“Seriously Funny”

Friends General Conference, QuakerBooks 2007

  • The Quaker Collection: Playlist

    “Yonder Stands the Quaker” was written in 1997 while I was serving as a Friend in Residence at the Woodbrooke Quaker study center in Birmingham England.  It looks at Friends from an outside perspective, with a mixture of admiration and amusement.  That’s probably me profiled in the first verse.

    Yonder Stands the Quaker

    “That of Odd in Everyone” (2014) is not explicitly about Quakers, but it plays with the familiar Quaker conviction that there is “that of God in everyone.”  The uniqueness of a human personality participates in the oneness of God.  “Oddliness and godliness can intertwine.”  As we become more ourselves, less driven by emulation and competition, we become more like God, more filled with compassion for others.  More like Jesus, “a real oddity.”

    That of Odd in Everyone

    “Eighty-Weighty Friend” was written in 1993, around the time of a country & western hit by Billy Ray Cyrus, “Achy-Breaky Heart.”  I wrote and performed the song for the eightieth birthday of my friend Barbara Graves, valiant Friend, a coordinator of Quaker relief work in Germany for the American Friends Service Committee after World War II, and matriarch of the Strawberry Creek Friends Meeting in Berkeley, California.  I was pastor of the Berkeley Friends Church at the time.  She was to be celebrated by the AFSC and local Friends and she asked me to write something that would keep things from getting too “reverential.”  I used the song as an opportunity to reflect on the role of eldership in the Religious Society of Friends, which is a gerontocracy of sorts.  With such radical reliance upon the Spirit’s guidance, Friends rely on elders with the life experience to recognize the many ways we can deceive ourselves.  Younger Friends may have this gift, and older Friends may still be foolish, but age and experience usually offer useful perspective. 

    Eighty-Weighty Friend

    “Making Quakers from Scratch” (1989) was written for the occasion of a baby shower at Pendle Hill, the Quaker study center near Philadelphia. Robyn Richmond and Lloyd Guindon were expecting their second child (Julian) and Gay and Tom Nicholson were expecting their first child (Nathan). I started writing with the line, “Oh, no, I assure you, we don’t proselytize,” and the rest just took off from there.

    Making Quakers from Scratch

    “A Process in the Wind” (1997) was the product of participating in too many Quaker business meetings that wafted off into imponderability. We exalt “Quaker process” but a process is a means that sometimes becomes an end in itself. Perhaps it is symptomatic of our times, where technologies impose their own ends upon our lives. As the bridge suggests, Friends used to believe in progress, but now it’s process, “we do good by doing it well.” The song combines those old light-bulb jokes with Bob Dylan’s early classic.

    A Process in the Wind

    “Back in the RSofF” (1995) takes off from the Beatles tune, adopting the persona of a guy who has found his way back to Quakers, after feeling oppressed as a child by his parents taking him to meeting. Now he swims happily in the alphabet soup of Quaker acronyms — and takes his kids to meeting.

    Back in the RSofF

    “The Blue Bonnet Inn” (2013) was performed to a raucous crowd during Pendle Hill’s last Log Night in June 2014.  It imagines what a Quaker gentlemen’s club might be like.  It is surely the first song of its kind.  In any case, everything in the song from lap-dancing elders to lounging overseers seems to suggest squalid sensuality but ends up with prim spirituality.  Musical inspiration for the song was taken from Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” from Highway 61 Revisited.  But while Dylan’s song was probably inspired by his experiences at Andy Warhol’s Factory, mine is set in the Quaker demimonde.

    The Blue Bonnet Inn

    “Pendle Hill Revisited” was written in 1998 during one of my stints at Pendle Hill.  The title was inspired by Evelyn Waugh‘s novel, Brideshead Revisited, in which the main character is enchanted by an English noble family and their great house.  I have always been enchanted by Pendle Hill and its community, which has kept me coming back.  The main character in the song is named Bill, only because it rhymes with Hill.  The song’s chord structure is taken from Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.”  In my song, Bill keeps finding a way to stay on or return to Pendle Hill.  The world passes away, and even Bill passes away, but as in the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” “you can check out, but you can never leave.”

