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Headless Chickens – Day of The Locust

Submitted by Bevan Weir on 7 March, 2021 - 00:53
Headless chickens greedy album cover

My favourite song of the New Zealand band 'Headless Chickens' is called "Day of the Locust" from their third album "Greedy" released 1997. I bought this album on release in my teens. I could not find any lyrics online, so I transcribed them here myself. My copy of the album was unfortunately destroyed. As an interesting note both the bass guitarist and the drummer of this band (during this album) are also named Bevan!. Lyrics and music copyright Headless Chickens 1997, transcription CC BY 4.0 Bevan Weir 2021:

Headless Chickens - Day of The Locust

Pale violet light on the edges of the trees
Tod climbed the canyon in the soft dark breeze
Like a set of Chinese boxes getting smaller all the time
The burning of the city getting painted in his mind.

Tod climbed the 30 stairs to the third floor
There was something like a pile of dirty laundry by the door
He stopped to light a match and it burst into a flame
Picking out a dwarf in a woman's bathrobe named Abe
Named Abe

Tod had a still of Faye Greener on the wall
She's the kind of woman that would really make you fall
If you threw yourself on her you would do it with a scream
More like murder than the lover on the screen
Your teeth will be driven like nails into your skull
Your back would be broken in the hard sharp struggle
And you wouldn't have time to even sweat or close your eyes
He laughed at the thought, but it didn't get destroyed

Your teeth will be driven like nails into your skull
Your back would be broken in the hard sharp struggle
And you wouldn't have time to even sweat or close your eyes
He laughed at the thought, but it didn't get destroyed

Homer raised himself in sections from his sleep
His hands lay like strange aquatic creatures in the sea
He thought about the girl in the hotel in the room
He cried like a big dog lapping at its food.

Pale violet light on the edges of the trees
Tod climbed the canyon in the soft dark breeze
Like a set of Chinese boxes getting smaller all the time
The burning of the city getting painted in his mind.

Don't you know that the day of the locusts here
Don't you know that the day of the locusts here
Don't you know that the day of the locusts here
Don't you know that the day of the locusts here

Don't you know that the day of the locusts here / Pale violet light on the edges of the trees. Tod climbed the canyon in the soft dark breeze
Don't you know that the day of the locusts here / Like a set of Chinese boxes getting smaller all the time. The burning of the city getting painted in his mind.
Don't you know that the day of the locusts here / Tod climbed the 30 stairs to the third floor. There was something like a pile of dirty laundry by the door
Don't you know that the day of the locusts here / He stopped to light a match and it burst into a flame. Picking out a dwarf in a woman's bathrobe

Tod had a still of Faye Greener on the wall
She's the kind of woman that would really make you fall
If you threw yourself on her you would do it with a scream
More like murder than the lover on the screen
Your teeth will be driven like nails into your skull
Your back would be broken in the hard sharp struggle
And you wouldn't have time to even sweat or close your eyes
He laughed at the thought, but it didn't get destroyed

Homer raised himself in sections from his sleep
His hands lay like strange aquatic creatures in the sea
He thought about the girl in the hotel in the room
He cried like a big dog lapping at its food.

Pale violet light on the edges of the trees
Tod climbed the canyon in the soft dark breeze
Like a set of Chinese boxes getting smaller all the time
The burning of the city getting painted in his mind.

You can listen to the song on spotify or youtube music or there is a youtube video at the end of this page (audio only).

The song is heavily based of the book 'Day of The Locust' written by Nathanael West in 1939. It is out of copyright so you can read it in full at project gutenberg here , it is not a long book.

Below I have mapped the lyrics to matching sentences in the book with some explanatory notes.

Lyric

Book

Notes

Pale violet light on the edges of the trees

The edges of the trees burned with a pale violet light and their centers gradually turned from deep purple to black. The same violet piping, like a Neon tube, outlined the tops of the ugly, hump-backed hills and they were almost beautiful.

