daniel thomas

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.

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daniel thomas

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.

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Here’s the new video for THE SWOON’s song “Ben son, ben son Beatrice,” only thirty-two years after the original recording. We recorded this song in 1988, along with four other tracks, in a studio owned by a Minneapolis band called Limited Warranty. They were a hot local pop band famous for winning Star Search in 1985. Our producer/manager, JAMES, had set up the arrangements for us. Not sure how he negotiated it. I think he had secured the studio on spec—an industry term which means “you will never make a dime.” Dale Goulett and Greg Sotebeer of Limited Warranty were in the control room with JAMES. The studio space was some sort of converted warehouse. Big and open, the way we wanted the music to sound.

At one point in the production, I was sitting in the loft-lounge above the control room and talking about Kate Bush with the guys from Limited Warranty. Dale pretended to be smoking a roach, implying that Kate Bush took her inspiration from the amount of pot she smoked. Maybe she did. Wherever she got that totally epic spooky-sounding supernatural vibe, I wanted to get some of that down on tape. That’s the type of feel we reached for with “Ben son, ben son Beatrice.”

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daniel thomas

The Minneapolis City Pages referred to the band from Cottonwood as art-dorks. Not wrong. We came by our love for poetry honestly. Emmett and Austin Dacey were raised by published poets with multiple Masters in English and Literature. And I pretty much grew up in the Dacey home where I fell in love with the titles on the family’s bookshelf. But let’s not forget that some of us were cowboys too. My father considered himself to be a cowboy-preacher, and the bookshelf in my house had titles by Zane Gray. My family had horses, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and lariats.  

Chili Eating Contest

In the fall of 1989, several of the band members lived together in a single house in Minneapolis, and someone had a job at a VHS video rental store. Almost every night was movie night at THE SWOON house. Troy Baartman and I went through a significant number of Westerns, and we might have watched the 1988 Young Guns three or four times. Also a favorite was the 1970 They Call Me Trinity.

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