    Pendle Hill Revisited
  • The Last of the Brothers Doug: Playlist

    Real Time
    Aspirational Culture
    Better with Age
    Dreams and Visions
    He Meant Well . . .
    She Keeps Calling Me
    Down the Hall
    Castles in the Sand
    The Kazoo of Death
    There Was You
  • The Best of Chronicles of Babylon: Playlist

    Cheeseburger Deluxe
    My God
    Making Quakers from Scratch
    Mall Story
    Eighty-Weighty Friend (also re-recorded on Every Doug Agrees)
    Back in the RSofF

    Noah’s Anarchy (A Fable for the Nineties) was re-recorded and appears on Moments of Truth

    Yonder Stands the Quaker
    Hair Envy
    Pendle Hill Revisited
    Grandma Was a Klingon (re-recorded)
    Am I Tragic Yet? (rerecorded 2022)
    I Don’t Really Exist
    Time Is Like Wine
  • Terms and Conditions: Playlist

    In the Flow (2008) (rerecorded on A Musical Personality Disorder)
    Gravity (2012)
    Nietzsche in Heaven (2007)
    All Fall Down (2005)
    The Magdalene and the Nazarene (2011, rerecorded 2022)
    Existential Shoes (2011)
    Higher Ground (2007)
    Jungian Love-Song (2009)
    New Pair of Glasses (2009)
    The Quiet in the Land (2011)
    All Along the Strip-Mall (2012)
    An Epiphany Waiting to Happen
    Subjunctivitis (2010) (rerecorded on A Musical Personality Disorder)
    Living in the End (2013, rerecorded 2022))
  • The Political Unconscious: Playlist

    Babble On
    Let’s Call It X
    Let the Captives Go Free (rerecorded 2022)

    A better recording of “The Parlor of No Return” is included in A Musical Personality Disorder

    Judy Iscariot
    Jesus Anarchist!

    A better recording of “The Foot of the Cross” is included in A Musical Personality Disorder

    That of Odd in Everyone
    Draped across My Mind
    The Blue Bonnet Inn (A Quaker Gentlemen’s Club)
    The Wreck of the Economy
    Party in the Godhead Tonight!
    The Disorient Express (The Train Is Going Nowhere)
    Death Don’t Have No Mercy in This Land (Trad. arr. by Rev. Gary Davis)
    Ride That Alpha Wave
  • Every Doug Agrees: Playlist

    Event Horizon
    Pandemic Haze
    Miss Information
    I Fill All Things
    Swing by Eternity
    Me-Me, Me Be a Meme
    The Good Is a Merciless God
    Stimulus Check
    A Process in the Wind
    Eighty-Weighty Friend
    Goddess Wants Me for a Moonbeam
    The Old Double-Cross
  • Man of Irony: Playlist

    A Messenger of the Lord
    I Got This Condition
    Crossroad Blues
    Liberate the Corporation Now!
    The Blues of Heaven
    Aw, Darlin’ (A Valentine for Caroline)
    Hi-Yo Yahweh
    These United States of Grace
    Sophia, Sophia
    Can These Bones Live?
    The Dude
    Prostitution by Other Means
  • Moments of Truth: Playlist

    The Fever
    I Didn’t Have to Stand in Line for This
    The Future Perfect
    Common as Dirt
    Dark Matter/Dark Energy
    The Gun
    The Other Shoe
    Baby, I’m Retired
    Blue Is the Color of Hope
    Maranatha High
    All Life Is Human Life
    Noah’s Anarchy (A Fable for the Nineties)
  • A Musical Personality Disorder: Playlist

    The Common Is Coming on
    Oh, Shekinah, Baby!

    COVID-19, What Does It Mean?
    Do the Social Distance
    The Parlor of No Return

    This Joint’s Gonna Blow
    Echo Chamber
    Seven-Sealed Scroll
    James Nayler, 1660
    The Legend of the Brothers Doug
    In the Flow
    The Foot of the Cross