Dissect a Song

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So Cruel

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Dissect a Song
« on: June 29, 2020, 11:38:15 PM »
Pretty simple. Let's take a song we think is special and take a deeper look at it.

Atlantic City - Bruce Springsteen

For those unfamiliar with this song, it isn't your usual Springsteen anthem. It's as far from arena rock as can be. There's actually only one person playing on it, and that's Bruce.

In 1981 Bruce wrote many of the songs that would end up on his Nebraska album and demoed them at his home on a $1000 4-track recorder. He then took these demo's to the studio with the E-Street band where they recorded them in the traditional E-Street fashion, but as Bruce and his manager reviewed the tapes they realized that the band versions didn't capture the magic of the demo's. The decision was made to release the demo's as they were. I imagine the record company and the band weren't all to happy about it, but Bruce as the artist knew it was the right way to go.

Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night
Now they blew up his house, too


One of the most memorable opening lines to a song I can think of. Atlantic City is about the struggle of a man who's broke, makes the move with his girl to Atlantic City, and gets in with the mob.

The refrain "everything dies, baby, that's a fact, But maybe everything that dies someday comes back" appears throughout the song. The character seems to know in this business death lurks around the corner, but he made his choice.

Lot's of excellent full band versions have appeared live over the years, the one from the Live in New York album from the reunion tour is stellar, but there's something magical about this demo.

Check it Out


Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City

Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night
Now they blew up his house, too
Down on the boardwalk they're gettin' ready
For a fight, gonna see what them racket boys can do
Now there's trouble busin' in from outta state
And the D.A. can't get no relief
Gonna be a rumble out on the promenade
And the gamblin' commission's hangin' on by the skin of its teeth

Well, now everything dies, baby, that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

Well, I got a job and tried to put my money away
But I got debts that no honest man could pay
So I drew what I had from the Central Trust
And I bought us two tickets on that Coast City bus

Now, baby, everything dies, baby, that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

Now our luck may have died and our love may be cold
But with you forever I'll stay
We're goin' out where the sands turnin' to gold now
Put on your stockings, babe, 'cause the nights gettin' cold
Everything dies, baby, that's a fact but maybe
Everything that dies someday comes back

Now I've been lookin' for a job but it's hard to find
Down here it's just winners and losers
And don't get caught on the wrong side of that line
Well I'm tired of comin' out on the losin' end
So, honey, last night I met this guy
And I'm gonna do a little favor for him

Well I guess everything dies, baby, that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
So put your sweet hair up nice and make yourself look pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City
Meet me tonight in Atlantic City
Come and meet me tonight in Atlantic City
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

Definitive U2 Top 10: 1. One, 2. Bad, 3. With Or Without You, 4. Running to Stand Still, 5. So Cruel, 6. Ultraviolet, 7. I Still Havenít Found What Iím Looking For, 8. Hawkmoon 269, 9. Red Hill Mining Town, 10. Luminous Times

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Codeguy

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2020, 04:03:24 PM »
Great idea and good insights on the song. OK, I'll stay with da boss. Ghost of Tom Joad

Steinbeck's classic Grapes of Wrath protagonist is dead from the start of this song. Joad has been released from prison to find his family home repossessed and his family living out of the trunk of his dead father's car. There is no work in Oklahoma at the start of the great depression, and the family decides to head to California to seek employment - even though Tom knows that will violate his parole.

On the way, they sleep at shelters.

Shelter line stretching around the corner
Welcome to the new world order


Joad sleeps under a highway, where he encounters a preacher who still believes.

Waiting for the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box beneath the under pass


California remains the promised land, where they have heard wages are good and employment is plenty.

You got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and a gun in your hand


When they reach California, they have already lost their grandfather, and buried him on the side of the road. There is no promised land, only starvation wages and hard labor.
Tom's mother experiences the ultimate humiliation and gives the greatest act of kindness - she feeds a starving man with her breast milk.

Tom's preacher friend is beaten on the job, and Tom loses his temper and kills the man. This is it. His life is over and he knows it.

He flees, knowing his family can make ends meet without him. He gives his Ma some parting words, and we are left to assume that he meets a violent or uncertain end.

