Issue #93 / April 2020
What inspired the lyrics for Palaces of Montezuma?
SUE, DONCASTER, UK
I love ‘Palaces of Montezuma’. I really do. Amid all the obvious excesses of Grinderman, this song stands out as a simple and heartfelt declaration of human love, with a surreal and wonderfully fucked up lyric. It has a sort of versatile inner spirit that seems to work in any form. I played it a number of times, solo at the piano, on my In Conversations tour — I was able to slow it down a bit and lean into the lyric and that seemed to work great too. I got to know the song pretty well.
But even so, I’m not really sure what inspired the lyric. It’s not the sort of question I feel I have the authority to answer. These songs, you know, just present themselves. It seems to me to be essentially a cascade of increasingly bizarre and impossible acts of largesse, performed in the name of love. It seems to say, “I love you and I will give you the world — all I require is the smallest word.” What that word actually is remains a mystery — it may be love or sex or God or yes or thou or all — or not a word at all — a sigh — a grace. Whatever the word may be, it is essentially the whole world “contained in a grain of sand — that can barely walk, can’t even stand”. I suspect this idea may have migrated across time, and eventually found its way into the song ‘Ghosteen’, “There is nothing wrong with loving things that cannot even stand.” I don’t know. Just a thought. These ideas are wayfaring enigmas, for sure.
I just put ‘Palaces of Montezuma’ on the record player and had a listen and, hearing it again after so long, something occurred to me. I can’t help but think that the song was helped along its way by the sweetly loony Lou Reed song, ‘Andy’s Chest’, from his album, Transformer. Perhaps that was the initial point of inspiration. I’m not sure. I hope so. I love Lou Reed. I really do.