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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, January 10, 2014

SONGS I LIKE: Walking On A Thin Line - Huey Louis & the News

Don't you know me I'm the boy next door 
 The one you find so easy to ignore 
 Is that what I was fighting for?

Some songs create a story in my head, which is probably what the writer meant to have happen.  A song by Huey Louis and the News from the 80's has this effect, and its not a very happy one.  "Walking On A Thin Line" is from their very successful Sports disc, and it was a modest hit.
I don't know exactly the story the writer had in mind, but I suspect it has to do with a Vietnam Vet.  About a decade after the contemptible treatment of Vietnam Vets in America, people started feeling guilty about it and there was a big apology movement.  We're sorry our parents and older siblings spit on you and treated you like trash, it went.  The people who actually did the spitting didn't apologize, they just pretended it never happened.
So we get songs like this, about a former soldier's travails and troubles.  But I can't help but think of it in modern terms.  A vet back from the War on Terror.  He signed up after 9/11 in fury and righteous need for justice, wanting to fight to punish the ones who attacked America.  He went to war with the overwhelming support of the public.
When he got back, America had changed.  The new president had always been critical of him and his job.  The new feeling on the streets was a desire to forget the whole thing.  Now patriotism was mocked openly and all the things he thought he'd been fighting for were considered wrong and bad.
And he looks around him in a raising sense of frustration and rage at what's happened to his country, astounded that the constitution he took a vow to protect was now utterly meaningless, that people who stood up to cry foul about that were called monsters, racists, bigots, idiots, and extremists.  And he wonders how much more he can take.
Sometimes in my bed at night
I curse the dark and a pray for light
And sometimes, the light's no consolation
Blinded by a memory
Afraid of what it might do to me
And the tears and the sweat only mock my desperation

Don't you know me I'm the boy next door
The one you find so easy to ignore
Is that what I was fighting for?
Walking on a thin line
Straight off the front line
Labeled as freaks loose on the streets of the city
Walking on a thin line
Straight off the front line
Take a look at my face, see what it's doing to me

Taught me how to shoot to kill
A specialist with a deadly skill
A skill I needed to have to be a survivor
It's over now or so they say
Well, sometimes, it don't turn out that way
Cause your never the same when you've been under fire

Don't you know me I'm the boy next door
The one you find so easy to ignore
Is that what I was fighting for?
Walking on a thin line
Straight off the front line
Labeled as freaks loose on the streets of the city
Walking on a thin line
Straight off the front line
Take a look at my face, see what it's doing to me

*This is part of the Songs I Like series.

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