Hello Again! and again and again...
By Jake Vigliotti
March 4, 2005
Hello Again! It’s not just a catchy Neil Diamond song anymore! During the 2004 tour, DMB unveiled 5 songs, but the only one that appeared close to being done was Hello Again. During the song, Dave sings, “It’s been so long.” In the grand scheme of DMB songwriting 101, it may be longer then you think.
When Dave writes a song, it is about the following: Love, Drugs, God/Politics, Death. That’s pretty much it. There are some exceptions, of course. Typical Situation, although flowing in political commentary, is actually based on a poem by Robert Dederick, A Prayer In The Pentagon. Dave also famously wrote Where Are You Going ambiguously; making his subject America after the 9/11 attacks and a female in a confused state. He then mixed in a story associated with Saint Peter in his escape from Rome (where the title, Where Are You Going? originates – as Quo Vadis). Even with it purposely written ambiguously, it still fits more into the Politics category. Other then that, we don’t get a lot of straying from the formula from Dave. Hello again indeed.
Does Hello Again follow the formula, or is it one of the exceptions to the rule? If it’s about something else, what is the subject of the song? Here’s a possible influence to the song.
Dave moved to Seattle in 2000. Just as Portland’s a long way from LA, Seattle’s a long way from Charlottesville – wait, that’s Hello Larry, not Hello Again. Oh well, moving on. A radical move to another part of the country can certainly have an influence on a songwriter. It’s not hard to imagine Dave adjusting to his new surroundings, taking in the scenery, watching the news.
In November, 2001, the King County Sheriffs Dept. announced the arrest of Gary Ridgeway. The police captured the man they believed was the infamous Green River Killer. From 1982 to at least 1998, around 48 prostitutes or runaways went missing from around the greater Seattle area, most were found strangled and/or bludgeoned to death in or around the Green River. Hence the catchy name. In 2003, Ridgeway admitted guilt to 42 of the suspected 48 killings (there were probably many more).
This was big news around the country, but the media sensation in Seattle was staggering.
With that in mind, lets take a look at Hello Again. Clearly, we can see the protagonist has shame of his actions, “I'd give my soul to take back that day”, Dave sings in the opening stanza. He also talks about not being worth the flesh on his bones, another admittance of unworthiness felt by the subject.
It’s the line following the ‘flesh’ line that stands out: “run far from me, go and be safe, the serpent not god pours through my veins.” That’s a pretty intense line. Someone who truly thought they were evil would use a line like that.
Imagine Ridgeway out driving in his pickup truck near the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, thinking back to that day in 1982, when he found 36 year old Amina Agisheff walking along that same stretch of road. He’s got that image in his mind of the innocent girl (or his ‘sweet girl’) that he put into the Green River 10 years ago (or so). What’s that he sees? Why, it’s another girl walking along that reminds him of that same person 10 years ago: Hello Again.
There is a moment of trepidation on Ridgefield’s part, as he admits he is unworthy of his flesh, and admits that he is more devil then man, but that is not powerful enough to see her face, that original face he killed: Hello Again.
He then describes his rationale and his actions: “you know you got what it is I want, anyway I want take it from you.” The line is similar to the Stone Temple Pilots song Sex Type Thing, where the subject justifies his actions in a similar manner. Each murder is like the first, and there are points of imagery littered throughout the song, “dig up again…” and “wash yourself clean…” point to a rebirth, but it’s not a literal rebirth, but rather a mental rebirth of the first homicide.
The song recounts the actions of Gary Ridgeway as he killed as the Green River Killer. It is told from his perspective in jail, where there is still a hope that his sins are forgiven. The song plays out as his justification to his actions.
…or maybe not. Maybe Dave is just using his usual imagery to talk about a lost love that he ‘drowned’ in his memory ’10 years ago’. But when you big picture the song, it certainly can fit into a very unique writing style for Dave: he separated himself from the subject of the song and wrote an allegory based on what was going on around him in the news.
It would be a “Rubber Soul” moment in the songwriting process for Dave, and DMB.
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