Emmett and I walked the Via Dolorosa while visiting Jerusalem in 1985. I sort of remember him saying, “That would be a good name for a song.” It’s the name of a street in the Old City on which Jesus allegedly carried his cross as he went to Golgotha. Every Good Friday, Christian pilgrims commemorate the stations of the cross and walk the Via Dolorosa. The name literally means “Way of Sorrow.”
You can hear the influence of U2’s The Joshua Tree in the chord progression of Via Dolorosa. It wasn’t intentional, but we liked it that way. A short version of the song went down on the ben son Beatrice demo. The live version could roll on for a long, long time. We almost always closed out our live shows with that hypnotic rambling extended version—right before the big-bang showstopper GO NO STOP.
THE SWOON starts in small-town Cottonwood, MN ‘round about 1975 when my family moved into town and became next-door neighbors to the amazing Dacey family. Us kids lived in the perfect Norman Rockwell dream of small-town America—a world of bare feet and banana-seat bicycles, without rules or boundaries where you could see to the horizon in every direction. Every house on the block had children our age. I think there were fifteen or sixteen of us in those days. Every summer we ran wild. We did everything together all day long every day all summer long: building forts, exploring the drainage ditch, waging wars, watching Star Trek, playing matchbox cars, playing football, kickball, freeze tag, Ghost Ghost in the Graveyard, and eventually, playing Dungeons & Dragons. In the early eighties, the Dacey brothers and I spent most of our spare time adventuring in those fantastic imaginary landscapes, rolling dice and living large through paper heroes in the never-ending war against evil orcs and goblins. Austin and I even tried to open a hobby shop in his basement, but Emmett was our only customer.
This song just wanted to be a rock song, but it got all tangled up with angst about faith, spiritual frustration, and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Several versions of the song existed before the one that coalesced onto tape in the Neverland Studio sessions. This version is a live, raw performance scooped from a bootleg of a show in Winona, MN (Sep, 1989), mashed up with video footage from a show at the New Union in Minneapolis (Nov, 1989).
Whose Hands are These? puzzles over the contradiction between substance and spirit, between a materialist reductionist worldview and the ineffable, transcendent spirituality leaking through consciousness and self-awareness … you know, the type of stuff kids are always crooning about. The audio of this live version, scooped from a 1989 bootleg recorded in Winona, MN, preserves the full-length song–unlike the truncated version that went down onto the Neverland recordings.
It’s a war song. Sort of. Tim O’Brien’s book Going After Cacciato, the story of a soldier who walks away from the Vietnam war, inspired the vibe. Florence Dacey, the mother of the Dacey brothers and adopted mom of the band, campaigned tirelessly as an activist against the Cold War Era war machine and nuclear proliferation. Thompson’s Confusion vectors on the mystical unity of every human being. There are no strangers. This song never made it to the studio, but a cassette bootleg from a 1989 live show preserves its memory.
We recorded Let’s Talk About Love in 1988 for the ben son ben son Beatrice demo, but this version of the song is scooped from a bootleg cassette recorded at a live show in 1989. The song itself, while pretending to bounce along as just another silly love song, contrasts pop culture’s infatuations with the the expensive price of perseverance in a relationship gone wrong. Video clips from a 1948 version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina tells it like it is.