I decided I wanted to include at least a few new songs within Nice Cuts. The idea for Detroit came about after a trip back there this spring to do some shows. I was just dumbstruck by how awful the place felt. The fact is that it hadn’t really changed all that much; it’s just that all the recent press which labels Detroit as the poster-child for the economic melt-down finally got to me. I started seeing the city as it really is;Â a tragedy of almost epic proportions. And then I thought of (of all places) Russia.
I have visited Russia several times over the years. Before during and after ‘the collapse’. They market a lot of amber there which is quite a metaphor; something very beautiful, but frozen in the past–and kinda delicate. That was Russia. The people were intensely proud, but it seemed as though they were oblivious to the fact that they were living in the past. All their ‘might’ was based on previous glories. People for hours to buy bread down the street from the Bolshoi Ballet. I now see Detroit like that–just substitute ‘Motown’ for ‘Tchaikovsky’ and ‘Rouge Stamping’ for ‘Petersburg’.
Now, as I live in Seattle and Dublin, two of the highest tech cities, I can never forget how great was Detroit. It’s art deco skyscrapers the most ornate of any in the world. It’s innovations and productivity the model for the entire world. After both great wars, Detroit was literally the engine of all our power. Yeah New York was where the money was and L.A. where the images were created, but Detroit was where America made things. ‘Made’. We made things.Â Things that were real. Things the whole world was envious. I submit that Detroit was the essence of all our pride andÂ everything that made America great. Made.
My uncle was once a docent at the Detroit Historical Museum. He took great pride in the city and loved to enlighten younger people at what the city once was. Before it became an icon of racism, then an emblem of street crime and finally a joke and a ghost town.
But the thing about Detroit is that the bones are still there. All the great buildings remain down town. And many of the houses in the tree lined boulevards still stand, though hollowed out and lonely amid fields of emptiness. So if you squint your eyes you can see how it once was.
This song is in three parts: the first the current anger brought on by over-reaching, pride, corruption and stupidity. The second a nostalgia for when we really were, from top to bottom, No. 1! The sadness that older folks must feel! For having built so much that once seemed so permanent. The finale is an elegy for fading greatness. General Motors was, to my generation, as permanent as Rome. Memento mori. Sic transit gloria mundi.
My hope is that this is the basis for a long form piece.