Jim Shelley & Book Of Kills

Greatest of All Time

It struck me recently that it might be interesting for some of you guys who frequent bookofkills.com if I occasionally highlighted a BOK/Fear + Whiskey song that I liked but which didn't get much, if any "attention". That said, I noticed yesterday that for the first time ever, a song off the 2005 album I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE, "Greatest of All Time", received a little play from someone or someone(s). This was one of my favorite tracks from that record and at one time I threw the song out as one we could add to our repertoire but I vaguely remember everyone thinking it was too hard to learn (?) or something...or maybe just not good enough to make the cut. But I always thought it would have been a pretty exciting song live if done right. 

I recall recording most of that album on an iMac out in my garage. My wondrous border collie Sadie would often sit on the brick stoop at the door while I played or sang. I was still suffering from the break-up of two different BOK line-ups...the 2000-2003 group featuring Casey and Jane Firkin, Bill Bird and Randy Simpson, as well as the 2004-2005 line-up featuring Brian Temples, Dusty Bugg, and Mike Chiarello. 

I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE was quite an undertaking for me. I wrote, played and sang everything and the arrangements of most of the songs are quite complex (at least for someone of my limited ability.) For "Greatest of All Time" I tried to create some bits of musical counterpoint, which was something I don't often do. For example, listen to the musical interlude at around 1:10 and 1:38. While the chords played by the guitars "descend", the bass line ascends.

Also note that these two sections are a bit unusual in that they both introduce and close the first chorus with the close simultaneously introducing the second chorus. The whole structure of the song is a bit unusual. While traditional rock songs of the '70s, '80s, '90s and early 2000s often followed an intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/solo/verse/chorus/outro  structure, "Greatest of All Time" uses an intro/verse/intro/verse/instrumental bridge/chorus/instrumental bridge/chorus/outro structure. (Also note the counterpoint guitar on the outro riff.)

One final point about the bass: Notice how it serves as a root chord anchor on the verses, but wanders all around the basic chords on the choruses. This is the influence of the great Paul McCartney, Phil Lesh and John Entwhistle on my own playing. While obviously I could never hope to approach their level of brilliance, I did early on come to appreciate their innovative approach to their instrument. As they became more proficient musicians in the mid to late '60s, they moved from not only keeping time and providing a simple harmonic base, to also constantly moving around the root note and pushing the song forward, adding greatly to its energy and groove.

If you're wondering what the lyrics "mean", initially the song was a response to my teenage son Christian moving out of the house for the first time to share an apartment with a couple of friends. However, as the words evolved, they came to encompass thoughts I was having about not just losing Christian's constant presence in my life but to the recent loss of the friendship of other people who'd been an integral part of my life since the late '90s.

Greatest of All Time

Find the greatest of all time
You never will but never mind
You know if I could have my way
You'd be here inside me today.

Now that you are on your own
Have you found a space where you belong?
Scrubbing pavement, breaking stone
Now that no one will sing your song.

Now that you are gone
Is it time that we move on?
Or do we hide ourselves inside
The dreams you left behind?
Now that you are gone
Do we try to carry on?
Do you know how hard I've tried
To drink you off my mind?