words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

Posts tagged “Billy Bragg

30-Day Song Challenge: Day 14

30-Day Song Challenge: Day 14 asks the question what is “a song that no one would expect you to love”?

The song that inspired this post. Read the summary first, then view the video.

http://youtu.be/P237zpWbPRM    The Waterboys – Bang on the Ear 1988

Okay, you have to visualize this
true story to absorb the moment.

It is 1989 in the urban landscape
which is West Philadelphia. The streets are lined with row homes, some occupied,
others abandoned. The row homes cast deep, long, shadows onto the pavements
where the trees have long since been cut down. The shadows are created from the
orange florescent-crime prevention lights hanging ominously from above. I
remember distinctly when Philadelphia changed from ordinary street lamps to
these supposedly crime preventing monoliths.  There is an eerie glow and a surreal feeling
as I drive my 1987 Toyota MR2 towards the corner of 52nd and
Catherine Street.

It is the middle of summer and the
temperatures are in the low 8o’s at 2:30 a.m. It is hot and humid. There are
some young kids out playing in the streets, and I wonder why they aren’t in
bed. But this is Philly, and there is a never sleep embodiment that pervades.
There is also a contrasting sense of culture that sometimes invades places

I am listening to the cassette
tape of The Waterboys and the song “Bang on the Ear”. My windows are down and
the volume is up. I approach the intersection and on my left a teen, dressed in
true urban, black, hip-hop gear, is standing smoking a joint. Our eyes connect
for a moment. I am waiting for the traffic light to change. It’s taking its
time, when all of a sudden the youth in rebellion jumps into a country square
dance. “Whoa”, I say to myself, “he is so cool and down by law”, as his arms and
legs move in perfect rhythm to the beat of the Waterboys pumping from my car.

It is a surreal moment indeed as
time stands still. I watch him, watching me, as he performs specifically for
me. The light changes, I smile, give him a thumb up and slowly pull off.

I will never forget that
encounter. It reminds me of how art and music transcends, transforms and
connects our different cultural backgrounds. In a moments’ notice we can be
swept away by something new, different and exciting.

Enjoy the song. It has the beat of life 🙂

p.s. “down by law” means “one who has authority” in urban slang.

Bonus Song

Billy Bragg – You Woke Up My Neighborhood 1991

You Woke Up my Neighborhood