Breaking The Song - Black Chariot


With the final digital single release from the Phantom High E.P. upon us, it seems as good a time as any to break another song. Black Chariot… roll on down.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Black Chariot was not written for the Bombs. Neither was Darkest Horse. Both songs were intended for a side-project with a female vocalist, hence the rather large deviation from the usual SB styles. I have many songs similar to the two mentioned, but for some reason my fellow Bombs took a liking to these and decided to add them to the catalogue.

Darkest and Chariot were originally written with the first person narrative of a female, a strange way to write but part of the challenge. Whereas Darkest transferred to a narrator singing about the ‘bitch’ burning her house down, Chariot transferred easier to male P.O.V., the only giveaway line being – “threw down the gauntlet, cast out the men”. Also the fact the melody on the chorus is sung wonderfully by Laura Young (the singer from the side-project).
The main drive behind the lyrical side was to tell a story, on which I will elaborate shortly. The musical style was partially inspired by the song Black Velvet, not in the progression but in the flow, the roll – like a chariot, trudging along to a heart beat. I had an idea for a song about a ‘triumph’, a Roman celebration where the General would ride through the streets on their chariots after a victory, a distinct step up from an ‘ovation’ - a lesser ceremony of acknowledgement. That’s how the wheels got rolling on the title, here’s the vision behind the story.
I imagined a dark forest on the edge of a town, with a torch-lit single storey building amongst the twisted tree-line. A bar inside, a spiral dirt path leading up to it. No particular era in mind, no geographical location. Inside the bar I saw several men scattered around, drinking from rusted silver tankards, bemused and solemn. Quiet for a bar. The barman washing out the same glass with a dirty cloth, over and over. In the middle of the rotten wooden floor a young woman in a white dress, glowing with angelic luminescence as she repeatedly mops the same patch of floor. Nobody spoke as the dim flames flickered, casting a macabre dance of shadows against the stained wooden walls.

I saw a chariot roll slowly up the dirt path, a dark cloaked figure aboard holding reigns - but no horses pulled the chariot. He stepped down and entered the bar and that is where I began to write. I wanted to create a darker, contemporary take on the ‘Devil went down to Georgia’. This time the challenge laid down would be both won and lost. The underlying theme is temptation - the chance to ride on a chariot… why would anyone want to? Which applies the deeper question of why we want the things we want. What experience and material might we be seeking?
The Devil in this story is described in detail. I had an image of the Man in Black from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series crossed with Tex from the Bravestarr cartoon. He rolls in on his black chariot, enters the bar, casts the men out and offers the woman, a symbol of innocence, the opportunity to sing and win a place on his chariot. He is specific about the type of melody he wants too. The woman obliges and we get the haunting melody from the chorus, followed by the line – “soon I’ll be singing from the grave”. She somehow knows this encounter will be the death of her yet she partakes anyway. Posing another question on the theme of temptation – why do we do the things we do when we understand the damage they are doing? (vices, addictions – the lower urges etc.)

As the guitar screams the final note of the solo, it represents the death scream of our protagonist. She now sings from the grave, explaining how her neck was broken upon completing the melody. The devil is true to his word and throws her on the back of his chariot and rides out of town. She gets her desire at the cost of life. The devil, content with his deception, rides off whistling the new melody of the soul he has acquired.
In a narrative such as this the lyrics are self-explanatory. The deeper meanings and questions which arise from them are outlined in the concept above.
When he entered they noticed, the patrons sat straight. They felt a strange presence, carried some weight
He might be a good man In disguise, there might be a bad moon on the rise
With no tobacco blew smoke through the place, his eyes were not open, an expressionless face
If he's looking for Jesus he won't find him here, If he's looking for chickens, he might strike some fear

The first verse sets the stage. A figure enters a bar and immediately makes all those present uncomfortable. There is something powerful and unnerving about him. The fact that he ‘may be a good man in disguise’ suggests that he looks bad, even diabolical, hence ‘there may be a bad moon on the rise’ ( a nod to CCR). Without a cigarette or pipe he exhales smoke through the bar. If he’s here to continue the ancient battle of good and evil then he’s come to the wrong place, but if his arrival is to intimidate, scare and amuse himself – he might be in luck.

