A Bit Like You And Me Radio

May 17, 2013

Phil Ochs - No More Songs (1970)

With his clever songwriting and sardonic humor, Phil Ochs wrote a library of songs spotlighting the injustices of the world which he saw around him. He performed his most famous song, previously featured here, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” to thousands of Vietnam War protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a performance which led to thousands of young men burning their draft cards on the spot. He was also responsible for the purchase of Pigasus, a one hundred forty-five pound hog nominated for President of the United States by the Youth International Party (the Yippies) at that same convention. Unfortunately, the 1968 Democratic National Convention ended with Chicago police rioting and savagely beating peaceful protestors. Between what took place in Chicago and what else he saw in the changing America around him, he figured that the average American must no longer be interested in the political songs and messages he was trying to get out. By 1970, with a heavy heart, Ochs was abandoning his protest formula for songs which reached back to his roots, having his new music emulate his childhood inspirations: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Merle Haggard, and more. Over time, an increasing dependency on illegal drugs and an emerging writer’s block led Ochs to turn to alcohol, which then slipped him into a depression that lasted the rest of his life. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as his mental stability slipped away, which once saw him create an alternate persona for himself for a brief period of time. Despite constant support from his friends and family, Ochs was unable to escape his depression and he hanged himself on April 9, 1976.

Having gone through such a long period where new songs came so easily to him, the end of the ‘60s and beginning of the ‘70s saw Phil Ochs severely struggling to write new material. In February 1970, Ochs released an album titled Greatest Hits, which was not actually a greatest hits album, but a facetious title which featured him on the cover wearing a shiny gold suit akin to Elvis Presley. As mentioned above, he had abandoned topical protest songs and switched to a hybrid of highly produced rock and roll and country music. The entire album was poorly received, with the exception of its last track, the song heard below.

Featured as the last track on his Greatest Hits album, this song was one of Ochs’ most depressing tracks ever recorded. Titled “No More Songs,” his lyrics dealt with not only his loss of ability to write great music as he had in the past, but rhetorically asked how anybody could write great songs as the country spiraled downward into a dire state around him. Sadly, “No More Songs” became prophetic, as Ochs released very few songs after Greatest Hits and never released another full length album again. Ironically, it was an incredibly great song.

album art

Phil Ochs - No More Songs (1970)

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Lyrics:

Hello, hello, hello
Is there anybody home?
I've only called to say I'm sorry
The drums are in the dawn
And all the voices gone
And it seems that there are no more songs

Once I knew a girl
She was a flower in a flame
I loved her as the sea sings sadly
Now the ashes of the dream
Can be found in the magazines
And it seems that there are no more songs

Once I knew a saint
Who sang upon the stage
He told about the world, his lover
A ghost without a name
Stands ragged in the rain
And it seems that there are no more songs

The rebels, they were here
They came beside the door
They told me that the moon was bleeding
Then all to my surprise
They took away my eyes
And it seems that there are no more songs

A scar is in the sky
It's time to say goodbye
He withers on the beat, he's dying
A white flag in my hand
And a white boat in the sand
And it seems that there are no more songs

Hello, hello, hello
Is there anybody home?
I've only called to say I'm sorry
The drums are in the dawn
And all the voices gone
And it seems that there are no more songs
It seems that there are no more songs
It seems that there are no more songs

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