This blog is part 3 in an ongoing series and is the official transcript for the Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour podcast on Spotify. Listen to the episode now or go ahead and read on for the transcript below.
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It’s episode 3 of the Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour and you’re back with me, Death Bus.
On today’s show I’ll be sharing my cover of “Ghosts of Beverly Drive” but before I play that for you I just want to talk a little about the original lyrics and where it takes my own head.
I’ll preface this all by saying, I’m not someone who reads too deeply into what many songs are about. While I’m sometimes curious and can get lost in thought about what the writer of any song might’ve been thinking about or alluding to in their lyrics, I tend to prefer to just stay curious about it and think more about what it means to me rather than what it did to them.
Kind of like how, before Google and the internet became such an integral part of our communities, sometimes you just didn’t know the answer to things because they weren’t a simple search away and you were just weirdly okay with that. The alternative for a while was trudging over to a public library and spending loads of time flipping through these giant books called Encyclopedia’s and let me tell you, it was a nightmare.
I actually used to have this friend who would barely ever sit with a thought, idea or question before immediately whipping out his phone to find out what was listed as the accepted truth on the internet.
There is value in just sitting with a thought and leaving yourself to wonder.
Whenever I listen to Ghosts of Beverly Drive, I think about a few things and most of them are pretty literal to the lyrics. If you haven’t heard the original track yet I’ll link it in the blog along with the official lyrics, but I’m sort of running this podcast on the assumption of if you’re here, you’ve heard the songs I’m talking about, so let’s jump to it.
Have you ever been in a bad car accident?
For me that’s the grand collision and it absolutely came with consequences. Self-imposed and otherwise.
It’s an insane experience to be in a car wreck – I don’t recommend it.
One night after driving my former lead guitarist and bassist home after practice in a big snow storm, I hit some black ice on a steep downhill that led to a busy road.
When you learn to drive here in Canada, and to the best of my knowledge most other places, you don’t have to do any sort of winter-driving road tests. For some reason they just assume you’ll figure out how to handle the type of weather conditions we see here or, you’ll never hit black ice like me.
I wasn’t driving fast – I was still in a residential area, but my dad’s truck started to spin out when I hit it. And like I said, steep downhill.
For about a second I thought I’d be able to regain control of the wheel but, apparently turning the wheel the way I did was the wrong call because it started to spin out worse in the other direction.
I was 18 years old at the time and had no idea really what to do. Time got real slow as it dawned on me that I was now going a lot faster, a little sideways, and that busy road at the bottom of the hill was coming into clearer view.
I think I must have seen a car drive by on that road when I realized if I didn’t figure something out, I was either going to crash into the wall at the bottom of the hill real hard, or I was gonna crash into another car.
Neither outcome was too appealing to me.
So I spun the wheel again, this time with intention towards the side of the road I was on – and I smacked right into a tree.
My glasses flew off my face onto the dash and as my forehead clunked against the roof of the door, the drivers side window absolutely shattered. I flung forward a little into the wheel but my seatbelt caught me before I connected with the windshield.
Once I realized the car wasn’t moving – I put it in park and shut it off.
Then I pushed the door open, walked a couple feet away from the truck and checked out the damage.
It was the worst park job I’d ever done.
Also, my dad was going to be pissed. The truck didn’t look great.
But I was reasonably unscathed. I even found my glasses and was able to pop the lenses back in and wear them still.
The tree looked okay, too. Solid oak.
Just kidding. I think it was a maple.
Anyways, this isn’t specifically the accident that I think about when I hear this song, but I like to share the story because I think it’s important that everyone learns how to properly handle their vehicles in snow and icy conditions. This could have been a lot worse for me and I wouldn’t want it to happen to anybody else.
That feeling of your receptors being overloaded is one I understand well – I feel like that often. Too often, honestly. Like you can’t quite even figure out what to focus on because everything commands your attention all at the same time until it just completely burns you out.
I get like that after anything that makes me question my own worth or abilities. When you’ve lived through a lot of experiences that have seemingly been working only to wear you down, you really do hope that there’s enough fight or will left inside yourself to keep going – and that, hopefully, someone else will see that in you, too.
