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TavBlog: Todd Snider 'for' ORM

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

Originally written March 27, 2021.

I share this piece now because I didn’t have an audience for it when I first wrote it. Todd Snider was recording a weekly show from the Purple Room and I was inspired to share his own roots with him as he pondered several questions on air and dealt with the loss of two of his Mentors, John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker. I did attempt to share it, but as far as I know, it never grabbed anyone’s attention.

As we wrap up the end of the Winter 2021/2 Cycle of ORM with Wholeness, Todd’s Lyrics resonate with me, perhaps a little louder than before. The feelings that made this project so personal to my ego have given way to the path of our larger and deeper soul connections. Todd Snider captures the essence of humanity in both his lyrics and his life. Thanks for indulging me.

Todd Snider on Our Raw Material

Todd Snider’s way with words has been a part of my life since 1994, when I first heard Songs for the Daily Planet. My friend Brenda’s husband was a program director at a local radio station. He walked in from work one day, tossed the CD casually between us on the couch and said “we aren’t going to play this, but you guys will love it.” I don’t think any of us could have imagined the incredible philosophical discussions and deliberate mental changes we would explore as a result of that flimsy, but charming introduction.

In January, 2005, Todd Snider and The Nervous Wrecks were scheduled to play The Hurricane in Kansas City. I dragged all the friends and family I could gather to Westport for a show that wouldn’t end up starting for a few hours, so everyone was pretty annoyed with me by the time Todd hit the stage. He opened with Traveling Band by CCR and within the first minute, every grumbly face was smiling as tired body language was replaced with energetic dancing. I have seen many Todd shows since then, each with its own personality and flair. I have been a fan since early in his career and in many ways Todd, or rather his lyrics, have served as one of my pivotal Mentors. These lyrics and their concepts have been woven into my adult psyche in such a natural way that it makes it difficult for me to know which concepts came directly from me, and which were formed as a result of listening to these early albums.

I could have used his entire catalog for this piece, and I expect there will be at least a couple more volumes, but I stuck with the pre 9/11 work to keep it solidly in the roots of his career. Every new song he ‘makes up’ contains simple, yet mind-blowing philosophical rhymings, and that is evident on every album and alive in every song. I know he doesn’t deliberately intend for me (listener) to adopt his views (he says as much most nights), however, I resonate with a lot of Todd’s truths and near-truths. The parts that don’t jibe? They provide an opportunity for deep compassion and understanding - with poignant humor and without judgment (‘If I judge the judgmental, then what am I?’), allowing some direct access straight into our souls.

Todd is one of the first people I can say I have actively endeavored to accept in Wholeness, including myself. Whether he intended to or not, he has put himself under a microscope and let us in, no matter what choices he is making at any given time. His words encourage curiosity and listening, as we root for the underdog and celebrate our worst qualities with wild acceptance - what I call Wholeness! (Week 12 of Our Raw Material)

For your ORM reading pleasure, I have gone to the vault and plagiarized the bulk of the lyrics from Todd Snider’s first four albums: Songs for The Daily Planet (1994), Step Right Up (1996), Viva Satellite (1998) and Happy to Be Here (2000) in order to demonstrate different ways to consider Our Raw Material: Finding Your Center, Wherever You Are from Todd’s Kaleidoscope. I reviewed everything he wrote up until 2000, (minus the I Like Country When It Rocks group of songs - were they called Country-Fried? I can’t remember now) and if some words hit me in some kind of way I logged them under the subject where I felt it. This is intended to be a fun guide, so if you are not enjoying it, please just walk away! If you want, try using your own favorite artist to put fresh eyes on Wholeness.

Apologies to Todd Snider and his Legal Team, if they are needed. I will be happy to cease and desist with this project at your earliest behest! Unless and until then, thanks for sharing cool perspectives.

Todd on Mentors:

When I was a child, I spoke as a child. I wish I could remember what I said

I believe that we all learn to love before we get through

Remember the kid you saw that night downtown? Singing on the sidewalk, guitar case on the ground.. he looked down on his luck so you threw him a buck. That was Me.

She makes a thing out of me; knows the world that I want to see

Jackie used to live three blocks away from me. We used to throw a baseball and then climb his old oak tree and we would sneak his old man' s cigarettes behind the picket fence. Swore that we would always be the best of friends. We would sit out on the curb and talk on summer nights until Jackie's daddy called him, and he took off like a light..

Last night I saw the flashing lights and quickly ran outside. The neighbor lady told me that Jackie’s youngest boy had died… Now they’re saying Jackie, he ain’t the only one to blame–because battered children almost always grow up to do the same

I got this feeling that my stepmom hates me. That gold digger’s got a worthless bone. She stays drunk on rum and Pepsi. She’ll never notice if I'm not home.

