as are: three sisters giddy with anticipation for Kennedy's arrival at Love Field; a motorcycle cop riding in the motorcade determined to protect the Presidential couple to make up for his own failure to save his own family; a police detective assigned to escort the suspect Oswald but caught up in a delusional reverie about his high school senior prom, and many other assorted characters. The Junkies (myself, Alan and Pete) along with our good friends Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson (The Skydiggers) perform as the band for most of the songs. Margo does a turn as Jackie Kennedy and delivers one of the most compelling and heartbreaking performances on the album (would you expect anything less?). Each song has a different vocalist and working with all of this talent has been the one aspect of this project that has been the most exciting and satisfying. Joining us are: Sarah Harmer, Jason Collett, Hawksley Workman, Doug Paisley, Martin Tielli, The Good Family, Jessy Bell Smith, The Screwed, Harlan Pepper, Lee Harvey Osmond, The Potion Kings and Ivy Mairi, as well as a large and varied assortment of musicians. As I said, it's a difficult project to describe. We have chosen to record and release an album that requires repeated listenings, a record that needs to be sat with and mulled over and that even needs liner notes to be fully appreciated. This is not a blueprint for success these days. But we have you and we know that there are enough of you out there that still want your music to challenge and inspire you.
We don't have a set date for the release just yet, but we are aiming for the end of October. We do have a very special concert planned for November 22 at the Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. It will involve most of the performers on the album. Tickets for that show will go on sale next week (I'll post more info about the show as soon as we have ticket info). We will be blogging a lot about the making of this album over the next couple of months and we will be creating a seperate website for it….so stay tuned. In the meantime here is the lyric for the song (Disintegrating) that Margo sings on the album. This is Jackie Kennedy (as imagined by the writer) sitting on Air Force One, heading back to Washington with the body of her husband, still wearing her blood-splattered clothes so that the world could see what had been done to her husband, wracked with survivors guilt and suddenly struck by the horrible realisation that maybe the bullet wasn't meant for him, but for her. As I said, it's an amazing piece of writing, crossing effortlessly between the literal, the historical and the figurative, ultimately inspiring, but not afraid to creep into those dark under-explored recesses of our thoughts and actions and to shine a little light on the complexities that make humans, human.
In glazed eyes and red stains
I’m thinking this has to be
The biggest case of “I told you so”
I know I’m being petty
But when Nellie turned and said,
“Can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you…”
I almost laughed before you put your hand on my knee
To stop me,
Please stop me
Like I couldn’t stop you
The young woman you waved to
For that moment I hated you
I imagined you dead and that I was finally free
And that’s when it happened
‘Did I will it to happen?’
Was all I was thinking as I
Held your head in my hands
This is a tight sleeve,
The fucking engines of this plane are shrill
My lips are bloodless
Please, stop me
Please, stop me
Like I couldn’t stop you
The face of that young aid
Glancing back over LBJ’s shoulder
Did I overhear him say, “Hey, I’ve got a sure-fire way to win a second term
Put a hit out on his wife
The sympathy vote would be a landslide”?
You weren’t really thinking that, were you?
Were they killing you?
Or were they just missing me?
And if you were in my place
Would you be…Disintegrating?