lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: this train revised


amy ray quote from 1994-xx-xx: swamp ophelia, epic press release:

"i'd studied the holocaust when i was college, but the museum took my interest one step further. i had to get these feelings out of my system."

...

"that was important to me. there's a lot now being uncovered about the homosexual experience of the holocaust and how it affected those survivors who'd been listed as what they called a '175-er'. at the museum it's made very clear that although jews were by far the main victims of the holocaust, there were many others too."

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1994-05-13: world cafe radio program:

interviewer: we're back on the world cafe and amy and emily from the indigo girls have joined us. the new album "swamp ophelia" is just out and the record industry is devouring it and dissecting it and thinking about it (emily and amy laugh) and making these two people nervous about it. you know amy in many ways, not to slight emily's songs, but you're the one who's really pushing things lyricly and musically on this record. i mean you really tackle some deep subjects, i mean not to many songs about the holocaust - light pop songs.

amy: well...i mean some of the stuff that emily and i wrote about on this record i think is similar thematically as far as growing up, dealing with the past...but, yeah i did tackle the holocaust. i mean, i went to the museum and i felt compelled to get something out of my system and then i realized i was writing a song type of thing and we both wanted to put it on the record. and that's really you know the only specifically sort of rough topic i've ever tackled that was so specific like that.

interviewer: well i was thinking that "dead man's hill" is not really an easy song.

amy: yeah, i didn't know i was going to tackle that one though so that just came as a surprise.

interviewer: had you seen schindler's list around the same time?

amy: uh-uh. i didn't actually.

interviewer: cause the image of the train is so much a part of that film too.

amy: i took holocaust course at emory university and the train image was very heavy in that course. cause the film's constant barrage of trains and then the museum obviously features that as a large...that's one of the things that you do that has the most impact. when you walk into the boxcar and stuff.

interviewer: ah...i haven't been there. oh god...

amy: yeah.

interviewer: well let's play it cause its not going to be an easy one to do today. so this is "this train revised" from "swamp ophelia".

amy: o.k.

(album version of "this train revised")

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1994-06: mood indigo, bone music magazine:

ray exhibits her personality in many ways - she's constantly moving, talking, displaying an earnest energy to get things done. she speaks seriously about the indigo's work with greenpeace - preservation of the environment is a major issue for them - and discusses a recent trip to the holocaust museum in washington, d.c. the visit inspired her to write one of the most moving songs on swamp ophelia. in "this train revised," ray describes the horror of the death camp boxcars: "it's a fish white belly/lump in the throat/razor on the wire/skin and bones/piss and blood in a railroad car/100 people/gypsies, queers and david's star/this train is bound for glory."

"the strongest image for me in the museum was the boxcar," ray says. "i decided to write a song using the chorus of the woody guthrie song, "this train" and mixing it in sort of a more caustic way. there's still prejudice, and there are people dying all over the world and being oppressed because of what they believe and what they are. i was just trying to get it across that it could happen to anybody."

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1994-10-07: out in the open, the akron beacon journal:

but the closing track this train (revised) was the cut meaning the most to ray. it's about the holocaust, inspired by ray's visit to the holocaust museum in washington, d.c. it's a song she felt she had to get out of her system.

"i'd studied a lot about it. then i went to the museum and the images just hit me," says ray, who has friends who lost loved ones to the holocaust, and who has immersed herself in the jewish and christian cultures.

"there's no way to measure the pain in the situation. it's so painful. it's an experience beyond anything we could understand."

the lyrics speak not only of the persecution of jews, but "other entities involved we don't think about as often ... the handicapped, blacks, people of color, gypsies, gay people. if you didn't fit in you were destined for trouble.

"i'm different. i'm gay. i'm a woman. women still have a long way to go. that's the bigger issue than anything, bigger than being gay though in some ways they can play off each other."

ray says oppressed people (such as gays and women) don't have certain freedoms.

"if you're a woman walking down the street, you gotta worry if you're going to get raped or not," says ray, who believes women are in more danger than gays, who are subject to homophobia.

she says homophobia doesn't exist in her world and she has gotten nothing but support after coming out. "i have to remind myself of the trials of my friends who don't have it so easy."

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1994-12: indigo girls: why amy and emily are finally in the pink, b side:

the record that's causing the tour "swamp ophelia" is probably the most sophisticated, stylistically varied record of their career, bringing in not only hard hitting session musicians, but sympathetic guests like the roches, lisa germano and jane siberry.

"i think some of it is that we felt more comfortable in the studio. this is the second record with the same producer (peter collins), so we had the formalities out of the way, and we could immediately immerse ourselves in the different musicians we'd use. we got lucky on this record. we picked a bunch of players who brought in a different side of things, and some of the songs dealt with things that could bring in different musical influences. i think we've always been influenced by all styles of music, but as far as the studio goes, we didn't have the time or money before to put some of those other ideas down. plus, i was being more influenced by the alternative world, but i wasn't using it in the realm of the indigo girls. we grew up on that scene, playing alternative clubs because the folk clubs weren't open minded enough for us and what we wanted to do. the spirit was always there, but now it's really emerging musically."

on "touch me fall" the song begins as a ballad then revs up into a three-chord rocker that'll make you swear you're listening to a cover of "won't get fooled again."

"it was a little deliberate, tongue-in-cheek, bow down to the who type of thing," amy admits. "when i was writing it and it moved from one section to another i didn't think about it. then when i was playing it, i went 'we should really kind of muck this up a bit.'"

and while the playfulness is there, the record is often serious, never more so than in "this train (revised)," which was prompted by amy's visit to the holocaust museum in washington, d.c., and its portrayal of the victims - the jews, of course, but also gypsies and the homosexuals.

"that was important to me. at the museum it's made very clear although jews were by far the main victims of the holocaust, there were many others, too."

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1994-12-02: amy ray on...jesus christ superstar, the washington square news:

dc: now, michael told me when he first moved to atlanta in 89, he was actually an indigo girls fan.

ar: (laughing) he didn't tell me that.

dc: how did you guys meet?

ar: he was playing with a friend of mine, gerard mchugh, who is, at the time and still is, one of my favorite songwriters, and someone that i played with a lot. we were all kind of on a scene where we all played together and traded gigs and stuff and michael moved down and i met him in that context. it was like a circle of people, they were all guys, and i hung out with them. i guess i heard of him from gerard, and then he played me a song actually, at somebody's house one time, a song called "amy no," which was this incredible folk song he wrote, and after that i was like a devoted fan of his. and when he started doing big fish ensemble, and all of his activities, i kind of followed what he did, and we just crossed paths all the time. and eventually he started sitting in with us and playing with us on our records.

dc: i knew of him vaguely from "pushing the needle" and the two songs on rites of passage, but when i heard "this train revised" that was like the first time i really heard him, and that's one of the most amazing songs.

ar: he's a great drummer, too. he's a one-of-a-kind drummer. no one else can really duplicate the way he plays. it's pretty special.


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