Eco-communities as a social vision

Eco-communities as a social vision
Egalitarian and ecological communities, like the pictured East Wind (, are very close to our vision of an ecological society

24 April, 2008

Album: New York by Lou Reed, 1989

Two great poetic and not-only-sheer environmental songs from this album:

Last Great American Whale

They say he didn't have an enemy
his was a greatness to behold

He was the last surviving progeny
the last one on this side of the world

He measured a half mile from tip to tail
silver and black with powerful fins
They say he could split a mountain in two
that's how we got the Grand Canyon

Last great American whale
last great American whale
Last great American whale
last great American whale

Some say they saw him at the Great Lakes
some say they saw him off of Florida
My mother said she saw him in Chinatown
but you can't always trust your mother

Off the Carolinas the sun shines brightly in the day
the lighthouse glows ghostly there at night
The chief of a local tribe had killed a racist mayor's son
and he'd been on death row since 1958

The mayor's kid was a rowdy pig
spit on Indians and lots worse
The old chief buried a hatchet in his head
life compared to death for him seemed worse

The tribal brothers gathered in the lighthouse to sing
and tried to conjure up a storm or rain
The harbor parted, the great whale sprang full up
and caused a huge tidal wave

The wave crushed the jail and freed the chief
the tribe let out a roar
The whites were drowned, the browns and reds set free
but sadly one thing more

Some local yokel member of the NRA
kept a bazooka in his living room
And thinking he had the chief in his sight
blew the whale's brains out with a lead harpoon

Last great American whale
last great American whale
Last great American whale
last great American whale

Well Americans don't care for much of anything
land and water the least
And animal life is low on the totem pole
with human life not worth more than infected yeast

Americans don't care too much for beauty
they'll shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream
They'll watch dead rats wash up on the beach
and complain if they can't swim

They say things are done for the majority
don't believe half of what you see and none of what you hear
It's like what my painter friend Donald said to me
"Stick a fork in their ass and turn them over, they're done"

Sick Of You

I was up in the morning with the TV blarin'
brush my teeth sittin' watchin' the news
All the beaches were closed the ocean was a Red Sea
but there was no one there to part in two
There was no fresh salad because there's hypos in the cabbage
Staten Island disappeared at noon
And they say the midwest is in great distress
and NASA blew up the moon

The ozone layer has no ozone anymore
and you're gonna leave me for the guy next door
I'm Sick of You, I'm Sick of You

They arrested the Mayor for an illegal favor
sold the Empire State to Japan
And Oliver North married William Secord
and gave birth to a little Teheran
And the Ayatollah bought a nuclear warship
if he dies he wants to go out in style
And there's nothing to eat that don't carry the stink
of some human waste dumped in the Nile

We one thing is certainly true
no one here knows what to do
I'm Sick of You, I'm Sick of You

The radio said there were 400 dead
in some small town in Arkansas
Some whacked out trucker drove into a nuclear reactor
and killed everybody he saw
Now he's on Morton Downey and he's glowing and shining
doctors say this is a medical advance
They say the bad makes the good and there's something to be learned
in every human experience

Well I know one thing that really is true
This here's a zoo and the keeper ain't you
And I'm sick of it, I'm Sick of You

They ordained the Trumps and then he got the mumps
and died being treated at Mt. Sinal
And my best friend Bill died from a poison pill
some wired doctor prescribed for stress
My arms and legs are shrunk the food all has lumps
They discovered some animal no one's ever seen
It was an inside trader eating a rubber tire
after running over Rudy Giuliani

They say the President's dead but no one can find his head
It's been missing now for weeks
But no one noticed it he had seemed so fit
and I'm Sick of it

I'm Sick of You, I'm so Sick of You, bye, bye, bye
bye, bye, bye

We read in MIT’s newspaper “Tech” an article by Andrew Fish about this album and especially about these environmental songs (see text in bold below).

Lou Reed's New York is a depressing place, filled with poverty, bigotry, crime, drugs, and pollution. His most political album is like a musical Bonfire of the Vanities, examining people who live in the shadow of what Reed calls "the Statue of Bigotry."

Many of Reed's songs discuss the plight of the city's vast underclass, living in a world wrecked by the drug trade, racism, and broken homes. In "Romeo Had Juliet," Reed sings about a young man who has a girlfriend (of sorts), and little else in a cynical world filled with gun-toting crack dealers, who also populate his "Dirty Boulevard." Reed sees a world which dumps the downtrodden into ghettos and and abandons them. The poor in New York are trapped by the lure of the drug trade, the lack of parental guidance ("it's hard to run when a coat hanger beats you on the thighs"), and a city which just doesn't care.

"There's no such thing as human rights when you walk the New York streets," Reed declares. He sings about the casualties of the drug trade, but seems to feel there is no way to turn things around. This fatalism is prevalent throughout the album, tempered only by his look to the future in "There is No Time." Even when Reed sings of needing a "Busload of Faith," it is only because "you can depend on the worst always happening."

The best track on New York does not concern itself with the poor, but rather with a clever combination of racism, gun control, and environmental concerns. "Last Great American Whale" is a ballad about a mythical creature who came to the rescue of an Indian chief, who was jailed for killing a racist youth. The whale saves the chief and stops the racism ("the whites were drowned, blacks and reds set free"). But the great animal was then killed by a NRA member, who had been aiming for the chief. This is taken as a symbol of Americans lack of concern for the environment (They'll watch dead rats wash up on the beach and complain if they can't swim"). "Last Great American Whale" definitely contains Reed's most creative lyrics, and it provides an excellent bridge between the problems of the city and the country as a whole.

New York is not without humor. In "Sick of You," pollution makes the ocean a red sea, but there is no one to part it. The song moves on to talk about hypodermic needles in cabbage, the marriage of Oliver North and William Secord, and a radioactive trucker appearing on the Morton Downey Jr. Show. This song offers a more lighthearted look at the problems of pollution and corruption; it complements the album's more serious lyrics.

Reed also takes time to attack the Pope for his meeting with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim and Jesse Jackson for perceived anti-Semitism. He includes a song critical of the Vietnam War, and a tribute to those who have died of AIDS. But Reed also slams "self-righteous rock and roller singers" in "Straw Man." This is not hypocrisy. While New York does call attention to the multitude of problems facing society, is does not pretend to know the solutions.

you can hear sick of you in you tube:


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