 

Tod climbed the canyon in the soft dark breeze

He reached the end of Vine Street and began the climb into Pinyon Canyon. Night had started to fall.

Tod Hackett, the main character, lives in an apartment block the 'San Bernardino Arms' in Pinyon Canyon

Like a set of Chinese boxes getting smaller all the time

Yes, despite his appearance, he was really a very complicated young man with a whole set of personalities, one inside the other like a nest of Chinese boxes.

 

The burning of the city getting painted in his mind

And "The Burning of Los Angeles," a picture he was soon to paint, definitely proved he had talent.

The painting is an apocalyptic vision of LA burning

Tod climbed the 30 stairs to the third floor

His room was on the third floor, but he paused for a moment on the landing of the second.

The '30 stairs' bit is not mentioned in the novel

There was something like a pile of dirty laundry by the door
He stopped to light a match and it burst into a flame.

He was on the way to his room late one night when he saw what he supposed was a pile of soiled laundry lying in front of the door across the hall from his own. Just as he was passing it, the bundle moved and made a peculiar noise. He struck a match, thinking it might be a dog wrapped in a blanket. When the light flared up, he saw it was a tiny man.

Although tied together in the song, this actually happened when he was living at another location earlier in a hotel the "Chateau Mirabella".

Picking out a dwarf in a woman's bathrobe named Abe

It was a male dwarf rolled up in a woman's flannel bathrobe. The round thing at the end was his slightly hydrocephalic head. A slow, choked snore bubbled from it.

The dwarf is a character is the story called 'Abe Kusich'

Tod had a still of Faye Greener on the wall

It was a picture of Faye Greener, a still from a two-reel farce in which she had worked as an extra.

Faye is a main character in the story and the object of Tod's desire.

She's the kind of woman that would really make you fall
If you threw yourself on her you would do it with a scream
More like murder than the lover on the screen
Your teeth will be driven like nails into your skull
Your back would be broken in the hard sharp struggle
And you wouldn't have time to even sweat or close your eyes. He laughed at the thought, but it didn't get destroyed
 

Her invitation wasn't to pleasure, but to struggle, hard and sharp, closer to murder than to love. If you threw yourself on her, it would be like throwing yourself from the parapet of a skyscraper. You would do it with a scream. You couldn't expect to rise again. Your teeth would be driven into your skull like nails into a pine board and your back would be broken. You wouldn't even have time to sweat or close your eyes. He managed to laugh at his language, but it wasn't a real laugh and nothing was destroyed by it.

These are Tod's thoughts staring at the 'inviting' picture of Faye in a harem costume.

Homer raised himself in sections from his sleep

His hands lay like strange aquatic creatures in the sea

He got out of bed in sections, like a poorly made automaton, and carried his hands into the bathroom. He turned on the cold water. When the basin was full, he plunged his hands in up to the wrists. They lay quietly on the bottom like a pair of strange aquatic animals. When they were thoroughly chilled and began to crawl about, he lifted them out and hid them in a towel.

Homer Simpson is another main character, his hands take a while to awake. When he had been a child, he used to stick pins into them. Now he used only cold water

He thought about the girl in the hotel in the room

[This story covers most of chapter 8]

The girl was Romola Martin who made sexual advances on Homer to try to pay off her overdue Hotel bill. Homer was too timid to accept her advances, although he wanted to

He cried like a big dog lapping at its food.

He cried softly at first, then harder. The sound he made was like that of a dog lapping gruel. He concentrated on how miserable and lonely he was, but it didn't work.

Homer regrets his (non)actions with Romola

Don't you know that the day of the locusts here

['locusts' are never mentioned in the novel other than the title]

The locusts are the commoners of LA, those who failed in the 'American dream' to make it rich and famous in Hollywood. The destruction imagery of locusts culminates as a riot at the end of the book that parallels Tod's painting of a burning LA.

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