Broadsides Track by Track
The 14 songs on Broadsides are topical. They are reactions to the news of the day. Many were written for NPR’s Morning Edition. Think of them as op-ed pieces with key signatures. Music and lyrics are by John Forster and Tom Chapin (except Tracks #2 and #8, which are by John Forster).
Track #1. Broadside 2:50 Township guitar figures drive this tribute to the old masters of the Broadside Ballad—Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, etc. In the lyric Tom and John explore what happens when “everybody sings along.” ~ mid-tempo, guitars, mbira, hand percussion, live crowd singing along.
Track #2. Total Security Solutions, Inc. 2:51 This hard-edged critique of the current practice of out-sourcing wars to private corporations is couched as an advertisement for the (fictitious) security contractor of the title. “Just tell us who to kill / and where to send the bill / from Total Security Solutions, Inc.” ~ up-tempo celtic-military hybrid, acoustic & electric guitars, field drum, brass, piano, a rowdy guy-chorus.
Track #3. Econo-me-oh-my 2:46 A guitar rag in the style of Reverend Gary Davis, this populist recap of the “business cycle” was introduced on NPR’s Morning Edition at the start of the last recession—and updated for the one we’re in now ~ up-tempo guitar rag with harmonica, sung by Tom.
Track #4. When Bad Things Happen to Good Mice 2:24 A musical response to a news report about a genetics lab at Princeton that created Doogie, a mouse who was five times smarter than average, this song was also written for NPR ~ piano-and-bass driven cool jazz feel, sung by John.
Track #5. Zombie Bank 1:21 The fall of 2008 was scaaarrrry! Rumors were everywhere about huge banks without any actual assets. While awaiting the results of the government’s “stress tests,” John and Tom wrote this ditty, which also became a viral YouTube video ~ mid-tempo monster novelty song, short and spooky, with 1960’s-type production.
Track #6. The Cars 3:03 This guitar and organ reggae builds to a relentless climax as it imagines our car-based culture from the point of view of the vehicles themselves ~ mid-tempo folk reggae, acoustic and electric guitars, organ, background vocals, with automotive guest vocals.
Track #7. Not On The Test 2:05 Here’s a comforting lullaby for a traumatized third grader on the eve of a Big Standardized Test. In another NPR original, Tom and John explore the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind ~ mid-tempo easy swing, with acoustic guitar, Hammond organ and twangy guitar, sung by Tom.
Track #8. One Billion Little Emperors 2:20 John probes for the roots of China’s present day assertiveness and finds them in Mao’s One-Child-One-Family policy of the 1970’s. Broad high-energy satire ~ up-tempo, piano, shamisen, gongs, shakuhachi and bamboo marimba, sung by John.
Track #9. The Chief Executive Chain Gang 2:30 A prison work song that could be right out of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” (except for the Enron/Martha Stewart references). In a delta blues style, played by slide guitar ace Scott Ainslie – mid-tempo, slide guitar with sledge hammers, sung by Tom and a chorus of well-heeled cons.
Track #10. Digital Delinquents 2:16 This fast punk rock complaint considers how adolescence has changed in the Information Age. Instead of stealing stop signs, juvenile delinquents now spend their energy crashing websites ~ up-tempo hard rock, with multiple shredders, sung by John.
Track #11. Calling All Dummies 3:15 With the feel of an outlaw ballad, John and Tom tell one man’s story by simply listing the titles of “For Dummies” books he has bought ~ up-tempo country, with an Everly Brothers vocal feel.
Track #12. Cold Christmas 2:20 A Christmas ballad, full of nostalgia for the recent past, “when the old snow blower / still had some snow to blow” ~ arranged for big band plus strings, a la Nelson Riddle, sung by John.
Track #13 Eco Man 2:47 In the age of Michael Pollan and Al Gore, we all strive to do the right thing by our planet but reality is…”it’s not easy being green.” Tom and John take turns detailing their misadventures ~ mid-tempo, guitar, banjo, with bluegrassy vocals.
Track #14 The Good Book and the Big Bang 3:30 A reggae essay on science and religion, the song considers the possibility that, instead of deadly enemies, they might actually function as yin and yang ~ mid-tempo reggae, with guitars, organ, horns and a Claptonian electric solo near the end.