From Foreign Legion
When I hear the opening line, “I’m leaving before anyone arrives,” it makes me think of the many nights when I’d arrive very very early to Fluid Ounces shows only to find me, the bartender at the Boro, and Seth there as he was setting up his piano. “Stark Raving Mad” would have been the optimal choice of Fluid Ounces songs to play over the PA at the Boro before those shows (along with “Last Goodbye” by Jeff Buckley and Self’s “Sassy Britches,” both of which seem to get played every time Fluid Ounces have played the Boro since I’ve been seeing them there).
As I stated long ago in this blog, Foreign Legion tells a story. At its end, we are given the final resolution to the story, “Stark Raving Mad.” Another favorite record of mine, Willie Nelson’s The Red-Headed Stranger, actually follows the same outline of Foreign Legion, only with a murderous preacher in the Old West. Red-Headed Stranger ends with the song, “Hands on the Wheel,” in which Willie sings of the lessons to be learned from his story of love, loss, and redemption.
But this song isn’t about that, it tends to focus more on life itself. “Smitten” lifts the mood and tone of the album into stellar bliss, accentuated by the next two songs, and while “Stark Raving Mad” does not exactly kill that momentum, nor does it kill it either. Instead, it somehow grounds what I am feeling in reality, making me feel something I only feel when I hear this song. I don’t know if the song itself created this feeling, mind you. The feeling lies somewhere between a redneck screaming from his back porch to the pits of hell, from Mr. Wrong on my radio to the chorus of over-dubbed Seth Timbs vocals that close out the song.
I should note that as complete as this song is as it completes this most under-rated Fluid Ounces record, I don’t see how it is about madness, whether of the stark-raving variety or not. I associate it with sane-ness (which is referenced once in the song right where “stark raving mad” had been said before). It balances itself on a razor-thin high wire between the two extremes, as well as between sadness and elation, joy and misery. I guess if it you can balance yourself there for very long at all, it doesn’t make much difference whether you’re stark raving mad or completely sane.