Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Best Thing I Read Recently: "Surfacing" by Margaret Atwood (and 2009's Summer of Discontent) (BEWARE: SPOILERZ!)

"When they say Freedom they never quite mean it, what they mean is freedom from interference." --from Surfacing, 1972, p.56 or so

That line really resonated when I read it during August of 2009. Fondly recall with me the Freedom Fighters of '09's Summer of Discontent--yelling about government takeovers of healthcare; carrying guns to town hall meetings just to demonstrate that they could; divining a creeping fascism in everything from the President addressing schoolchildren, to the government channeling money toward road construction projects. All these protests meant to combat government "interference" in people's everyday lives, I suppose; all of them evinced a pretty shallow understanding of Freedom.

I'm convinced the Freedom quote could serve as an epigraph for this entire mysterious book, Ms. Atwood's second novel, but of course it doesn't--it appears on p.56 or so, and "they" are specific libertarian Canadian settlers of ages past, the precursors to Atwood's unnamed narrator and her parents: godless pacifist survivalists who have disappeared from their daughter's life. When we meet our narrator, she's returning to the remote cabin of her childhood, hidden way out in the Quebec bush, to search for her father who's gone missing. You might say she's feeling ambivalent about "their" legacy.

Atwood's narrator implies, on p.56 or so, that capital-F "Freedom" encompasses more than simply the Libertarian "freedom from interference" sought by the survivalists of yore. My implication, from August '09, is that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in small-government ideas of freedom. You could argue, of course, that freedom from interference is a necessary precursor to capital-F Freedom--the freedom to do--what?? (In fact, you should argue it!-- because if the government's interfering in our lives by putting senior citizens to death and, I dunno, declaring war on Christmas or whatever other nefarious ways they encroach on our rights, then how can we envision the Freedom to do anything more? Right? If Grandma can't celebrate Christmas because she's visiting the Death Panel for "the holidays"?) But the two freedoms are certainly not the same thing, and I betchya any number of historical mystics and artists would tell you that Freedom is possible even in the presence of interference.

The Freedom to do what? Here's something closer to Freedom: after a week's stay in the family cabin, Atwood's Narrator abandons the three city slicker friends who've accompanied her. While her friends return to town, Narrator declares, "There are no longer any rational points of view," and slips into an extended forest reverie that comprises the last eighth of the book. During this period she summons and speaks with her dead parents, digs a burrow near the woodpile and sleeps inside it naked, and basically reverts to an animal-or-Nell-like state. Ms. Atwood gives her thoughts like these:

"I stay on the bank, resting, licking the scratches; no fur yet on my skin, it's too early."

"From the lake a fish jumps.
An idea of a fish jumps."

"I'm ice-clear, transparent, my bones and the child inside me showing through the green webs of my flesh, the ribs are shadows, the muscles jelly, the trees are like this too, they shimmer, their cores glow through the wood and bark."

"I lean against a tree, I am a tree leaning."

"I am not an animal or a tree, I am the thing in which the trees and animals move and grow, I am a place."

What I get from stuff like this, beyond the gnarled perfection of its construction, is Atwood celebrating her Freedom as a writer. We live in a world full of unpaid Web writing, where people who can publish whatever they want nevertheless often sound like they're churning out ad copy or auditioning for Entertainment Weekly--I do not exempt myself! With Internet Freedom ours for the taking, why do we not all make observations like "I am the thing in which the trees and animals move and grow, I am a place"? The last eighth of this book is WEIRD, punctuated but WEIRD, and we should seek observations like these, that defy normal linear thought, on a daily basis. They further life and are the antidote to endless healthcare debates.

Or abortion debates; this book is also about abortion, partly. (As if you needed more incentive!)

By celebrating Freedom, I'm not saying I necessarily want to read your "creative" and deeply-felt free verse online, especially if the words are grouped into weird shapes. Atwood, who realizes she can write whatever she wants, gets away with these flights because she also crafts such compelling sentences and articulates such an unforgettable vision. Likewise, Atwood's Narrator doesn't just meld her body to the woods on a whim. She's the only one of her friends who knows how to fish, navigate the forest, forage for food, etc. Her skill set gets her through; her craft enables her Freedom.

