Purple Mountains (RIP David Berman, August 2019)

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Terrific interview, thanks for posting. I love that it was the day after the infamous "Bob demands a million dollars at a major label" / "Quick, put in him in a cab to Hoboken!" incident.

Stub yr toe on the yacht rock (morrisp), Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:25 (two years ago) link

(Gary, not Bob - obv.)

Stub yr toe on the yacht rock (morrisp), Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:25 (two years ago) link

I found this quote from the Leo Weekly interview linked above interesting:

When I was younger, and people bought records, I could live on the royalties. Times have changed in those respects.

in case anyone is still clinging to the whole 'streaming is good for independent artists' thing

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 15 August 2019 22:51 (two years ago) link

Of course, as discussed itt, Silver Jews and Purple Mountains stuff is sold out everywhere, including Discogs. Where were all these customers when DCB was alive? Oh right, they were streaming his music and listening to it for free on Youtube

Paul Ponzi, Thursday, 15 August 2019 22:53 (two years ago) link

Maybe, but I assume at least some people buying DCB's records in the past few weeks were not previously familiar with him, and interest was spurred by these tributes/articles/etc.

Stub yr toe on the yacht rock (morrisp), Thursday, 15 August 2019 23:17 (two years ago) link

and Drag City wasn't on streaming until recently

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Thursday, 15 August 2019 23:22 (two years ago) link

ponzi scheme is just being trenchant again

bookmarkflaglink (jim in vancouver), Thursday, 15 August 2019 23:24 (two years ago) link

there's an interview upthread ... or ... somewhere, I don't know ... that i read recently where Berman was expressing pleasant surprise at how much he was making monthly in royalties off the old SJ records. obviously, that was a relatively old interview.

alpine static, Thursday, 15 August 2019 23:29 (two years ago) link

I feel a bit sad that he had the thought that no one loved the band (SJ). It makes me think of Guadalcanal Diary when they broke up saying (I am pretty sure, I really don't want to have to factcheck this) one of the reasons they stopped was because they were no one's favorite band.

Yerac, Thursday, 15 August 2019 23:41 (two years ago) link

The old records sold pretty well for Drag City.

Just over 30K for Starlite...just under 30K for Natural...almost up to 50K (that's a lot!) for American Water...back down to 23K for Bright... then, up to 25K for Tanglewood... and around 16K for Lookout.

mr.raffles, Friday, 16 August 2019 02:09 (two years ago) link

From Oldham's tribute:

/It was in recent weeks, David proposed that he, Bill Callahan and I tour together as the ‘Monsieurs of Drag City,’ with all three of us on stage trading off songs./

my god

gbx, Friday, 16 August 2019 02:32 (two years ago) link

xp: "hey boys, supper's on me/our record just went aluminum!"

☮ (peace, man), Friday, 16 August 2019 11:22 (two years ago) link

Wouldn't have anticipated quite so substantial a contraction for Bright Flight. Oh well. (Some days that feels like my favourite.)

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Friday, 16 August 2019 12:37 (two years ago) link

I wonder how many Domino sold, I would assume significantly less? (did they cover Europe or just the UK) I find the sales of cult artists endlessly fascinating, particularly the relationship between such modest sounding figures and the number of times you spot them second hand. That said, i have hardly ever seen Silver Jews records resold. The last two lps have aged wonderfully, esp. lookout mountain.

cw, Friday, 16 August 2019 13:28 (two years ago) link

In one of the interviews linked above (i think from 2002?) he bemoans that hes one of the biggest selling Drag City artists but sells very little on Domino

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Friday, 16 August 2019 13:58 (two years ago) link

Wouldn't have anticipated quite so substantial a contraction for /Bright Flight/. Oh well. (Some days that feels like my favourite.)

This record is always brushed over for some reason. Definitely has some of my favorite SJ tracks.

circa1916, Friday, 16 August 2019 13:58 (two years ago) link

Starlite Walker - The Natural Bridge - American Water - Bright Flight is such an amazing run. I think each one is better than the one before it. Should poll the instrumentals, closing ballads, etc. I guess he thought the tambourine was mixed too loud on Transylvania Blues, and it ruined the song. It never really bothered me until I read that, but I can't unhear it now.

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Friday, 16 August 2019 17:02 (two years ago) link

Tanglewood is the sleeper of the catalog imo. But I legitimately love them all. Weirdly, maybe, Starlite is my least favorite. It's the most uneven, I think.

I remember reading that DCB thought he "let up" on side 2 of Bright Flight or something to that effect, which was why it wasn't more popular, according to him. I wish I could remember where I read that. He's mostly right - that album is very front-loaded. Then again, how many songwriters would give their right arm to write something as amazing as "Death To an Heir or Sorrows?" I also have always had a soft spot for "Tennessee," even though it's pretty dumb (in the sweetest and most self-aware kind of way, of course).

