Following is the fourth blog in Kent’s twelve-part series to share with you what influenced him to write each song on our debut CD Something on the Way. A subset of the lyrics to “California Shakedown” is in italics below. The full lyrics are available under the Music tab, Lyrics category, by song title.
I don’t know how the idea of this song got into my head but the lyrics were definitely inspired by the music. The straight ahead rock chords embellished with some Edge and Police style delays created a kind of frenetic energy that somehow must have brought out the feeling of controlled chaos. The silly, caustic lyrics made me laugh. But then I thought, “Earthquakes are a serious thing and can be deadly. Is this supposed to be a silly song?” I realized that my idea had come from friends I know who live in California and earthquakes there are talked about as casually as afternoon thunderstorms in Colorado. “Oh, the desk is shaking, I guess I will drink my coffee and wait for it to stop so that I can read my computer screen again…”
Yeah, Richter he ain’t happy now, there’s something on the way
Some of the lines also reminded me of my Grandfather’s literal sense of humor–
San Andreas’ slipping, hey that’s not my fault
The verses create a story of a guy walking down a sunny LA boulevard enjoying the day until the song shifts up a step to the B minor chord. The tension of the chord progression is echoed in the lyrics with the reactions of animals who are more sensitive and aware of coming disaster than humans—
Something’s wrong, all the birds are flyin’
Dogs are howling but there’s no moon
Our sound engineer J.P. added the earthquake explosion which sets off what I like to call the chain reaction bridge section with the driving guitar, ping-pong delays and Carl’s frantic ascending bass run resolving into an early Alex Lifeson style solo with the stereo delay making the notes larger than life.
The title of the song is also a purposeful double-entendre as shakedown is normally associated with shady business practices but when you realize it is referring to earthquakes it makes you smirk and the tongue-in-cheek theme is followed to the end with the staccato quarter-note lyrical pattern.
Shake, shake, shake, shake