Awakening (SST 230) - August 1989

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1) No Love (infoMP3)
2) Assembly Line (infoMP3)
3) You (infoReal Audio)
4) Somebody New (infoReal Audio)
5) Garden Grow (infoReal Audio)
6) Your Wings (infoMP3)
7) Book of Life (infoMP3)
8) Dreaming (infoMP3)
9) Tired (infoMP3)
10) Awakening (infoMP3)
11) She Loves You (infoMP3)
12) Baby Its You (infoReal Audio)


During the tumultuous 2 week recording sessions for Confession, Bill Stevenson kept rhapsodizing on how cool it would be to really have the time to do it right, to double vocals all over the place and produce a Last masterpiece.

We decided that the follow-up album would be just that.

Awakening was recorded in two brief spurts - first in the fall of '88, after which All had to go tour, and then in Spring of '89. We spent our time, did lots of doubled vocals as Bill had wanted, and in the process lost all sense of accounting for studio time. SST thought we (Bill) had it under control, and Bill and I each assumed the other was keeping track.

The result was that we ended up inadvertently creating the most expensive album SST ever put out. It sold less than Confession, and is largely responsible for the severe label cutbacks that destroyed our 1989 tour.

It's also, arguably, not as good as what we'd been able to pull off in two weeks with Confession a year before.

There's a lesson in there, somewhere.

I was, however, able to get Vitus Mataré and David Nolte back to lay down some tracks. It improved the album, was fun to do, and effectively gave the lie to any complaints that this lineup of The Last was less than authentic.

—Joe Nolte

No Love (Joe Nolte, May 1985)

What you do is up to you
People change - so did you
There's something wrong with me
And you
You know we say and do
A lot of things we just shouldn't do

How did all of this begin
Why such a void where love had been
There's something wrong with me
And you
You know we say and do
A lot of things we just shouldn't do

No love no love it's really nothing new
A lot of other people fall apart the way we do
I can't begin to describe the emptiness there
To find youself alone
when someone else is there

But what you do depends on you
I've got a reason for telling you
Why is it wrong with me
And you
Why is it wrong with you?

I'd just gotten back into songwriting in '84 & '85, brothers Mike & Dave had returned (too late) to save the band, and this thing came out of that era. Musically, it's an obvious Doors homage. Lyrically, it is officially about nothing - I was happily married at the time, and hence had to confine myself to writing "made up" songs. In retrospect, it may have been a bit of prescience, since said marriage did indeed end nine years later (though the ex & I remain friends). Not sure...

—Joe Nolte

Assembly Line (Joe Nolte, August 1984)

Working the assembly line
And after years of wandering
And wondering and pondering
I'm toeing the line
And I can be content again
And never have to think again
Assembly line

We're so glad to see you
Where nothing can free you
Working the assembly line
Your dreams have no place there
No one has a face there
On the assembly line
Working the assembly line

Working the assembly line
And everything you say and do
Is processed into something new
On the outside
And every time you try to think
Your hand will surely find a drink
And then you'll be fine...

Working the assembly line
And all the people you once knew
Will surely turn their back on you
Working on the all day line
And suddenly a face appears
A face you've long been taught to fear
Has found you inside.


Yet another Work song. My reasons for returning again and again to this theme are, I assume, obvious. I have been (and continue to be) stuck in the 9-5 rut for most of my life, slaving away for a buck or two and sacrificing valuable time which would be far better used writing songs, or at least sleeping in.

You write what you feel (ideally), so - another stupid diatribe against the millstone workaday torture that almost all of us endure.

Interesting post release note: some time later (probably early '92) I got a phone message from someone who said he was with SubPop. He left a number, mentioning a possibly financially beneficial proposition, and ended by singing "Assembly Line".

Unfortunately, the number was bogus, and a call to SubPop revealed no such person.

I wonder to this day who the hell it was, and if this was missed opportunity #876...

