“Open Door Policy” Explained

If Terry Gross were to ask me: what does this song mean?

Well Terry, I wrote this song so the album would have more jaunty, happy tracks.  It’s a style of song I have noticed from artists as diverse as Beck and the Beatles, think of the nonsense list song, “I am the Walrus.” One could just call it a collection of nonsense words that happen to rhyme sometimes.

But the words I choose do have a meaning to me, when I visited New York City to try and “make it,” I saw many talented street performers playing in the Subway, most of whom were very well trained and showed remarkable skill. Some appeared homeless or addicted to heroin, one seemed to have been weeks since a bath, gaunt and ill and falling asleep while he was playing, but the music he was playing was gorgeous, and sounded like Bill Evans mixed with Rachmaninov, this was on a dinky Casio battery powered keyboard that didn’t even have touch sensitivity or a sustain pedal. I thought, wow, a real musician doesn’t need those things, and hey, this guy is better than some of the people that others pay big bucks to see.

We might judge those people, but I also have sometimes appeared so haggard, tired and dirty as to be perceived as homeless by others. So I was writing about what others might think of me, and when you look at anyone, even a homeless person, they are a mirror of what you could look like if you made some poor choices and had a series of unfortunate events and bad luck.

The “fountain of Greed,” lyric, is a statue of a man holding a moneybag in a New York city Subway station. I heard that people who are poor and wealthy both rub it or touch it as they go by, hoping for a little more wealth to come their way. It occurred to me that we might think ourselves above such superstitions in the West: kissing the blarney stone or visiting Mecca, but we do actually have our own physical rituals here such as throwing coins in the fountain.

Then the “hard part” in a minor key, is the perspective of the money makers, the corporate CEOs and their profit oriented goals. They aren’t sure who it was who said “the meek will inherit the earth,” but they intend to fleece everyone including the meek. I kind of cringe at the obviousness of my lyrics here, but its ok to be blunt sometimes. The phrase “domestic disturbance” has always tickled me as its a sort of oxymoron like “civil war.”

When I mention the brand name Tostitos. It’s a joke making fun of rappers who brag about specific brands of guns or champagne. I think its funny to brag about mundane things, or products that anyone can afford. Also, Panda Bear is a musician in the band “Animal Collective.” He doesn’t play the harmonium, as far as i know, but it sounds good. If you think something in the song means something to you, Great, it does then.

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