But even though her anti-rational Freedom depends on years of childhood nature education, it also flies in the face of much of her parents' belief system. They were rational atheists; Narrator consults the gods and her own spiritual power. She destroys much of what they'd left in the cabin, and burns pages from her father's beloved books. Likewise, this Freedom doesn't just fly in the face of the shadowy American imperialists who keep boating around the lake throughout Surfacing. The most villainous character is Narrator's friend David, a left-wing avant-garde filmmaker who keeps decrying "capitalist pigs" and spouting meaningless nonsense, until we finally witness his casual emotional brutality. Narrator even considers them kindred spirits for a while, until she rejects him, as she must reject all rational points of view.

And so what's she left with? The trees, for one thing. Last sentence: "The lake is quiet, the trees surround me, asking and giving nothing." Open to almost any random page and you'll fall into a nature poem. I'll demonstrate:

p. 85--"We wavered around the stone point where the trail goes; then we were in the archipelago of islands, tips of sunken hills, once possibly a single ridge before the lake was flooded."

p. 141--"The shape of a heron flying above us the first evening we fished, legs and neck stretched, wings outspread, a blue-gray cross, and the other heron or was it the same one, hanging wrecked from the tree."

p. 29--"The lake jiggles against the shore, the waves subside, nothing remains but a faint iridescent film of gasoline, purple and pink and green."

I could keep going! But you get the idea. The entire book is suffused with the sights and smells of the woods, and it captures all the skanky itchiness, the death and decay and human stains on the water, along with the more typical pastoral beauty.

And finally, our Narrator is also left with a choice: return to civilization or stay with the trees? Hard to say what she'll choose, but she seems to realize that the Freedom she's tasted isn't an either-or proposition. As with God, it's easier to say what Freedom isn't than what it is. You could even make the case that, if you're able to pin it down with words, it's not the real thing. Rational points of view have their place, whether in political debate or scientific exploration or arts criticism. But if we confuse them with the ultimate, the thing itself, the capitalized words, we do so at our peril.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Best Thing I Heard Today: Glenn Gould playing Goldberg Variations 15-19

....ALTHOUGH, I don't care so much for this version of #15 (it lasts the first five minutes of the Youtube below)--too austere for my romantic softhead, plus it has some incongruous staccato phrasing at about 2:00. That said, I may play it for Good Friday next year, as Gould suggests in the very entertaining, and completely staged, interview found here:

If you're approaching this without liner notes, the austere #15 is a reverse canon at the fifth, #16 is the "French Overture," #17 is a goofy little virtuosic thing that makes you cross your hands, #18 is the amazing canon at the sixth (one of two that I have actually played for church), and #19 sounds doable, hmmm... If you're listening for the canons, they occur in the right hand while the left hand accompanies. I recommend you buy the score, it could keep you occupied for the rest of your life if you let it. Anyhow, listen away:

And here's part of the aforementioned "interview", completely scripted by Gould, with writer Tim Page, that explains how he linked and chopped up the rhythmic pulses that run through #16, 17, and 18. It's fascinating, the amount of thought that must go into performing this music! Not to mention writing it--J.S. Bach is, for me, the most humbling composer of all time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Flowtation Device Presentz: Mos Def's "Quiet Dog (Bite Hard)"

Mr. Def! I hate this game, sir--
This game makes my tongue quite lame, sir!

