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Independence Day

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

No, not the holiday.  The Springsteen song.

We could've also gone with X (which no doubt would've made my buddy Tom Pitts happier, but it would've upset Big Tom, who has grown to despise it because the Wandering Jews keep trying to pull it off and never quite can, so it's a wash).

This is the kind of shit that kept me alive in Berlin, CT.  I mean it.  Yeah, it's melodramatic, both the song and sentiment, but what isn't melodramatic when you are 15?  I can still picture the cassette, that dirty ivory smearing with fingerprints because I played The River so fucking much.  

Springsteen's 1980 double album is an oddity, a mix of throwaway rockers, pop nuggets, and some of the most heart-wrenching words and music he ever wrote.  My friend in Florida who's a musician, John Camacho, tells this story of playing in a piano bar up in, like, Delray Beach or something, and it's pretty dead, maybe a Wednesday night, a few customers drinking alone along the bar, and John launches into "The River," and he's not halfway into the song when this woman breaks down in tears, sobbing, and John has to stop (if you've never heard "The River," check it out, and you'll see why a middle-aged woman sitting alone in a piano bar on a Wednesday night might have a meltdown).

But I didn't get pregnant when I was 17, nor did I get stuck with a union card, a wedding coat, and working in a factory.  I had issues with my father (and even if he's dead, I still do now), so this was the song, "Independence Day," that always got me.  In the above intro to the song, Bruce talks about the inability to say what they really felt about one another.   Maybe that was the problem. Of course, he's Bruce and he can make that shit sounds poetic, poignant.  15, 16, you're just angry, and confused, and that little town, I felt alone all the time.  I didn't even read back then.  I had Springsteen.  That was it.

I've been trying to wrap my head around this most of my life, and in the grand scheme, it's no big deal.  I didn't get along with my dad, so what?  It certainly did give me license to do all the bad things I've done, a free pass for the mistakes I made, but as an artist I try to make these connections, figure out motivations for characters and the people I write, sing and paint about, and maybe in the end you're never really doing that as much as you are trying to figure out why you do what you do.  

And none of this would matter, except that I got a son of my own now, and what if my father's intentions were as good as mine are now, and everything still turned to shit between us?  This kid is my blood, my life.  And I was my father's son.   It's easy when there is a villain, a bad guy, a right guy and a wrong guy, but the older I get the less I see such clear delineation, and the more I realize everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have, a bunch of blind mice scurrying about and bumping into each other in the night. That makes it a fucking tragedy.  Or maybe I am just in love with Americana, and the American Male Despair of the Perpetual Man-Boy.  Or maybe I just like the song because it's got pretty words and a nice melody?  Who knows?

Why don't I just let Bruce say it?  I can't do it any better.


Well Papa go to bed now it's getting late
Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now
I'll be leaving in the morning from St. Mary's Gate
We wouldn't change this thing even if we could somehow
Cause the darkness of this house has got the best of us
There's a darkness in this town that's got us too
But they can't touch me now
And you can't touch me now
They ain't gonna do to me
What I watched them do to you

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day
All down the line
Just say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day this time

Now I don't know what it always was with us
We chose the words, and yeah, we drew the lines
There was just no way this house could hold the two of us
I guess that we were just too much of the same kind

Well say goodbye it's Independence Day
It's Independence Day all boys must run away
So say goodbye it's Independence Day
All men must make their way come Independence Day

Now the rooms are all empty down at Frankie's joint
And the highway she's deserted clear down to Breaker's Point
There's a lot of people leaving town now
leaving their friends, their homes
At night they walk that dark and dusty highway all alone

Well Papa go to bed now, it's getting late
Nothing we can say can change anything now
Because there's just different people coming down here now and they see things in different ways
And soon everything we've known will just be swept away

So say goodbye it's Independence Day
Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say
But won't you just say goodbye it's Independence Day
I swear I never meant to take those things away


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