Ted Leo has a good song for a good cause. Check it out.
I don't usually post something so promo-y, but Ted Leo is a freaking national treasure.
You probably know me best for my writing, especially if you’re receiving this because you subscribe to The Present Age, my newsletter (and if you don’t yet subscribe, please do). And after that, you may know me as a fan of the various Chicago professional sports teams. BUT AFTER THAT… you may know me for my deep love of all things music.
I spent three semesters as a music performance major (classical and jazz guitar) at Millikin University in Decatur, IL, before dropping out and eventually enrolling at Columbia College Chicago, where I got a degree in [takes deep breath because the name of this degree is so goofy long] Arts, Entertainment & Media Management: Music business talent management.
I still like to make music. For instance, here’s a little EP I made earlier this year:
But mostly, I love to listen. I spent the better part of my early 20s going to concert after concert here in Chicago, favoring places like the Empty Bottle, the Beat Kitchen, Subterranean, the Hideout, Double Door (RIP), Congress Theater (RIP), the Metro, and more.
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And while it’s been a long while since my days of going to 3 or 4 concerts per week (a long, long, long, long, long while — even before the pandemic hit), there are still a few artists I try to make a point of seeing whenever they’re in town. Ted Leo is one of them.
Ted is an outrageously talented songwriter. But more than that, he’s also just a nice, kind, great man. Earlier today, I was on Twitter and saw a few tweets from Ted that were posted over the weekend:
Ted Leo @tedleoFolks, I finally got my bandcamp situation figured out and am able to post this benefit track for Jane’s Due Process and The Frontera Fund. Wrote about it here: https://t.co/nKbv3LSDkN
“I don’t have a publicist or label, so no one’s going to write about it.” Challenge accepted. Plus, he’s donating proceeds to a good cause!
“Into the Conquering Sun” by Ted Leo & Jeppesen Airplane
I've had the germ of this (literally the first few lines and melody of the song) in my brain for a little while, and it was initially intended as part of what I hope will eventually be another album from me, that was maybe going to be a song cycle about certain recurrent themes of racism, patriarchy, Capitalism, etc. defining America in ways that "we" (broadly speaking, of course) just still won't acknowledge (I realize this will come as so unsurprising an announcement to anyone who's followed me since… the late 80s?, as to possibly land in the realm of DISAPPOINTMENT, but there's always a lot to say), that I keep adding to in a notebook under the heading "The Decline and Fall of the Gnomon Empire" (stamp it, blackjack, 1-2-3 - that's poor man's copyright!), but I'm a bit adrift with no real time or goals or visible future for my life/career as an artist, so it's largely remained in the "continuously adding notes" phase for a while. Some good notes! Lotta stuff to draw on! But I haven't done much writing with it all, until I got the assignment I needed from Spencer Ackerman.
I'm a fan of Spencer's journalism AND TWITTER FEED, and when I saw him tweet about his then forthcoming book, Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, *obviously* I was interested. I mentioned above that I'm adrift career-wise, and I bring that up again because one thing I thought I might be good at as a side-hustle is narrating audio books, or other audio content, and it was with this in mind that I cold pitched Spencer on letting me do that for him, and this book. The subject matter is an area I'm very familiar with, and indeed, has had a major part in shaping my adult life and my own art and career; and I think I can read well; and have a pretty good voice for broadcast, voice-overs, etc., if I'm allowed to say so.
Spencer said no. In fairness, he said he was actually going to do it himself, which, to me, is great and the BEST way for an audio book to happen! So we talked a little bit, and instead of the narration, he brought up the idea of a song to go along with the book release. I love this idea - I've done it a couple of times before, and it's a really fun assignment; and in this case, it grabbed me because I truly care about these things, and it felt right that after all these years, in the process of revisiting these toxic streams that come together to make this flaming flood of contemporary American history, I could work with someone alongside whose journey my own has ridden for the past few decades, with this particular part of the history looming so large in the work that we've done. It was also an honor to be asked, and I hope I've done that justice in the writing of this song, "Into the Conquering Sun," presented here as Ted Leo & Jeppesen Airplane (look it up), which is Spencer on drums and the great Sue Werner from the great band, War on Women, on bass; mastered by the genius Jesse Cannon. There's a lot crammed in here - to my mind, maybe deserving of something similar to the review of T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland," that called it "a scum of poetry floating on a sea of footnotes" - but hopefully it works, hopefully you'll enjoy it, and hopefully we can continue to raise a few dollars for Jane's Due Process and the Frontera Fund.
The great Spencer Ackerman plays drums on the track and debuted the song on his Forever Wars Substack back in September:
Check it out, and if you like it, buy it over at Ted’s Bandcamp page. And hell, even if you don’t like it, consider buying it over at Ted’s Bandcamp page. Or donate directly to Jane’s Due Process and the Frontera Fund, both organizations fighting for reproductive rights, which are very much under fire at the moment.
And since I have room here, check out this video of Ted playing some tracks a few years back at KEXP:
And if you’re going to be over at his Bandcamp page anyway, here’s another banger: