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  • Writer's pictureIan Galipeau

Creation Stories: Ozymandias

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

I wrote this song after rewatching Breaking Bad, and it is essentially “the ballad of Walter White”. It shares a title with the penultimate episode of the show, which is named for the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem "Ozymandias", in which the narrator tells of the ruins of an ancient civilization, and reads a message in which the king boasts of his power and glory. The song is my way of diving into Walter's acknowledgment of the end of his reign. Over the course of the show, we watch his character descend into darkness by rationalizing his progressively more evil decisions. He comes out on top over and over and over again, through skill and often through luck… until he finally doesn't. His world falls apart in the literal sense, and in the sense that he's forced to face how all of his justifications have been lies, and there was nothing noble in any of it.


The chorus lyric is adapted from the final line of the Shelley poem, "The lone and level sands stretch far away". The final verse has my favorite line of the song, where "every sacred bond is destroyed" holds double meaning - all of Walter's important relationships have disintegrated, but he's watched the ‘sacred bonds’ of his chemistry fall apart as well.


Production-wise, this song is very minimal compared to the rest of the album. Two guitars, bass, minimal percussion. I had the idea to include a little Easter egg going into the second verse, where that weird steel drum sound and slide acoustic guitar are a deliberate homage to instrumentation of the Breaking Bad title theme.


Like "In The Way", this was another song I considered cutting from the album - not because I didn't think recording sounded good, but because every time I’ve ever performed it it’s put people to sleep. I ended up keeping it, under the justification that within the album, I felt that it fulfilled an interesting role.


Then my mastering engineer Faz (DamageAudio) said this was his favorite track and that he loved the vibe. And my good friend Jon Stephens echoed that sentiment. So those are two nice endorsements of a song I very nearly cut. It's another reminder to get out of my own way, stop being so critical, and put the finished work out there into the world.


Ozymandias is track 10 on my album Like We Were Never Here At All. Listen here.

Lyrics:

Maybe I was waiting for some kind of coronation But I’m not sure why And now my luck’s run dry and it’s done I could keep on praying but there's nothing left to say And it’s an honest lie To believe this fight could be won


And these long desert sands stretch far away I was sure I had it but the looking glass, it shattered And it cracked my faith In the clean escape I had planned Broken and I’m battered but it doesn’t really matter Cause it’s just a game And it’s all checkmate in the end


And these long desert sands stretch far away


There's a certain self-abuse between the needle and the noose That lets a man live on When every sacred bond is destroyed So I'll stand among the ruins and reflect upon the truth That all I built is gone And now my final song is just noise


And these long desert sands stretch far away




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