Normal History Vol. 476: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

If asked way back then, I may have said this song is about the prison industrial complex or simply being in prison, but, as former Kill Rock Stars owner Slim Moon pointed out last week when I asked my Facebook friends about song lyrics, “The best songs always have two legitimate interpretations.”

My question to Facebook: “In ‘Sugar Sugar’ (I was referring to the Archies’ version) does he mean: You are my ‘candy girl’ or ‘candy, girl’?”

And so I will insert my song into that cannon … I mean canon (of songs with two legit interpretations), and say that while being incarcerated in a physical prison has been the subject of several of my songs, I am, today, struck by the way the lyrics here, sparse as they are, resonate with the ongoing, but now heightened situation I’m currently in.

I have a feeling I was really enjoying listening to Dave’s guitar, and sometimes singing over the intensity of what he’s creating doesn’t seem like the thing to do. And likewise, it has been Dave’s friendship and kind words this past week that I’ve gratefully listened to while feeling roughed up by my parents’ ramped-up urge to control me after moving them into an assisted-living facility a month ago. Which relates back to why I started an anti-authoritarian punk duo while grappling with the fall-out of having endured living with them for 17 years.

There is something to be said for expressing injustice on every scale. Here, in this song, the words come rushing toward me from the 1990s, reminding me that being tethered to psychological drama with personalities that are very self-involved (to be polite) can, at times, make it feel like there is no way out. For myself, I found Jesus … just kidding.

Walking the walls of this small room
wondering how you’re gonna get out

Walking the walls of this small room
wondering if you’re gonna get out

You’re walking the walls of this small room
wondering if you’re ever gonna get out

“Walking The Walls” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):