Social reality is often too much for us to bear – we humans invent stories with magical realism to get away from the demands of quotidian reality, but this is a false entrancement of the susceptible mind. Social reality grows out of the patterned social nature of humanity – it always grows out of the existing structures of the circumscribed roles of the ensnared individual. To state the simple truth, not one person should expect his or her dog to get one day and announce, with verbal fluency, that he or she is going to take the car for a drive, expectations be damned. That isn’t the way life works, no matter how many drugs you might take to suggest this as a welcome possibility, or how many novels might take off in the magical realist cockpit.
So many of the US’s most beloved folk-rock troubadours are now stuck playing their soft-rock hits to gently listing seated aged fans, who demand accurate and specific re-playings of their young adulthood hits. James Taylor, for example, is currently warbling Carolina on My Mind for the 18,965 public time somewhere near some hideous casino tonight, and the kicker is that the former heroin addict hates the song. He doesn’t give a fuck about Carolina, whoever lives there, whoever doesn’t, whatever happens to it, or how many hog farms it has got. Yet his fans want the song, and will riot if one note is not in precise key – it’s their right to expect the song to be perfectly in harmony with their hazed memories of their more innocent time, before they become embittered, flatulent, chronically undercommunciative.
Tonight, though, James is going to snap – we all will, at some point, at some perceived grievous unacknowledged slight that kicks out the jams from underneath long-established continuity. James is going to take his acoustic guitar and smash it, punk-rock style, onto the stage floor in front of his high-ticket acolytes. James likes the money he has derived from singing the hoary tune, no question, but are we not allowed to rage against the impositions of ridiculous propriety?
Faded one-time pop chanticleer Stephen Bishop once interrupted “On and On” at the Nebraksa Sate Fair in 2004 to announce to the milling, huffing crowd:
“You know what, fuck this song. What the fuck am I doing trying to mouth this bullshit again? My day is done. Your day is done. I’m not the kid that caught lightning with this song, expressing the yearning hormonal angst of my unformed generation. I’m a hack with a mortgage. You want to me to pretend I’m back in the time and space and being when I thought this song would have all the world swooning with my sweet tenor to lead it. That’s not the way life is. You know it too. You move on, you get past the lines of bullshit you have to utter just to get that check, but why the same crap, over and over again?”
Stephen then smashed his guitar into the stage, punk-rock style, but who in the crowd ever knew what smashing a guitar could represent for their own lives? Art is mysterious, human life (we are social creatures, like mice) is not.
All humans form a simmering broth of social resentment that simmers below their cultivated airs of adult command, but only in a few junctures of spacetime will social convention get upended as it should be. If it takes a few rageful folk-rockers to make the essential point that we are more than our assigned social obligations, then look for some truly great performances this summer.