I really thought that my music would help me today. So, I looked for comfort in the Bible, especially my life motivation from Matthew 25. Sure, it reinforced my life motto, but it really didn’t pull me out of my funk.
Initially, I thought I would go to Bob Dylan for some insight, but his words only added to my melancholia. Then, I thought R.E.M. would help, since they are the reason I made it through the Eighties intact. I stayed away from the “It’s the End of the World” since it was too obvious. Then, “Exhuming McCarthy” popped into my head, with the lyrics “Enemy sighted, enemy met, I’m addressing the realpolitik.
Look who bought the myth, by jingo, buy America.” But, it was too real. Instead, I spent my morning looking for comfort, and, lo and behold, I found what I was looking for came from a British band The Kinks and their 1979 comeback album, of sorts, Low Budget.
The Kinks blew onto the scene during the heady days of the British Invasion, who ended up influencing much of American music in the 70s and 80s, be it metal, power pop or punk. For most of the late 60s and early 70s, Kinks songwriter Ray Davies spent his time writing about his observations of British life or his yearning for by-gone days in Britain, to most of which few Americans could relate.
But, The Kinks were signed by Arista Records in the mid-70s. The head of the company, the great Clive Davis told the band to stop the concept albums and to just focus on rocking out. So, Ray Davies followed Clive’s advice. They released two albums of “arena rock”, 1976’s Sleepwalker and 1978’s Misfits. But, it wasn’t until the band decided to simply stay in the States to create a new album, which was released in 1979 and called Low Budget.
Most of Low Budget was dealing with the beginning of the decline of the United States within the world order. The album begins with the anti-conformist “Attitude”, showing at least a lyrical nod, if not a musical one, toward punk. Most the lyrics are written from the point-of-view of the non-conformist yelling at a young person attempting to be true to him- or herself, when it appears that the antagonist is really yelling at himself for his “attitude”. Okay, well, self-reflection is not too big here in the States, but let’s go on.
The second song on the album is the one that caught me off guard. The song was written about the States’ fall from grace during the 1970s. As I read the lyrics, all of a sudden it dawned on me that we are reliving these lyrics. “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” describes Captain America who lost his moral compass and now, whether he realizes it or not, needs his friends from NATO and around the rest of the world more now than ever. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! America needs help?!?! I doubt it. Wait…I think we really might need our friends to hold up a mirror to us so we don’t travel a similar path that 1930s Germany. I’m not saying that we are on that road after yesterday’s election, but the potential is there.
“Catch Me Now I’m Falling” is the song that tells me the rest of the world wants to help the USA from tumbling because they believe in our overall moral compass. They admire our selflessness, not our self-centeredness. The world wants us to fly like Superman, as The Kinks described in the albums near-Top 40 hit “(I Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman”. The Kinks went further on this album questioning nearly 40 years ago why this country did not have a single-payer healthcare system on “National Health”.
Songs like “Pressure”, “Low Budget” and “Misery” all describe the anger the working man has since their jobs have been taken away and moved to another country. The Kinks even go so far as to tell everyone that it’s so much easier it is to score some drugs than to get a gallon of gas on “Gallon of Gas”.
The whole album was written during the malaise of the late-Seventies, yet is so applicable today. And, for some reason the album brought me comfort. But that comfort today must be followed by action tomorrow. When did it become acceptable for the stolen goods of one person to be used against that person? I thought Moses brought down two tablets with some Commandments, with one Commandment telling us not to steal. But, I guess hacked information is not the same as stealing. C’mon Captain America! You’re better than that. The world needs us to remain the moral, non-religious, intelligent compass that we once were.
I don’t care if we get the reminder from The Kinks’ 1979 album Low Budget or from the latest Captain America comic book or movie, or from the book of Matthew, Chapter 25 from The Holy Bible. We need to look in that mirror with a clean heart.
Who knew The Kinks would bring me the comfort I was looking for.