Lingo​-​Three

by HVL

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03:19
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05:13
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05:04
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03:55
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about

The plan was to write a rock opera. A space rock opera. And it became an allegory that was appropriate for late summer 2007, with ever-escalating gas prices and a global economic collapse looming in the not-so-distant future. But the plan came from a book.

Actually, a book within a book. Kurt Vonnegut's BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS is sprinkled with excerpts from main character Kilgore Trout's in-universe novels. One such summary comes from Trout's book PLAGUE ON WHEELS, the story of a planet of living cars who have doomed themselves by squandering their resources and polluting their planet beyond hope. A band of alien explorers, though unable to save them, decides to spread the tragic tale throughout the universe as a warning. Until they reach Earth, of course. Mankind salivates at the idea of the automobile, and the course for our own fate is set into motion. Or so it goes.

This album was a swansong to my college years, written during my last semester and recorded one month before I began student-teaching. Its a two-act play with an intermission and a heavy-handed plot. I can't say what Kurt Vonnegut what have thought (he died just three months before the album was released, after the bulk of the songs were written); he was a devoted humanist who wrote that his epitaph should read, "The only proof he needed for the existence of god was music." But he also critical of modern music somewhere in a book that I can't find. I remember it, though. There's no use trying to guess, anyway.

So there's the overall story based on Trout's novel, but there's also a lot of "me" in there. Like the song about my claimed hometown, which only serves passing mention in the book. There's the song about Kago, the explorer, which was really my attempt to look at my life the other way around--what if I had left instead of staying put? Shortly after writing that song, I did go out on my own adventure. And now, almost four years later, I'm better for leaving. Home wasn't Lingo-Three (or Zeltoldimar, for that matter), and it wasn't Detroit, either. It's a place I can still visit; a place I'm reminded of when I think of this album. But I'll have to hop in my car to get there.

credits

released July 27, 2007

All songs by HVL ©2007
Recorded in Michigan, USA
with the What You Say? mobile studio
Cover by Brenda Johnson

Thanks to Brenda, Mom & Dad, and Kurt Vonnegut
Based on "Plague on Wheels," by Kilgore Trout

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Track Name: Plague on Wheels (Prologue)
The fable was a vehicle of truth
(how to learn from your mistakes),
but the idea so golden
the lesson was forgotten right when you began it.

Armed with an industrious mind
and no imagination,
we will end up just like
the people on Lingo, people on Lingo...

See, now we've built the Model T.
There's no escape! It's already started!
It's a plague on wheels.
Imminent future! Fate is impending!

Ideas were just badges on Earth.
Their content didn't matter,
but there was money to be made.
The lesson was forgotten right when you began it.

Kago was innocent enough,
and the allegory was apt,
but he did not know that
we are not immune to passing ideas.

It's a plague on wheels.
Imminent future! Fate is impending!
It's a plague on wheels.
Imminent future! Fate is impending!
There's no escape, it's already started!
Track Name: Space Travelers
We're breaking through the space time continuum,
moving at the speed of light toward the zenith sun.
We're passing through the umbra of a nebula
and studying the parallax of Andromeda.

We’re returning from a mission to Zeltoldimar.
Control said to hold fast and stay where you are,
but we got a signal from the unknown
and set our destination for the uncharted zone, and we’ve got…

Three Lingo to go.
Three Lingo to go.
Three Lingo to go.

Whatever happens to me,
promise you will find an answer,
because it’s not enough to just wonder why.

We've broken through the space time continuum.
I don’t know what’s going on, but something’s wrong.
And we've got a whole new continuum.
Control I am reading you, but we are breaking up.
Breaking up. ‘Cause we’ve got…

Two Lingo to go.
Two Lingo to go.
Two Lingo to go.

We've broken the space time continuum.
I don't know what's going on, but something's wrong. Something's wrong, but we've got...

