Back on Tuesday I took a trip down memory lane and wrote about two whole songs! It’s Thanksgiving, what do you want from me? Let’s get in there and finish Decisions of the Sky!
As always, my procedure works this way: I’ll write my first impressions of the piece. When you see the tarot card, that means I’ve flipped it over. I actually don’t know what’s coming during these posts until I am midway through them.
This song is quite long, over twenty minutes. It’s really a bunch of songs together, in the way the end of Abbey Road is a bunch of short songs threaded together. The Beatles references just keep cropping up in this piece, right? It may be important to mention something I didn’t talk about last time: the bassist in Blues Traveler died before they made this album. His name was Bobby Sheehan. So I think the feelings of longing and drifting through life may have something to do with that. It may also have turned the band’s attention back to the classic rock death: John Lennon. I suppose Buddy Holly is more “classic” but bear with me there.
This piece is a palindrome, kind of. The first three tracks are the last three tracks. That is, the final three pieces in this long medley are reprises of the first three tracks, but reversed in order. In the middle is an instrumental track titled “Sancho.” That’s a Don Quixote reference, I promise you. Sancho is the “realist” companion who travels alongside Don Quixote as he travels the country, trying to find wrongs he can right and monsters he can slay. The thing about Sancho Panza is that he’s earthy and funny and, well, kinda dumb too. If he’s the voice of reason, why doesn’t he just leave? He seems something special in Don Quixote, even as he fails to understand what it is.
The drama of the song is that the speaker is going through his mental struggles. He remembers his lover telling him to never forget her. Then he mentions the letter she slipped in his pocket, telling him to forget her. He says he understands now, but not what. He moves on to describe the numbing effect of the war and then bursts out, fleeing it all. He says he surrenders to the storm and he “is born.” He goes through a mental trial here, leading to understanding that he never had. Then he seems to summon the storm itself. This is a very traditional and acceptable thing for someone to do in similar situations.
Queen of Wands
The queens teach us how to remake ourselves, to use power to become the strongest version of us we can be. The wands represent the fiery nature of our will and our passions. This queen has a cat and hills or pyramids behind her. The sunflower in her hand is also her heraldic image, along with embracing lions.
Did you know the sunflower is actually hundreds of flowers? Each seed is the top of a tiny flower. It bursts into life, throwing power and life everywhere and bearing that weight proudly. That’s a Queen of Wands thing to do.
The speaker of the song is realizing what he has and what he gave up. He’s also realizing what he wants and how to get it. The storm removes everything from him except his burning passion, which keeps him alive through it. Surprisingly, it’s not the old lover. He realizes she “haunted” him, and now he’s looking to the future with clear eyes.
I couldn’t seem to find this one on Youtube at all. Sorry about that.
For what’s apparently the end of the EP, this song is a somewhat ambiguous ending. Well, the sound isn’t. It’s upbeat and a little funky. The speaker has weathered the storms, and now he positions himself between two poles, identified with the sun and the storm. He walks upright between them, on a rainbow bridge (that’s definitely not inspired by Norse mythology or anything). He seems to link the two powers together even as they both support him — which was one of his revelations during the previous song’s self-sacrifice.
Naturally, the path is narrow and treacherous, but it leads the speaker somewhere for perhaps the first time in his life.
8 of Swords
This is, so far in this album, the most appropriate card. This card is usually seen as pretty negative, since the blindfolded woman is surrounded by danger and has to make her way through a treacherous and narrow path. And that’s definitely the way to see it, most times. It’s important to note that most interpretations also highlight how the woman is trapped by her own self-victimization.
And that’s exactly what the speaker has been doing. And if you look carefully at the card there’s a safe path between the swords laid out for her. If she looked around, she would have a dangerous path to walk, but it would be significantly easier. In this case, the song demonstrates someone doing that thing, rather than suffering from the problem. The speaker has seen that he has haunted himself — his lover had nothing to do with his continued numbness and feelings of haunting. He did that himself. And now he’s free, as the woman in card could be.
Decision of the Skies
So the thing is, that’s not the last song. This is. This was the last song on the LP Bridge that came out the year after the band released Decisions of the Sky. In this dreamy song, we hear a story of a speaker who rides the wind and drifts between the clouds and in the sky. The song also references space capsules, who fly as though the sky were “a pond.” It relies on its speed, as the speaker has to, now.
This is where the path in the previous song took the speaker. The album was “decisions,” while this song is “decision,” singular. The songs show the possible choices the speaker could and did make. Now he rushes forward into life, like the Fool at the beginning of the major arcana. There is only one decision: go. If “nothing lasts… only time really flies… and you’re always free” then why stop? Why wait for time to fly? Fly inside it and through it. The band demonstrates, here, their new affirmation to go forward despite their loss. The full LP deals much more with that. One song is directly addressed to Sheehan. Another is about struggling against waves that pull the speaker there down to drown. So this song functions as the end to two different albums, which seems very appropriate.
No, seriously. I don’t pull these cards until I write the last of the previous paragraph. I said this song is about The Fool before I knew this card was coming up. But it couldn’t be anything else.
The Fool is the only unnumbered card in the major arcana. He (or she) moves through the other cards, like the stations of the cross or the roles in a play. You can visualize the Fool learning from each person and situation. You can also imagine the Fool becoming each person and living through each situation directly.
In the card, the cliff depicts the Fool’s willingness to fall into life. It could be dangerous, it could be deadly. But it could also be wonderful and freeing and like flying. The Fool is about to find out. The dog is trying to hold The Fool back. The situation lets us know if we should listen to that or not. But, more often than not, The Fool suggests that we should let go of something and really jump. Be like you were when you had nothing and didn’t know who you were.
Our identities are really just the crusted-on remnants of a bunch of stories, memories, and decisions. That’s why so many heroes go through awful stuff, like the storm in the album. Usually that’s what it takes for us to wash that stuff off us if we need to become something new. The album is about what it took for the band, and for John Popper. It’s also about what it might take for you. Don’t stand — be in the world. Nothing lasts.