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Transmissions to Horace

Title: Transmissions to Horace 1 2 3
Released: 1993
Label: Sonic Enemy

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Liner notes

HEUS FORTUNA QUID CRUDELIOR 4

TRANSMISSIONS TO HORACE was recorded 12/7/92 & seq. by the Mountain Goats in California and is:

  1. Going to Cleveland 2. Early Spring 3. Historiography 4. No, I Can't. Alpha Desperation March 6. Going to Monaco 7. Star Dusting 8. Teenage World 9. Going to Santiago 10. Sail On.

HEUS FORTUNA HEUS FORTUNA HEU 4

Oh, my God, thank you: Peter, the Ketchup Bear, E. F. Apuleit, Leté as always, Frankling, Ro Rae Amy Saraaa, and Aztec culinary inventiveness.

HEU FORTUNA QUID IN NOS CRUDELIOR 4

AND SLANDERED BY THIS TEUCER, IF YOU PLEASE! 5
heu fortuna heu fortuna heu fortuna heu fortuna heu 4

Transmissions to Horace was included in its entirety on the compilation Bitter Melon Farm. Another version of No, I Can't was recorded on Songs for Peter Hughes.

A number of previously unreleased or rare Mountain Goats and Extra Glenns songs were found in 2013 at the end of one Transmissions to Horace cassette, although they were unrelated to the release. 6

Table of contents

  1. Going to Cleveland
  2. Early Spring
  3. Historiography
  4. No, I Can't.
  5. Alpha Desperation March
  6. Going to Monaco
  7. Star Dusting
  8. Teenage World
  9. Going to Santiago
  10. Sail On

Going to Cleveland 7 8 9

We both know you're leaving
You just don't want to say it yet
'Cause you don't want to hurt my feelings, so you
Gnaw your little holes in the net

And you torture me
With those big eyes
And you punish me
With pity
But I'm going to Cleveland

You say you wanted to strike first
Because one of us was leaving, that's what you say
But I've always been real fond of you
So I never would have treated you this way

And you torture me
With those big eyes
And you punish me
With pity
But I'm going to Cleveland

I hear the Cuyahoga 10 calling, now I know
What I was born for
And you say, "Hey, John", 11 where are you going
But that's not my name anymore

And you torture me
With those big eyes
And you punish me
With pity
But I'm going to Cleveland

Early Spring

The pictures you paint aren't as pretty as they once seemed to me
And the coffee's bitter 'cause it's been boiling too long
And the jokes you tell aren't as funny as they once seemed to me
And the songs you sing are just plain hackneyed

But the stars shine down on all God's children
And the sun sets on the good and on the evil
And I know you
And I know you

The throbbing flowers outside, I get it
And the paint peeling from the bathroom walls
And the smile on your face, it's a lie
And the smile on your face, it's real pretty

And the sun shines down on all God's children
And the stars burn for the good and the evil
And I know you
And I know you

Historiography 12

There was rain
There was wind
There was spring coming in
There was a feeling approaching doom
And I was happy to see you
And it was cold in your room
And you were warm and that's all I remember
And your arms were warm and that's all I remember

Later on
Near morning
We were talking
About nothing
A little rain
A little wind
A quiet hall 13
Cold air coming in
You were warm and that's all I remember
And your arms were warm and that's all I remember
And your eyes were pretty and that's all I remember
And your hands were soft and that's all I remember
And the hall was well-lit as I walked down it and that's all I remember
And the rain was light and it felt soft on my face and that's all I remember
And the car was quiet inside and that's all I remember
And it was talk but the sunlight was coming and that's all I remember

No, I Can't. 14 15

"Hi, it's the Mountain Goats. It's the 17th of December at 9:34 in the morning, and this is called No, I Can't."

You bought me some candy 16
And you bought me some flowers
And you bought me a sofa
And you bought me a radio

Thank you for the candy
Thank you for the flowers
Thank you for the sofa
Thank you for the radio

Now I have everything I need
Now I have everything I need

You bought me a puppy
And you bought me a lamp
And you bought me some books
And you bought me a filing cabinet

Thank you for the puppy
Thank you for the lamp
Thank you for the books
Thanks for the filing cabinet, I don't know what I did without it

Now I have everything I need
Now I have everything I need

You came by and you came in
And you let the wind in, it must be cold outside
We looked out through the sliding glass door
But I'd forgotten what we were looking for

Thank you for coming by
It's nice to see you once in a while
And thank you for the coat I'd forgot to mention
I've been freezing in here, I've been freezing in here

