Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A friend is putting together a collection of pop songs about atonement for a Yom Kippur event, and so he emailed some people asking for suggestions, and I suggested the Replacements’ “Bastards of Young” as a kinda sorta but probably not really song about atonement, and another friend chimed in and said, Wow, no way, and we went back and forth about how we heard different attitudes and emotions in the song, we heard the song very differently from each other, and it was very nice, and it ended up changing how I think about the song.

It’s the last verse that makes think of atonement.

the ones that love us best
are the ones we’ll lay to rest
visit their graves on holidays at best
the ones that love us least
are the ones we try to please
if it’s any consolation I don’t begin to understand it

It’s an angry defiant song, we are the sons of no one, bastards of young -- and yet at the end the song self-critically acknowledges that the parents from whom the singer feels bastarded are the ones that love us best. And the back and forth with my friend made me realize that the bastardy is cultural, that the anger toward the parents is legitimate, because we’re brought up into a world in which most of us have no legitimacy, we’re cultural and economic bastards, most of us, stumbling and lucking and struggling our way into any economic belongingness any of us might happen to find. Not everybody feels that way, but I remember my didn’t-feel-entirely-voluntary impoverished 20s.

And so the anger toward the parents is legitimate too, for they have failed to create a world in which their own children belong -- and yet, if we’re lucky, if we had such parents, we realize that they are indeed the ones that love us best. Despite their failings.

And I realized that I will fail my son in exactly the same way.

Perhaps my favorite rock song ever. I think I've mentioned that before.

One quibble, though: I think the lyric is "the ones we'll DIE to please." Which is even more poignant.

You're right.


My lyrics brain is atrophying.
And Bob did die.
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