Mos Def's "Quiet Dog", from his latest LP The Ecstatic, is first and foremost the party-starter of the year--but SECOND and not quite to the fore, it's a total old-skool throwback. I say this not just because Mr. Def quotes two lines from the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," thow that's the obvious giveaway, but also because his entire rap springs from those lines like water from Moses's stones. Like a good old-skoolchild, he doesn't cuss. But the real fingerprints are rhythmic:

Mr. Def opens with a variation on the "up jumps the boogie" chant and closes with an extrapolation of the line "ya don't stop the rock." Their rhythmic characteristics are similar, so we'll focus on the first. (Incidentally, for some family fun, if you rap "Quiet Dog" over the Chic bassline from "Rapper's Delight," it fits.) Here's Sugarhill's "up jumps the boogie" line, flowtated:

BANG.BANG.BOOgieSAIDup / *jump*thaBOOgieTOthe / RHYthmOFtheBOOgieTHEbeat / -

And here's Mr. Def's virtually identical take on same:

BANG_TOtheBOOgieSAYup / *jump*theBOOgieTOthe / RHYthmOFtheBOOgieTObe / -

This line has a couple noteworthy characteristics, which Mr. Def will fully exploit during the course of his "boogie to be."

First! Notice in the first two measures how we contrast strong unsyncopated syllables occurring ON THE BEAT with strong syncopated syllables occurring off the beat. That is, Sugarhill's "BANG.BANG.BOOgie" and Def's "BANG_TOtheBOOgie" contrast with the second bar's "up / *jump*thaBOOgie". This contrast forms the basis of Def's first flow pattern, which he uses for all of verse 1 and for a couple lines near the beginning of verse 2, only transposed to the second halves of the bars:

SIM_PLEthePLAIN_NESS_ / PROmiNENTbas-ic-zu /
-lu-arRANGE_MENT_ / ROCKin'Amaze-ment-fly /

So "PLAIN_NESS_" and "RANGE_MENT_" are on the beat ("BANG.BANG."), while their rhymes "bas-ic-" and "maze-ment-" are off the beat ("up*jump*"). I should note that the horizontal lines (_ and -) in Def's rap simply indicate that he's flowing more legato than the staccato Sugarhills, whose breaks are indicated by dots (. and *). I should also note that, for purposes of comparison, if you offset Mr. Def's barlines half a measure, you'll see that his unsyncopated/syncopated flow pattern corresponds neatly to the germinal "up jump the boogie" line:

PLAIN_NESS_PROmiNENTbas / -ic-zu
RANGE_MENT_ROCKin'Amaze / -ment-fly
corresponds to
BANG_TOtheBOOgieSAYup / *jump*the

Second! The characteristic syncopation of Sugarhill's "tha / BOOgieTOtheRHYthmOFthe / BOOgieTHEbeat-" is caused by a run of syllables ending on an offbeat, which imbues the final offbeat with an unusual implicit stress. See, for example, "Quiet Dog"'s first verse, the first four lines, second half of each line:


As Mr. Def proceeds, we get longer syllabic runs, most of which end on offbeats, culminating at the end of verse 1 with my favorite (I keep reciting it around Zack, he keeps yelling at me):

*laDIESandGENTleMEN_ / MIStasANDmisTRESes-. /
COUSinsOTHerANToANDsyn / Onyms-

This passage combines the two key rhythmic characteristics. "GENTleMEN_ / MIStasANDmisTRESes-" is our "BANG.BANG.BOOgie" line, contrasting rhyming ONBEAT and offbeat syllables. "COUSinsOTHerANToANDsyn / Onyms-" is our "RHYthmOFtheBOOgieTObe" line, ending a run of syllables on an offbeat. Whoa, now! That's just Mos Def testing your equilibrium!

In verse 2, Mr. Def introduces a new four-bar flow pattern with the lines:

DUDES_AIN'T_THROWin'THEYyawn / -in'*theyNEEDtoGEToff
-it-soWACK.RAPis / ALLyouCANcall-it*there /

He rhymes "yawnin'" (end of beat 4 in bar 1) and "off it" (end of beat 4 in bar 2), and then postpones the next rhyme, "call it," by two beats, so it's at the end of beat 2 in the fourth bar. Since all three rhymes occur on offbeats, we're into different flow territory than before, when he was contrasting rhyming ONBEATS and offbeats.