Now I have everything I need
Now I have everything I need
Now I have everything I need
Now I have everything I need
Yeah

Alpha Desperation March 17

I'm coming in, try to stop me
Push furniture in front of the door
It only gives me something to push against
In the full heat of the summer's day
You're telling me to go away
But you owe me eight thousand dollars and I could use it

I'm only getting stronger, you may have noticed
But a head full of memories propels me ever forward
And in the living room I don't see where you are
But the back door's locked so you can't have gone far
And eight thousand dollars is a whole lot of money and I could use it

Could be that it's my imagination, but I think I hear you now
So come out, come out, wherever you are
Olly olly olly olly olly olly oxen free 18
See I'm perfectly aware of where our love stands
But the plain fact is that you owe me eight grand
If it helps to jog your memory I lent it to you one Tuesday when we were drinking

Ha
Ha ha ha ah aha
Aha aha ah ah aha
Haha hahaha aha aha ah aha
Aha aha

Going to Monaco 19 20

"… he and the sergeant dropped to the ground in the shadow below a bush. They heard a branch crack to the left. Then the sound of footsteps. Two of the renegades carrying firewood, a third with a rifle, were walking toward them, closer and closer." 21

The sea gobbles up the full sun, and I
I look at you and I know you're the one
The one I used to know something about
And I try to say what it was, but the words won't come out
And you ask me to hold you
That's the devil's work

You show your palms and I see they're empty
And I'd check them twice if you'd let me
But you wouldn't do that now, would you
I didn't think so
And you ask me to hold you
But that's the devil's work

We stand on the sand and we watch the world turn
And we stand on the sand and we watch the water burn
And we stand on the sand six inches from one another
And the sands burn and blow but neither one of us runs for cover
And you ask me to hold you
That's the devil's work
And you ask me to hold you
But that's the devil's work

Star Dusting 22 23 24

"Hello, it's the Mountain Goats at 10:24 on Sunday the 20th of December, and this is a horror story."

Toward the end of our first year in Las Vegas 25
You looked up from your little corner
And I saw that your face was getting a little brighter
And you asked me, is it really getting warmer
Or is it just me, and then you started mumbling unintelligibly
So what are you saying anyway

I thought I heard bells ringing, but then I remembered
That I no longer knew what bells sounded like
I thought we'd maybe strike up a conversation
'Til bad luck cruised by on his ten-speed bike
I got real cold and I grabbed my coat
And I saw that the ringing was coming from your throat
What are you saying anyway

Teenage World

You bought me a rabbit to keep me company
And I'm here in my car and the rabbit's here with me
Heading out Highway 1 26 respecting posted speed limits
And I tried to figure this one out but I can't find any meaning in it
And I'm sick and tired of trying to figure out your gestures
And I'm sick and tired of wondering what your presents mean
I'm gonna take this rabbit into Malibu 27
And he'll chew on sourgrass while I bolt down Dexedrine 28
Dexedrine

The wind comes through the open window and I button my shirt
And the rabbit's riding shotgun, my teeth hurt
You sent me a package marked 'live animals inside'
And the sun's coming up quickly above the rising tide
And I'm sick and tired of trying to figure our your gestures
And I'm sick and tired of wondering what your presents mean
I'm gonna take this rabbit into Malibu
And he'll chew on sourgrass while I bolt down Dexedrine
Dexedrine

Going to Santiago 29 30 31

Big birds in the trees
Car's locked and I've lost my keys
Crashing sounds of the waterfall
And a statue of Jesus 200 feet tall 32
Three thousand miles from the port in California
And three little feet from falling off the earth
And the shadow of a mountain should cast a shadow
And the snow underfoot is soft and yielding
La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la

Look at those birds
I'd say something about them but I've lost the words
They're laughing and they're watching me
And the radiator's boiling for no reason
The wild cattle crossing as it strikes their fancy
And a handful of money which does me no good
And a pocketful of medicine to abuse myself with
And a photograph of someone stapled to my shirt seam
La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la

Sail On 33

Sail on down the road
About half a mile or so
Well, I tried to make you stay
But now you're going

It was plain to see
That a small-town boy like me
Just wasn't your cup of tea
That was wishful thinking

Gave you my heart and I tried to make you happy
You gave me nothing in return
You know it ain't so hard to say
Would you please just go away 34

You come to comfort me
But I don't need your sympathy
And the way you look at me
Well, it's condescending

I feel my stomach churn
And didn't you ever learn
Not to tell somebody something
If you don't mean it

I gave you my heart and I tried to make you happy
You gave me nothing in return
You know it ain't so hard to say
Would you please just go away

Sail on
Sail on
Sail on

  1. Transmissions to Horace, Nall, accessed July 16, 2014.

Credits

Thanks as always to Caliclimber, whose Flickr page provided the album art, and who provided valuable information about the multiple Transmissions to Horace covers. Thanks also to Soren Spicknall and his friends who found the origin of the jazz sample that introduces Going to Santiago. Soren is the host of the tMG radio show Isopanisad Radio Hour (Soundcloud, Facebook) which readers of this site are most likely sufficiently obsessive to enjoy a great deal.

