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Notes on Destroy All Monsters’ Song “November 22nd, 1963”

On the morning of the shooting, an announcement came over our school speaker system and we were sent home, confused and frightened.

Cary Loren

John F. Kennedy’s public life from election to death was played out on TV. I saw him campaign briefly in downtown Detroit in 1960, and was a seven-year-old when he was fatally shot in Dallas. On the morning of the shooting, an announcement came over our school speaker system and we were sent home, confused and frightened.

The shockwave continued with Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination happening live on TV two days later, followed by Kennedy’s funeral. The world was suddenly a more unsteady and strange place. A grief-struck nation, with eyes frozen to the grey flicker of television is a sadly recurring image, yet no other tragedy reached the paranoia, emotional density and conspiracy theories as the JFK assassination.

"November 22nd, 1963" was part of a song cycle and meant to be played following the song “Assassination Photograph”. Both were written in a scrapbook Niagara gave me in the spring of 1976, a book filled with DAM lyrics, collages, and magic marker LSD drawings.

The songs were written in the summer of 1976, after Niagara and I went to a park at the Cranbrook Academy of Art just outside Detroit. “Assassination Photograph” dealt with a vision in the park about photography, death and childhood, a compression of time that also touched on Kennedy’s assassination. The music had a Bo Diddely-type rhythm that continued after the lyrics, becoming softer under an improvised spoken rap on photography and death: “Film is a dead art,” ending with the refrain “Do you remember, remember
November…November twenty-second”.

"Assassination Photograph"

Shootin' photographs out in the city
Strange lookin' women sure look pretty

Load, aim, shot 'em up,
Assassination photograph sure is tough

Lookin' out the windows as cars are passing by
Think I'll kill the President before I die

Load, aim, shot 'em up,
Assassination photograph sure is tough

Walkin' down the streets, see children playing games
Oh, how I wish we could do the same

Load, aim, shot 'em up, Assassination photograph sure is tough

Strolling through the park, on a bright and sunny day
No one's without a camera, last time I'm gonna say

Load, aim, shot 'em up,
Assassination photograph sure is tough

An improvised spoken section happens next, and this one was taken from the Days of Diamonds EP, recorded 1977:

Well I was walking through the park the other day, and I saw a lot of people standing around taking pictures, a lot of Japanese, with cameras around their necks. It kind of made me sick…Now everyone knows that film, film is a dead art. It’s been dead for years…and all those people taking pictures, well they ought to be dead, we ought to shoot ‘em down, shoot ‘em down Ronnie shoot ‘em down…What do you say? Load, aim and shoot ‘em up. Assassination photograph sure is tough, sure is tough for you…Hey, remember, remember November? November twenty-second?

In 1977, Ron Asheton and I worked on band material at my apartment on Catherine street in Ann Arbor. He played an amazing riff, leftover from his New Order days, a riff he called his “Jet Fighter” song, a kind of memorial to his pilot father. I went through lyrics and it matched up well with “November 22nd, 1963”. We worked on an ending with another riff that ascended, helping to punch up the last lines: “Jackie, Jackie, Jackie hold on to the brains.” A similar approach was done for the ending of the song “Detroit”, a way to exit with a bang. After I left the band, Niagara altered most of the lyrics and Ron added a chorus. They released their version as a single in 1979 on IDBI records.

“Assassination Photograph” was released in 1979, on the Destroy All Monsters EP Days of Diamonds on Black Hole records and “November 22nd, 1963” was recorded by Paul Remley on his 4-track recorder, and released on the DAM compilation CD, Get Out of My Bedroom: A Mix Tape, included in the Hungry for Death exhibition catalog, produced by the Boston University Art Gallery. in 2011. Both recordings were taken from 1977 practice sessions made in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The original lyrics to "November 22nd, 1963":

November 22nd, its 1963
Shots were fired, not from one but three

It killed my friend, a man so good
Still so young, on a mountain he stood

John, John, John F. Kennedy

Shots rang out, a god lay dead
It freaked the world out, straight through the head

The blood poured out, over the seats in the car
Jackie was uptight, but she couldn’t run far

No Jackie, Jackie, Jacqueline Kennedy whoa
Jackie, Jackie, Jackie hold on to the brain.

The TV set is going, it says they caught the man
He said he didn’t do it, this was all a terrible plan

Horses bring the casket to Arlington
To lay to rest America’s fallen son

And from this day on a light is gonna burn
To remind us of that day, and the things we need to learn

'63 assassins they kill with terrible vision
We can see it happen on our own television

Tear down the future with shots from a gun
America how could you kill your only son

Dead, dead, dead, dead shot him dead
Ripped out his brains, with the television gone insane Lie lie lie lie feeding you lies
They’re all feeding your brain
With the television gone insane
Television gone insane

Jackie, Jackie, Jackie hold on to the brains.

Lyrics © 1976, 2013 Cary Loren.

Cary Loren is a founding member of Destroy All Monsters art collective and band, and editor of their magazine. He has also co-owned and operated the Book Beat bookstore in Oak Park, MI since 1982. Collage "Christmas Revelations" by Cary Loren. JFK detail from Loren's 2009 Ron Asheton memorial collage.

Copyright © Cary Loren. All rights reserved.