We Are the New Resistance


In the past twenty-four hours, Bruce Springsteen spoke for the first time about the inauguration of Donald Trump. He said:

“… our hearts and spirits are with the hundreds of thousands of women and men that marched yesterday in every city in America … who rallied against hate and division and in support of tolerance, inclusion, reproductive rights, civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, the environment, wage equality, gender equality, healthcare, and immigrant rights. We stand with you. We are the new American resistance.”

Over on this side of the world, we may not be the “American” resistance, but we can still be the resistance.

Since, Trump’s election, we’ve heard a lot about how we should “give him a chance”, to “see what he’s going to do.” Well, it’s now mere days after the election and we’ve already seen what he’s going to do. His administration has removed web pages from the official White House website related to civil rights, climate change, and LGBT issues. Hours after taking office, he signed an executive order beginning the repeal of the Affordable Care Act that will strip millions of Americans of their health insurance. And his press secretary’s first act was to blatantly lie to the American people about the numbers in attendance at the inauguration (a lie that was later described by another Trump lackey as “alternative facts”, adding another terrifying piece of 1984-speak to the language).

We may not have the power of the Presidential office – or of the American Senate and House of Representatives – but we are not powerless.

We can march. Estimates put the number of people who attended the #WomensMarch at three times the amount who attended the inauguration.


To quote Bruce again, we can “bear witness and testify”. Writing blog posts, sharing information on social media. We can highlight the injustices this administration perpetuates, expose their lies, and disseminate the truth.

We can satirise. As we’ve seen time and again, if there’s one thing Trump (like all demagogues) can’t stand, it’s satire. Write your jokes, spread your memes, expose him for the thin-skinned charlatan that he is.

Marching, speaking out, sharing information, satirising – these are the weapons in our arsenal.

We are the new resistance. And the fight has just begun.



*New Music* My Version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Where the Bands Are”

Today’s new music is Bruce Springsteen’s unabashedly nostalgic paean to listening to bands and playing in bands. This is my version of “Where the Bands Are”. Play this one loud! 🙂
228. E Street Band

Where the Bands Are

I hear the guitars ringin’ out
Ringin’ out down Union Street
I hear the lead singer shoutin’ out, girl
I wanna be a slave to the beat
Yeah, tonight I wanna break my chains
Somebody break my heart
Somebody shake my brains
Downtown there’s something that I wanna hear
There’s a sound, little girl, keeps ringing in my ear

I wanna be where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are
Where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are

I get off from work and I grab something to eat
I turn the corner and I drive down your street
Little gray houses darling looks like nowhere
But hey I know you’re hiding in there
Come on out for just a little while
You know that heart of stone, girl
It just ain’t your style
Tonight I wanna feel the beat of the crowd
And when I tell you that I love you
I wanna have to shout it out loud
Shout it out loud
Shout it out loud

I wanna be where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are
Where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are

I hear the guitars ringin’ out again
Ringin’ on down Union Street
I hear the lead singer shoutin’ out and girl
I wanna be a slave to the beat
And I want something that’ll break my chains
Something to break my heart
Something to shake my brains
There’s a rocker’s special on tonight
So meet me on down
‘Neath the neon lights

I wanna be where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are
Where the bands are
I wanna be where the bands are

Written by Bruce Springsteen

*New Music* My Version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love”

205. Tunnel of Love

This week – in advance of the release of The Boss’s new album – this is my version of “Tunnel of Love”:


Tunnel of Love

Fat man sitting on a little stool
Takes the money from my hand while his eyes take a walk all over you
Hands me the ticket smiles and whispers good luck
Cuddle up angel cuddle up my little dove
We’ll ride down baby into this tunnel of love

I can feel the soft silk of your blouse
And them soft thrills in our little fun house
Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us
You me and all that stuff were so scared of
Gotta ride down baby into this tunnel of love

There’s a crazy mirror showing us both in 5-d
I’m laughing at you, you’re laughing at me
There’s a room of shadows that gets so dark brother
Its easy for two people to lose each other in this tunnel of love

It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above
If you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love

Written by Bruce Springsteen

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New Music Monday – My #MondayMashUp of Lykke Li and Bruce Springsteen

Hell yeah…it’s New Music Monday! This week, it’s a #MashUp of Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” and Bruce Springsteen’s “The River”. This is “I Follow (The) River”:

If you can’t play the song or are on an iPhone or Android phone, click here.

