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"It's the most self-referential song," Hancock points out. "We actually had to pay the alligator to get that song written."
In contrast, "Now It's Now Again," the de facto title song, seems too multifaceted to have had an easy birth: It's got a gorgeous melody, a structure that allows for Band-like vocal-swapping and words that qualify as prairie poetry: "The wind knows how we used to be here now/It circles to remind us all." But paradoxically, it assumed its final shape more quickly than anything else on the platter.
"We'd given up for the night, and we were just sitting around in the kitchen over at Joe's house -- because after we get done writing songs, we just go get Mexican food or something and hang out together," Gilmore recalls. "Well, I had this old idea for one line of a song -- a real peculiar melody that didn't even end up being done the way I sang it. But I played it for them, and then Butch remembered that he had this bridge -- and basically we wrote the song then and there."
The Flatlanders have more where that came from. They recorded 25 tunes for Now Again and can access a vast library of favorites they've learned over the years: Ely estimates that they knew "300 to 500 songs between us" before they went their separate ways, and that total has only grown.
As such, the reunion doesn't look to be a one-shot deal -- so if opportunists think they can use the Flatlanders name, they've got another thing coming.
"We'll fight 'em tooth and nail," Ely says, amid chuckles from his cohorts, "because we made a record before any of those of other bands did. We can take them to the Eight-Track Hall of Fame and prove it."