Footnotes

  1. "Written and recorded over the course of one week and released as-is. I think it accomplished what it set out to do: its characters are sufficiently desperate, their ends transparently sordid. In retrospect, I probably should have just dubbed a copy of Spandau Ballet's album True and tried to pass it off as my own work, but the idea didn't occur to me until it was too late." — Bitter Melon Farm liner notes

  2. Transmissions to Horace had multiple different covers. The cover depicted here is that owned by Caliclimber (see below), but many others exist. From looking at the versions available, it appears that magazine photos of random mountains were cut out and pasted to the J-card, then the title written on.

  3. Horace was a famous Roman poet living in the first century BCE. He wrote a number of works, mostly collections of poems (including his Satires, Odes, Epodes, and Epistles) and an influential work on how to write poetry, Ars Poetica.

  4. These lines are various modifications on a quote from Horace's Satires, Book II, Poem 8, Avarum inepte prodigum salse describit (A smart description of a miser ridiculously acting the extravagant), lines 61 – 63:

    … "heu, Fortuna, quis est crudelior in nos
    te Deus? ut semper gaudes inludere rebus
    humanis!"

    Translated, these lines read, "'Alas! O fortune, what god is more cruel to us than thou? How dost thou always take pleasure in sporting with human affairs!'" In context, the quote is uttered by a glutton, Nomentanus, at a feast, startled by a falling tapestry. Fundanius, narrating, and some other guests in attendance mock the speaker for being so dramatic about something so trivial.

    Horace (1836). The Works of Horace. Christopher Smart, translator. Philadelphia: Joseph Whetham. Perseus Digital Library, retrieved July 17, 2014. 2 3 4

  5. Teucer was a tremendous archer who fought in the Trojan War alongside his famous half-brother, Ajax. Born to the king of Salamis Island, Teucer would eventually found the city of Salamis on Cyprus. Here, John is quoting the Sophocles tragedy Ajax, in which Agamemnon rages at Teucer:

    Ah! That contest for Achilles' armor!
    We shall regret the day we published it
    if every moment we must be defamed
    and slandered by this Teucer, since he won't
    accept defeat or yield to the majority,
    the verdict of the judges.

    The play focuses on Ajax's refusal to accept the award of Achilles' armor to Odysseus, plotting to kill Agamemnon and Odysseus in revenge. Eventually, he is instead tricked by Athena and commits suicide out of shame. This exchange between Agamemnon and Teucer occurs after Ajax has left to impale himself on his sword; Agamemnon is accusing Teucer of supporting Ajax's assertion that he deserved the armor, leading to the present calamity.

    Sophocles (2013). Sophocles II: Ajax, The Women of Trachis, Electra, Philoctetes, The Trackers. David Grene, translator. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-31155-5

  6. John posted on the forums to clarify about the tracks, and alluded to them being unrelated to the intended release, just being added to the end by Peter on a whim. The songs are available on the Internet Archive if you'd like to hear them.

    Mountain Goats forums. Transimssions To Horace Extra Songs [sic]. September 17, 2013, retrieved July 16, 2014.

    Mountain Goats, The (1992). Transmissions To Horace + Extra Songs. Archived September 13, 2013, retrieved July 16, 2014.

  7. "It's about the love of things, you know, the love of things?" — Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, May 26, 2004

    "'Going to Cleveland' has attracted a small group of listeners who adhere to the very hard line that it's the absolute high water mark of the Mountain Goats. May God bless their souls." — Bitter Melon Farm liner notes

  8. Going to Cleveland is part of the Going to … series.

  9. Cleveland is a major city in Ohio, located in Cuyahoga County on Lake Erie.

  10. As mentioned above, Cleveland is located in Cuyahoga County. This most likely refers to the Cuyahoga River, which follows a circuitous route from its source in Hambden, Ohio, south to roughly Akron, where it then turns and heads north to empty into Lake Erie. "Cuyahoga" means "crooked river" in some of the languages of the Iroquois tribes who are native to the area.

