Sometimes Dillinger Four have massive amounts of allusions tucked snuggly into their songs, and such is the case with #51 Dick Butkus, the second track off their debut 1998 full-length Midwestern Songs of the Americas. Whether Dillinger Four use these allusions with the expectation of the listening being familiar with them, or as a way to invoke interest in the topic, is unclear. However, with their first press release in a Hopeless Records magazine they closed a hilarious essay by saying, "If you buy our record, please read the lyric sheet or else our effort was pointless." In fact, in the lyric sheet for the Cleveland Bound Death Sentence disc St. Patrick (the only member from D4 in the band, which is a mix of members from Shelby Tigers and Pinhead Gunpowder) included footnotes on his song that included references to men like Truman Capote and Leon Trotsky.
#51 Dick Butkus does not have references to Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries or literary journalists, but rather references that continue to follow the journey of the Midwest started in an unknown city back in O.K. F.M. D.O.A. During the first track were didn’t know where we were, maybe Minneapolis, maybe Milwaukee, but now it’s clear enough and all we have to look at first is the title of the song. Dick Butkus was the most ferocious middle linebacker during the late 1960’s and 1970’s, and is considered by many to be the greatest middle linebacker to ever play the sport of football. And where did he display is awesome intensity and strength, you may ask? In Chicago, Illinois, with the Chicago Bears.
This places us in the Windy City, the most populous town in all of the Midwest with a staggering three million people, which is far more than Minneapolis, and Milwaukee combined. Once we’ve placed ourselves in Chicago the allusions in the #51 Dick Butkus begin to make a whole lot more sense. In fact, it should have been easy from the start to place them in Chicago, because all though Dillinger Four as based in the northerliness of Minneapolis, St. Patrick was born in Chicago and still holds deep ties to the city. It’s extremely evident (myself being tied to the city) that he knows what he’s talking about here, and makes some excellent references, even taking on the vernacular of the town.
The first verse of the song doesn’t into it right away, all though it does make reference to the politically hot North side of Chicago, along with the "New Deal" homes of FDR, which helped out the city of Chicago tremendously during the time. The first real good allusion comes, however, during the first chorus section of this song, which will be described in musical terms later on. "Harold Washington in garter-belt and stockings." The Harold Washington spoken of in this line was the first African-American mayor in Chicago, and a damn fine one at that. Before he could begin his second term after being reelected he died of a heart attack. As the story goes, when he was taken into the hospital they cut off his clothes in an attempt to save his life, but instead only found him dressed in women’s clothing. This legend was then depicted by an artist who displayed Washington in a garter-belt and stockings in one of his pieces. A huge (and I mean huge) scandal broke out over and whole thing, and ended when an unknown person vandalized the artwork.
The next verse moves away from the politically charged first and on to a different medium. My interpretation, and I admit that I could be dramatically wrong, is that this verse relates to the death of Chris Farley. "The black sheep prince bowed for the crown today." Chris Farley, who starred in the movie Black Sheep, was born in Wisconsin, but spent the majority of his adult life in Chicago. He died in Chicago from an overdoe of morphine and cocaine, which was made especially more lethal because of his weight. Dillinger Four were all about the Chirs Farley, and they expressed their views in the same press release mentioned above, saying, "Chris Farley was a genius, and we miss him more than we miss Elvis Presley because Fat Elvis didn't make us laugh." Too true.
The final obvious reference comes in the form of another media related personality. This time it’s famed sportscaster Harry Caray, or Harry Carry, as he was more popular to go by. "Harry Carry making sick off of Clark St." All though he originally was affiliated with St. Louis in the beginning of his career, Harry Carry came to Chicago to announce White Sox games, and eventually moved on to doing the Cubs. Most people would probably recognize from the impersonation that Will Farrell, where he asks if you were a hot dog, would you eat yourself? Harry Carry, like Harold Washington and Chris Farley, died in 1998 from a heart attack, and was famous for being a crazy drunk.
Now then, #51 Dick Butkus is not some spoken word jam, so it’s about time I got down to the music. This song flows smoothly from O.K. F.M. D.O.A., with the portable phonograph man picking up right where he left off, this time saying "As we make our way back to the city proper we stop at the Y.M.C.A., where we step up and record a vigorous ping pong game, ideal recording for stereo. This will twist your heads." Before he finish his full introduction a palm muted guitar kicks in, and then the ultra fast drums by Monkey Hustle arrive as well. After they kick out a quick and fast introduction, Paddy comes in with the over analyzed lyrics describe above, for a verse that is equally as quick as the introduction. The verse is so quick that when the chorus comes it’s marked by some quick barking of HOO, and possibly completely unaltered from the verse.
After repeating the structure twice they break down into a crumbling bassline that keeps things going while a man with a megaphone mumbles to himself in the right channel. During this section a rise and fall of guitar screeching envelops the bass, with a simple high-hat click keeping the time. Everything abruptly comes back together again, twice as loud, and with Paddy screaming his head off. Oddly enough this disintegrates into some kind of lo-fi Casiotone jam, with programmed drum beats and Paddy still mumbling to himself.
Overall #51 Dick Butkus is an interesting follow up to O.K. F.M. D.O.A., which harbored supreme melody and structure. However, the decision to follow it up with an extra hard, chaotic track may just be applying to that one law by Newton that talks about everything having an equal and opposite reaction. #51 Dick Butkus does hold some very poetic lyrics though, which offset the mediocre punk rock song behind it.
Mother said I can’t listen to Radio Havana,
And I read with a flashlight late that night,
On these North side street try avoiding the lights,
Try avoiding any type of a political fight,
So alone are all of these "New Deal" homes,
It can’t only matter what you know,
But how you make your anger show.
Harold Washington in garter-belt and stockings.
Father wasn’t picking sides,
But dog-eared pages gave clues to the thoughts inside,
The Black Sheep prince bowed for the crown today,
Tried keeping things quiet, tried keeping things still,
Tried keeping this conscience from an honest chill,
Can tradition settle in like rust?
The record knows so let it show,
That desperate is as clever does.
Harry Carry making sick off Clark. St.
Welcome to my 588-2300 empire.
BrooksMarlin says re #51 Dick Butkus: You forgot a reference in this. 588-2300 is the phone number for Empire Carpets. The "588-2300 empire" is a euphemism for Chicagoland itself.
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