—Joe Nolte

You (Joe Nolte, Feb 26, 1989)

Dark night - one more alone night - still in my head
I turn myself slowly around - I wish I were dead
And as the sun appears above the morning sky
I lift my head, I turn a weary eye
Across the room I waited for you all last night
You didn't come, you didn't call, and maybe
I knew all along inside

I look to my left - I look to my right - I run
Even though I know girl in your eyes I could be anyone
And even though I don't know what I'm running for
I do my best to be the first to reach your door
But every time you only ask for something more
I turn around and open up my eyes
They see you - they look at you
I melt away
Was I blind - I had no time
You would not stay
And as I stood alone you know it hit me like a shot
You never wanted love at all - you only wanted
to be bought - I almost got caught
But I saw through you

You're here then you're gone - you're back
and your on the mend
Do you hear it - they call saying
look who's got a brand new friend
Well is he wonderful just like you always knew
Someone to share in every little thing you do
Someone to make you feel a little less like you
You never really could feel much at all girl could
You ever see through - see through my eyes
Was the pain part of your game - were you that wise
I only wonder now if you were ever that aware
You know I'm way beyond the point where I
would ever care at all - see who I call
I don't call you

And now night will fall - don't matter at all what you do
There are children outside on the street
that look alot like you
And you may try to find someone to share your blame
But when the curtain falls it's you that will remain
And if you listen you can hear them call your name - oh yeh
YOU - they reach for you - all in a row
When you find you're out of time, where will you go
Now outside night has fallen - see them dancing in the rain
They dream the only dream that's left
To die before they go insane
It's all pre-ordained
And all they call to you.

Another song for H. The chorus came out of the same '85 song whose verses ended up in "Going Gone". The verses were musically concocted immediately after the 1987 Mardi Gras party that made me realize I needed to become a musician again.

Lyrically, the song had to wait till I discovered H, which was four or five months down the road at that point.

The bulk of the lyrics had been written by mid-88 - this was the final H song, the grim realization that it was all for naught and that only shadows lay ahead for each of us. We had indeed already done the backing tracks in fall '88, but the lyrics were still not quite there.
Then I went up to Arrowhead with some friends, and something about the climate triggered something, and I woke up one morning and feverishly wrote the lyrics that ended up in the song. I like them.

Now outside night is falling, see them dancing in the rain,
They dream the only dream that's left - to die before they go insane -
It's all pre-ordained - and they call to

Yeah, I like them a lot.

—Joe Nolte

Somebody New (Mike Nolte)

You got to feel
The pain you feel when you lose someone new
Someone new, someone close to you
You'll never walk away
Cause in your mind it's there to stay
Can't escape from somebody new

You'll never be ready
To face the lonely night awaiting you
Won't know what to do
And if you find a friend
You'll only feel the pain again
You just lons somebody new
Someone so true
Someone for you

Never a chance to tell
The one you lost how good you felt
Letting love intrude
You'll always feel afraid
But never can you walk away
Not when you want somebody new
Someone so true
Someone for you


A Mike song. As soon as I heard his demo I wished Vitus were still with us, as I immediately heard flutes.

Well, we were able to get Vitus to come in and do that flute thing. I'd written a part, he came in, read it, and just did it (improvising a bit, of course).

So, Mike, care to elaborate?

—Joe Nolte

This was also written on accordion. I was living with a couple of girls in Playa Del Rey at the time. The song was written about falling in love and all the usual horrors that come in the same package. And not being able to express it for fear of rejection. And knowing the whole time my object of affection wasn't in love with me, not in the slightest. And knowing the whole time I wouldn't be able to handle it, hence the words "you'll never be ready to face the lonely nights awaiting you..."

I asked Vitus to play flute on it and was floored with the outcome (thank you Vitus!)... Joe wrote his parts out for him (thank you Joe!) and I think it made the song! This will always be one of my favorites that I wrote (my favorite Last songs being Joe's songs, of course).

—Mike Nolte

Garden Grow (Joe Nolte, January 1988)

Oh my love what do I say
To make you put your fears away
Oh my love you do me wrong
To only ask for another song
You don't hear when I scream and shout
You don't know what I'm all about
You say love is like a rose
Tell me where does your garden grow

Tell me tell me why I try
When no one knows it better than I
The meaning of the game you play
You drive everyone who cares away
Tell me girl what do I do
When I can only look at you
You say love is like a rose
When will I see which way it grows

Oh my love you keep from me
No Sweet Surrender waits for me
On my love you do believe
If I got what I want do you think I'd leave
I will banish all your fears
I will hold you a thousand years
And they say that love is a rose

I will make the garden grow

Another H song. (I wonder if she's online? I wonder if she ever heard this album? I wonder if she's even alive...)