  11. From an early interview, John reveals that this is the first time John sings his own name:

    P: I almost always assume that the person singing, is singing of their own life…

    J: I think you can make a compelling argument for that, singing about yourself, but usually I don't sing too directly. When I do it's kinda scary. There's a song on the new Sonic Enemy tape, Transmissions to Horace and on the first song I sing my own name. I remember the first time I did it live it was very scary.

    Clayton, Buck. The Mountain Goats Can't Buy a Thrill. Puberty Zine. Date unknown, circa early 1990s.

  12. Historiography is the study of history itself and the techniques it uses, or alternatively, the sum of all historical scholarship on a topic.

  13. Nall reports this lyric and the next line as "quiet cold cold air coming in", but I'm pretty sure I hear it as "hall", especially given the repeat of hall later in the verse. In the only live version I've heard, he sings it clearly as "A quiet hall".

  14. On Transmissions to Horace, this song is clearly spelled with a period terminating the title. However, on Songs for Peter Hughes, it's ambiguous in the song list and spelled without the period in the liner notes. On Bitter Melon Farm, where both songs are compiled, both are titled without the period. Given the lack of clarity, I've followed John's usage, using the period here, not using it on Songs for Peter Hughes, and using the convention established by the earlier release on Transmissions to Horace elsewhere (thus, using the period), but be aware that the song title often appears without it and the correct usage isn't obvious.

  15. John has alluded to there being a sequel, "Yes, I Will", but it's never been released or played live. Crossing Border, Amsterdam, October 9, 1999.

  16. The gifts enumerated are very different between the earlier Transmissions to Horace version transcribed here and the later Songs for Peter Hughes version. Further, the gifts described in live versions often vary wildly from the original, although all versions adhere to the general structure of the song. Other common variations include changing "bought" to "brought" in various places of the song.

    Given the many discrepancies between the two studio versions, the lyrics for the Songs for Peter Hughes version is transcribed in full below:

    "OK, go." "One, two, three, four."

    You bought me some chocolates
    And you bought me a rose
    And you brought me a paper bag
    And you brought me a lamp

    Thank you for the chocolates
    Thank you for the rose
    Thank you for the paper bag
    Thank you for the lamp

    Now I have everything I need
    Now I have everything I need
    Now I have everything I need
    Now I have everything I need

    You brought me a sofa
    And you brought me some books
    And you brought me a filing cabinet
    And you brought me a Panasonic DX-4500

    Thank you for the sofa
    Thank you for the books
    Thanks for the filing cabinet
    I don't know what I, I don't know what I ever did without it

    Now I have everything I need
    Now I have everything I need
    Now I have everything I need
    Now I have everything I need

    The remainder of the lyrics are fairly similar.

    While John describes here a Panasonic DX-4500 (or occasionally and I assume accidentally, when live, a Panasonic DX-4800), what he actually recorded on was a Panasonic RX-FT500 (which he does occasionally sing live). I attribute this modification to John's delightfully labile memory.

    As mentioned above, when sung live, the gifts can also be in different orders or include new items not in either of the album versions. Other gifts include a shirt; a new shirt; some shoes; brand-new shoes; nice brown shoes; some apples; a stove; a brand-new stove; a sweater; some socks; a starfish; a Panasonic DX-4500 with dual cassette heads; a Panasonic AM/FM DX-4500; a Panasonic DX-4800 with dual cassette decks; a Panasonic RX-FT500, the one with the dual cassette decks (also erroneously sung as RX-FT5000); a camera; a monkey jug; a pound of coffee; a reading light; some pastels; some whiskey; a glass; fine silverware; a WHPK coffee mug; plateware; a Marantz PMD200 Professional Series; a really nice, really old Panasonic; an original 1978 copy of Ça plane pour moi by Plastic Bertrand; a voter registration form which I'm extraordinarily grateful for; a wristwatch; a notebook; some plants; a subscription to Road & Track; a subscription to Donk, Box & Bubble, a blanket; a television; a record; brand-new microphone cable; a copy of Arab Strap's The Weekend Never Starts Around Here; the truly outstanding Arab Strap record; a sandwich; a table; a typewriter; and a Dictaphone.

    If you know of others, please let me know and I'd love to hear about it!

    All Hail West Texas liner notes; Mountain Goats forums, Pictures of a Panasonic DX-4500?, August 8, 2009 10:58 AM, retrieved July 17, 2014.