He's still playing with ONBEATS and offbeats, though, just unrhymed ones. Dig the configuration. You could theoretically replace the above two lines ("dudes ain't throwin'" etc...) with this:

BANG_TOtheBOOgieSAYup / *jump*theBOOgieSAYup /
*jump*theBANG_TOthe / BOOgieSAYup*jump*. /

So the rhymes, in the position of "up*jump", fall after four beats, after three beats, and after five beats--and you can feel the extra length in each ultimate rhymed line. This allows Mr. Def to play with longer syllabic runs as he closes out his four-bar patterns (ENgineLIKEi / ROLLoutTHEsta-tion). I don't know my poetics, but there's probably some technical term for this kind of tension-building rhythmic pattern.

I situate this song in the old-skool because of Def's "sung" flow. Sung style, according to rap theorist Adam Krims, exhibits "rhythmic repetition, on-beat accents, regular on-beat pauses, and strict couplet groupings." Krims's book, Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity, is likely to be useful to The Flowtation Device at some point. His other flow types are "speech-effusive," typified by Wu-Tang, and "percussion-effusive," typified by Outkast--but all we need to know here is that the "sung" stuff is old-skool. Of course, the fact that Def is quoting and building on Sugarhill rhymes kind of makes that point painfully obvious. It'll be interesting to see what a percussion-effusive (I think) rapper like Busta Rhymes does when HE interpolates a Sugarhill song, as in "Woo-Hah!! Got You All In Check".

Until then, dig this song like there's no tomorrow, because it is beautiful!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

YOU WILL DANCE NOW: Taylor Dayne and the Art of the Imperative

On her first album, Tell It To My Heart, Taylor Dayne was blunt and demanding. She titled three of her four top 10 hits imperative sentences. The popularity of "Prove Your Love":

"Don't Rush Me":

and the title song:

--may demonstrate that, in the year of wimpy Bush vs. soft Dukakis, there was a hunger for direct imperative stuff--especially since 1988 also saw Chicago's "Look Away," Steve Winwood's "Roll With It," and Billy Ocean's lascivious "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car." Either that, or the Imperative was simply Taylor's strongest mode.

As Imperative Hits go, hers are unequivocal. Really, the list of artists who've hit so early in their careers with three Imperatives is shorter than Gillette's ex-boyfriend. Consider Taylor Dayne's Imperative Peers:

The Beatles demand, unequivocally, that we (or "baby") "Twist and Shout," but only after they've politely requested "Love Me, Do," and "Please Please Me." Such nice boys!

Sad-eyed Bobby Vee begs "Take Good Care of My Baby," "Run To Him," and most pathetically, "Please Don't Ask About Barbara," who's no doubt being "taken care of" by someone else. Even the promising "Punish Her," which initially conjures images of Barbara being subjected to some creepy S&M scenarios in the Vee dungeon, cops out by encouraging only that we "kill her with kindness" and "punish her with so much affection that she will cry for the love she threw away." I'd surmise that even a small amount of Vee's affection would resemble punishment.

Dionne Warwick resides a little closer to Taylor's territory. "Don't Make Me Over" is a "Tell It To My Heart" for the early '60s, sung by a woman confidently arguing with the lover who'd change her identity. Sure it's wispy and she's at his command, but she likes who she is. "Walk On By" is heartbroken but resolute. "Reach Out For Me," though, regresses to nursemaidery.

So it's our melancholy Dayne who pulls off the unprecedented feat of three Imperative Hits, early in her career, that do not mince words. Which isn't to say that they're consistent with one another, because "Don't Rush Me" works a wary counterpoint with the other two. Imagine a courtroom trial, albeit one that completely disregards normal legal procedure. Taylor opens her case--True Love vs. Wary Cad--with "Tell It To My Heart," only to have her lover counter-argue "Don't Rush Me" two songs later. But two songs after that, Taylor rebuts with "Prove Your Love," with which she presumably wins the argument, because all of a sudden we're off to side 2 for some top-notch filler.

