Monday, March 20

Know your bonus single!

Motorpsycho's new album "Black hole/blank canvas" has been out domestically since last friday & it's seeing its "international" release today. Stickman Records' mailorder has already been all over the place since last week's wednesday anyway. There are many -- mostly positive -- reviews to be digested. Instead of featuring a review of my own MotorpsychoNews will have a closer look at the extra song which can be found on the bonus single which is available with the limited edition of the CD version of "BH/BC".

I am proud & honoured to present a guest feature-article by fellow Psychonaut & Deadhead Rolf Klausen. Rolf lives & studies in Trondheim & he is the keeper of the files of our beloved ongoing "Motordead research project". Rolf keeps a blog too. This is his first (and hopefully not his last) contribution to MotorpsychoNews.

Thank you so much Rolf -- I think you deserve an award for this post!

Connect The Dots (Or: The Bonny Lee Mystery)
by Rolf Klausen

On December 8, 2003 Motorpsycho played the song “Bonny Lee” live for the first time. It was a 4-minute dirty rock'n'roll tune, and for some reason it was assumed to be a cover song. In this guest post on Alex' blog I will try to sum up all the mysteries that are surrounding this song, mainly because the song is now officially released on the limited edition of Motorpsycho's new album.

When this song appeared, the more nerdily inclinded of us psychonauts went out investigating. What was this song? Someone said it was a cover, and everyone else believed it, apparently. revealed to us that a guy named Hank C. Burnette released a song called “Bonney Lee” on his album Hot licks & fancy tricks, so we thought “Yeah, that's gotta be it.” No one had heard this supposed original version, we just assumed. This theory got more support when we saw that Burnette also had recorded “I'm a king bee”, a song often played by the Grateful Dead in their early days. Knowing that Bent is a huge fan of Grateful Dead, we reasoned that Bent had probably found this album somehow via Grateful Dead. Also, on Burnette's album there was a song called “Sugaree Sugaree” which perhaps is inspired by or related to the Grateful Dead song Sugaree?

Well, so far so good. This could just be coincidences. Then it dawned on me: “Bonnie Lee” is also the name of a character in the Grateful Dead's song Wharf Rat! The song is a story about a man named August West who spent half his life in jail for a crime he didn't commit, and after getting out he becomes a drunk. The story is told from the point of view of a nameless “I” who talks to August West, who tells him his story. It's a very sad song, but still it contains a hope for better times to come. Anyway, the song ends like this (Pearly is August's wife or girlfriend):

Pearly's been true, true to me, true to my dyin' day he said,
I said to him, I said to him, "I'm sure she's been."
I said to him, "I'm sure she's been true to you."

Got up and wandered, wandered downtown,
nowhere to go but just hang around.
I've got a girl, named Bonnie Lee, I know that girl's been true to me.
I know she's been, I'm sure she's been true to me.

So Bonnie Lee is the girlfriend of the “I” in the song. By this point we were (as far as I can remember) still assuming the song Motorpsycho played was a cover, and the plot seemed to thicken. Maybe this was a Motorpsycho original? Further evidence came in the summer of 2004, when MP played the song again, and at Bad Bonn, June 11, Bent said, before the song: “It's a new thing. It's very new.” By this time the song has evolved into a long spaced-out, dreamy prog-rocker – and it's pretty obvious now that it is indeed an original, and not a cover. I can't remember how long we thought it to be a cover, but now, after the release of “BH/BC”, we know it's an original, since it's credited to Bent Sæther.

But the story doesn't end there. Because early in our investigations we discovered something really weird. Using the almighty Google, I searched for “Bonney Lee” and found this webpage, which appears to be some kind of list of family members of the Bonney family, probably intended for people who research their ancestors and make family trees. On this page we can find this exciting piece of information:

Viola Lee BONNEY
She was married to George Andrew WILSON in 1927. Clerk of Court Office
Virginia Beach, Princess Anne Co, VA
Marriage Register 1853-1938, Page 130

What's so exciting? I'll tell you: “Viola Lee Blues” is the name of an old folk song, which the Grateful Dead turned into a huge psychedelic rocker. The first line goes: “The judge decreed it, the clerk he wrote it.

Now, see: according to this page "Viola Lee Blues" is a derivation of an older song called “99 Year Blues” - and further: “Julius Daniels came from Denmark, SC and recorded this song in Atlanta in 1927. He was one of the first southeastern bluesmen to make records. A version of this song was adapted to become "Viola Lee Blues" by Cannon's Jug Stompers, covered by the Grateful Dead.

See the year 1927? Yeah, same year as Viola Lee Bonney got married. Coincidence? Hard to tell! If you want to hear an original version of "Viola Lee Blues", go here!

So, to sum it up: we got a real person named Viola Lee Bonney – married to a clerk of court office – then we have the song “Viola Lee Blues”, about a clerk in a court office – and now, “Bonny Lee” by Motorpsycho.

The references examined above seem even more striking when depicted in a visual chart (click to enlarge):

A huge pile of coincidences? Or is Bent the god of creating references to other bands & songs?
It's difficult to draw any conclusions!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent!! Rolf, I'll buy you a beer in Paradiso! Great fun!


1:52 PM  
Anonymous Ketil said...


I have played with the idea of making a page of references in mp-songs, but haven't had the time yet. (There are *so* many...) This is way cool!

- Ketil

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thrilling,almost c.s.i. like!
nice work!

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are clearly a dork with too much free time, ha ha. But i was wondering what the history of the viola lee blues song was, and it's definately entertaining to see how it evolved from a true story (now why do you say the song is about the clerk, it's not about the clerk it's about the dude who got the life sentence, or, are you implying that viola lee bailed on the guy who got arrested (and for what crime, murder I would think), and then went and re-married the clerk (who WROTE IT?) more is needed here ...

8:26 AM  

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