I've always loved HDS. The first time I would have seen him would have been in Kelly's Heroes (1970). We were on a family holiday in Southern Ireland. I still adore that film. A heist/war drama/comedy. Donald Sutherland as a hippy tank platoon commander called "Oddball." Clint Eastwood with his mighty hair styled in a late-fifties quiff - as it was in his previous WWII rumble Where Eagles Dare. I digress. Harry's list of films is lengthy, go check it out. His up-front-and-centre moment was of course the sublime Paris, Texas (1984).
I didn't know too much about him and didn't really want to because I knew I had to write a song using his name as the title, so I wrote these lyrics for and around him - I imagined what it must be like to be him - while dropping some of my own experiences into the narrative. I was lurking around Dylan's Blind Willie McTell and Lenny Bruce - I wanted that atmosphere. I've never claimed to be original.
My first draft had a funky Jack Nitzsche soundtrack vibe/rhythm with a couple of electric guitars and a vocal. Ciaron Bell (producer) didn't hear it that way and he stripped it down to piano and then added some keyboard strings. Ciaron uses the same type of chord clusters as Lenny Waronker did on so many of those great Randy Newman records in the seventies. Kate O'Brien then played a number of melodic violin parts along with track. The track uses my scratch vocal, recorded at my newly installed home set-up Nabby Road (more on this later).
2) Harry Dean Stanton.
Worm inside the bottle, menthol in your throat,
one foot on the throttle, one arm in your coat, there's a rumblin' in the distance, and everything is broke, Harry Dean Stanton lived so long but he sure did like a smoke, Your daddy went to heaven, when you were small, they kicked you in the schoolyard, pinned you to the wall, these wooden floors keep creakin', the kitchen's full of ants, Harry Dean Stanton walked for miles and miles but he sure did love to dance, cocaine on the mirror, whiskers on your face, blood on your fingers, you never turned an ace, you don't know where your kids are, the wig took them away, Harry Dean Stanton didn't talk too much but he sure had a lot to say, them red letters are pilin', the world is on your case, them numbers that you're dialin', don't erase a face, that itch that you're scratchin', that fire that you poke, Harry Dean Stanton didn't laugh out loud but he sure did love a joke, they put you on an airplane, dropped you in the sand, took you from the high grain, to a barren land, a picture of your girlfriend, there next to your bed, Harry Dean Stanton ain't around no more but he ain't exactly dead, outside the wind is howlin', rain is comin' down, the radio is playin', Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town, you ain't afraid of dyin', you already made a start, Harry Dean Stanton didn't care to act but he sure could play a part. Written by R.I.McNabb © Peermusic (UK) Ltd. 2020
Ian McNabb: Lead vocal. Ciaron Bell: Grand piano, Yamaha GX-1. Kate O'Brien: Strings.