We were never without our doubts, I try to look back honestly. But I swear we could have walked on clouds, Yesterdays and Used To Be's. When I loved you and you loved me, Yesterdays and Used To Be's

He was there when nobody else was. He was there when the work was thin. He was there when my father left us so I am here now to work for him…

Thanks again for everything. For everything I know. For everything that I have seen between these places that I go

Some people tell you everything they think of, say 'Yes I will' - and then they never do. Sometimes I gotta ask you to speak up. Everything you say is true.

And then one night after closing she poured me up a beer. She said, "Come over here and sit down you little shit, I got something you oughta hear". She said, "Life ain't easy getting through, "Everybody's gonna make things tough on you. But I can tell you right now if you dig what you do, they will never get you down"

Todd on Music:

I believe in Rock n' Roll.

Hey Hey My My. Rock and Roll will never die. Just hang your hair down in your eyes; you'll make a million dollars

You find a loose little rhythm, then you lock in tight. Yes you roll on it over and over 'til it sounds just exactly right

You could learn to sing lead if you need to be a star, but the only way to groove is on a bass guitar--I said, it fills out the bottom dirty and mean; It's downright greasy when the soundman's clean. You know the eyes in the room, they all looking at the star; their butts are all shakin' to the bass guitar, mmhmm..

Well we blew 'em away at the Grammy's show by refusing to play and refusing to go..

Then just when we thought fame would last forever, along come this band that wasn't even together.. Now that's alternative. Now that's alternative to alternative.

Rock and roll, rock and roll.. you don’t care if I sell my soul, but you move me like a holy roll: Running on that rocket fuel

I believe in the Beatles. I believe in my girlfriend too

I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker. I play my music in the sun

I'm a picker, I'm a grinner, I'm a lover and I'm a sinner. I sure don't want to hurt no one

You and me we got a lot in common. We keep thinking there’s this place to go. You ask me I say we oughta keep driving.. But turn up that radio..

Driving all day we both said nothing. You threw your face in a magazine. I tuned in to the oldies station. Flew away in a time machine.. This world is so amazing. Sun is shining and it’s raining too..

But old Miss Virgy was singing along; she said she knew 'em all by heart

I feel like missing you today. I ain't letting nobody stand in my way. I'm gonna pull down these shades.. and play some old songs..

Todd on Food:

Tell all these people at the end of the line - Somebody's coming

Tell all these people holding "I'll work for food" signs - Somebody's coming

Somebody's coming, been here before..

If you think you're outta chances, well you've got one more..

You can't groove on dope, you can't groove on the wine. If you're trying to catch a groove watching TV, man, you are wasting time.

Hey, how are you all? I can't complain

These prison walls, they're are cold and hard. The fence is tall across the yard. Locked away and what's so strange is that I feel, God, I feel like nothing's changed. The floor is cold, the blankets itch. Three meals today though - God, there's something that's rich. Just some still dream, if nobody told me.. Me, I know that I was never free before

I guess you can’t hide too far from something that you carry around

Todd on Ignorance:

Did you know that there are people who put us down for no other reason than the simple fact that we get around?

You don't know what I've been through..

You think you know somebody. You think they know you. You think you know somebody,

but man, you never do..

I know I ought to quit now, but I believe I'm in too deep.

They make up all these issues, I never understood. If I thought I could change things I'd run out to Hollywood, but it’s hard to kick the door down, when you ain’t wearing no shoes

What do I do here, why do I stay? Who are all these people, I check in with every day?

How did I get here, where will I go? Why am I so haunted by anything that I don't know?

The lines we draw between things. There's a wall around my heart. Taught to climb to be things and still I don't know where to start

Well, they roped off almost all of my problems and they pointed their fingers at drug addiction 'cause they know that if you're the one that's doing the pointing nobody's probably looking at you

I met a whole lotta people that I still don't know.

Tell me something that I don't know. Take me to someplace that I can't go.

Soap opera heaven, without all the clues

I should have known right away that something was wrong when I started thinking things were all right. Things were not all right

Locked you out so long ago; Prison walls, prison walls, they're all I know

Now, some people say that he died up there, somewhere in the rain and the wind.

Other people say that he got away, but then his girlfriend did him in. The lawmen say if he is out there some they're going to drag him in. As for me I hope they never see ole DB Cooper again..

I asked directions back at the station. I had a feeling I could trust that guy.. I was mistaken. Now I got a feeling that I'll be driving down this highway till the day that I die..

