Jim Shelley & Book Of Kills

You Burn and You Know It (#2 in the "Song in Depth" Series)

Back in mid-January I started what turned out to be (apparently) a pretty popular feature where I looked at a Book of Kills song in depth. The first song I did was "Greatest of All Time" from 2005's I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE. I guess it was popular because lots of people ended up reading that post...more certainly than normal. So, finally, I thought I'd write about another BOK composition...this time "You Burn and You Know It".

"You Burn and You Know It" was the fourth track on the 2007 Book of Kills album, DIFFERENT. Some eleven years later, I still consider DIFFERENT one of the better collections of songs I ever created.

I recorded "You Burn" on July 14, 2007 which was some time around the day, if not the day, that Brooks (my first grandson) was born. That was, of course, quite a momentous time for our entire family and writing about Brooks's birth seemed a natural thing to do, given that most, if not all, of the songs on DIFFERENT dealt in one way or another with passages. My mother was in her last days then and I'd already written several songs about her, or at least partially about her, which showed up on WASP 51!, I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE, and finally DIFFERENT. As I was saying a long, slow goodbye to her, it was at least a little comfort to be able to welcome a new family member into the world.


Big Star, gonna go far
You burn and you know it
Free lick, double click
You burn and you show it

Home free come and see
Meanwhile new world flashes
Bare skin, settle in
It's time make big splashes

One comes along, another one goes
The river ebbs, the river flows
One comes along, another one goes
The river ebbs, the river flows

Knock wood, life is good
Don't let them in on our joke
Red face, start the race
I'll catch you on the down-stroke

One comes along, another one goes
The river ebbs, the river flows...

I vividly recall looking down at that little boy's flushed red face and thinking, "Welcome to this strange, strange world, Little Man" and Brooks turning to look at me and actually winking ("Don't let them in on our joke"). Of course, it's always a loser's game to try to read too much into any song's lyrics, but I think for the most part they speak for themselves as far as that day's experiences go.

The song's structure is very simple. I think the whole thing goes something like G C Em Am D. I always really liked how the acoustic guitars sound on that track. I put a Shure SM-57 at the sound hole and a Shure SM-58 Beta near the top of the fret board and then mixed them both together. (There are two acoustic guitars on the recording.) 

The backwards voices are simply copies of the lead vocal reversed and layered over the rest of the recording. I also recorded some electric guitar runs and then reversed and layered them over the recording as well. I've always been a big fan of reversed sound effects ever since The Beatles first started working with them in 1966 on some of their material. Layering reverse sound effects is not simply a matter of plopping them down anywhere on the recording. You have to place them carefully and balance their volume so that they mesh well with (and don't overwhelm) the main sonic elements of the song. Every new life opens a wealth of mystery and I thought they (the reversed sounds) provided a feeling of that mystery to the simplicity of the song.

I recorded the drums as an afterthought for the choruses after I'd done everything else. They help give a nice sonic counterpoint to the more whimsical lyrics of the verses.

By the way, Brooks hasn't the slightest idea I wrote a song about him. I imagine he'd think it was "dumb" and "weird" anyway.

Hope you enjoyed this little in-depth look at "You Burn and You Know It"!