How 'Thrift Store Maharishi' Became 'One Last Tear-Allelujah'
Sometimes the inspiration for a song starts in a place and time far removed from the final version.
That’s how, over a nearly 30-year span, “Thrift Store Maharishi” became “One Last Tear-Allelujah.”
The idea for the song originated one night around 1987. As I walked onto the sidewalk after touring a John Lennon art exhibit in San Francisco, a woman was nearby offering fortunes and other personal assessments for a fee.
I wasn’t interested, then or now. But that scene stuck with me: for the prize of an extra large pizza, get your future summarized by a stranger.
I wrote a song about that night called “Thrift Store Maharishi.”
I don’t remember the original lyrics, except it started with, “On a Dead Head mission/A planetary connection,” and the chorus lyric was “Allegria,” which is Spanish for “joy.” My cynicism came through in the counter-melody/lyric in the chorus -- “Ride to nowhere.”
My old band, The Raging Marys, performed the song regularly from 1989-1991, and recorded the music for a demo in our final months. That’s where it remained.
Until around 2011.
I found the never-released demo in a box of old cassette tapes in my attic. I still liked the music -- very R.E.M.-esque. So I wrote new lyrics.
This time, though, the theme was much more serious. I tried to express the overwhelming emotions we felt when my mom died in 2009. At her hospital bedside family and pastors prayed and we wept. Unable to speak, a single tear rolled down her cheek. Why does she have to die of cancer now? we thought. What about the eight young grandchildren (10 counting two born after she died) who would miss out on sleepovers, craft time and evenings watching “Spongebob” episodes with her?
A few months after its September 2016 release, Raleigh-area sound engineer Kevin McNoldy, who had mastered the album at his Cphonic Mastering studio, offered to remix “One Last Tear,” thinking it had solid potential. I thought about it for a split second and said yes!
The sound he got -- on every instrument -- was easily the best I’ve ever sounded, especially the drums. Big and boomy. The bass was fat and clear. My guitar sound was finally perfect. We could only take the song so far when mixing the album with a laptop, but Kevin is incredibly talented and supportive. He gave our home recording some real studio magic. The single was very well received, especially on Internet radio.
That got me thinking: Imagine how amazing it would sound to remix and remaster the entire album so every song got the McNoldy treatment?
So here we are, in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to make that idea a reality: a remixed/remastered album with five bonus tracks, called “The Big Fix-Deluxe Edition.”