I started writing J. Edgar Swoop in the fall of 1963, November to be exact. It was based on something I saw. I wrote about it in my first book, Bicyclists Dismount.
“We were riding along in the car on a plateau in Colorado, going to Aspen. We saw something up ahead on the roadside. It was an Eagle, the symbol of American freedom, feathers rumpled, standing in a dirty patch of snow, hitch-hiking.”
I’ve always enjoyed writing novelty lyrics and one of the forms I liked was talkin’ blues. Talking Blues is a form of folk music and country music. It is characterized by rhythmic speech or near-speech where the melody is free, but the rhythm is strict. Arlo Guthrie’s “Alices Restaurant” is a famous and great example of talkin’ blues.
It was only (9) verses to start with back in 1963, but over the years, I’ve added verses and revised some of the lines of the original verses.
I recorded “J. Edgar Swoop” on Music, my third album for Warner Bros., released in 1969.
This 2012 lyric re-write & new recording are in conjunction with an art project in Eagle Rock, California. The Eagle Rock Rock & Eagle Shop.
In 1964 artists Mason Williams joked around with a serious spark, about the play between the words “Eagle” and “Rock,” in reference to the LA neighborhood where his pal, Ed Ruscha’s studio was at the time. Mason conceived of a store offering quite literally and simply: eagles and rocks. The idea remained dormant until a few years ago, when it captured the attention of friend and local artist Bettina Hubby. Over the past year she became increasingly enamored by the idea, concocting in her head a ripening image of the store as an interactive community-enlivening project.
So now, 48 years later, on April 1st, 2012, “The Rock and Eagle Shop” opened as a temporary retail space with an intentionally limited lifespan of two months. The art space/store featured over 250 objects Hubby armchair and thrift-shopped from all over our nation. Using Ebay, Etsy and a bit of Amazon, Hubby mined the internet for reasonably-priced, rock n’ eagle-centric curiosities. The shop was filled with a melting pot of aesthetics - all representations of the eagle, and/or rock. The objects ranged widely and humorously covering pet rocks, pop rocks, hide-a-key rocks, fake rocks with surprises inside, an eagle painted saw blade, the film Legal Eagles, eagle dream catchers and more.
With this project, Hubby explored a diversity of symbols at the crossroads of curating, collecting, commerce and performance. The descriptions of the items for sale often revealed the seller’s unique perspective. Collected and archived, these objects and their stories comprised the project’s limited edition catalog.