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.
It’s a song about monogamy, getting lost in the dating game, and forgetting who’s who and who you’re supposed to be with. And there’s something in it about the slow progress of the soul learning to love. I must have been either a freshman or sophomore in college when I attended my first and only square dance. I went as square dance partner for eleven-year-old Nicole Evans, granddaughter of the head of the college art department along with her sister and step-dad. My radiant dance partner and I dutifully learned the choreography and protocols, and we followed the instructions of the caller: “Bow to the corner, bow to your partner. Two steps forward, one step back.” The switching of partners seemed an apt metaphor for the ever-revolving relationships of the dating scene. In contrast to that inconstant world, eleven-year-old Nicole beamed like a bright candle of innocence and untainted joy as she rotated through her dance partners. She got props for the inspiration in the liner notes. Shine on!
The freshly recut music video (below) features original 1988 footage Mark Derby shot in the Southwest State University AV department studio, b-roll of THE SWOON hanging around in Cottonwood that same weekend, and the square dance scene from the 1949 movie Roseana McCoy. (Watch for a photobomb from the Daceys’ sister Fay.)
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).