The Secret Life of Song Lyrics – Year One

Unusually for a white guy of my generation I was never that much into Rock ‘n Roll and even less so Rock. I always tended toward more tuneful pop, soul and, later, country. I liked Steppenwolf for a time as a child and enjoyed some gimmicky glitter rock from the UK in the early 70s and but that was about it.

Or it was until I discovered (American) punk in the early 1980s. Unlike British punk with its emphasis on nihilism and dysfunctional politics American punk was more about working through personal issues, not so much “why don’t I have a future” but more “why is my family so crazy”?

My favorite punk group is probably X (terrible name for the internet era, yes). The frontcouple John Doe and Exene Cervenka were fans of country music. Their lyrics, like the best country lyrics, are full of what might be called „folk poetry” using unusual almost pre-linguistic constructions. The result can be hard to disentangle logically but it makes a kind of emotional sense.

Given the current political climate, the most appropriate song is maybe Year One.

Year One

Year one, little babies,
Year one, on their TVs
No AD, BC, AD.
Patriotic people sleep
Like Washington DC,
Waiting, waiting, waiting.

They don’t feel a thing,
No dolls, no debutantes,
No desperate living class,
No Roman Catholic mass,
No magazines, no TV
No RCA, no GE.

Year one in our history,
Year one in society,
They’re waiting for the Son,
For any Son to come.
Year one, you’re one, I’m one
Year one, you’re one, I’m one
Year one, you’re one, I’m one
Year one, you’re one, I’m one

There’s an exhilaration behind the prospect of junking everything and starting over that’s matched by the breakneck rockabilly cum surf rock rhythm. Everything is gone and everything is possible and the change-high hasn’t worn off yet. Once the magnitude of the change sets in there will be plenty of time to start worrying, but now let’s just enjoy the wreckage.

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