I get the sense from a lot of Death Cab songs that Ben’s had a few relationships where he’s felt a little unlucky in love, but as our friend Butters from South Park says: “The only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt somethin’ really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I’m feelin’ is like a, beautiful sadness.”
I think we can all relate and that’s how I’d describe a lot of Death Cab songs, too – a beautiful sadness.
As I’m writing this right now, it happens to be Ben Gibbard’s birthday, but it’s also sort of the anniversary of this project so I want to take a second to talk about that.
Around this time last year, I’d just recently moved back home after a wild 4-months in Barrie, Ontario. Most of my stuff was and is still in boxes from that move because I really thought I’d have moved back out again by now, and I had a lot on my plate.
I’d say it was overwhelming to handle as much as I was then, but it was near-crippling.
When I was in Barrie, I found myself thinking a lot about people I missed because I was alone in a new town.
One of those is my friend Dominik who I’ve written about on my blog before and I’ll link to in this episode’s transcript.
Dom was hit by a car in Barrie a few years ago and left on the side of the road – the driver took off and wasn’t found for 9 months; Dom didn’t survive.
He was 27 and I bet he didn’t expect to become a member of the club in that way, but it’s a little fitting because he was a total rockstar.
Every day I’d walk my dog around Barrie and think about him. He grew up in that city, but I never hung out with him there. We met in Toronto and used to collaborate on music together, often sending things back and fourth over the internet or meeting at a random subway stop to share files off our hard drives.
He was one of the first people who ever approached me about releasing his music on my then-indie record label, which is to say he was one of the few people back in my early 20’s that really believed in me and what I was trying to do then.
I made a point one day to walk the rural roads that Dom was hit on. There’s not many sidewalks up there – I spent hours on them and there’s really not a whole lot to look at. Just fields and stretches of road. It gives you a lot of time to think about the kind of person that can just run someone over and leave them there. Or wonder if they stopped to see what happened and still decided to drive away. Or wonder if they even realized they hit someone at all.
It doesn’t solve anything, of course – these types of questions, but they’re the kind of thing I find myself thinking about often.
I spend a lot of time with ghosts, and a lot of time returning to places where things have happened so I can sit with the memory. Most of the time I’m not even wholly sure why I do it. Again, it doesn’t really solve anything and at least half the time you feel a little worse putting yourself back in that emotional space. But it’s sort of a weird compulsive behaviour – searching for things that might not even be there.
I like to think I learn something from it each time. Or maybe I just find comfort in the company of those ghosts.
In any case, this is why I wanted to record a cover of Ghosts of Beverly Drive. I’ll play it for you now.
I didn’t have much of a plan for this one when I first started putting it together, but I felt like I hadn’t been making enough effort to give my bass lines much movement, so that drove a lot of the initial decision making.
There’s also this weird drum thing that might seem a little out of place and I’ll explain – the week I was working on this, Ben happened to mention some punk band he was listening to, so I thought it would be fun to try to make the drums get a little more punk-rock. You hear that in the verse before the last chorus. I almost took it out of the final version but after a few listens, it just felt silly not to include it.
Back to August 11th 2021; I was working on a cover of Tiny Vessels. I ended up running through it 3 times or so with my acoustic and posting all the different versions on my YouTube channel. They’re still there.
Because I don’t often know what I can do or offer people on their birthday, somewhere along the way I just started performing songs for people instead, or songs by the people who are celebrating a birthday to show appreciation for their work.
I like to imagine that even if someone does an absolutely trash cover of your song, it’s still pretty cool that they take the time to try it out anyway, for whatever reason they’re drawn to it. At least, that’s how I think I’d view it if someone ever tried to cover one of mine.
That cover of Tiny Vessels was a big catalyst to what is now the Death Bus For Blondie recreation project – but it wasn’t the first one I ever tried. And now I’m having trouble deciding which ones not to do so, we might be here a little while.
Despite the fact that many of these songs bring up some not-so-uplifting experiences for me lately, I actually really enjoy putting them together. Sometimes I get a little carried away, like with my upcoming cover of Bixby Canyon Bridge that’ll premier later on this season of the Variety Hour, but I hope you get even a fraction of the enjoyment from hearing them as I do from creating them.
I’m going to leave you today with Death Cab For Cutie’s original recording of Ghosts of Beverly Drive and… happy birthday Ben!