Having been spurned for the millionth time, I asked her "What the hell do I have to do?" (I should point out that this was entirely a psychodrama, as nothing actual ever resulted - as much as anything, I believe, this little scenario was an attempt to revive some genuine feeling, some fleeting residual reincarnation of the Old Joe. By '95 Old Joe had returned with a vengeance, is writing these words now, and is about to emerge from self-inflicted retirement.)

She answered, "I dunno, maybe if you wrote another song..."

Hence this one.

It started as a ballad, and one of the only songs to originate on piano rather than guitar.
And yes, that's me playing piano on the record - "Leo", as well as being my father's name, is my real first name.

And if you think the crazy lead guitar in the final verse is in any way an homage to "Volunteers" era Jefferson Airplane, you would be absolutely right.

—Joe Nolte

Your Wings (Mike Nolte)

You row row row your life away
Away, away
I got one thing to say to you
You're a fool
I don't know why you don't try, you never try
I don't see how you'll fly - your wings aren't mine
You go on and on and on again
Never end, you never end
You think life's just a game you play
I don't know why you don't try, you never try
I don't see how you'll fly - you wings aren't mine
You row row row...

A Mike song again. I trust he will tell us what it means at some point.

We had a lot of fun recording this, though during said recording we were having a discussion on a matter of tuning, and at one point the hired engineer we were using turned to me and asked "Do you have perfect pitch?"

Now, I can get pretty damn close to a D above middle C without thinking about it, and I'd indeed started to answer him seriously when I finally realized he'd only asked that to make a disparaging point.

He quickly became our ex-engineer.

I wonder if Bill Stevenson blames me for the subsequent cost overruns...

Anyway, lots of fun, and the instrumental bit I contributed is indeed an homage to "Carry On" by Badfinger.

—Joe Nolte

This was written from what I perceived to be my brother Joe's point of view of me and how I was "wasting my life away" (I never told him this). This was what I thought I would say to me if I was him... "I got one thing to say to you... you're a fool".

My answer to Joe's classic song "The Other Side" (which he wrote from what he believed to be me and my brother Dave's perspective about him... "For years you've been running my life as if I were a slave controlled by your word").

Your Wings never turned out to be one of my favorites, though and it was always hell on our substitute drummer, Tim Edmunson... we played it live every night on our 4 week tour of the USA! (his dislike at playing this song live might have had something to do with the fact that my keyboard started out the rhythm of the song, and Tim had to come in and match the beat I set up... and you know me... always chugging down a six pack before we go on... not very conducive to keeping time rhythmically).

This song was also composed on the accordion!

—Mike Nolte

Book of Life (Mike Nolte)

You say life's impossible
It takes your every breath away
Treats you like a criminal
Keeps you locked up, binds you in it's chains
All's told in your book of life
The friends you have they're not around today
All's told in your book of life
Nobody left to take the pain away, of another day

You say life's impossible
When you get too close to someone, you gotta pay
Spend your whole life miserable
Fighting demons, fighting thoughts you hate
All's told in your book of life
The world moves on but you're too scared to change
All's told in your book of life
Nobody left to take the pain away, of another day

You say life's impossible
It takes you very breath away
Treats you like an animal
Locks you up inside it's hellish cage
All's told in your book of life...

How did Mike get so many songs on this album?

This was his attempt to write a fast song - he's been plagued throughout his life by a keen knack for ballads, and a decided inability to write uptempo numbers.

Not one of my all time favorite Mike songs, but a whole lot of people cite this as one of the best songs on the album.

So what do I know...

Feel free to elaborate, Mike!

—Joe Nolte

Also written on accordion, this song is really just about being frustrated with life in general... it was my way of dealing with the horrors of living in an empty materialistic world filled with empty materialistic idiots! Hah! A fun song to record!

—Mike Nolte

Dreaming (Joe Nolte, Spring 1985)

When she looks at you
Eyes so wide and blue
Eyes so like a mirror you could
Quickly disappear
Without a trace

Now she starts to smile
Turning, moving all the while
People stop - but they don't see the girl
You know she's not
Part of the world you know
You could feel it in your soul
From the moment you were seen
And imprisoned
In a dream

Now she starts to move
Fading now away from view
You run to her - but what is this
A warm embrace - you bend to kiss
And suddenly she's gone
To the shadows she has gone
In a moment you will run
When you see the road
You're on

When she looks at you
Eyes so wide and blue
Eyes so like a mirror you could
Quickly disappear
Without a trace
Did you see her face


Same time period as "No Love", and indeed this and "No Love" were performed by the Nolte Brothers, which is what we called The Last in early fall '85 after Vitus had bailed and Hunter had stopped returning my calls. Someday David will forgive me for making him sing...

