God of The Construction Yard

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places doesn’t it? I’d been struggling for weeks to find lyrics for a Parks & Recreation song called, well, until two days ago it was called The Construction Yard National Anthem. I mean struggling! The song started out innocently enough. Months ago, I wanted to write a big song to end the Parks & Recreation album. I wanted a real Star Spangled Banner kind of Oh, Canada kind of thing. In short, a national anthem. So I listened to a few that I liked: The Marseilles, the Soviet national anthem, Oh, Canada, to get some ideas. So I came up with a melody that was long and drawn out and put some simple major and minor chords under it. The melody ended up being kind of addictive, and simple, very accessible, very populist, which was my goal. It was divided into two distinct sections: a major section, which we’ll denote here as A, and a minor section, which we’ll call B. The end product sounded almost just like a real national anthem. Great, so part of my work was done. The trouble was, I got stuck on the lyrics. For the A section, I had the line “Children listen to me…” and that was it. The B section was more complete, it ran:

Don’t listen to your mother, she never cared
she never understood a word you said
she wanted you dead
the day that you were born
she almost got her way

That was it. And it didn’t even rhyme. What was I to do? I knew I wanted the song to be about a construction yard. You know, like the kind you always find at the ends of the streets in newly built suburbs. It seems like there was one in every housing tract I’ve ever lived in. So I had chords, a melody, a subject matter, and a few incomplete lyrics. Now what? You can imagine how many times I sat down to hammer out lyrics, how much singing to myself in my car I did, how many frustrating nights I spent tossing and turning with those same unfinished lyrics running through my head. Finally I decided to throw my hands up and stop trying so hard. I left it up to the Muses to come up with a lyric for me.

Muses. That brings me to the unlikely source of inspiration. So, the other day I went to the mall and traded in some video games. I had enough store credit to buy this game called God of War. It’s a really cheesy game about a Spartan warrior who goes around thrashing stuff, you know: lot’s of blood and guts. It’s a real fantasy geekfest set in ancient Greece. So after a while, I’m playing the game, and I find myself in this desert running around trying to find the Sirens, so I can destroy them and get out of the Desert Of Lost Souls on my way to the Temple of Pandora (I know I know!). There, it hits me. Seeing my little dude running around in this dusty sandpit, with crumbling pieces of stone and planks all over the place, made me think of construction yards. And I was looking for the Sirens. That was it! I put down the controller (after I’d beaten the level, that is) and went to knock out some lyrics. They came all at once, like a torrent. I sat down and didn’t stop writing until I’d finished the whole thing. An hour later, the new title was Siren Song Of The Construction Yard. Here is the lyric:


children listen to me
I’m calling from the land beyond your street
a dusty land of planks,
cement, bent fences
and granddaddies

calling all you cowboys, ninjas and thieves
all you pirate captains, men of the sea
sail upon my seas of tarp and plywood
or drown in my weeds

don't listen to your mother
she never cared
she never understood a word you said
she wanted you dead the day that you were born
but she never got her way

rise up from your sleep
grab your roman candles and come to me
to a land where you can truly be
what you want to be

don’t listen to your teachers
they never cared
they’ll tell you one and one and one is three
but I’ve got the answers that you really need
waving in the dusty breeze

don’t listen to your preacher
his heads in the clouds
he’ll tell you stories that you wouldn’t believe
but I’ve got more stories in these naked eaves
than he’ll ever have up his sleeve

come hide all your playboys
bury misdeeds
I long to feel you digging into me
coat my bulldozers with graffiti
children come to me

come you spartan warriors, soldiers, and knights
clash upon my fields in dirt clod fights
claim my naked frames of 2 x 4s
to be your kingdoms

(spoken) children wake from your sleep
grab your water cannons and follow me
into a land where you can truly be
what you want to be

children listen to me
you won’t need your homework where you’ll be
in a land where everybody’s lazy
and everything is free

In the song, the construction yard is like a Siren of the housing tract, calling to the children to come, leave their lives behind, and play. All of these things the construction yard is inviting the children to come and do are things that I used to do when I was a kid in the unfinished cul-de-sacs in my neighborhood. Grandaddies are those huge dirt mounds, down which the boys would always zoom on their bikes. We used to have dirt clod fights all the time, just hurling huge chunks of dirt at each other. The Spartan warrior comes up in one stanza. I wanted the lines about mother, father, and preacher, to stay in, because, you see, in mythology, there’s something sinister about the Sirens. They actually lead sailors and whatnot to their death. So they can’t be trusted, really, even though they’re alluring and their song is beautiful. And that’s what I wanted for the construction yard. I wanted it to be a fun place, but to also have kind of a sinister quality, like it’s going to lead children to ruin. That’s why I threw in the line about hiding your Playboys and doing graffiti and everything. Construction yards aren’t just happy places where kids can frolic and play, but they’re also unsupervised zones where children can give voice to their inner dark side: their inner thief, vandal, and pervert. I had the idea that the second to last verse would be spoken in a Vincent Price kind of voice, like in the song Thriller. I wanted to create a playful, happy, joyful song, but at the same time a kind of dark, threatening song. The construction yard isn’t just an innocent place to play, but a dangerous distraction.

In addition to being sinister, yet joyful, these lyrics also tie in to one of the central themes of the next album, which is escapism and imagination. In the case of this song, too much imagination isn’t always such a good thing. Well, in my particular case it was. But can you imagine if I hadn’t got up from the game to write those lyrics and had just sat around playing video games all day? Or… hey, actually, that doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, what if I just got a little further just now. I’ll only play for half an hour. Excuse me, folks, but my Playstation...it’s calling to me…