They had a manhunt that next morning like nothing I had ever seen. I was only eight years old at the time, watching on the TV screen. They were saying he was never going to make it now - now that daylight had set in… But later that night they were shining those lights, down on the mountain again

You know just the other morning I was hanging around in my house. I had that new book with pictures of Madonna naked, I was checking it out.. Just then a friend of mine came through the door, said she never pegged me for a scumbag before. She said she didn't ever wanna see me anymore and I still don't know why

Todd on Emotion:

I'm afraid of what I might do

Well I told her I wouldn't, I thought that I couldn't - now I am so ashamed

Well I've been fighting these angry mobs; holding down a couple dead-end jobs;

Well they can sure keep me down alright; they can't keep me from rocking tonight.

Everyone has days like I'm having; Holding on to anything that I can - to keep myself from anything but laughing; Looking back as far as I can stand

I feel stupid. And contagious.

I believe that we die of all the things that we hate the most.

It's a circus out here, mama, your baby's got the sideshow blues

We can't seem to find what we've been missin'. I've looked everywhere we used to be

I've walked up and down this highland strip a hundred times wondering why you left this whole mess up to me

Walkin' like she ain't satisfied. Saying things that most girls hide. Sometimes she's rude.

She don't talk down to me. She takes my temper patiently.

She don't like it when I'm not home. I hate it when I got to leave her alone. The girl was born with a jealous bone and a runaway heart

My back is aching, I'm so confused I can't help feeling like I'm being used

I ain't the kinda guy to come and break all your records, but then again I might

You see I've been down, I've been so depressed. I've been overworked and overstressed. But deep down here I know I'm blessed. I ain't gonna cry no more.

Buddy, I'm running on rocket fuel. I'm flying high and feeling cool. Buddy, I'm running..

All I wanted was a little affection. All I wanted was you. All I needed was a real connection. One chance to be true

I don't ever wanna let this summer end

Satisfaction guaranteed. I want what you promised me

You know lately I've been feeling kinda lonely. Everybody seems so afraid. I clench my teeth together so tightly sometimes and I forget the promise you made

I was on my way up town. I nearly had it all worked out. Now these big guns are knocking me down, to the same old shadows of doubt

I ain’t got time to change my mind

Shakin’ like a rain soaked dog. Looking for a place to hide. Alone in this empty room I can see how I feel inside

I came in off a dead-end street. Walked in slow and took a back row seat. I knew I had nothing new to say.. So many people looked so burned out. I couldn't help feeling bad about just having to be there anyway..

I don't mind sometimes not talking. Sometimes there ain't a thing to say. Anyway I know what you're thinking, and I kinda like it when you think that way

They climbed in a bottle of Tanqueray. Fell in love that very day..

You got one shot left I guess but you messed up so bad last time I'm about to lose my mind keeping up it's true. You go one way, one thing, turn around, mood swing - Making up a melodrama mama what am I gonna do?

You took one bad blow I know but you go so far out sometimes I'm afraid of making that climb out there to you. You get so high, sink low, the next thing I know - A whole new soap opera Mama what am I gonna do?

I feel like missing you today. Sometimes I just get this way. Seems like everything I see

brings back another memory. I must feel like missing you today..

Todd on Listening:

All I heard was how I should get ahead

I wanna go back to going crazy. Believing every word that I was told. You know sometimes, growing up, I think I'm getting wiser - and then other times, I think I'm getting old

Well I could tell right away by the the way he was runnin' that the boy was just a beggin' to crawl

Turn it up, I don't want to hear what I'm thinking tonight.

It's all a big commercial, It's a video of a man. It's a plot to put an end to my attention span

She's got a loaded pistol, she waves it all the time. Says "Sometimes you gotta kill a boy to keep his ass in line" Well, that's the way she sees it, she says she saw it on the news

I can't remember where it was that we stopped talking. Well, I can't take this silence anymore

She listens to me constantly. I'm always falling apart.

I need time to think this over. I've got to make up my own mind

Yesterdays and used to be's, from a long long time ago.. Take my faded memories to a place that I used to know

When I'm channel surfing USA. Watching those hours roll by..I know I may be throwing my time away, but at least I'm remotely in control

I got nothin' to lose, nothin' to gain. It's like a one-way ticket to cruisin' the passing lane..

I can't complain

Yesterdays and used to be's, from a long long time ago. Take my faded memories to a place that I used to know

Thanks again for everything. For everything I know. For everything that I have seen between these places that I go.. Down that highway, up that street. In your love I know I’ll never lose my feet..