Then he took off his hat, showed off his horns, smiled like the wild and the town was gone
Blood turned cold and thunder clapped, he said "I rode into town on a black chariot“

Removing his hat he reveals his devilish horns and smiles with the look of a wild animal. For all those in attendance they are struck by fear. Staring at his horns and evil grin the town disappears around them, chills run their spines as their blood turns cold and a thunder clap fills the air. After terrifying everyone he announces that he rode into town on a black chariot – the opening gambit of his challenge.

Threw down a gauntlet, cast out the men. Started the countdown, starting at ten
When he stared through my soul he told me one thing - I could ride in that chariot all I had to do was sing
So I plucked up my guts, I fired up my chords. The count was at five when I prayed to my Lord
Over hearing my wishes he shook his big head, I fell to my knees when I heard what he said

Verse 2 steps up the challenge. The dark entities sights are set. He casts the men from the bar so he is alone with his victim. He tells her that she too could ride on the mighty black chariot, all she has to do is sing. The victim, paralysed in fear, digs deep for courage as the devil begins his countdown from ten. As she tries to find the bravery to sing, she prays to the goodness, to her lord. The devil hears this prayer and shakes his head come the count of five. She shouldn't be calling for outside assistance – a big mistake. She falls to her knees as he elaborates.

"Sing for me honey, sing best you can, you better sing well or I'll let you hang
Show me some substance, show what you got and you can ride out of town on my black chariot"
Soon I'll be singing from the grave

This chorus is the devil’s exact words to his victim. He informs her to sing and sing well or he’ll let her hang (die), his first threat and the indication that this challenge is serious. The devil demands substance, not style, and if she can deliver she will ride upon the chariot. This chorus doubles up to include the melody, in-line with the story, this is our protagonists attempt to win the ride and show him her ability.

He laughed at my effort then my neck snapped, my voice had been tricked, my soul had been trapped
Dragged me out the bar, threw me on the back and rode out of town on his black chariot, singing...

The final verse is sung 'from the grave’ as the song goes. After singing her melody the devil snaps her neck, signified by the solo scream entering the musical dropout to a single guitar. With her soul now imprisoned the devil drags her dead body out of the bar and throws it on the back of his chariot. As promised, she eventually gets to ride on the chariot, albeit dead - tricked by the devil as many have been before her. The devil rides off content with the capture of his latest soul, whistling her melody into the darkness.
For the Phantom High E.P. cover I drafted a black chariot with a large breasted female pulling it along, thinking from a regrettably sleazy marketing point of view. Fortunately, Deano took that draft and produced the awesome E.P. cover which substituted my curvaceous female for a depressed looking Jesus crawling through a graveyard attached to the devil’s reigns. A striking image, wonderfully conjured by Deano’s unique mind.

When HTT informed us they wanted to release BC as a digital single I was a bit stuck for ideas with the artwork. As the PH cover was pretty much a Black Chariot cover with a UFO in the sky (for Lights Over Phoenix). All I said to Dean was “How about a wheel?”. Of course, he produced another brilliant image which has this old skool, classic rock feel to it.
For a song which started out being written for and jammed out in a side-project, to being transformed by my SB colleagues into a “blues rock spawned prowl” (Ringmaster Reviews) – Chariot has come a long way. Personally, I love the fact I’ve been able to tell a story to a piece of music which matches the theme. Little did I know at the time, this song would become part of a trilogy each containing themes and stories detailing encounters with devilish forces – the final song to be released on the new album. Chariot tied the Phantom E.P. together nicely, demonstrating versatility and progression. If people are listening to SB music after I shuffle off this mortal coil, the “soon I’ll be singing from the grave” line will become rather eerie… or like some kind of Tupac hidden message prophecy. The Black Chariot will keep rolling, picking up souls as it goes – but who will be the next victim?


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