Monday, December 21, 2009

“Pick up your penny and your suitcase” –
Prescient lyrics on healthcare eve [VIDEO]

On the eve of the notorious and deadly Senate healthcare vote of December 2009, Facebook and Twitter statuses everywhere are mourning the passing of America. My friend Frank’s says it best:

“The republic is dying, long live the republic.”

For no particular reason, I decided tonight to download the Electric Light Orchestra’s 1981 album, “Time.” Quite a bit of nostalgia in the sounds and ideas of these songs; they are hopeful, haunting, majestic and mournful.

And suddenly, as I listen to the lyrics of “21st Century Man,” my insides are knocked out. The words seem to speak to what we have lost tonight, something we will look back on from the future, in our dreams, from a sort of empty outer space in a broken America we can only dread in the present.

Listen to the song on YouTube, and read the lyrics below. See if they strike you the way they struck me:

A penny in your pocket
Suitcase in your hand
They won’t get you very far
Now you’re a 21st century man.

Fly across the city
Rise above the land
You can do ‘most anything
Now you're a 21st century man.

Though you ride on the wheels of tomorrow (tomorrow)
You still wander the fields of your sorrow
What will it bring?

One day you’re a hero
Next day you're a clown
There’s nothing that is in between
Now you're a 21st century man.

You should be so happy
You should be so glad
So why are you so lonely
You 21st century man?

You stepped out of a dream
Believing everything was gone
Return with what you’ve learned
They’ll kiss the ground you walk upon.

Things ain’t how you thought they were
Nothing have you planned
So pick up your penny and your suitcase
You’re not a 21st century man.

Though you ride on the wheels of tomorrow
You still wander the fields of your sorrow (sorrow)
Tomorrow, 21st century man
21st century man
21st century man...

(Lyrics by Jeff Lynne)

– Paul Klenk


YourSteve said...

ELO "Time" Lp -- One of my very top favorites since I bought the vinyl in 1981. I knew then the songs and lyrics would have meaning for years to come. I still listen to it often. Excerpts below are from "Ticket to the Moon" and "The Way Life's Meant To Be".

Remember the good old 1980s?
When things were so uncomplicated?
I wish I could go back there again
And everything could be the same.
- - -
Ticket to the moon
Flight leaves here today from Satellite Two
As the minutes go by, what should I do?
I paid the fare, what more can I say?
It's just one way (only one way). . .


Well, I came a long way to be here today
And I left you so long on this avenue
And here I stand in the strangest land
Not knowing what to say or do
As I gaze around at these strangers in town
I guess the only stranger is me
- - -
And when I see what they've done
To this place that was home
Shame is all that I feel
- - -
As I wander around this wreck of a town
Where people never speak aloud
With its ivory towers and its plastic flowers
I wish I was back in 1981.

(Steve, Minneapolis)