Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Ohio:Songs, Volume Five
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam/Now we’re wonderin’ what they were dying for Listen to Bruce Springsteen: Youngstown (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) First, I have to apologize. I know audioblogs are supposed to be cutting edge. They're supposed to feature tunes you've never heard from parts of the world you'd be hard pressed to find on a map. New approaches, old 78s, Senegalese death metal, Malaysian bluegrass . . . you know, cool stuff. They’re certainly not supposed to be about politics. (Everyone ELSE writes about politics, particularly American politics). The theme mix this week has broken every Cooler Than Thou rule in the book and for that I’m truly sorry. Starting tomorrow I promise to dig into my vast collection of Japanese thrash and central Canadian post rock. But until then . . . I grew up in a company town, like Youngstown. When I was in school, I did a summer, white collar PR job in the metal plant. The men who did the real work pushed spruce poles underneath electric anodes the size of a two-car garage. The poles were used to free the fluoride gas from the liquid metal. The same gas which - everyone in town said - had burned the pines on the surrounding mountains copper brown. When I went onto the shop floor – huge buildings the size of aircraft hangars called potlines - the smell of the alumina powder and the heat from the metal left me feeling irritable. My head ached, even after I went back to my air conditioned office to take “anniversary” pictures of the men who had worked there for 10, 20 or 35 years. It was a place I felt lucky to leave. Listening to Youngstown, I find it hard to believe Bruce, the ultimate blue collar, blue state, multi-multi-multi-millionaire working class hero with Louis Vuitton rock n’ roll boots (check the cache on the second hit, I can’t direct link to it) hasn’t actually spent time in such a place. The track almost has a smell: coal smoke, burning leather, blood money and desperation. It’s old America, rust belt America and it sounds angry. Buy The Ghost of Tom Joad. Seems my old home town is in a Youngstown type spin over the use of electrical power from the Nechako River. Check out the fight against Uncle Al: here.