By Jake Vigliotti
November 3, 2003
Matt and I were talking the other day, DMB stuff as per usual, when we started talking about rare songs. Matt wondered if we'd ever actually hear MacHead, in it's original form. Yea, probably not, but we were thinking, we've all probably heard it in some form or another. Using my years of watching Scooby Doo, I feel like I'm qualified enough to use the clues provided to take a shot at figuring out, -cue dramatic music- whatever happened to MacHead.
Let's start with what we know. We know the song exists from a song list during the Before These Crowded Streets sessions, where the working title of "MacHead" appeared on a scrap piece of paper with some other working titles of songs. The name MacHead originated from Steve Lillywhite, the BTCS producer who said it sounded like a cross between a Paul McCartney and Radiohead song. It was Lillywhite, a former frequenter of DMB web sites, who described the song as, "hauntingly beautiful", and as, "an extention of Spoon".
As soon as Bartender appeared in Dave and Tim setlists in 1999, fans presumed that it was Bartender. After all, on the surface, you could describe it as both 'beautiful' and it certainly has Spoon-like qualities.
But those in the know -read the insiders who actually heard MacHead - insist that Bartender is in no way MacHead. Those same people go on to say that MacHead will never be heard in its original form, because parts of it have been used in other songs.
OK, we know it's haunting, and the lyrics are connected to Spoon. We also know that between BTCS and the "Lillywhite" sessions, the song was broken into other parts. We can eliminated everything from Everyday. You Never Know doesn't fit for two reasons: 1. it's more of a personal song, and 2. it was actually two songs combined into one. We've got roughly a 15 song window to determine what is MacHead.
Lets start with the 'haunting' part. Quick, describe any song written for the Lillywhite album that is 'haunting'. Captain certainly has haunting parts. But Captain actually appeared first in 1996 and its basic melody did not change when it was played in 1997 either. But it's possible... The end of Monkey Man is haunting, parts of Diggging A Ditch could haunt one, Raven is haunting, but the song that - as a famous word-a-tition once coined - we're all in aggrance about being haunting is Big Eyed Fish. BEF just sounds haunting. It fits the time frame. But, that does not make it a mortal lock to be part of MacHead. Maybe parts of Raven and BEF or even Monkey Man were joined somehow to make MacHead. Raven, Big Eyed Fish, and Monkey Man all have legit reasons for being related to MacHead. All three went through lyric changes in the studio, and Raven continued to evolve on the road. But even without lyrics, the band liked Raven enough to play it and Dave 'winged' the lyrics. Big Eyed Fish was soundchecked early in 2000 and common thought was the band was saving it because it was such a strong song. I guess that goes along with its haunting melody or something. Monkey Man, sadly, fell by the DMB roadside. One can presume that it can't be the song that contains parts of MacHead because if the band liked the music that much from MacHead, why would they kill it off twice?
So, that didn't solve much, but we've narrowed down the music part a bit. The lyrics seem to be a bit tougher. What lyrics do we have that are close to Spoon from that time frame? Spoon is obviously about the final moments of Christ on the Cross. Naturally, Bartender seems the fit, but we - I guess - have to trust those who say it's not related to MacHead. It seems that Save Me fits the bill, but at best it was written during the Busted Stuff sessions. That's where I think we've all mistaken in the search. Save Me is not an extention of Spoon, neither is Bartender. They both deal with God or Christ. There is, however, a song that is an extention of Spoon.
Spoon ends with Christ pondering if he should return to earth to 'save' the souls of Man, or deck the world, and 'come now and play'. According to this book called "The Bible", the former won out. An 'extention' of Spoon would then be something to do with a rebirth. JTR sounds like that song. The album cut and the more traditional live version deal with allusions to rebirth. "Drinking" from a cup, a religious tie-in and also a ceremony to wash away ones sins, i.e., starting over. "Rain" down, causing a rebirth. "Fill me up.." you get the picture. Even the Lillywhite album cut chorus contains lyrics dealing with saving someone. Obviously, the lyrics changed a bit, JTR has changed a bit, but when you think about the history of JTR, it seems plausible. Dave and Carter took two songs with them to Carlos Santana in January 1999 for possible use on Supernatural. Love Of My Life made the cut but the song that Carlos inserted "John The Revelator" into the chorus did not. JTR, lyrically, in some form, existed as early as December, 1998, and the music for JTR was Teased in late November. Clearly, JTR was around in some form before that. Dave even liked the song enough to either pull it off Santana's album to save it for DMB stuff, or re-use it after Carlos cut it. Either way, Dave liked it enough to bring it back.
No, it's not a mortal lock, but more of a hypothesis: JTR is in some form related to MacHead. Musically, I would think that Big Eyed Fish is more haunting then any of the others, but Raven, parts of Captain, or Monkey Man fit that bill also. It could be any one of those. Lyrically, only JTR fits the timeframe, and is an 'extention of Spoon'. If I had to make a selection, I'd go with some sort of combination of JTR's lyrics with Big Eyed Fish's music. It seems weird, but it just might fit.
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