Monday, February 22, 2010

Rancid “Golden Gate Fields”

All Time Top Five Songs that shouldn’t make me cry, but do . . .

Punk rock lives on velocity and ferocity. Which is what makes it cool.

But unfortunately, those to traits sometimes obscure the fact that there are punks, who are also poets and keen observers.

Take this album-closing track from Rancid’s 2000 self-titled disc. There’s no way that this song could make you cry on the first listen. And maybe not even on the 50th listen.

And it probably wouldn’t make me cry, if I didn’t sit down one day with the liner notes and really learn the lyrics.

Golden Gate Fields is a horse-racing track in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tim Armstrong of the band grew up across the freeway from the park.

The first couple of verses gallop by with all the urgency and adrenaline of the horse race they describe. And it digs in for me, as the jargon of The Track reminds me of my Dad, who, yeah, has affection for the horses. There’s a culture, a specific scene, that this song recalls vividly for me.

But it’s the third verse that gets under my skin.

The first two are a recollection of Tim’s younger days, when he frequented the track as a kid. The third verse comes to present day. And this isn’t a scene or a story told in the third person. This is Tim, who has come back to the old neighborhood, where he runs into his old friend Big L. He and Big L used to go to the track together, but in between years, their lives have gone in separate directions. Tim leads a successful band and has toured the world. Big L never left the neighborhood.:

I see Big L rollin' up the street
On his little sister's pink ten-speed.
He said "Tim, Tim, don't you remember me?"
"Way back, from 1973?"
And every time I see him
He has to remind me,
Like I would ever forget Big L.


There is such a gulf between the people who leave and the people who stay. I’ve lived this scene with people from my past. They see that you’ve gone off and had success, been places and done things, and something in the insecurity of that makes them wonder, If Tim’s life is so different now, does he remember that we used to be friends? It's touching, and sad, in its innocence.





From time to time on Every Day I Write The Blog, I do a week’s worth of my five favorite songs on theme. For the All Time Top Five rules, see this previous post.

3 comments:

  1. I just was searching for any information about Big L. I´ve read this article and I think this lyric is probably something deep that only Tim can understand Although looks like a simple lyric Thanks for sharing.

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  2. I feel similarly about the lyrics and the blog states. Definitely makes me experience something intense. Beautiful simple lyrics hat seem to say so much.

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  3. I feel similarly about the lyrics and the blog states. Definitely makes me experience something intense. Beautiful simple lyrics hat seem to say so much.

    ReplyDelete