Billy Joel is a genius. [Don’t believe me? Study some of his lyrics and get back to me.] Moving on, it wasn’t until recently that I started to understand the political analysis and social commentary of his music [aside from We Didn’t Start the Fire, but that’s plain obvious.] No Man’s Land, a song from River of Dreams album, didn’t top the single charts and it’s not played at parties or on the radio, but it definitely one of Joel’s great commentaries. [Vinny can elaborate on such topics at a much greater length.]
Preservationists, do yourselves a favor and listen to No Man’s Land or at least read the lyrics. To hear the song, click “launch player” in top right of the page. From here, choose River of Dreams from the Albums tab. No Man’s Land is the first song. You can listen to the entire song. [Beware that music plays right away.] Without posting the entire song, here are portions:
I’ve seen those big machines come
rolling through the quiet pines
Blue suits and bankers with their
Volvos and their valentines
Give us this day our daily discount outlet merchandise
Raise up a multiplex and we will make a sacrifice
Now we’re gonna get the big business
Now we’re gonna get the real thing
Everybody’s all excited about it
… Who remembers when it all began
Out here in no man’s land
We’ve just begun to understand
Out here in no man’s land
Low supply and high demand
Here in no man’s land
… I see these children with their
boredom and their vacant stares
God help us all if we’re to blame for
their unanswered prayers
They roll the sidewalks up at night,
this place goes underground
Thanks to the condo kings there’s cable now in Zombietown
Now we’re gonna get the closed circuit
Now we’re gonna get the Top 40
Now we’re gonna get the sports franchise
Now we’re gonna get the major attractions…
Now isn’t that a cry against suburbia, if there ever were such a thing? Maybe it’s not as entertaining as some of his other songs. Maybe this song rings true for too many people that it just never became a favorite. Of course, there are many people in this country who like strip malls, subdivisions, shopping malls, fast food chains… or do they do? Do they just not know otherwise? Is society brainwashed? Well, another issue for another time. After all, some might say preservationists are brainwashed.
Speaking of brainwashing, here a few reasons as to why I love listening to No Man’s Land:
1. Hearing a famous musician who happens to be from Long Island speaking out against the new Long Island and what suburbia has become, offers a refreshing glimpse of hope. Billy Joel likely has everything thing he could ever need or want, but, at least in this song, he is still concerned with the trends of society. [Please, this is not time to bash Billy Joel. Substitute any appropriate celebrity name here.]
2. It undeniably sings to preservationists. Any form of inspiration is appreciated, and if it’s a great song, then it’s even better. It reminds of the effect that Big Yellow Taxi has on us preservationists, even if slightly different. The lyrics don’t offer instantaneous understanding, but upon closer examination it is so obvious what they are actually saying.
3. The descriptions of suburbia, while to one extreme, are just accurate enough to further my own personal case against suburbia.
4. And simply, I have always loved Billy Joel, as previously implied.
Thank you, Billy Joel, for helping our quality of life and sense of place case.
One thought on “Genius.”
This is an educated and poetic commentary on suburban development. Most people don’t even know this song.