Road Tunes: The Presidents of the United States of America

The Presidents of the United States of America

Hey, I’m from Seattle and southeast Alaska. It’s in my bones. Grew up there. Thought about being a serial killer and then opted to be a fly fisher. But I understand why grunge took root in Seattle—that gray-sky angst had to be released somehow or we would have been a city full of Ted Bundy’s and Green River killers.

I left Seattle back in the 1980s to write about fly fishing; that decision allowed me to tool around the West, couch-surfin’ at friends’ houses while logging lots of miles on a few pickup trucks, all the while listening to new tunes that I either came across on my own or found via suggestions from friends.

One day I visited the Bitterroot and dropped in on Torrey Cenis. He said, “Check it out. I think this is your kind of music,” and he promptly popped in a CD from the Presidents of The United States of America. Didn’t like the name of the band, but Torrey has never led me wrong.

Thirty-seconds later, after listening to the opening riff from Dune Buggy (Little blind spider took the wheel, navigating grass blades completely by feel, got a sassy chassis, sparkle in the sun, all four small, bald, fat tires rockin’ through the sand and burnin’ up. Little dune buggy in the sand, little blue dune buggy in my hand) I was sold. Music from Seattle that’s fun? A major diversion from the Staley, Cornell, and Cobain? I liked and still like the Seattle grunge bands as much as anyone, but the Presidents were refreshing, a band that said, Hey, there are still some good things in life so get out there, let’s have fun, appreciate what we have and laugh a little.

I still feel that way with the Presidents and I’ve introduced them to my daughter, Tate, 5, who sings along wholeheartedly, probably because I let her sing the word ass, which she carries a tune with for about six seconds. It’s included in a line in the song, Bath of Fire, from the Presidents 1985 album, The Presidents of the United States of America. That one is worth owning. If you want to buy song by song on iTunes, check out these songs. They won’t lead you wrong. Here are a few lyrics:

Puffy Little Shoes: Skinny chicken laying on my plate. Big skinny skinhead who’s up to here with hate. If I had a choice between the two you know I would obviously choose the one with the puffy little shoes.

and this:

Big hammer, mudball breaking my bones, soft shoulder salamander up close and alone, and if I had a choice between those two I would obviously choose the one with the puffy little shoes. Big monkey clawing at my face, people packing to the rock and roll place and if I had a choice between the two I’d obviously choose the one with the puffy little shoes.

Bath of Fire: Razor fanged rattlesnake, only trying to protect myself, I had to haul off and blow its little head away, sucked out some venom, took a little skin and, he found his way onto my plate. There go my boots complaining, telling me it’s time to go stomping, I better listen or they’ll kick my ass.

Mixed Up SOB: You’d think she had me in a cage. Like a bird on fire she flew into a rage. Here eyes are permanently crossed. Once you won her you could swear, she made you feel like you already lost, because she’s a mixed up son-of-a-bitch.

F California: You get naked in the sun, you get married in the sand

Body: I can’t get your body out of my mind, she goes through my body

Stranger: Carla the stripper, straight from L.A. You seem cool for a naked chick in a booth

Lump: She’s lump, she’s lump, she’s in my head. She’s lump, she’s lump, she’s lump, she might be dead

Peaches: Moving to the country going to eat a lot of peaches

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