Mom, wherever there's a cop beating a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me, Mom, I'll be there
Wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helping hand
Wherever somebody's struggling to be free
Look in their eyes, Ma, and you'll see me"

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kidding nobody about where it goes
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad


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an tha

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2020, 05:22:28 PM »
Who else could I start with!?...

All and Everyone by PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey: "One of the conflicts that affected me a great deal was the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War. Something about the dreadful mismanagement and the shocking waste, needless waste, I thought about it a lot and really affected me, because to me it had such resonance with the wars that are going on today."

This near six-minute track is one of three songs from the album Let England Shake that alludes to the 1915 battle for Gallipoli, a grotesquely bungled attempt to seize Constantinople, which wiped out much of the Australian and New Zealand Army.

Death was everywhere,
In the air
And in the sounds
Coming off the mounds
Of Bolton's Ridge.
Oh Death's anchorage.


Boltonís Ridge was one of the ridges involved in the landing at Gallipoli, which she also references on the song ďThe Colour Of The EarthĒ.

Gallipoli was a brutal conflict. Lasting only eight months, it still saw over half a million deaths, averaging nearly one hundred per hour. Nearly half the Allied forces died, and the victorious Ottoman forces were even harder hit. Death was a constant reality.

When you rolled a smoke or told a joke
It was in the laughter and drinking water
It approached the beach as strings of cutters
Dropped into the sea and lay around us
Death was in the ancient fortress
Shelled by a million bullets

From gunners waiting in the copses
With hearts that threatened to pop their boxes
As we advanced into the sun
Death was all and everyone
Death was all and everyone


Half of the British military assigned on the campaign were lost.
10% of the men died at this failure of a campaign.
Many also were plagued by disease, with 90, 000 leaving sick.
It was at the time the single worst military campaign in British history.

As we advancing in the sun
As we advancing every man
As we advancing in the sun

Death hung in the smoke
And clung to 400 acres of useless beach front
A bank of red earth, dripping down
Death is now and now and now


The Allies never made it much past the beach.
The ground attack began on April 25, when Allied soldiers landed simultaneously at various points near the mouth of the Dardanelles. British troops carved out a foothold at Cape Helles, the southernmost point of the Gallipoli Peninsula, located on the European side of the strait, and were soon reinforced by the French. But despite several bloody battles, they never managed to advance more than a few miles inland.

Death was everywhere
In the air
And in the sounds
Coming off the mounds
Of Bolton's Ridge.
Death's anchorage.
Death was in the staring sun,
Fixing its eyes on everyone.
It rattled the bones of the Night Horsemen
Still lying out there in the open
As we, advancing in the sun
As we, advancing every man
As we, advancing in the sun
Sing "Death to all and everyone."


During the Battle of the Nek on 7 August 1915, two regiments of the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade mounted a futile bayonet attack on the Ottoman trenches and suffered heavy casualties.


It's a beautiful song, delivered in a stately manner where the drama builds and the hearbreak is evident.....it is a perfect example of absolutely fantsastic song writing from one of the greatest song writers of her generation.

Listen to this stunning song here:


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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2020, 12:21:05 PM »
That's a great one An Tha

Check out the Australian ballad The band played waltzing matilda - another song about the same battle.

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2020, 12:52:07 PM »
OK, I'll try another tack here - David Bowie's classic posthumous number one song Blackstar


When human beings encounter something they don't understand, they try to understand it, and that makes us vulnerable.

An alien civilization who look just like humans but who are much more primitive sees the corpse of Major Tom crash land onto their planet - and they cannot explain it. So they build a monument to honor it, thinking it a god.

In the villa of Orman, stands a solitary candle

The man who sings this stanza is blind - he does not know what the truth is but he reaches for it. He knows that truth requires knowledge and he knows that he doesn't know, and that each person will read different things into this unexplained event.

At the center of it all, your eyes

The next character holds aloft a holy book and declares with confidence and authority:

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre then stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
I'm a blackstar, I'm a blackstar

How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
I'm a blackstar, I'm a blackstar


His message may or may not be deluded but he believes he knows the way. The people should follow the way.