Paul Ponzi, Friday, 16 August 2019 17:07 (two years ago) link

Bright Flight is often the one I return to most these days

Thus Spoke Darraghustra (Oor Neechy), Friday, 16 August 2019 18:06 (two years ago) link

Jeremiah Cymerman retweeted this email from DB to a friend going to hospital for detox.

Seven years ago I was about to go into the hospital for detox after a really rough few years. I was scared and isolated. I sent an email to David in the dark.
His response truly helped me and I will always carry it with me.
thank you dcb#dragcity #DavidBerman pic.twitter.com/VsXjJDMl2S

— Timrw58 (@Timothy17695396) August 8, 2019

EvR, Friday, 16 August 2019 20:50 (two years ago) link

I would agree the first half of Bright Flight is better than the second half, but I love Let's Not and Say We Did and Tennessee. The former has such weird nonsense lyrics describing a surreal winter wonderland. The latter is the Silver Jews' version of Jackson.

Mazzy Tsar (PBKR), Friday, 16 August 2019 21:08 (two years ago) link

Tanglewood is the sleeper of the catalog imo. But I legitimately love them all. Weirdly, maybe, Starlite is my least favorite. It's the most uneven, I think.


― Paul Ponzi, Friday, 16 August 2019

Fully agree. For me Starlite is his weakest album.

Duke, Friday, 16 August 2019 21:30 (two years ago) link

It does seem a little filler-y, but Trains Across the Sea, Advice to the Graduate, and New Orleans are all time.

circa1916, Friday, 16 August 2019 21:33 (two years ago) link


Natural Bridge>>>Purple Mountains>>>Bright Flight>>>American Water>>>Arizona Record>>>Tanglewood Numbers>>>Starlite Walker>>> Lookout etc

They all have great songs though

Lactose Shaolin Wanker (Raymond Cummings), Friday, 16 August 2019 21:40 (two years ago) link

agree Natural Bridge da best

husserl gang (rip van wanko), Friday, 16 August 2019 21:42 (two years ago) link

"Nights That Won't Happen" is beautiful:


djh, Friday, 16 August 2019 22:24 (two years ago) link

Natural Bridge > American Water > Tanglewood Numbers > Purple Mountains = Bright Flight = Lookout Mountain > Starlite Walker > Arizona

Paul Ponzi, Saturday, 17 August 2019 00:11 (two years ago) link

whatever works for ya

braunld (Lowell N. Behold'n), Saturday, 17 August 2019 02:31 (two years ago) link

Honestly don’t know how to rank these outside of Natural Bridge at #1 with Tanglewood >> Lookout at the end.

circa1916, Saturday, 17 August 2019 06:25 (two years ago) link

Not rly counting the lo-fi early stuff, kind of a different thing.

circa1916, Saturday, 17 August 2019 06:26 (two years ago) link

^ exactly right. i mean of course you have to rank Starlite Walker with the others, but it's not really a fair fight. Starlite is very much embryonic Joos. everything from Natural Bridge on is more fully Berman-ized and on equal footing.

alpine static, Saturday, 17 August 2019 07:48 (two years ago) link

"Nights That Won't Happen" is beautiful:

― djh, Friday, August 16, 2019 10:24 PM (yesterday) bookmarkflaglink

Was listening to Purple Mountains again the other day and when this came on I was just gutted. Not just over Berman's death, but over every death I've experienced and will experience in the future. Like, I haven't even listened to it in days, just writing a post about it, and I can feel the tears welling up in their ducts. I'm gonna go hug somebody I love now.

☮ (peace, man), Saturday, 17 August 2019 12:46 (two years ago) link

been spinning my peak trio today. hard to argue with American Water's popularity goddamn it what an album.

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Saturday, 17 August 2019 22:43 (two years ago) link

apologies if it’s been linked but some Nashville folks talking Berman


A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Chooglin (will), Saturday, 17 August 2019 23:36 (two years ago) link

Great stories in that one, thanks

circa1916, Sunday, 18 August 2019 00:50 (two years ago) link

yes, very good. thank you.

triple-washed (Sufjan Grafton), Sunday, 18 August 2019 01:47 (two years ago) link

David had a universe of one-liners that were as profound as zen koans. One night, when load-out was taking too long and some of the band wanted to go out partying, he yelled: "We're adults — we are too old to make new friends." He was a true humanist both in his work and his outlook on life. He hated pretension. He told me his favorite novel was Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. He valued real storytelling and real connection. I was always self-conscious about not going to college and reading the classics, and I remember one time he said, kind of dismissively: "You have to go to an academy to have someone walk you through Joyce and Ezra Pound." On an eight-week tour in 2008, I am pretty sure all we listened to in the S-Jews van was country oldies, Black Sabbath, Grateful Dead and Tennessee Titans games.