Although yet another "fake" song, the material here is non-specific enough to lend itself to such an approach, and it sorta worked.

Musically I was fairly pleased with this one.

I know, I'm not giving a lot of fresh insight on this - but what do you expect? As late as 1985, I was still writing fake songs, songs manipulated into existence, songs not impelled by some personal emotional crisis.

There's simply not that much to say about a song such as this.

—Joe Nolte

Tired (Joe Nolte, December 1987)

Well the good times all are past
Now I'm sitting on my ass
Now the world grinds to a halt
But that don't bother me at all
In my special place
With my brand new face
Oh yeh

It really gets you tired
When your back is to the wire
But the felling is the same
It's gotta make you wonder
When they leave you in the fire
And they tell you that it's all
A game

When you find you love in vain
When you walk into the rain
Lift your head up to the sky
Let them wonder why
Sometimes you gotta dig
Oh yeh
You gotta dig your grave

Really gets you tired
Either dead or else you're wired
In a job that doesn't pay
Gotta make you wonder
If the fruit of her desire
Has the part you thew away

If you see me on your street
Please don't look into my eyes
NO ONE knows the truth that hides

Although I'm sure it wuld be no surprise
They're on the couch with me
There on the couch with me
Oh yeh

Play the fool or play the liar
But you know you gotta play
If you could have hid the fire
Would she still have gone away
Just another Gun for hire
Selling cigarettes for pay

It's gotta make you wonder
I really wonder if
Another bolt of thunder wouldn't blow it all away.


Yet another song for H. This was written at the same time I concocted "Going Gone" and "Dancing". This was the angry, Joe-pretends-to-give-up-but-is-obviously-just-trying-to-get-a-reaction song.'

I was listening to a lot of Motorhead at the time.

—Joe Nolte

Awakening (Joe Nolte, Mar 5, 1989)

What do I need to say to get to you
I could be anyone you want me to
I have no problem though I have no right
I could be anyone for you tonight

I see the laughter forming in your eyes
I know it really should be no surprise
There is no reason and there is no rhyme
In every dream you're there and girl your mine

I do not talk of love - I never knew
A time when talking would have made it true
There is no reason for the things I say
I don't know why it has to be this way

If you had nothing more to say to me
It wouldn't change what you've given to me
There is no reason and there are no rules
It can be anything you want it to

I find no rest and no release at night
I try to drown the sound - destroy the light
The pain increases and I yearn for more
No pain was ever more worth dying for

I make no claim at all upon your heart
I am content to stay and play my part
I don't expect a single thing from you
I know there's nothing we could ever do
You may not even give a thought to me
I could be all alone inside my misery
But till the day when I can surely tell
I'll play my part for you and play it well

We are but leaves against the winds of time
There is no reason and there is no rhyme
Yet should the winds remember me to you

I will be anyone you want me to...

Ah yeah - this turned out pretty good. As you can see by the date, I basically recorded this right after it was written. All them weird electric guitars were created and played by brother David. That sliding descending note thing is him actually detuning his guitar!

I always put this first on tapes I give to people who've never heard our music.

This was written for K1. It worked.

—Joe Nolte

She Loves You (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)

Well, the idea of covering this seemed good at the time. We'd done killer versions at various practices, but it didn't quite come together for this recording. Still my favorite Beatle song, and by extension one of my favorite all time songs.

Had to try - and in truth a recent re-listen convinces me it's not quite as bad as I'd believed.
Still, this was crammed in to a last minute chaotic flurry of activity wherein we were struggling to finish the album before the upcoming All tour, and - well, it could have been a lot better. Oh well.

—Joe Nolte

Baby Its You (Burt Bacharach)

Same holds true for this one (if you're reading this description as part of the SST Acoustic comp, refer to "She Loves You" on the Awakening album - otherwise you have no idea what I'm talking about).

A good idea, results again far less than they could have been.

Again, oh well - it's ancient history.

Great song, anyway. Don't say nothin' bad about my Bacharach.

—Joe Nolte

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