Friday, March 1, 2013

Lyrics Spotlight - Ain't Got You


“I got a pound of caviar sitting home on ice
I got a fancy foreign car that rides like paradise
I got a hundred pretty women knockin' down my door
And folks wanna kiss me I ain't even seen before ”
- Ain't Got You, Tunnel of Love


At the end of a long working day, I go through a process I call "decompression", where I take about 10-15 minutes to relax and wash away the stresses of the day (which come more from the commute rather than the job).  It's a three step process that involves 1. blasting music, 2. taking off nearly all my clothes, and 3. throwing myself face-first onto the couch.  I understand this may be an unsettling image to some of our readers and is in no way essential to the rest of the post, but I'm offering it out there as a solution to cure one's post-work stress.

Anyway, during one of my decompression moments, "Ain't Got You" started playing.  My girlfriend, who is a nascent Springsteen fan, takes notice, and asks if this was a cover song.  I assured her it wasn't, but immediately went to Wikipedia to check.  This minor interchange got me thinking about not only this song, but the way we interact with music today.

As a young Springsteen fan from the later 90s, my experience is completely different from those fans from the 70s and 80s, which is why "Ain't Got You" has fascinated me.  Here was Bruce's first studio album since the chart-destroying Born In The U.S.A., and so much had changed in that time.  Changes came not only from Bruce himself (being married, using less of the E Street Band, change in song subject matter), but in the way you, as a fan, consumed his music.  In 1984, fans bought Bruce's album in vinyl, dropped the needle, and heard a pounding song about the struggles of thousands of Vietnam veterans.  In 1987, fans were probably buying Bruce for the first time on compact discs, and immediately got a stripped-down bluesy number about a rich guy trying to win over a hottie.   It must have been a crazy shock for Springsteen fans that, given my youth, I'll never be able to fully understand.

That being said, I've always listened to "Ain't Got You" outside of its historical context in Springsteen's career, and absolutely love it.  The simple 1950s musical vibe completely works with the over-the-top riches lyrics.  It even has a little bit of a touch of George Michael's "Faith", which was released at almost the same time.  I spotlighted the above lyrics, as they remind me the most of Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good".  There was a podcast where Chuck Klosterman interviewed Joe Walsh, and asked him how much of "Life's Been Good" was actually true.  If I ever had the chance to sit down with Bruce, I'd love to hear what about "Ain't Got You" was actually true.  I really can't picture Bruce driving a foreign car, and have a tougher time imagining him in possession of a pound of caviar at any point in his life.