The third protagonist does not believe, but he profits from people's need to believe. He is the televangelist.

You're a flash in the pan, I'm the great I Am

Unlike the believer/preacher, the televangelist/preacher is all about himself, not his flock. His flock are flashes in the pan and "The Great I am" is a direct quote from John 8:58 - Jesus Christ describes himself as the Great I Am. It's a proper-noun, and it means he is the always-existing messiah, not a messenger. He has elevated himself for his own gain.

In the end, the species makes a sacrifice to the perceived god of Major Tom's corpse.

Three crosses, three messiahs. In the center, a blind messiah, sacrificing himself, but without knowledge.

In the end, a witch doctor character approves of the blind sacrifice and the watcher is left to wonder - with references to blindness, blackness and witchcraft, is this a satanic video?
In the center of it all, your eyes

We will each see in it what we want to see with our own eyes. It's no accident that the blind people in this video have little black stars in their eyes. We are the blind. We are all black stars.

At the very beginning of this amazing video, we saw a brief shot of Major Tom's spacesuit with a smiley face button on it. Bowie is telling us all to not take this too seriously.

 
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So Cruel

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2020, 01:17:38 PM »
Iron Maiden - Paschendale

After reading An Thaís post I thought Iíd stay with WW1 horrorís of battle theme.

Paschendale is a later period Iron Maiden song that shows veteran bands can still bring the goods. The riff written by guitarist Adrian Smith is simply vicious. I learnt more about history when I was a kid from Iron Maiden then I did from Social Studies class. 

The WW1 battle of Passchendaele is famous for showing the true horrors of industrialized trench warfare.

In a foreign field he lay
Lonely soldier, unknown grave
On his dying words he prays
Tell the world of Paschendale

Relive all that he's been through
Last communion of his soul
Rust your bullets with his tears
Let me tell you 'bout his years


Setting up the tale. A young British soldier off to war.

Laying low in a blood filled trench
Kill time 'til my very own death
On my face I can feel the falling rain
Never see my friends again

In the smoke, in the mud and lead
Smell the fear and the feeling of dread
Soon be time to go over the wall
Rapid fire and end of us all

Whistles, shouts and more gun fire
Lifeless bodies hang on barbed wire
Battlefield nothing but a bloody tomb
Be reunited with my dead friends soon

Many soldiers eighteen years
Drown in mud, no more tears
Surely a war no-one can win
Killing time about to begin


The sense of dread knowing whatís to come. Trench warfare was especially brutal. Young men knowing what awaited them when they went over the wall. Really hard to contemplate how it would feel to know that youíre running into certain death.

Home, far away
From the war, a chance to live again
Home, far away
But the war, no chance to live again


Youíre last clear thoughts. Thinking of your home and the life you could have had. Then the realization that you wonít be coming home.

The bodies of ours and our foes
The sea of death it overflows
In no man's land, God only knows
Into jaws of death we go

Crucified as if on a cross
Allied troops they mourn their loss
German war propaganda machine
Such before has never been seen

Swear I heard the angels cry
Pray to god no more may die
So that people know the truth
Tell the tale of Paschendale


They explore a few different directions here. One is the biblical imagery of the cross and praying for the war to end. The other interesting one is the ďpropagandaĒ of the German war machine, which would become even more prevalent 20 years later.

Cruelty has a human heart
Every man does play his part
Terror of the men we kill
The human heart is hungry still

I stand my ground for the very last time
Gun is ready as I stand in line
Nervous wait for the whistle to blow
Rush of blood and over we go


The key lines of the song are ď Cruelty has a human heart/Every man does play his part/Terror of the men we kill/The human heart is hungry stillĒ
War is of man. We make the choice to go to war. We know the terror of war but it doesnít stop us.

Blood is falling like the rain
Its crimson cloak unveils again
The sound of guns can't hide their shame
And so we die on Paschendale

Dodging shrapnel and barbed wire
Running straight at cannon fire
Running blind as I hold my breath
Say a prayer symphony of death

As we charge the enemy lines
A burst of fire and we go down
I choke a cry but no-one hears
Feel the blood go down my throat


Finally over the wall. Death and chaos surrounds him. Estimated deaths at the Battle of Passchendaele is between 500,000 - 800,000. We lost a generation of young men in the most senseless style of warfare man has seen.

