Yes, it’s been ten years. And I’m not one for lists. But in magazines and newspapers decade-ending rankings have started to appear. Best movies, best TV shows and best songs. So I thought I’d weigh in.
Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won’t pay for a roof, won’t pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can’t make it here anymore
I’ve had a rough year. Financially.
After a disastrous nineties, I owe nothing. I live on a cash basis. I saved every damn cent I could, figuring it’s hard to make a living on a freelance basis, and then the bottom fell out.
I’m not complaining. I’ve got my cash hoard. But it’s depressing. Because almost everybody I know is broke, or close to it. I’ve even got a friend who put her stuff in storage and is bouncing from guest bedroom to guest bedroom, she just can’t find a job.
They don’t exist. Even if you want to work, you can’t.
Your best bet is the network, those people you’ve known for decades. You can call and lean on them, if they still even have their jobs.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is paying record bonuses and their Chairman Lloyd Blankfein says the firm is doing God’s work. He must pray to a deity I’ve yet to encounter, one who wants to see the populace suffer. Used to be Wall Street helped build America, now traders just profit off exotic investment instruments. Meanwhile, if we didn’t prop up AIG, the banks would be bankrupt and their employees would be just like us, without a job and with no prospects. Hell, did you see that story in the "New York Times" about ex Lehman Brothers employees? They can’t work.
Not that I’ve got sympathy.
Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let ‘em eat jellybeans, let ‘em eat cake
Let ‘em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can’t make it here anymore
By time you read this our President, Barack Obama, a man who ran on the mantra of hope, may be getting us deeper into Afghanistan. Isn’t Al-Qaeda in Pakistan? And, if the Soviets couldn’t win there, why should we? A country owned by China with disastrous financials (that’s us, in case you didn’t recognize your homeland).
And if you join the armed forces to serve your country, to pay your bills, you’re entering the Hotel California. It seems you can never leave. You wish you were a rock star, high on dope, as you jumpily wait for people to attack you one more time. Coming home to a country that pays you lip service, but doesn’t give a shit. If you come home at all. And if you do return, you’re probably so traumatized you figure suicide is the best solution.
In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That’s done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There’s rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can’t make it here anymore
Not only have they ditched music in schools, now they’re closing the libraries. Guess everybody’s got to sit in front of the TV, paying media giants to have crap shoved down their throats. Elvis Costello sang about vapid radio? Well, they killed radio and now have us anesthetized in front of the flat screen, selling us products we don’t need, that we put on credit cards that charge 29%. As for holding back… Didn’t they say it was American to shop, that we were entitled? If we sacrifice, maybe that means the future truly is bleak. So, we consume until we go bust.
I try to have hope. Can’t say that I achieve this state every day.
But one thing that helps me get through is James McMurtry’s "We Can’t Make It Here". Not only my favorite song of the twenty first century, but my most played. With over 200 plays in my iTunes library on the computer I superseded in 2006, and over 100 more since.
Sure, the lyrics are poignant, they’re poetry. But there’s a hypnotic groove that hooks me, that makes me want to play the song again and again.
There’s an authorized electric version, but I prefer the acoustic take. Which James used to give away for free on his site, but now you can hear as backing to a clip on YouTube:
You don’t have to pay a scalper to see James McMurtry. He’s gonna play in the bar in your hometown sometime next year. But the paper won’t make a big deal, there won’t be a buzz. But the paper is going extinct and we haven’t yet made a complete transition from Kara DioGuardi crap to real music.
Is it only about the money? What happens when the money runs out? Then what? When no one listens to Top Forty, when no one wants to go to the show. When the old criteria die, it comes down to the music.
James McMurtry got a break at the beginning. He did a number of albums on Columbia, his first was produced by John Mellencamp. But when his deal was done he didn’t give up and go to law school, he didn’t get an MBA, he didn’t don a suit and go straight, no he went indie, he kept writing, he kept playing.
And if that ain’t twenty first century, I don’t know what is.
In the next month, we’re going to be deluged with statistics. Telling us who the winners were. People who provided fodder for the system, that you consumed, shat out and forgot.
But great art is unforgettable.
"We Can’t Make It Here" is unforgettable. Just as powerful as "Eve Of Destruction", but sans camp, it doesn’t slide off of you, it penetrates your core.
How did we get here?
To a country where there are winners and losers. And the winners feel entitled.
It’s not only Wall Street, the music game is not much different.
The stars can’t sell recordings anymore so they’ve jacked up the price of concert tickets to the point where the average attendee only goes to a show once a year. Isn’t that like only having sex once a year? Aren’t you entitled to more? Don’t you want more?
Those left at the label complain that the audience is a bunch of thieves. Never mind the overpriced CDs they sold with only one good track for over a decade.
And the wannabes only want to know, which way to riches?
Every day they e-mail me…how can I make money?
If I had the answer to that, I’d be rich myself!
But I do it because I want to, it’s my passion. That’s why I write. And as long as people read, I’m going to proceed. It’s fine with me that you’re partaking for free, because first and foremost it’s about communication, hell, it’s about attention, and I’ve got yours, and believe me, nothing thrills me, nothing satisfies me more.
I may be a lone voice in the wilderness, I may be the only person who says this, but I truly believe James McMurtry’s "We Can’t Make It Here" is the best song of this nascent century. It doesn’t only sound good, it’s got something to say.