Song #57: In the Backs of American Cars

I’ve heard reasonable arguments from smart people on either side of the “should we bail out the autos” debate, and I unfortunately suffer from the affliction of being heavily influenced by the last person to leave the room, so my jury’s out.

That said, the way the autos are treating their crisis, compared to the high finance folks of two months ago, is a stunning display of a difference of opinion on what tone to take when asking for billions of dollars. When it turned out that most of our money wasn’t really money, banking collectively had its tail between its legs, as it should have. Their irresponsibility had caught up with them, they knew it, and at least to a degree they admitted it. The honesty of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar isn’t the best kind of honesty, but it’s better than what we’re getting from the auto companies, who are blaming most of this on the credit crunch and their labor contracts, despite years of getting consistently outsold by Honda and Toyota’s line of better and more fuel-efficient small cars. It’s just not the proper ‘tude for someone asking for this much money.

Furthermore, I can’t imagine what popular support for this bailout would look like if we removed the myth of the American car from the equation — a myth that frankly anyone my age and under is only familiar with via Brett Michaels from Poison singing about getting dirty talk at the drive-in in the old man’s Ford. (If you want to know how ridiculous the fetishization of the American car sounds to anyone who never lived it, check out “’92 Subaru” by Fountains of Wayne and observe how silly it the myth sounds with Japanese cars. And that is NOT a reason to support the bailout, BTW.)

Anyways, we wanted to make a song describing our thoughts and unease on the auto bailout’s inseparability from our inflated notion of American glory associated with our automotive industry in the very style of the 70’s power-pop songs that helped create the notion itself. Enjoy “In the Backs of American Cars”.

In the Backs of American Cars

In the backs of American cars, under the seatbelts and under the stars
The Michigan steel grows a grey hair, and catches a break on its bus fare
In the backs of most of our minds, some things are worth saving, or leaving behind
On American roads that they took here, on the fetishization of last year

The old rusty gears were rotting for years but they only bring it in when it breaks
It’ll move right along, driving straight on, ignoring the squeals and the sputters and shakes
When the mouth of the mitten opens up for a hand and it draws it’s penultimate breath
In the backs of American cars lurching forward to death

I’ve never been at the drive-in in the old man’s Ford, or flown in a Phantom with suicide doors
But the radio says that it’s lovely, I can’t foot the bill on the memory
So if old dying dogs won’t learn new tricks, it might that’s pointless to fix
From an era no longer golden, tarnished by interests to which it’s beholden
The rims keep on rolling

The old rusty gears were rotting for years but they only bring it in when it breaks
It’ll move right along, driving straight on, ignoring the squeals and the sputters and shakes
When the mouth of the mitten opens up for a hand and it draws it’s penultimate breath
In the backs of American cars lurching forward to death

In the backs of American cars, they’re asking if we’ve got any left
In the backs of American cars, slowly lurching forward to death

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