From the recording The Emergent Sea
I wrote this song on the Island itself. Visiting Saipan is like visiting another time period. The Pacific war feels like it was a few years ago, not 60. There is so much to say here that it needs a whole book perhaps. A video is in the works. While it is an anti-war song, and there was an American officer like the one in the song that inspired it in part, along with the natural beauty and the tanks in ruin on the beaches, it must be said that the Americans deserve a hell of a lot of respect for the way they fought in the Pacific in WWII, no matter how you hate war. I returned to the island with a friend from Serbia and we interviewed a lot of people as part of a planned documentary for our joke B.B.C. It is hard to find anyone to say anything bad about the yanks on that island--though as the U.S. ships dole out most the supply jobs, maybe the mainly poor textile workers etc. feared we were undercover military. But having read a number of histories before going, I had already come to the conclusion that the U.S. has largely done good here.
The pacific war was hell on earth and a devastation of many island paradises. But what choice was there? We do have choice now, for now, however, and I hope the song speaks for others as the memorials did for me: let's not do that again! But as Leonard Cohen sings in his album the Future: "the dove will be shot again." At least until we see our oneness, our Pan. Suicide cliff is a real place, and the Japanese did commit mass suicide, pushed by their own military to do so, the stories of the civilians brainwashed into thinking the worst of the western soldiers, pushing their families and jumping off the cliffs and blowing themselves up are simply harrowing. They form the base of the bridge/chorus. I have one more song on this topic --maybe it will come out in another album later.
Paul Fleischer plays the bass clarinet in the upper registers on this to get the Sax sound. I stupidly had said not to bring the sax to the recording session. He may have been able to blow a lot wilder had he done so, as Sax is perhaps his specialty (perhaps I say, because he is so damned talented on everything). But on the other hand it does have a uniqueness about it, and he hits it, he hits it. The decision must have been inspired. The key sound though is the sanshien played by Akazawa and the guitarlele (6 string ukelele) played by Rhodes for the Pacific Isle sound. And let's not forget Crawford's dollar store plastic CD case.
Saipan©Roman Rhodes, 2002 rewrite w. new words and music,©Roman Rhodes 2008
I walk white sands among indigo seas, Rainbow fish among coral reefs. Flame trees flower in a gentle breeze. Such beauty makes you sigh man, on Saipan.
But ships off shore, numbering four, loaded with tanks and guns to their core Prepare once more for a world wide war.Oh, it makes me sigh man, Saipan.
I talked to a man on shore leave, Chief engineer of a ship and the things he said would make you grieve: he wants to nuke the entire Middle East. It really numbs the mind. I want to rage and cry, man. See the beauty and wonder why He doesn't understand or see, here on Saipan.
And has he really forgotten so soon The stories of the 2nd & 4th and their platoons;The 10,000s who died too soon;the tanks and lives in ruin , on the reefs in Saipan.
Chorus/Bridge 1And how it rained people were falling, falling like rain The women sat brushing their long black hair. Gentle loving strokes, taking special care. Then changed to their finest silks as if going somewhere. Then joined hands and stepped from the cliff into the air. Yeah people were falling, falling like rain.
War, drives us insane. heightening of prejudices, The bleaching of the brain! The youngest girl pushed by her brother. The next child was pushed by another. 'Til the eldest pushed by his mother pushed by the father, who jumped to join all the others.Falling, falling like rain.
Fears of horrors, fears of pain. Fear pushing us to do things of shame. I thought it was a picnic, a happy family scene. The kids gathered round, hugging the parents in between. But father's fruit was metal, hand-sized, olive green He pulled the pin and they were blown to smithereens! They were falling, falling like rain (ad lib.)
I read the memorials on the beaches & hills,the longings of ghosts & the national wills,The testaments of error and the numbers of killed, The voices of all those forgotten and still hoping for peace on Saipan.
Chorus/Bridge 2 Praying for peace and wondering why man So many still don't understand,
That we're all the children of the great God Pan. That we're all part of one great family, Born of nature, born of beauty.So stop killing in the name of race, religion and national duty. Stop and understand: pan American, pan pacific, pan Asian, pan African, pan European, pan human, all one Pan Gaia, Pan. All one. Pan.