Steely Dan: Sign In Stranger
There are two parts to the concept of independence. The obvious one is freedom or liberation, and it’s always a positive. But you also have to be independent from something, and that’s where the darkness creeps in. Leave it to Steely Dan to explore that side of things eloquently. In Sign In Stranger, the independence is from a person’s past. Mizar Five is a haven for criminals and lowlifes who seek a fresh start, and sometimes a new identity. The song does not suggest that any of them will change their ways, only that they will be free of their records. So here is independence with a sense of menace.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The Waterboys: The Raggle Taggle Gypsy
There is a common motif in folk songs, where a wealthy woman, often a noble, seduces or goes off with a man with no money. The husband discovers this, and goes after her or finds her in the act. From here, either the husband kills the lover and sometimes the wife as well, or you get something like what happens here. In The Raggle Taggle Gypsy, the husband reminds his noble wife of all that she is giving up, and begs her to return. She makes her choice, and leaves with the gypsy, and the husband lets her go. Why does he let her go so easily? Remember that she is a noblewoman, and that means that she is in an arranged marriage. These kinds of marriages were all about status, with love being an occasional happy accident. In this case, he does not seem to love her any more than she loves him. Her escape is a declaration of personal independence, although the actual declaration comes at a point earlier in the song, and most people miss it. The gypsy comes to her door, and she goes upstairs to change clothes. In The Waterboys’ version, the lady “put on her suit of leather-o”. Other versions make it even clearer, saying, “Then she pulled off her silk finished gown and put on hose of leather, O!” This isn’t simply a matter of practicality. The changing of clothes here is a ritual act that represents casting off her old life in favor of the new.
This was the first song that came to mind when I thought of celebrations of freedom because to me it's quintessential to the topic. This song is an anthemic fist pump about liberation by an industrial band called VAST (which supposedly stands for Visual Audio Sensory Theater) whose frontman, Jon Crosby, is also the songwriter. This particular album "Music for People" was released in 2000 which was at the boom of the rap/metal craze which, as a fan of sappy female singer-songwriters, embittered my heart. But I am reluctant to lump VAST with most of the other bands of that era, despite it having a similar dark feel. But it is easy to hear the rebelliousness of youth in the song, it most certainly sounds like a teenager yelling about not wanting to be told what to do, but the theme is general enough to want to to blast the music in your car after a break-up, or after quitting your job, or just about any situation where you felt like your freedom was infringed upon and you finally got it back.
Frontman Crosby now is a solo artist doing music which is much softer, apparently. But VAST was his bread and butter and is apparently where his talents lie. I'm not much for industrial or anything hard, but I immediately loved this song when I heard it. I think this feeling of getting out of a bad situation is something we've all felt and wanted to celebrate.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Nils Lofgren: The Sun Hasn't Set On This Boy Yet
Could one of rock's great declarations of independence have really come from one its most famous sidemen? Absolutely!
Before he joined Springsteen's E-Street Band or toured with Neil Young, Nils Lofgren was a 17 year old B-average senior who dropped out of his suburban Maryland high school to become a rock star.
As he recently told The Wall Street Journal, "Nobody dropped out of school where I was, except the juvenile delinquent that was pumpin' gas and had knocked up his girlfriend and his life was already over." Lofgren's life was just beginning. By age 18, he was living in Topanga Canyon, playing piano and singing harmonies with Neil Young on After the Gold Rush . He parlayed the Neil connection into a record deal for his own band, Grin ( returning to record with Neil on Tonight's the Night). When Grin broke up in 1974, Nils recorded his self-titled solo debut--a critically acclaimed gem featuring a Keith Richards mash note, "Keith Don't Go", as well as a number of radio friendly songs, including this autobiographical statement of self-determination which reminds all of us of our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Guest post by 1001 Songs
Bruce Springsteen: Chimes of Freedom (Bob Dylan cover, live)
Earlier today [July 3, 1988] Amnesty International announced a worldwide tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Declaration Of Human Rights. The Declaration Of Human Rights is a document that was signed by every government in the world* 40 years ago, recognizing the existence of certain inalienable human rights for everyone regardless of your race, your color, your sex, your religion, your political opinion, or the type of government that you're living under. I, I was glad to be asked to participate… in a tour that's gonna begin in early September…. So, I'd like to give, dedicate this next song to the people at Amnesty International and their idea. And so when we come to your town, come on out, support the tour, support human rights for everyone now, and let freedom ring.
* not precisely: 48 members of the UN General Assembly voted for it; the Soviet bloc countries, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia abstained.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
David Byrne: Independence Day
I am a firm believer that “none of us is truly free until all of us are”. From this point of view, the process of achieving our nation’s independence is ongoing. This week, an important step was taken. New York became the first state in the United States to legalize gay marriage by a legislative act. The states which previously recognized this right did so by court order. David Byrne’s song Independence Day, from 1989, is set in New York City, and it looks forward to this day. But in 1989, legal gay marriage seemed like an impossible dream. So, I thought this song was a perfect way to launch our weeklong celebration of independence here on Star Maker. New York State, I salute you. Let me be the first to wish our American readers a happy and safe Independence Day. To our Canadian readers, a belated happy Canada Day. And to all others, my best wishes for your independence and freedom, in what ever form they take.