William Tyler OTM. I like his records, too.

del griffith, Sunday, 18 August 2019 02:04 (two years ago) link

his new album is wonderful. "nights that won't happen" is of a different tone than anything else i've heard from him

Karl Malone, Sunday, 18 August 2019 02:09 (two years ago) link

'tide to the oceans' such a standout track from starlite walker... played it about five times today

meaulnes, Sunday, 18 August 2019 22:10 (two years ago) link



Karl Malone, Monday, 19 August 2019 04:54 (two years ago) link

Was lurking BobNasty's IG, found these older posts:


Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Monday, 19 August 2019 05:04 (two years ago) link

Yeah that Darkness and Cold video is difficult to watch. xpost

Duke, Monday, 19 August 2019 16:23 (two years ago) link

Wow: “For pleasant accidents, “Nights That Won’t Happen”, came out of mishearing “Knight In White Satin” ”

— Marc Masters (@Marcissist) August 21, 2019

... (Eazy), Thursday, 22 August 2019 02:54 (two years ago) link

^^ from another new recent interview:


... (Eazy), Thursday, 22 August 2019 02:55 (two years ago) link

if you're into thinking about "pleasant accidents" or even unpleasant accidents I recommend clicking through the long history of the mostly desolately populated jibberish infested Silver Jews Bulletin Board, past all the dumb seemingly nonsensical pecker posts, to get to the the 2012-2015 era to find lots of rough drafts of now-familiar song lyrics and a lot of originals about marital dissolution, extramarital sex, Nashville, Brooklyn, alcoholism, homosexuality, suicide, and lots more (probably about 20-25 posts) posted by the poster breedlove, most often also under the lyrical pseudonym Kingston Bunkley, and also sometimes attributed to a "Craig Breedlove." ("Craig" of course being David's pre-Cloud middle name.) It's the same poster at the same time that posted the lyrics to songs called "The Veranda Over the Toy Shoppe" and "Wacky Package Eyes" that seems to line up with up what Bob Nastanovich was saying at the time about two new Silver Jews songs he said they'd written, but then later retracted as a joke. I'd post links to the posts directly but they don't seem to work. Other posts from around the same time suggest this is maybe an account operated by or shared with Chris Stroffolino, but then again there are also posts from breedlove saying "this is not Chris." I'll let the Nick Broomfields of ilx figure that out.



del griffith, Thursday, 22 August 2019 04:02 (two years ago) link

btw that IP address can be traced to Brooklyn, New York.

del griffith, Thursday, 22 August 2019 04:04 (two years ago) link

(also, he said in an interview that he intentionally chose "Nights that Won't Happen" as a titleplay on "Knights in White Satin," and was surprised when his friends didn't immediately realize it. so, there's that)

del griffith, Thursday, 22 August 2019 04:10 (two years ago) link

Snow is Falling, New York City
Mon Jan 26, 2015 22:03

Snow is falling in Manhattan, I’ve got my coat, I’ve got my hat on
Falling deepler down in Brooklyn, someone cold that I just took in
Snowflakes causing quite a scene, Staten Island, The Bronx and Queens
Softly falling, oh so pretty, snow is falling, New York City

Falling down on Brooklyn Bridge, from Riverdale down to Bay Ridge
From the narrows, to the heights, falling on the city lights
See the city in a rush, transformed with a quiet hush
Come tomorrow it’s all gone, still it falls on and on

Snow along the sidewalk sweeps, across the city that never sleeps
Children sledding in the park, couples skating after dark
Sounds of laughter in the air, snow plows rushing here and there
Snowmen, snowballs, snowflakes fall, snow draped buildings big and small

Snow is falling in Manhattan, I’ve got my coat, I’ve got my hat on
Falling deeply out in Brooklyn, someone cold that I just took in
Snowflakes causing quite a scene, Staten Island, The Bronx and Queens
Softly falling, oh so pretty, snow is falling, New York City
Kingston Bunkley

Karl Malone, Thursday, 22 August 2019 04:17 (two years ago) link

The more I listen to this, the more I believe it's his finest group of songs (really a musical suicide note). I applaud him for finding a way to write this stuff while (likely) suffering through the worst depression of his life. This album is as chilling as any in recent memory. The fact that it's also hilarious at times is all the more remarkable. Album of the year.

Wally P. Doyle, Thursday, 22 August 2019 06:07 (two years ago) link

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