Ritual Life

Ritual Life visualized with lyric
Photograph: cottonbro

“Ritual Life” is the second song on Bachelors Anonymous’s eponymous six-song album, remastered and re-released digitally.


First Incarnation

Bachelors Rob Berg and David Hughes met in Pasadena’s St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church choir in 1984. (See a previous post, How We Met, from which the following is taken.)

The two compared notes. They both had a reverence for the Renaissance music they sang in the choir. David was intrigued by Rob’s time as a Hindu monastic, having himself a shelf of Indi-pop records—rock music infused with South Asian influences—which would creep into the work of Bachelors Anonymous as well. Rob loved The Cure and The Clash. The two exchanged tapes.

As David recalls it, the to-be-Bachelors’ first collaboration was for a St. Philip’s summer 1984 event, perhaps a choir fundraiser. David’s mother Phyllis Hughes had been researching the family history. She’d come across David’s paternal great great great grandfather Daniel Vogel, born in 1795 in Mainzlar, central Germany, who had inscribed his Bible with a message that in the 20th century David and Rob couldn’t resist. They adapted two disparate translations, moved the punch line to the end, and recorded the narration’s backing tracks that later were repurposed as “Ritual Life,” the second tune in their first six-song cassette, which has been re-released digitally. The original, titled “Inscription,” is included as one of two bonus tracks on the new release.

Ritual Life

David remembers that at some point Rob composed a melody atop the “Inscription” backing tracks and gave it a new title, “Ritual Life.” David was challenged to write the song’s lyrics, inspired in part by their choir’s weekly liturgies, having been away from any church for a decade.

John Callahan, interviewing the Bachelors about a year later, remarked, “That seems to be an area of your work that you [are] developing—the spiritual kind of thing…” to which Rob replied, “Yeah. Sexual spiritual. Razor’s edge,” in reference to an Upanishadic aphorism.

Lyrics

I dream tonight a litany by rote beneath a veil 
I dream of muscled angels to wrestle and prevail 
A dream of God’s accomplice who executes the Plan 
There’s definitely something about an Aqua Velva man 

Oh, in my ritual life I cross myself at will 
In my ritual life, love’s a poison that doesn’t kill 
In my ritual life I keep a vigil until… 

I wake the same way on my back, a mumble on my tongue 
To news of delinquent cherubim and how the West was won 
With aching limbs I rise, my foe still on the bed 
We each have occupations; he’s an angel, I give head 

Oh, in my ritual life success is not my aim 
In my ritual life we will not use first names 
In my ritual life nothing is the same 

I dream tonight a parlor game this wrestler has devised 
A Ouija that’s consulted on occasions when I cry 
This mesmerist is well rehearsed in all the acts of God 
The pocket watch begins to swing as I begin to nod… 

You’re at the sink, I remember 
You’re at the mirror, I recall 
You’re changing clothes, I’m distracted 
You’re in the shower stall 

We check the mail, discuss the weather 
We spend all our time alone together 

The burning book, the way you look 
The cigarette, the silhouette 
An open door, the barroom floor 
The second glance, a mindless trance 

A smoking gun, the purple sun 
A silver shroud, the mushroom cloud… 

Lyrics Reprinted by Permission

Credits

BACHELORS ANONYMOUS is
Rob Berg: Synth, Vocals
David Hughes: Drum Box, Vocals

Written and arranged by
Rob Berg & David Hughes

Produced by
Bachelors Anonymous and Rick Novak

Instruments recorded at
The Men’s Dept. (4-track), 1985

Vocals recorded at
Control Center, 1985

Engineered and mixed by
Rick Novak
Control Center, 1985

Mastered by
Scott A. Jennings
Artistry in Sound, 2020

Photograph by
Rocky Schenck
Album cover by
David Hughes

© ℗ 1985, 2020 Berg & Hughes
Celibataire Music (ASCAP)

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