One Lingo to go.
One Lingo to go.
One Lingo to go.
Track Name: Lingo-Three
There’s a hole where the surface should be,
and the air’s reading oxygen-free.
We’re in apogee. The planet’s in sight.
I can tell now that something’s not right…

on Lingo-Three… on Lingo-Three…
on Lingo-Three… on Lingo-Three…

Lingo-Three has been under duress.
I can see now why they’re in distress
when the visual contact reveals
that the natives are running on wheels...

on Lingo-Three… on Lingo-Three…
Oh, Lingo-Three! Oh, Lingo-Three!
Oh, Lingo-Three! Oh, Lingo-Three!
Oh, Lingo-Three! Oh, Lingo-Three!

Computer, front portal release.
Don’t run! We have come here in peace.
But internal combustion relies
on a fuel source decreasing in size.

Because they’re dying of lack of fuel,
and they’re choking on CO2,
they sent us a signal, and when we landed,
they told us to take them to another planet.
Track Name: The Zeltoldimarian Crew
We’re on a mission now to save your sole survivor,
and we’re gonna try to take him home
to another planet if it’s not too much of a problem,
and I don’t see why it would be.

It seems you natives are all out of fuel
and want our crew to take one of you away
to another body with some abundant resources
so that you can start anew.

With our possession safely in tow, we’d head out into
deep outer space again
and find a planet with gas and oil deposits
so that you can thrive again.

But there’s a problem with how you seem to ruin
all the things you leave behind.
We’ll try to put aside our second thoughts and keep our minds on what we think is right.

I’m not sure if we can do it, but we’ll do it if we can.
I’m not sure if we should do it, but we’ll do it
if we can.

We’re on a mission now to save your sole survivor,
and we’re gonna take him home.
You say you’ve used up all of your precious resources,
but we might save one, just one.

The biggest challenge that I foresee to this arrangement is the discrepancy
between the size of your smallest egg, and the size of our little humble ship.

We’re on a mission, whoa!
We’re on a mission, whoa!
Track Name: The Last Egg
At forty-eight pounds, it was too much for the crew to take.
It was just too much for the Zeltoldimarian crew to take on their tiny shoebox spaceship into outer space.

The last egg, the last egg, the last egg, the last egg…
The last egg was too much for the alien crew to take.

So Kago took the crew aside and said, “Maybe it’s not such a good idea to take one anyway.
If they’ve used up all their fuel here, couldn’t they just do it again on another planet someday?”

The last egg, the last egg, the last egg, the last egg…
The last egg was too much for the alien crew to take.

At forty-eight pounds, it was too much for the crew to take.
The decision was made to leave all the helpless, fuel-less creatures stranded on Lingo-Three.

The last egg, the last egg, the last egg, the last egg…
The last egg was too much for the alien crew to take.
The last egg was too much, and they couldn’t take it away.
Track Name: You Will Be Gone but Not Forgotten
The people didn’t seem to notice that there was a change in the way they were running out.
Although we cannot help them start anew somewhere else, I believe it’s for the best.

They were running circles around themselves, spinning their wheels to eternity.

It seems there’s nothing more we can attempt to restore the way things were here long before.
I promise to relay the tragedy of your race all throughout the universe.

They were a symbol of excess.
They were a symbol of excess.
They were a symbol of excess.
Spinning their wheels to eternity…

You will be gone but not forgotten.
You will be gone but not forgotten.
You will be gone but not forgotten.
You will be gone but not forgotten.
Track Name: They Came at Last to the Planet Earth
Don’t run! Don’t run! Don’t run! Don’t run!

Oh, it’s so sad; I simply must tell you the tragic fate of the Plague on Wheels.
Oh, what a shame, Lingo-Three. But we can learn from your mistake.

Don’t run! Don’t run! Don’t run

We couldn’t save any of them. They are gone, but not forgotten.
We’ve come to share their plight—don’t get the wrong idea.

They had wheels.
They ate fossil fuels.
They laid eggs.
They had wheels.
They ate fossil fuels.
They laid eggs.
They killed everything.

If it were up to me, I would save everything.
If it were up to me, I would save everyone and everything.

Don’t run! Don’t run! Don’t run! Don’t run!

