First We Take Manhattan (1988-2001)

Berlin, at last, yes the final peace in my vast geopolitical jigsaw, Berlin at last, the worshippers of the bear, how happy I am to be among you.

Yeah, these are new songs, huh? Maybe lots of people think I didn't write anything after "Suzanne." But I wrote one or two songs after "Suzanne." Here's a song I wrote 20 years after "Suzanne." I had been driven over   the edge and I had decided to take matters into my own hand. This is a geopolitical plan. People have asked me what it means. It means exactly what it says.

It's a curious song. I used to know what it means but I don't remember what it means anymore. And I think it was just a moment ago that I wrote it. I think I intended to take Manhattan and then Berlin.

Thank you so much, comrades. I do not concede the word "comrades" to the communists. I use it freely.Yes, why should they have special parts of the English language? And the extreme right too, why should they have blood and soil, honor, integrity, family? I like those words. I intend to use them freely. You're very kind and it's true, you are kind and very warm and it's not for me to stand up here and judge the people who come to see me. But I want to tell you that even though your hospitality is profound it will not detour me from my appointed task which is to take Manhattan, then Berlin and several other cities...

Oh comrades you're very kind and very warm but kind as you are and warm as you are, it will not deter me from my appointed task. Which is to take Manhattan and then Berlin and any other cities and do with them as I will.

Backstage Interview

Iím not sure of what it means right now because I had this long voyage from Chicago. I think it means exactly what it says. It is a terrorist song.
I think it's a response to terrorism. There's something about terrorism that I've always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don't like it when it's manifested on the physical plane - I don't really enjoy the terrorist activities Ė buy Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read, I'll give you a paraphrase of it. It was 'well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there', he says. 'But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking...

I thank you for the items that you sent me. Those roses that you sent to my hotel this morning. Whoever the kind person was, I thank you very much. They were the reddest roses with the largest thorns that I ever did see. And you were so kind as to sign your name in such a manner that I could not read it. I deeply appreciate your sense of modesty. I thank you for the items that you sent me, the monkey and the plywood violin, and I practiced every night and now I'm ready. First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

You know,they expected 10,000 people to come tonight.But only 5,000 came tonight,but it doesn't matter,it doesn't matter at all.This is a good number to begin with.This is a good number to begin,to make yourself strong and to make yourself cheerful and to enable yourself to take Manhattan,and then Berlin (..)...

I want to thank you for the items that you sent me. Very useful.I've been studying them very carefully, abstractionist as is the style of the city, refracted through certain obscure and subtle lens of a position that is not easily discerned. Nevertheless [not] without a certain compelling charm, especially when viewed through several glasses of an excellent Bordeaux.   I am sincerely grateful for the notes; for the missives; for the few broken tiles, no doubt from some street battle long past and lost to the memory of mankind, nevertheless a certain historic significance; slivers of cobblestone from unknown conflicts. I really don't know what they stand for at all but I'm deeply grateful that my dressing room is heaped with this kind of debris from many other positions of course, but my own. I love every precious shard. I thank you for the monkey and the plywood violin and I've practiced every night and now I am ready....

Oh thank you so much for your gracious welcome this evening and thank you for those letters, actually that letter you sent me backstage. I read it very, very carefully. Thank you for those demo tapes. I'll listen very, very carefully to them. There is nothing wrong with sending a demo tape to an artist that has hardly established himself in this country. I will do what I can to forward your career. I have barely managed to get a photo of myself in the marketplace but nevertheless, we thrive on these dreams. And in regard to those darker place of the psyche and for those more ambiguous gifts, always grateful friends, always grateful. The monkey and the plywood violin. I practiced every night and now Iím ready. First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

Answering a fan about the meaning of the song

Ever succeeding moment changes what has happened the moment before. In the stream of writing, all that is written changes its meanings by what is written subsequently. "First We Take Manhattan" might be understood as an examination of the mind of the extremist. In a way it's a better song now (*) than it was before and I would probably sing it in concert if the circumstances were appropriate.

(*) The Chat took place one month after the terrorist attacks in NYC and Washington D.C.


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