When I think of who we are and who we’ll be behind those stars

You know, mostly it's all scandal TV these days. That's where the real money must fall. Down from the smog of some Hollywood haze..I’m just happy to be here at all

They were talking in a circle, I was by myself. Everyone was telling everyone how they felt. It felt like so long since I'd been young. As the circle kept moving its way to the back, I was wondering what I was gonna say, in fact, I still didn't know as it rolled off my tongue: It's been a long, long long year - How did I get here?

It keeps on getting harder to keep on keeping on with everybody screaming orders in my ear

Todd on Values and Ideals:

I believe in sleep.

You're gonna mix my emotions. You're gonna tangle my net. You're gonna make me do something that I'm afraid I won't regret.

Well good luck at the end of that rainbow if you think that's what you're here for. Make no mistakes about it, baby, I want a whole lot more

Some guys are looking for diamonds. Some guys just wanna pay their bills. Some guys are climbing the mountains while others are digging for thrills. Some guys just wanna win trophies. Some guys just wanna get girls and some guys swear they won't stop working until they own everything in the world

I don’t wanna face this world 'til I can turn it around.. Look out below, I’m comin’ down

And speak of a day when the future's bright; And you could be proud to be black and proud to be white; And dream of a day when everything is alright that Betty was black and Willie was white

We can do anything, anything, anything

Todd on Conflict:

Freeway through a reservation. Make way for a brand new nation - big ideas, we got brand new plans. Heaven knows we need this land. We're gonna build big, high and

wide city streets through countrysides, chemicals, and pesticides --This land is our land

I may be alone but there's someone at home. I just know I'm making a mistake. A woman like you walks in a place like this, you can almost hear the promises break.

Somebody's coming that don't need your vote--Gonna rattle your cage and rock your boat.

It's hard enough to keep from shaking. It's hard enough without you keeping things from me. I don't know why you tried to make things so confusing. Can't you see it's hard enough?

Hot car rolling down an empty freeway. The keys were in it, man it serves the owner right. The young girl attacked in the woods off the parkway? She should've known not to jog alone at night. Drugs rule downtown, gangs rule midtown. You're on your own when they both collide

It won't work this morning, I can't punch in. There's too many questions under my skin.

Division is confusion. It can drive you up a wall. Like any good illusion, it ain’t anything at all.

Tension, it's all that I know.. I got tension out in traffic. I got tension in my exercise. I got tension and it's everywhere that I go..

I got tension in my courtroom. I got tension in my classroom. I got tension and it's everywhere that I go..

You know I've used my fist and I've used my voice. Hell, I've used myself like a cheap Rolls-Royce. I never knew I could just use my choice...

Honey, my love is like kerosene. I know you know what I mean. So come on, honey, let's twist and shout. I wanna hit this town 'til its teeth come out

If you think your jaded now babe, wait till you see the rest of me. Come over here tonight and I will let you treat me like the victim I'm not gonna be

Metallica song blastin' from three trailers down. It's them cut-off t-shirt and nunchuck kids comin' around. Tonight they'll get drunk, try to get laid. End up in a fight out behind some arcade.

You know one of them little shits broke my window last spring.. I told his Momma, and she didn't do anything.. she works two jobs, the boy runs loose

All of my neighbors are all up in arms about something they saw on TV. Seems some politician got busted for something that won't make any difference to me. Now I'm sure it's all true and I'm tired of this too, but I can't pray for someone to fall..

You know just the other night these cops pulled me over outside a bar. They turned on their lights and ordered me out of my car. Man, I was only kidding when I called 'em a couple of dicks. But still they made me do the stupid human tricks. Now I'm stuck in this jail with a bunch of dumb hicks and I still don't why.

Todd on Intention:

Well we came out of a raging sea to claim someplace where we'd be free. We got hopeful hearts, working hands and heaven knows we need this land cause the world needs landfills, diet pills and paper mills. We need country clubs and oil spills - this land is our land

Freeway through a reservation. Make way for a brand new nation. Big ideas, we got brand new plans.. Heaven knows we need this land for super bowls, subway rides, remote controls, and pesticides, gang related homicides - this land is our land

Now growing up, it ain't anything but all this indecision with these debts and doubts and worries hanging over my head

At least a junkie knows what he needs. You get a man all strung out on greed and he'll give up everything he's got for just one shot of having it all.

I believe that all my friends really are my friends

I don’t wanna open that door. I don’t wanna turn that key. I don’t wanna worry no more

about what you do to me

I believe in people. White and black and blue. I believe in people who don't believe the same way I do because I know someday Love is going to shine its own way through.. I believe in letting people do what people do

I keep my doors locked with bars on my window. Got an alarm in my car, I keep my kids inside..

Heaven knows she needs to be one promise I keep.

