Words of the Prophets


 

      

Tom Waits has a way of stripping away the shiny layers and revealing the truths embedded in this thing called life. He offers some words to remember if you have ever felt the tug of envy or jealousy toward those who may have a bigger, more expensive house and wished you could be doing as well.  All that square footage, the decorative columns, and landscaping is just gift wrapping  serving to impress. It is what is inside the box that really matters.

Take this song and turn it up loud in the car the next time you are passing through one of those affluent neighborhoods  so you can resist that old hobo jealousy yanking on your sleeve.

-Bobman

So if you find someone
Someone to have, someone to hold
Don’t trade it for silver
Don’t trade it for gold
I have all of life’s treasures
And they are fine and they are good
They remind me that houses
Are just made of wood
What makes a house grand
Ain’t the roof or the doors
If there’s love in a house
It’s a palace for sure…”

Tom Waits, House Where Nobody Lives

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*Author’s note: Click on the bolded words below for links to related video clips and images. Click on the song title and band’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and visit a Web site dedicated to the band. 

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 by Bob Langham

In the song Funplex, the B-52s offer their own satirical musical commentary on the artificial consumer mecca known as the mall.

Remember the shopping mall in its heyday? It was the poor man’s Disney World for the superficial, materialistic, hordes of consumers who were still dreaming the American dream of being able to buy all of the components of “true happiness” under one sprawling roof. 

Nowhere was this trance-like out of control consumerism for all things bright and shiny portrayed so truthfully, than in George Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. This film, on the surface is a zombie horror flick.  However, it is much more horrific if you look at the subtext to see the mirror of honesty held up to our empty consumer-based society.  This film reveals the awful truth about us in the form of roving mobs of zombies stumbling mindlessly through an American mall in the all too familiar habitat of piped in Muzak and inadequate fluorescent lighting, as they literally consume anything they can get their hands on in an effort to satisfy their insatiable appetite for more. 

The malls are still around today, but they have begun to die off and lose their once enticing luster as a result of an economy as empty as the dream on which it is based.  However, there will probably always be a significant segment of society that will still flock to the confines of their favorite mall. They will be the ones wandering in a trance toward what they believe will bring them happiness, oblivious to the piped in Muzak and the hypnotic humming of the fluorescent lights above.

-B

I’m a pleasure seeker
Shoppin’ for a new distraction
I’m a pleasure seeker
Lookin’ for some platinum action
I’m a pleasure seeker
Movin’ to the muzak
I’m a pleasure seeker
Lookin’ for the real thing

Chandalabra’s in a wonder bra
Dress barn runway-a real draw
Faster Pussycat thrill thrill
I’m at the mall on a diet pill

Oh broke my heart
At the Funplex
Yes you did
Yes you did
(repeat)

The Taco Tiki Hut is where we’re all gonna meet
Underneath the chandelier at the ATM machine
Oh Honey –
Is it all about money?

Hey lady
What?
What lady?
That lady?
No!

Private property-hippie be quiet
Your peace sign t-shirt
Could cause a riot
Faster faster-can’t get enough
What the hell will I do with this stuff ?

I’m your daytime waitress
at the Taco Tiki Hut
I’m your daytime waitress
Here’s your stupid 7-Up
You kicked my heart
Goin’ up and down the escalator
You blew me off and
And now you’ve lost
The real thing

Oooh -broke my heart at the Funplex
Yes you did -yes you did
Oooh -broke my heart at the Funplex
Yes you did -yes you did

You know-fashion frenzy gets me higher and higher
No will power and my wallets on fire!
(Panic at the Funplex-Panic at the Funplex)

Oooh -broke my heart
Oooh -broke my heart
Panic at the Funplex

Faster faster thrill thrill
Too much to do
It’s time for a pill

Oooh -broke my heart
Panic at the Funplex

Misery at the Funplex!
And theres too much sex!
The world is goin’ to hell
And what is that horrible smell?

B-52s, Funplex

 *Author’s note:  Click on the song title and artist’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and to visit a Web site dedicated to the artist.

The political right wing  and by extension the so called main stream media  pundits who follow their lead, either out of fear or complicity, would have you believe that the working class and the middle class are made up of free loading lazy whiners who feel entitled to handouts and benefits without contributing anything to society.

Sadly, this myth gets repeated again and again in the media echo chamber until even people in the middle and working class, who from their own experience should know better, begin to  believe this big lie.  A lie designed and perpetuated by the wealthy and powerful to divide and conquer the majority, so the wealthy and the powerful can remain in power and continue to line their pockets.

The majority of the working class and middle class just ask for one thing. They want to live their lives with dignity.  They want a living wage, on which to raise a family and own a home. They want to be able to keep that home and live their life in it without the fear of  forclosure, due to the loss of  their job, or predatory lending practices. They want affordable health care that is not run as a for-profit business. They want to be able to work at a job or career that will not reward years of loyalty and hard work  by handing out pink slips and shipping these jobs to overseas workers who will work for next to nothing. They want to be able to retire at the end of a long career with the money they have saved for retirement.