Taylor Dayne had little to do with the Latin freestyle scene, but freestyle's sonic fingerprints are all over these three songs. The three Imperatives, especially "Tell" and "Prove," boast jagged synths that swirl around the melodies, bright synths that outline the melodic contours, and tinkly synths that highlight the melodic highlights. The beats drive and the keys are minor. None of this would sound out of place on an album by Expose or Pajama Party, and though Taylor doesn't touch Hispanic rhythmic elements in any of her songs, there are plenty of complex polyrhythms. If further evidence is needed, she still gets love on freestyle message boards.

This album was the first high-profile production job for Ric Wake, who also didn't have anything to do with freestyle but knew that its sound would sell Taylor's commanding persona. Taylor and Ric would jettison many of the freestyle elements on Taylor's big-league Diane-Warren-laced followup album, Can't Fight Fate. Indeed, '87 to '90 were freestyle's peak in the mainstream spotlight before it descended again to its vibrant underground, with the guys from Linear in hot pursuit. Ric would go on to immense mainstream success with Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, and the Chicago soundtrack, not to mention Kathy Troccoli (whose "Everything Changes" sounds a lot like Taylor). None of them have anything to do with freestyle.

Neither does most Tell It To My Heart's side 2, on which Taylor's powerful voice tackles a cover of Honey Cone's "Want Ads," the girl-groupy "Where Does That Boy Hang Out," and something approaching a Celtic folk ballad, "Upon the Journey's End." There's also an ethereal Kate Bush-sounding thing called "Carry Your Heart," which is lyrically your typical "I'll be there for you" song, but musically pretty spacey for a dance album. This isn't the stuff you pay to hear, but as far as filler goes, it's fun and varied. And it all beats the non-Imperative ballad off side 1, "I'll Always Love You":

--which was somehow the second biggest hit from the album.

Taylor Dayne's voice is, of course, a volcanic force, reminiscent of Tina Turner's, with a hard edge and some weirdly-shaped vowels that she enjoys exploiting. Wise move, then, to pair it with some searing freestyle songs. Tell It To My Heart is the album that introduces Taylor as a singer who knows exactly what she wants, at least during the span of a song, and will settle for nothing less. As we'll see if I'm not lazy, her followup album is both more resigned and more powerful, as she settles into the role of divine diva-goddess and marshals her power accordingly.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Flowtation Device presents: Eminem's "Lose Yourself" verse 3 (EXPLICIT LYRIX)

In case you haven't been sufficiently encouraged to lose yourself, here's the final clarion call, the piece de resistance, the part that demonstrates not just Eminem's facility with the words, but his ability to shape those words into forms and structures. There are four distinct areas in this verse, each with its own rhythm and rhyme scheme. I've colored them differently, and I hope to high heaven they show up when I post this.

A couple random items. In his review of the Marshall Mathers LP (which does NOT contain "Lose Yourself"), Toure said Eminem "is, simply, better than any other MC in hip-hop except for Jay-Z." (What makes Jay-Z better I'm not sure--listening with Zeegy in the car today (WHICH I REALLY NEED TO STOP DOING), I determined that Jay's flow is not as anally structured as Em's, which may be why I've never liked him as much. However, Jay seems to rap around the beat more, which I would theoretically prefer. I really can't wait to analyze "99 Problems," among others.) Toure also liked that Eminem "rarely uses the same rhyme pattern twice." My analysis is not yet extensive enough to corroborate this claim, but four different patterns in one verse is pretty good, I'd say. (But then, listening to Jay-Z, I'm not sure how long he sticks with a pattern. Sometimes it seems like he changes every couple lines, which I'm not sure is a good or a bad thing.)

