Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, California
It's just a grabber's game these days. We've all been thrown out of speeding cars or overboard. We've had all of the skin peeled from one side of our body or we're fighting the strong current and undertow, just to buy some time until the rescue patrol comes along, if ever. We're trying to keep close tabs on whether or not the blood's clotting everywhere, if our wounds are getting cleaned and dressed appropriately. We don't need things to go from horrible to worse. We're choking on water. It's getting into our lungs, so we're thrashing for something to hold onto - any part of the wreakage or a good old Styrofoam ice chest would do in a time like this. We just want to be clinging onto anything, when things have gone into the pisser. Some of us are lucky enough to find that other person that we're able to go through thick and thin with. It's a shared experience of the pains and the joys and there's nothing that will likely do us under. We will do our best to persevere through the financial lacerations - through the serious calamities of economics and jobs just not being what they used to be, money not spending as far as it used to.
Chuck Prophet's record of a few years ago, "Let Freedom Ring!" is something like a sarcastic note of the moment, tapping into the thoughts that freedom was spending about as well as dollar bills were. It seemed that we were all just then coming to terms with how deep in over our heads we all were and how no one had any real great solutions for righting the ship, OR still refused to believe that anything could be done to fix such a colossal, steaming pile of a mess. We started seeing that everyone was a crook or an asshole. There were a lot of grandfathers who were crooks and assholes. These people made it abundantly clear that all of the little folks were going to get smeared. Two years later and the smearing rolls on. There was an Arab Spring and Time magazine named The Protester as its Person of the Year - and doesn't that tell you just about every goddamned thing you need to know about a year just completed. The misguided and the disenfranchised, along with the luckiest percentages and the unluckiest majorities have all arrived at the belief that they're all getting screwed and the panic dance is in full swing.
Prophet was feeling crummy back then in 2008 when he was writing the record and he couldn't be feeling too much better now. Through all of the shitty shit, Prophet's Tom Petty ways and damn the torpedoes-type attitude on the song "You And Me Baby (Holding On)" are probably the ones that he holds most dear, even when he'd like to move to Canada. He sings, "Man's on the skids and the folks ain't doing well/But we're holding on/Seems like maybe half the people we know have got the same sad stories to tell/We can't get it on like it's Saturday night/Holding on…/I went to the doctor and he said, 'You should be dead' and I said, 'I was, doc, but now I'm back.'" At the end of the song, he goes to visit a friend, whom he's heard is back living with her parents, in the house that she grew up in and he thinks about filling out an application in that town, maybe he'd stick around and get a job, but then discovers that, "Oh baby, the whole store was gone." A lot of things are gone, but there's always something to hold on to.
*Essay originally published January, 2012