I Follow (The) River

Oh, I beg you, can I follow?
Oh, I ask you, wanna always
Be the ocean, where I unravel
Be my only, be the water where I’m wading
You’re my river running high, run deep, run wild

I, I follow, I follow you
Deep sea baby, I follow you
I, I follow, I follow you Dark room honey, I follow you

Heed a message, I’m the runner
He’s the rebel, I’m the daughter waiting for you
You’re my river running high, run deep, run wild

I, I follow, I follow you
Deep sea baby, I follow you
I, I follow, I follow you Dark room honey, I follow you

Down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we did ride

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember Mary acts like she don’t care

But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse

That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
My baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride

“I Follow Rivers” written by Björn Yttling, Rick Nowels & Lykke Li

“The River” written by Bruce Springsteen

(Image: Click the pic for credits)

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New Music Monday – My version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”

Hell yeah…it’s New Music Monday! This week, in anticipation of The Boss’ Irish shows this week, this is my version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”:

If you can’t play the song or are on an iPhone or Android phone, click here.

Thunder Road

The screen door slams
Marys dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t run back inside
Darling you know just what Im here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we aint that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You aint a beauty, but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

You can hide `neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now Im no hero
That’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now?

Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
Well the nights busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heavens waiting on down the tracks

Oh-oh come take my hand
Riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh thunder road, oh thunder road oh thunder road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it’s late we can make it if we run
Oh thunder road, sit tight take hold
Thunder road

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my cars out back
If you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The doors open but the ride it aint free
And I know you’re lonely
For words that I aint spoken
But tonight well be free
All the promises will be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they’re gone
On the wind, so mary climb in
Its a town full of losers
And Im pulling out of here to win.

Words & music by Bruce Springsteen


(Image: Click the pic for credits)

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Where Have All the Protest Singers Gone?

This post was inspired by an article in The Guardian newspaper by Ed Vulliamy entitled, “Bruce Springsteen: last of the protest singers”. Vulliamy makes the point that Springsteen is the last of the iconic stadium rock acts who is still writing meaningful – and timely – protest songs.

And he’s right. Think about the list of stadium rock acts – from the Rolling Stones to Bon Jovi. And the reason for this is Springsteen’s lyrics. I recently wrote a blog post about what writers can learn from songwriters, and Springsteen was the first example I used. However, I didn’t look at his political lyrics – it was more a general overview of his lyrics. But just to take a recent example – on Springsteen’s new album, Wrecking Ball, his sights are set firmly on the bankers, bondholders, etc. that have gotten both the US and Europe into the financial mess that these countries are in. And it is this timeliness that is the reason Springsteen’s songs resonate so much.

Springsteen’s continued relevance is because his lyrics are not outright polemics. He doesn’t write political screeds; he criticises through the voices of the people in his songs. He talks about people and how their lives are affected by what’s happening in the world around them: the child in “Used Cars” who swears someday when he makes it rich he’ll never have to ride in a used car again like his parents; the young child hiding in the corn fields and staring up at the “Mansion on the Hill”. In the song “Johnny 99”, he narrates the story of a man who goes “postal”, embarking on a shooting spree and eventually being convicted to 100 years in jail for it. The reason for his rampage is contained in the opening lines of the song:

“Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late that month
Ralph went out lookin’ for a job but he couldn’t find none
He came home too drunk from mixin’ Tanqueray and win
He got a gun shot a night clerk now they call him Johnny 99”

This is a reflection of the crisis that hit the auto industry in the US in the 80s. But rather than being some tedious rehashing of facts and figures, Springsteen frames it within a compelling narrative, so we barely even notice what it is he’s alluded to in the opening.

He did this with the plight of Vietnam Vets in the 80s (“Born in the USA”, “Shut Out the Light”). After Sept 11 when America was reeling, Springsteen returned with The Rising, an album that doesn’t specifically mention Sept 11 or the Twin Towers, but whose shadow is cast over every line of every song. And now, he’s back with this new album – Wrecking Ball – that speaks volumes about our current situation.