Home, far away
From the war, a chance to live again
Home, far away
But the war, no chance to live again

Home, far away
From the war, a chance to live again
Home, far away
But the war, no chance to live again

See my spirit on the wind
Across the lines, beyond the hill
Friend and foe will meet again
Those who died at Paschendale


We fight when we are alive, but for our spirits it doesnít matter if youíre a friend or a foe, in the end we are all the same.


Definitive U2 Top 10: 1. One, 2. Bad, 3. With Or Without You, 4. Running to Stand Still, 5. So Cruel, 6. Ultraviolet, 7. I Still Havenít Found What Iím Looking For, 8. Hawkmoon 269, 9. Red Hill Mining Town, 10. Luminous Times

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an tha

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2020, 01:34:29 PM »
That's a great one An Tha

Check out the Australian ballad The band played waltzing matilda - another song about the same battle.

Will do!

Some good stuff here....interested in the song So Cruel has posted too.

All makes 'you're the best thing about being a boy' look more than a bit sad!!

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So Cruel

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2020, 01:52:08 PM »
Enjoyed the Blackstar review. I know and like the song but never really gave much thought to it tying into Major Tom.   
Definitive U2 Top 10: 1. One, 2. Bad, 3. With Or Without You, 4. Running to Stand Still, 5. So Cruel, 6. Ultraviolet, 7. I Still Havenít Found What Iím Looking For, 8. Hawkmoon 269, 9. Red Hill Mining Town, 10. Luminous Times

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Codeguy

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2020, 06:39:35 PM »
That's a great one An Tha

Check out the Australian ballad The band played waltzing matilda - another song about the same battle.

Will do!

Some good stuff here....interested in the song So Cruel has posted too.

All makes 'you're the best thing about being a boy' look more than a bit sad!!

OK - you tempted me -

Sometimes you just run out of things to say.

When you look so good, the pain in your face doesn't show

Your rhymes become corny and platitudinous.

When you look so good and baby, you don't even know

You just start talking and words come out in no particular order

When the world is ours but the world is not your kind of thing

And then you have to rhyme your word salad

Full of shooting stars, brighter as they're vanishing

You know that juxtapositions are artistic fodder, but you don't want to be derivative.

I been crying out, "How bad can a good time be?"

But then you realize that was shite and you have to acknowledge it

Shooting off my mouth, that's another great thing about me

OK, back to juxtaposition....

I have everything but I feel like nothing at all

And now try to wax all philosophical

There's no risky thing for a man who's determined to fall

Ah shit I just give up.....

You're the best thing about me
The best thing that ever happened a boy
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an tha

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Re: Dissect a Song
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2020, 06:43:41 PM »
That's a great one An Tha

Check out the Australian ballad The band played waltzing matilda - another song about the same battle.

Will do!

Some good stuff here....interested in the song So Cruel has posted too.

All makes 'you're the best thing about being a boy' look more than a bit sad!!

OK - you tempted me -

Sometimes you just run out of things to say.

When you look so good, the pain in your face doesn't show

Your rhymes become corny and platitudinous.

When you look so good and baby, you don't even know

You just start talking and words come out in no particular order

When the world is ours but the world is not your kind of thing

And then you have to rhyme your word salad

Full of shooting stars, brighter as they're vanishing

You know that juxtapositions are artistic fodder, but you don't want to be derivative.

I been crying out, "How bad can a good time be?"

But then you realize that was shite and you have to acknowledge it

Shooting off my mouth, that's another great thing about me

OK, back to juxtaposition....

I have everything but I feel like nothing at all

And now try to wax all philosophical

There's no risky thing for a man who's determined to fall

Ah shit I just give up.....

You're the best thing about me
The best thing that ever happened a boy


Fucking hell.... :)

Actually shows up so much of what has gone wrong with Bono's lyrics.

He really over does the use of juxtaposition, it is like he has only discovered it in last few years and thinks it is really clever so keeps using it to ever diminishing effect.