QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE’s Classic Palm Desert Songs For The Deaf Are Twenty Years Old
Widely acclaimed as the best rock album released in 2002, songs for the deafis the third studio recording by stone age queens. The album, which turns 20 today, is studded with superstars and features contributions from a host of musicians such as Alain Johannes Mociulski(a frequent collaborator of the late Chris Cornell, twisted vulturesand Marc Lanegan), who played theremin and flamenco-style guitar. Mociulski is also credited with writing the track “No One Knows”, the first single from songs for the deaf and a huge success. Also on the album Ween founder and guitarist Dean Ween (Michael Melchiondo Jr..), and the goth god, the late Luxurious interior of the Cramps who provided one of the many DJ “breaks” used on the record to help cultivate his cruise through the Palm Desert in a Fiat 124 Sport Spider (the dashboard of which is featured in the album’s inner sleeve) , radio blasting.
Marc Lanegan (RIP) also joined the group after appearing on QOTSAprevious record of To classify (2000 which also featured Rob Halford) as did Dave Grohl and Kyuss bassist and former band member stone age queens singer Josh Man, Nick Oliveri. songs for the deaf was a sonic boom that further weaponized Palm Desert’s already dangerously stony sound, but in a new and innovative way that instantly connected with fans. This fact is not only indisputable, but is also confirmed by this amusing letter from stone age queens greatfan, Neighborhood Simon P posted on the deceased stone age queens fan site The Fade two days after the release of songs for the deaf August 29, 2002:
“Expensive stone age queens,
“I am writing to you in the hope that I can join your band. I have just received your new album, songs for the deafand I see you have a new drummer, this guy who used to be in the hairy band – Dave Grohl. Very noisy, isn’t it? And you also have this grumpy type, Marc Lanegan, singing on some tracks. Cool.
“I love that the album is supposed to be like a radio station. Very cool. And the way the first track, ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire,’ just fade then WHAM it hits you in the face like a sonic missile. You’re a bit crazy, aren’t you, Mr. Olivieri? It’s the way you shout those words.
“I know exactly what you mean in ‘Nobody knows’ when you say ‘We pop these pills/How they stick in your throat.’ Great pictures. And I love the riff of “First It Giveth”, like some kind of corkscrew piercing your brain. And then the grumpy guy Lanegan does that sigh on the chorus like he did with Screaming Trees.
“‘The Sky Is Fallin’ is a beast, with that desert ‘We’re all on acid’ vibe that I can really relate to and those riffs, man, those riffs. Meaty. And what can I say about of ‘Hangin’ Tree’, he has Marc Lanegan sing on it, it sounds like a big one Screaming trees song and there is the word ‘Tree’ in the title. These. Are. All. Good. Things.
“Sometimes you look a little more unhappy, like on ‘Gonna Leave You’ – ‘It’s raining in my room’ – I love that. What about those drums on ‘Go With The Flow’ – man, this guy can play, can’ I guess that’s why you got him in the band And “God Is In The Radio” has such a great riff, like the Lord himself plugged in to a Marshall amp. Amen to that. And Mr. Menyour singing sounds so nonchalant, so nonchalant.
“You seem to have so much fun when you make albums. And you make such great albums. And I love that Spanish DJ, oh yeah. So I was just wondering… could I be your new drummer? I’m thinking about getting a tattoo soon, if that helps.
“Yours in the rock, Neighborhood Simon P.”
Good, Simonthe timing was actually a bit off because Grohlwould leave stone age queens after the band’s July 28 concert at the Fuji Rock Festival in Niigata, Japan. But back to the start of songs for the deafa record that was to propel the group, already presented as the “new Nirvanawhen they burst onto the scene in 1998, to new heights. Josh Man on the concept behind the revolutionary concept-style disc:
“Not to be taken at face value (the title of the record) unless you’re deaf or dumb. It’s all about the drive from Los Angeles to the Joshua Tree and changing stations along the way and of listening to the radio. That’s what our version of the radio would sound like. And with three singers and all the different guests and stuff like that, the music is so varied, everywhere, it seemed like it needed something something to bring it all together to make it sound whole, like one piece. The idea was to have a lot of different instruments.
What Men referred to here is the inventive inclusion of radio DJ “breaks” used on the record to help complete the concept that songs for the deaf was screaming straight from your car’s dash radio. And they don’t wait to have this vibe as their first song songs for the deaf“You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire” written by a man known as “The Godfather of Desert Rock” bassist and musician Mario Lali pioneers of Palm Desert, yawning man. The song begins with the sound of someone flipping the radio dial and eventually settling on the fictional Los Angeles station KLONE Radio, and “DJ Kip Kasper“expressed by Blag Dahlia the singer of punk icons Dwarfs. The material on songs for the deaf is as ambitious as it is irresistible and the band was already performing some of the songs from songs as early as 2001. Specifically during their appearance at the Bizarre Festival in Flughafen Niederrhein, Weeze, Germany, on Sunday August 19, when they played an early version of “A Song for the Dead” with Marc Lanegan on vocals sounding at the absolute top of his game. Check it out:
“A Song for the Dead” wasn’t the only track the band composed in 2001 that would end up on songs for the deaf. stone age queens was also playing a version of “Go With the Flow” at this time. Other jams from songs for the deaf and the punchy riff of “No One Knows” appears on Volume 5: Poetry for the masses (1999) by The desert sessionsa group made up of Palm Desert players including Men, Blag Dahlia, Nick Oliveri, Lalli, and others. “Hanging Tree” was another track to make its way to songs for the deaforiginally appearing on Volume 7: Gypsy Marchesthe 2001 version of The desert sessions published jointly by Southern Lord and Menfrom the Rekords Rekords label. This once again reinforces the power of songs for the deaf‘s, a foundation that had been simmering for a while before coming to a boil in 2002.
As for the version itself, there are a few that contain additional tracks not found on the 2002 version. The Japanese CD release includes a cover of “Everybody Gonna Be Happy” originally recorded by The Kinks in 1965 and two additional bonus tracks; “Gonna Leave You” (recorded in Spanish) and a live version of “Keeping a Secret”. As for the record’s vinyl releases, this is where things get a little murky. It is said that as few as 3,000 authentic copies of songs for the deaf were pressed in 2002/2003 and the album has been pirated constantly since its release. Ipecac Records released songs for the deaf on red colored vinyl in 2003. Various other colored vinyl editions have been released by stone age queens Record (based in Italy) in 2016. Then in 2019 songs for the deaf has been reissued with the first three stone age queens scrapbook, To classify, Lullabies to paralyzeand Vulgar Era.
The original vinyl pressings of songs for the deaf are rare, perhaps supporting the idea that few were pushed back at the time. It is also important to consider that vinyl was not as popular as it has become, even though record sales in 2002 reflected this change for the first time since the advent of CDs. Find an original copy of songs will mine your wallet as the rarity sells for between $200 and over $400 for a copy in near mint condition. So if this deep-fried 2002 classic isn’t currently part of your music collection, we recommend picking up a copy of the official reissue and taking it on your next road trip.