But another issue that this brings up is the fact that the latest generation of singers coming up are not doing this. The fact is, the Old Guard – Bob Dylan, Neil Young, even U2 – are ineffectual. They no longer speak about such things to any great extent and – even if they did – have no way of connecting with a younger audience. (This is not to suggest that Springsteen’s audience is “young” necessarily, but I think a cursory glance around at a Springsteen concert would confirm that he attracts – proportionately – a younger audience than most established stadium rock acts, with the exception perhaps of U2)

So who are the singers and bands that are connecting with “the youth” of today? For the purposes of this post, I took a look at some of the Top 40 charts in both Ireland and Britain. Now, bear in mind, the whole purpose of this post is the contention that Springsteen is the last major MAINSTREAM artist writing political songs. At his height in the 80s, Springsteen was going head to head with Madonna and Michael Jackson, and singing about Vietnam Vets while scoring Top 10 hits. But if we look at some of the artists in the Top 40 today – Lady Gaga, Cheryl Cole, Coldplay, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Jessie J – while there are plenty of Madonna and Michael Jackson-type pop acts, there are very few artists it would seem with an actual message.

This, of course, could be dismissed as old-fogeyism. But if it is, I would challenge anyone to tell me – where are today’s protest singers?


(Image: Click the pic for credits)

What Can Writers Learn from Songwriters?

A lot of writers are lovers of music; many listen to music while they write. But how many are actually influenced by songs. And when I say influenced, I mean – not only take their inspiration from – but actually look at songwriting as a way to improve their own writing. As writers, we are always told to look at the great writers for tips on how to write well – look at Hemingway for economy of prose, look at Elmore Leonard for crackling dialogue – but what about the great songwriters?

To give some examples of what writers can learn from songwriters, I’m going to use one of my favourite songwriters: Bruce Springsteen. I could just as easily have used Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, and on and on (and I may do in future columns) but the article would most likely end up 5,000 words long and…let’s face it…neither of us wants that!

So what can Bruce Springsteen teach a writer about writing?

Descriptions and similes

A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, for instance “faster than a speeding bullet”. However, that simile is a cliché and oftentimes writers descend into cliché when they write similes. What great songwriters can teach us is how to approach the simile from left of centre and come up with something new and original. Springsteen has always done this in his songwriting. From lines such as

“Endless juke joints in Valentino drag,

Where dancers scrape the tears up

Off a street dressed down in rags.”


“There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away,

They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burnt-out Chevrolets.”

I could go on quoting for hours – as I could with Dylan or Cohen – but you get the idea. The use of interesting and unusual juxtapositions of imagery to create new and striking descriptions and similes.

Writing Characters

Here are a couple of quotes by Springsteen on writing the characters in his songs:

“Slowly, the dread that I managed to keep out of [the song] ‘Rosalita’ squeezed its way into the lives of the people on [the album] Born to Run.”

“The songs [for the album Darkness on the Edge of Town] were difficult to write. I was searching for a tone between Born to Run’s spiritual hopefulness and ‘70s cynicism. I wanted my characters to feel older but not beaten. The daily struggle in every song increased. The possibility of transcendence or personal redemption felt harder to come by. I steered away from escapism and sat my characters down in the middle of a community under siege.”

Here, there is this notion that the characters are real people, that what happens to them is out of the writer’s hands: ‘the dread … squeezed its way in’ and ‘the daily struggle in every song increased’. Throughout his career, Springsteen’s characters grew in ways that he could never have foreseen and couldn’t control. Of course, this was because he changed, and those changes were reflected in his characters. Most prose writers feel exactly the same way about their characters. Characters must not be forced; they must be allowed to find their own way, to be living, breathing people that will connect with the reader.

Show Don’t Tell

Springsteen builds the personality of the characters in his songs – especially his later songs – out of the simple mundane things that happen to them. With the exception of ‘big’ songs, like ‘Born in the USA’, there’s very little telling – it’s all about showing us what the person’s life is like. This is especially true of the songs on Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad where Springsteen lets the seemingly mundane details of the character’s life coalesce into a portrait of the person. By the end of the song, it may seem like little has happened but we will usually have a clear picture of who the character is or will have witnessed some kind of transformation that they went through.

I’ll finish on one of my favourite Springsteen descriptions that encapsulates in a couple of lines the character, Mary, from the song ‘Thunder Road’. It’s not the nicest image but it’s brutally human and honest:

“So, you’re scared and you’re thinking

That maybe we ain’t that young anymore,

Well, show a little faith, there’s magic in the night,

You ain’t a beauty but hey, you’re alright.”


(Image: Click the pic for credits)

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