Also, in the purple stretch, note how the line about "goddam food stamps" offsets the "NINEto"/"TYPEof"/"DIApers" scheme by a bar. Nice! Also, in the penultimate bar check how "THEonLYopPORtuNIty" flip-flops the stresses, so that weak syllables land on the beat and strong syllables off the beat. Very Alanisian, and makes my head spin. (Adds to the urgency of the sentiment? Sure.) (He may have done that in verse one, too.) And--you can smack me if you want--at roughly the Golden Mean we encounter the longest run of uninterrupted eighth-note syllables: "aFAther / ANDaPRIMaDONnaBAby / MOMmaDRAmaSCREAmin'ONher / TOOmuch". Not sure that's the climax message-wise, but formally? Nice!

As a reminder, THE KEY:

CAPS = syllable on beat

small = syllable on offbeat

* = beat without syllable

. = offbeat without syllable

/ = barline separating groupings of (usually) four beats

-- = beat bearing second half of "carryover" syllable (syllable with duration of more than one half beat)

_ = offbeat bearing second half of "carryover" syllable (I'm finding this hard to put into words) (just look at the example)

STRESS or stress = syllable with unusual vocal stress (I still haven't gotten the hang of deploying these consistently)

(parenthetical) = syllable with duration of less than one-half beat; pickup syllable

To experience the system in all its glory, you should play the third verse of Eminem's "Lose Yourself"--starting at 3:08--while reading the lyrics as notated below.

* . * . * . NOmore / --games--i'm(a)CHANGE_ * what / YOUcall--rage-- . TEARthis /

MOTHerFUCKin'ROOFoff--like / TWOdogs--caged-- . Iwas /

PLAYin'INtheBEginNING_(the) / MOODall--changed-- . I'VEbeen /

CHEWEDup--andSPITout--and / BOOEDoff--stage-- . BUTi /

KEPT--RHYmin'ANDstepped--right / --in(the)NEXT_CYpher * . /

BESTbeLIEVE_SOMEboDY'Spay / IN'thePIED_PIper * . /

ALLthePAIN_INside--amp / --liFIED_BYthe * . /

FACTthatI_CAN'Tget--by / --withMY_NINEto * five /

--andI_CAN'Tpro--vide / --theRIGHT_TYPEof-- . /

LIFEforMY_FAM'lyCAUSEman / --theseGOD_DAM_FOODstamps /

--don'tBUY_DIApers--and / --there'sNO_MOVieTHERE'Sno /

--mekHI_PHIfer-- . / THISisMY_LIFEandTHESEtimes /

--areSO_HARD_ * and(it's) / GETtin'EVenHARDerTRY'N'to /

FEEDandWAterMYseed--plus / * . TEEterTOTterCAUGHTup /

BEtween--bein'--aFAther / ANDaPRIMaDONnaBAby /

MOMmaDRAmaSCREAmin'ONher / TOOmuch * forMEtoWANna /

STAYinONEspot * anOTHer / DAYofMONot * on(y's)GOTten /

ME . TOthePOINTi'mLIKEa / SNAilI'VEgot * toFORmu /

LATEaPLOT_ORendUPin / JAilORshot * sucCESS_ /


* . MOMiLOVEyouBUTthis / TRAI_LER'Sgot * toGO_ /

IcanNOT_GROWold--in / SA_LEM'Slot * soHEREi /

GOit'sMYshot * . FEET_ / FAIL_MEnot * thisMAYbe /

THEonLYopPORtuNIty / --that(i)GOT

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Surfing with the Transplants

I have no idea what "California Babylon" has to do with the movie Domino, but I love how the opening drumroll sounds like a Motown song, and how the piano in the background sounds like "Rock the Casbah":

The Transplants are Tim from Rancid, Travis from Blink, and a punk rapper, Ron Aston, who's not bad. (Tim may be the worst singer in the world, and any increased Tim-focus on a Rancid album, as opposed to gang shouts or wicked bass playing or a cavalcade of great songs, really bums me out. But you should definitely listen to Out Come the Wolves and the 2000 Rancid before you die, cos they've got all that good stuff.) Here they sort of bridge the gap between Babylon-as-corrupt-system, as expounded by the Rastas who show up in Verse 1, and Babylon-as-decadent-civilization, represented by the violence in Verse 2 and the drug-addicted transplant girl in Verse 3.