Moon Dawg's Tavern, that's where I'm gonna go. Moon Dawg's Tavern, that's the only place I know. Moon Dawg's got everything I'm ever gonna need. Moon Dawg's Tavern in Frazier, Tennessee

The same ol' climb up the same ol' walls I've fallen down before

I'd like to find that old time feeling somewhere in between what I've become

I don't ever wanna have to go to work for my dad. I guess that’s about the only goal I’ve ever had.

I was talking with my girlfriend. I told her I was stressed. I said "I'm goin' off the deep-end". She said "God, for once give it a rest!" We're all waiting in the dugout - thinking we should pitch. How you gonna throw a shutout if all you do is bitch?

I didn't say a word all the way to my car, but a little later on that night at the bar

I was telling everybody how strange my day had been. They said, "Brother, all you need is another shot". So I threw one down and said "Thanks a lot". As I thought to myself, "Well, here we go again.."

I wanna be my own man, I'd love to walk alone

Take me home, boys.. Think I'm drunk

We got 'em all by the balls all the way to the ribbon cutting.. You, you'd rather sit here with your finger on the panic button. Hey hey hey, mama what's wrong with you?

Todd on Resources:

I ain't asked for nothing yet, now all I'm asking is one request

Tell anybody that ain't got nobody - Somebody's coming

Tell all these people who think they need money - Somebody's coming

Everybody's got an offer I can't refuse

I want to tame the lions. These center ring rich kids ain't even trying. From college to the big top they take the best positions while I'm out in this tent with these freaks and musicians

I keep my arms around whatever I've got. It's an alright world, but you know, I watch myself. I'm virtually free to do whatever I want. But I try to remember, so is everybody else.

You see there's something inside this world that's gone so wrong. There's a gap between the rich and the poor a million miles long. I dig the fact that you and your friends wanna stand up and make it right

You made me feel like I was more than anything I've got today. We were kicking down all those doors, you were climbing up all those trees. Before we started keeping score..

If you've got a heart with guts like mine.. You know, honey, I can make that pale moon shine

Honey, my love is bigger than a limousine

And once he finds us, he never leaves us, no matter how far we fall apart. Come together now

Nothin’s gonna catch me. Nothin’ but sky.. Somebody help me? Teach me to fly

Thanks again for all you do to see us through this mess. Without you these skies of blue

They cloud up with loneliness.. Up that mountain, down that stream.. through that nightmare and into that dream

A friend of a friend from work came in. I never had known what to make of him. He had always seemed to be so insincere to me.. You know I've always been afraid of the 12-Step crowd. They laugh too much and talk too loud, like they all know where everyone should be

Ole’ Miss Virgie tended bar in this shack out in the hills. It never made her no money boys, but it paid up all of her bills. She must have been 80 years old but her heart was warm and her beer was cold. She gave away more than she ever sold; she was smiling all the time

Todd on Aligning with Intention:

I wanna feel like it makes a difference what difference one man makes

I let my woman move in last fall. Now she don't ever let me touch her at all. She's been picking at me all day..I came here to get out of her way

Now to fit in on the Seattle scene you gotta do something they ain't never seen, so thinkin' up a gimmick one day we decided to be the only band that wouldn't play a note - under any circumstances. Silence: Music's original alternative. Roots grunge!

I ain't gonna cry, I ain't gonna scream. I ain't gonna let 'em kick no holes in my dreams.

I won't be fallin' apart at the seams like I've always done before.

So call your buddies, call all your friends. Call all your enemies, make amends. We're forming a club and letting everyone in. We ain't gonna cry no more

I let all them people do what people do. I'm just happy to be here at all..

So take whatever road that you want to.. Careful of the ice and the snow..

Todd on Wholeness:

I think I’m an alright guy

Well, I admit we're not that bright but I'm proud anyway

Well I'm a face you've seen a million times. The one who never seems to fit in between those lines. I'm every broken dream this world has left behind. I'm a face you've seen a million times

I just wanna live until I've gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try

I'd like to find that old time feelin' somewhere in between what I've become

Until this morning's paper told me that Jackie'd gone too far.. And now they're saying Jackie, he ain't the only one to blame. 'Cause battered children, they almost always grow up to do the same

More tough news on the late night TV. News lady tells me that it's cold outside. Man gets his car jacked. Graveyard gets ransacked. Everybody knows that there ain't no place to hide. Late night drive-by, there's blood on the sidewalk. Rain's gonna wash out that stain someday. That stupid kid should've known this ain't no cakewalk. You can't just wear your bandana that way...Ain't that freedom for you? Freedom American-style.

He'll sit down and he'll tell you about the friends he's made.. About the nights that he walked the line and all the mornings that he paid

Stops and decides just