Unlike those on political right and the media pundits who rail against them and promote the myth of the lazy free loader, the majority of the working class and middle class doesn’t want to be handed these things on a silver platter.  They are willing to work for it and earn it.  All they ask  for is a little dignity.

Bob Dylan musically explored this basic desire of being able to live life with dignity and he sang about it  “in a voice from you and me.”

-B

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I went down to where the vultures feed
I would’ve gone deeper, but there wasn’t any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn’t any difference to me

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin’ man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin’ into the lost forgotten years
for dignity

Bob Dylan, Dignity

*Author’s note:  Click on the song title and artist’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and to visit a Web site dedicated to the artist.

 

Here’s a haunting ode to all of those rock stars who achieved the highly coveted goal of stardom and fame, and for whatever reason gave up and threw it all away through wreckless or self-destructive behavior.

-B

 

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It’s clear you have a death wish
From what I hear
Your latest dish, lives for you
It scares you half to death

You bend over backwards to make a statement
Hang from the rafters and lick the pavement
Split your lip and barely catch a breath

Your lovely eyes that close like petals
Your sweet surprise can win you medals
You strut your stuff and fan your peacock feathers

Even if you fake it to get attention
Whatever it’ll take to get them to listen
Piss on your designer boots and designer leathers

Hey little rock star [hey little rock star]
Why don’t you see
This is not all that, it’s cracked up to be
And I can’t say I blame you
For throwin’ the towel in
For buying more fame
Cashing your chips in
With all your talent
So much to gain
To toss it away like this
Would be such a shame

Juvenile delinquent, misunderstood
Peter Pan and Robin Hood
Will you ever do the things your afraid to do?
Will you ever know happiness of a rock star?
Was your death wish stronger than you are?
Will you go up in flames like the torches that are carried for you?

Hey little rock star [hey little rock star]
Why don’t you see
This is not all that, it’s cracked up to be
And I can’t say I blame you
For throwin’ the towel in
For buying more fame
Cashing your chips in
With all your talent
So much to gain
To toss it away like this
Would be such a shame

To toss it away like this

Would be such a shame

 – Lucinda Williams, Little Rock Star

 *Author’s note:  Click on the song title and artist’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and to visit a Web site dedicated to the band.

I can’t be the only one that feels like we are living this song as the underlying tension among the masses boils higher while hardworking people lose their homes, their jobs, and retirement savings, and greedy corporate executives get bigger bonuses and salaries in an effort to strategically divide us into two groups – the Have Alls and the Have Nothings.

-B

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Inside my future I
What I see just makes me cry
I’m way down now
I’m way down now
The clocks will all run backwards
All the sheep will have two heads
And Thursday night and Friday
Will be on Tuesday night instead
And all the times will keep on changing
And the movement will increase
There’s something abut the living, babe
That sends me off my feet
There’s breeding in the sewers
And the rats are on their way
Their clouding up the images of my perfect day
And I know I’m not alone
And I know I’m not alone
And I know I’m not alone

World Party, Way Down Now

 *Author’s note:  Click on the song title and artist’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and to visit a Web site dedicated to the band.

One of the great things about the time period I lived in Austin, Texas was the music you could hear on the radio and see live around the town.  This song actually got airplay regularly on the great, yet underrated radio station KGSR.  You will never hear anything close to this on the radio stations in bigger markets like Houston. For this reason, I rarely listen to commercial radio stations anymore.  I also was lucky enough to see this band perform this song as well as many other songs live at the Cactus Cafe in Austin one evening as Charlie’s six piece band crowded onto the tiny stage with their instruments (including drum set and stand up base) and played an incredible set for the enthusiastic crowd.  The intimate setting was about as close as you can get (which is really close) to having a band play for you and your friends in your own living room.

Sunday Clothes captures the strong hold religion and the church can have on you from an early age through adulthood and how they use fear and the empty promise of a better life passed on unchallenged by logic and reason from generation to generation.

– B

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Grandma slicked my hair down
I cinched up my belt
I can still remember how that polyester felt

Townsfolk all a tremble
Yeah they knew what lay before
As the preacher takes the pulpit
And the usher shut the door

Came into this crazy world round 1968
Fathered by a crazy kid with nothing on his plate
Daddy got in trouble, yeah Daddy did some time
Visiting day at the penitentiary was where I learned to cry

Yeah we were singing those hymns over and over again
Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday nights
I never understood it all that well back then
But it probably saved my life

Charlie Sexton, Sunday Clothes

Author’s note: Click on the song title and band’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and to visit a Web site dedicated to the band.

Have you ever had one of those days that knocks the wind out of you, and the only remedy is to seek refuge with someone you love and trust ?  Together you tune out the rest of the world, until you are able to find peace and venture into the wilderness again?

-B

                                                                           

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  If I lay here, if I just lay here.
Would you lie with me, and just forget the world?

Snow Patrol, Chasing Cars

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