Friday, January 22, 2010

"My Last Act"- Left to His Own Devices, 2001 Spin Art

After a recent discussion with Sam Mixon, 'My Last Act' has been in my head non-stop, so I felt it necessary to return to the album Left To His Own Devices.

'My Last Act' is a morbid little tale of sadness and suicide...common themes in Vic's music, unfortunately. The story is universal...a man loses his lover to another man. Unable to deal with the loss, the man concocts a plan to end his own life. This is where the story deviates from the universal to the deranged.

The man's plan is to methodically, one by one, instrument his own demise, by herding up a nest grandaddy long legs, plucking the legs off of them, blending them with some liquor and drinking the concoction. Its part Grimm's Fairytale, part Suicide Handbook...and 100% Vic. Regardless if that could kill you or not, the results sound gruesome, and the desperation is very evident.

During the conversation that I had with Sam, he enlightened me about some of the songs performances. Apparently, Vic loved performing the song first in the set. He did this for several reasons. One being because other people hated the idea. He liked the fact that he could 'bug' them by doing so....sounds like something Vic would do. Another reason was that it was a good vehicle for Vic to get his 'stage legs.' Vic was nervous at the beginning of shows, and that song allowed him to ease into a set, and also gave the sound guy a chance to adjust levels, etc. while the band jammed on what Sam called 'one chord."

The album version is just Vic, of course, and has a creative and spacey feel to it. I love his vocal overdubs, and the crazy instrumentation that he was able to achieve. Live, the song did become sort of a 'jam band' type song, and was/is often played by Vic's buddies and sometimes band mates Widespread Panic.
The song can get stretched out and feel very intense. Rightfully so. It's melodic, and gruesome all in one. Intensity naturally will follow that combination.

Here's the studio version:

And here's a live version from 2002 :


Fill the basin with my hands

Your strong shoulders in my head

Soft soap splashing on the rim

I keep wishing I was him

Cobweb fluttering twelve feet up

Above the basin where I violently scrub

Can't scrape away with soap and fingernails

Dirty imagined intimate details

I go to the garage where on the wall

A thousand granddaddy long legs crawl

A crazy notion cracks through my mind

An electrical shudder shoots up and down my spine

I run to the kitchen, grab a pot and lid

Then I rushed to the garage before I knew what I did

I was raking the gentle spiders into that pot

Then I was sitting at the kitchen table

Feeling so cold and so hot

In a moment I move to get a cereal bowl

Then I'm back at the table and before I know

What exactly I had done, I pulled the legs off of every one

The little round bodies in front of me

It looked like a bowl of black-eyed peas

Well, I take them over to the counter

Poured it into the Cuisinart

I reached in the cupboard and I grabbed a fifth
Of Tequila and I pour that in

Push the button and it starts to chop

My heart can hardly contain my thumping heart

My last act on this earth

Will be to chug-a-lug a mixture and hope for the worst

My last act on this earth

Will be to chug-a-lug a mixture and hope for the worst

My last act on this earth

Will be to chug-a-lug a mixture and hope for the worst

My last act on this earth

Will be to chug-a-lug a mixture and hope for the worst


  1. I never heard this live, so thanks for the live version! I look forward to your posts.

  2. It's a fifth of Tequila rather than a lid. Us pedantic bastards have to spit on everything just to see our reflection in the shine. Really makes hemlock seem pedestrian though. Socrates would have been impressed. Trial and death by spiders.

  3. Interesting information. I completely agree, the song is 100% Vic, it is very disturbing, but I love it, even now. I usually try to avoid shouting out requests (not so nice to have one’s voice on the recording…) but I did ask for My Last Act during a show and Vic kindly played it. No band jam though, just him and an electric guitar, which gives it quite a different feeling, more haunting.

  4. This is surely one of Chesnutt's best. Here are my observations in random order:

    I love how 'chug-a-lug-a' is used in the refrain. I love how Chesnutt was so interested in collecting these odd little words and sayings. He really cared about language.

    A brew of spider bodies and tequila seems like it could be a reference to the witches in Macbeth. It's a magic potion, which is going to transform the narrator. Something wicked this way comes?

    First few verses are in the past tense. The planned suicide is of course still to come in the future. But, there are a few lines which appear to be written in the present tense, especially

    "Push the button and it starts to chop"

    "My chest can hardly contain my thumping heart"

    It may be pure coincidence, but notice how well the rhythm and tone of the song matches that of a beating heart over the white noise of the grinder.

    I thought this song was amusing, until I saw Chesnutt perform it live. Maybe it's the conviction with which he sang it, or the volume! but it became really apparent that this song is intended to be a terrifying depiction of insanity. It's theater of course, a spooky horror story and yes I still think it's funny, but still- really quite powerful and genuinely disturbing.

    The most unsettling part of this song is, for me, the way in which the narrator describes himself as excited and turned on by this particularly original method of ending his life. You get the sense from the way he dismembers the spiders that this is someone not to be pitied but feared.

    Finally, I'm not an entomologist, but according to Wikipedia, the idea that daddy long-legs are significantly venomous is just an urban myth. They're quite harmless and you can leave them (and their legs) alone.

  5. his last act on this earth was to chug-a-lug a mixture and to hope for the worst.

  6. chills ... in both good and frightening ways. thanks for posting. thanks again for the blog.

  7. Ok, here's my 2 cents. As Christian mentioned, there is a myth that daddy long legs are actually the world's most poisonous spider, but due to how their bodies are structured they have no way of injecting their venom. This myth his highly prevalent in the South, and perhaps only occurs here. I am not a Southerner by birth but I now live in Athens, and all my Southern friends know of this legend from their youth. Anecdotal evidence and all that, but still.

    It's total bullshit. But the fact that it is a myth, to me, is what makes the refrain so brilliant. Because the concoction probably wouldn't kill the person, unless they died of alcohol poisoning. But he's holding out for that "hope for the worst."

    Awesome song. Somewhere in the depths of John Keane's studio, is a cut of this song with Widespread Panic, and most of it appears in the film The Earth Will Swallow You. Here's hoping some of that stuff gets a release in the future, along with surely the mountain of other Vic demos and whatnot that's on the shelf in there. Release the files Keane!

    Love this blog, tremendous work.