    Baystate, Northampton, August 23, 1994; Fast Forward II, April 2004; VPRO session, April 19, 1995; Garage, London, March 20, 1996; Duke Coffeehouse, Durham, April 4, 1997; Crossing Border, Amsterdam, October 9, 1999; Guinguette Pirate, Paris, July 2, 2003; Dennis Kucinich benefit, San Francisco, February 11, 2004; Chameleon, San Francisco, January 15, 1995; Lintfabrik, Kontich, Belgium, March 16, 1996; Spitz, London, February 6, 2003; Strand, York, Pennsylvania, June 4, 2013; Under Acme, New York, August 18, 1994; Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 14, 2014.

  17. Alpha Desperation March is part of the Alpha couple series.

  18. "Come out, come out, wherever you are" and especially "olly olly oxen free", are phrases associated with the children's game hide and seek, in which all but one player hides, the last player counting down while blinded until reaching some predetermined time before searching for them. If the seeker gives up before finding all of the hiders, they can shout, "Olly olly oxen free", meaning that the remaining players can come out of hiding without losing. Many variations of the game exist with different rules regarding the phrase and variations of the phrase itself, which is of uncertain origin.

  19. Going to Monaco is part of the Going to … series and the informal series of Biblical references.

  20. Monaco is a small city-state on the French Riviera, bordered on all sides by France and the Mediterranean.

  21. Unfortunately, I've been unable to figure out what this is from. It sounds like a clip from an old radio drama. If you know, please send me an email.

  22. This is one of the few Alpha couple songs that neither has Alpha in the title nor is related to the Tallahassee release:

    The seeds of Tallahassee are in this song, right. This was a story that — I liked the feeling when they're boiling someone alive. Heavy stuff. I don't know about that, anyone deserves that. Question of what anyone deserves is a pretty complex philosophical question. People in this song deserve better than each other. They're not going to get it. Best they can hope for is to be in the seventh song on a tape on the Sonic Enemy label called Transmissions to Horace.

    Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 14, 2014; Taking the Dative liner notes.

  23. Star Dusting is part of the Alpha couple series.

  24. Given that the Alpha couple stayed for a year in the Stardust Resort and Casino (discussed in the Taking the Dative liner notes, I think it's reasonably certain that this refers to the same hotel, a famous casino located on the Las Vegas strip until its closure in 2007.

  25. Las Vegas is a major city in southeast Nevada, known for its decadence and legalization of gambling.

  26. Highway 1 is a common highway name and could refer to a number of freeways throughout the United States and elsewhere. However, given John's California origins and the reference to Malibu, I believe that this refers to California State Route 1, a major north-south highway that runs up the coast of the state, becoming the main street in Malibu as it passes through that town.

  27. Malibu is a wealthy beach town just northwest of Los Angeles, famous for its beaches and the numerous celebrities that live there.

  28. Dextroamphetamine, also known by the brand name Dexedrine, is a psychoactive stimulant drug used medically to dread attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Chemically, it is structurally identical to amphetamine, but only contains the dextrorotatory stereoisomer of amphetamine, (2S)-1-phenylpropan-2-amine, whereas amphetamine refers to the racemic compound, (RS)-1-phenylpropan-2-amine.

  29. Going to Santiago is part of the Going to … series and the informal series of Biblical references.

  30. Santiago is a major city and the capital of Chile.

  31. This trumpet line is sampled from I Don't Know Why, played by Ray Anthony and His Orchestra. The original song, I Don't Know Why (I Just Do) was written in 1931 by Fred E. Ehlert with lyrics by Roy Turk, both of whom were eventually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Multiple versions of the song have charted into the Billboard Top 20, including those by the Andrews Sisters, Linda Scott, Wayne King and His Orchestra, and Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra from the 1930s through the 1960s.

    Thank you tremendously to Soren Spicknall of the tMG podcast Isopanisad Radio Hour (more info in the credits) and his friends for finding the origin of this sample!

  32. Tall statues of Jesus are found all around the world. Unfortunately, I haven't found any located in Santiago, so I'm not sure if this refers to a particular one.

  33. Sail On is a cover of the top-ten charting 1979 song by the Commodores. The song was written by Lionel Ritchie and released on the Motown label.

  34. The original song includes another verse instead of this one, which John has occasionally sung in live versions:

    I don't mind about the things you're gonna say
    I gave you my money and my time
    I know it's a shame
    But I'm giving you back your name

    Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, June 13, 2006.