Oh, what a shame, Lingo-Three. We can learn from your mistake.
Track Name: The Idea
When the people of Earth have heard what I’ve said,
they don’t learn what was wrong or right, but, instead,
they go off with the wrong idea in their heads.

And the idea, the idea, the idea, the idea!

It’s so hard to explain how I feel
when the workers in Detroit city reveal
they’ve begun to produce the automobile.

The idea! The idea! The idea! The idea!

And I scream when I see what they’ve done,
and I know such a long, long way it has come,
and I see that there’s no way out of this one.

And the idea, the idea, the idea, the idea!

And I scream when I see what I’ve done,
and I know that there’s no way out of this one.
Track Name: Homicidal Beggars Will Ride
Baby, won’t you come to bed? My head is broken.
And though I’m so awake for life, the bed is stuck.
Ideas that have come alive are alien.

I paid a lot for what I got, but now it’s done.
I can’t afford to walk at night; the lights are dim.
Am I alone in everything?

Homicidal beggars will ride, if you let them.
Homicidal beggars will ride, if you let them…
if you let them… if you let them…

I’m not afraid of going under. You can pull the plug.
If you know what’s gonna go, don’t let it stop.
I am not afraid of losing you.

Maybe I’m afraid of you, but it’s not gonna stop my moving out.
If something else will come along to make it easier, how can I not?

It’s automatic at the touch. “Like nothing else.”
I never even have to clutch. Don’t have to stop…

Homicidal beggars will ride… ride… ride… ride… ride…
Track Name: Detroit
I thought I had it right
by trying to share the image of Lingo-Three,
but soon I found out
that ideas can be worse than a disease…any disease…

Detroit! Only Detroit could turn a thing of wonder into a world-ending machine.
Detroit! Only Detroit could be so single-minded, create the fate that killed Lingo-Three.
Detroit! The Big Three was a cruel mother.

Within a century of coming here,
everything was sick or dead.
And the empty shells of the automobile
marked the place where thinking died.

I thought he had it right
by keeping such a memory alive.
But I knew he had had doubts,
I saw it in his face when we arrived; we wouldn’t survive…

Detroit! Only Detroit could turn a thing of wonder into a world-ending disease.
Detroit! Only Detroit could be so single-minded to create the fate that killed Lingo-Three.
Detroit! The Big Three was a cruel mother.

Within a century of coming here,
everyone was left for dead.
And a union bar marks the place
where Kago died and the hope had run out.

Only Detroit could turn a thing of wonder into a world-ending disease.
Detroit! Only Detroit could be so single-minded to create the fate that killed Lingo-Three.
Detroit!
Track Name: Kago
There’s no point in saying any more
This is really not what I had hoped for.
I wonder why I tried,
with all irony aside,
‘cause I knew this would happen…

Of all the rocks and the planets way out there
I thought yours was brimming with fresh air.
I was scared of what could go wrong.
I guess I was right all along
when I knew this would happen to you.

I wonder how the people I once knew
have lived their lives and what they are up to.
It’s strange when you’re forced to choose
the people that you will lose.
I knew this would happen.

Thinking now about the choices I’ve made;
am I better for leaving or should I have stayed?
And, often, life is art;
the good things just fall apart.
I knew this would happen to you.
I knew this would happen to you.
Track Name: Plague on Wheels (Epilogue)
The fable was a vehicle of truth
(how to learn from your mistakes),
but the idea so golden
the lesson was forgotten right when you began it.

Armed with an industrious mind
and no imagination
we will end up just like
the people on Lingo, people on Lingo...

See, now we've built the Model T
There's no escape! It's already started!
It's a plague on wheels.
Iminent future! Fate is impending!

Ideas were just badges on Earth.
Their content didn't matter.
But there was money to be made.
The lesson was forgotten right when you began it.

Kago was innocent enough,
and the allegory was apt,
but he did not know that
we are not immune to passing ideas.

It's a plague on wheels.
Iminent future! Fate is impending!
It's a plague on wheels.
Iminent future! Fate is impending!
There's no escape, it's already started!