Since these guys are punks, they know something about reggae, so they identify the origins of their "California Babylon" with the rastas:

"Union boy standing next to the rastas
There's gonna be a strike and you ain't gonna stop us."

In verse 1, Babylon is the system that supports oppressive employers and low wages and necessitates unions. But in verse 2, which is probably sheer reportage and not advocacy, Ron observes the thinness of the line between violent thugs and those who resist the powers of Babylon. And then in verse 3, "California Babylon" turns into a cautionary tale, in the tradition of MC Hammer's "Crime Story" and Marky Mark's "Wildside." Let's call it a "Little Tiffany, Only 13" song. In this one little Tiffany, only 17, moves to the city, the place of big dreams, and does a lot of drugs. Three different verses, a different situation in each verse, but all somehow representative of "Babylon."

The Transplants seem to imply a link between the system that keeps the workers down, the system that encourages street violence, and the system that makes impressionable girls think they can become stars by engaging in the most decadent trappings of the star life. No doubt they're on to something, but they leave it to us to connect the dots.

Very well. The union boys and the Rastas, the coalition of organized labor, are striking against their unjust employer, whoever that may be--Borders? the Congress Hotel? You name it. Maybe Dennis Kucinich shows up to throw in his support. We dunno. But because of their already sub-living-wages, and because now they're striking and not making any money and there's "no sign of hope", AND because it's a freakin' Rastafarian sacrament, the union boys and the Rastas start to sling dope (verse 2). But they do not achieve a mellow high. Rather, they hit police with crowbars.

Apparently the police are unable to detain these unionized faithful, who strike by day and establish an entrepreneurial drug biz by night. The drug slangers incorporate the "glamor" of "Hollywood" into their sales pitch, and successfully hook a nubile midwestern transplant (like Donna Summer or Axl Rose in the "On the Run" chapter of Chuck Eddy's Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll--look it up!). But it was the substandard wages of Babylon System that forced our organized trapstars into the seedy underbelly of society. It was Babylon System's false promise of glamor that hooked our nubile midwestern transplant, made her want to be a star, and led her into the underbelly. AND it's the Babylon System that hypocritically moralizes against and prosecutes those ensnared in the underbelly. Babylon's all, "Accept our substandard wages and conform to our image of what's beautiful and successful, or we'll arrest your ass--if you're lucky!"

The Transplants are unmoved and unsurprised. "Don't say that you don't understand. Don't say that you can't comprehend. This is California Babylon, my man." This is simply how it works.

Waitress out dressed like nurses in bondage
Brought me the check, said I want you to sign this
Union boy standing next to the rastas
Theres gonna be a strike and you aint gonna stop us
Three men standing and they love what they do
You wont see it coming, cause they wanna surprise you
Consider it done, theyre gonna stand right by you
American punks dont care about you
Hollywood what you gonna do? [x2]

Dont say that you dont understand
Dont say that you cant comprehend
Dont say that you dont understand, this is california babylon, my man

You can take away the nights with sights with bright lights
Seeks still ride, engage in street fights
Two to the head, pull around, hes dead
Suspect fled, caught up with bloodshed
No sign of hope, we fight and sling dope
Junkies to our left, no fix, they cant cope
Violence wont cease, hand me the crow piece
No peace or sleep, we fight with police

This is the city thatll make all your dreams come true
So pay attention


At last she had arrived, we turned in exhausted
Cocaine in her pocket, she can get busted
Once again she passes, now shes gone
Now shes with her friend, her beautiful young
She showed up on the scene, she was 17
Now shes 21, she does some more coke, she does some more coke
She drinks some whiskey and she smokes some dope
She thinks shes a star [x4]
Do you know who you are? [x4]

lyrics copyright 2002 by Armstrong/Aston, posted for educational purposes only