From time to time, many people will read an article on some website someplace about a “real deal” artist who has created something sensational. Generally, it’s a crock of shit, as much of the press appears to have been bought off by the entertainment industry and other related markets, but occasionally, something filters thru the cracks and someone gets it right.
Spruiking an artist and their particular work is not something I usually practice. Something like Neil Young once sang: “Ain’t singing for Pepsi, ain’t singing for Coke, ain’t singing for no one, makes me seem like a joke.” The exception to the rule is when I personally like the artist and their work – that, and – to “keep it real” – when there is no financial incentive attached to said spruiking.
The following is such an exception. I speak of a rough hewn folk song in waltz time by a fellow citizen name of Buckberry. He’s created a song called “The System” (and for those astute readers amongst us who have noticed my profile picture for the 96 Rosevale Place blog you will appreciate at least some of my interest).
“The System” is about a lot of things, in particular, a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy and then gives them the drugs, the gadgets, the wealth, the distractions to help them forget about their unhappiness. In case you haven’t looked up from your digital device in a few years this is happening in our own society right now. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed modern society gives us whatever “medicine” necessary to keep us inexplicably tied to the system. It is necessary because the system must prevail at all costs; no one is bigger than the system. In effect, all of our 21st Century distractions are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him or her to tolerate social conditions that would otherwise be rendered intolerable. I reiterate: This is happening now. “The System” addresses such issues, and that’s why I like it.
Buckberry pounds out this message on his six string guitar, and the message is clear. Our society tends to regard as a sickness any mode of thought or behaviour that is inconvenient for the system. When an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him/her to the system is seen as a cure for a sickness and therefore seen as good.
This song is as plain and simple a tonic against such hogwash as you’re ever likely to find. Just about any rudimentary guitarist/performer could play and/or sing this song. I think that’s the point. I’m sure Buckberry has enough talent to have put these words into any format – funk, jazz, hip hop, metal, whatever – but what would be the point of that? Popular music forms are largely ignored; the music form as a learning aid, as a guide, as advice, as a tool…that brand doesn’t really exist anymore (and Buckberry strives to correct that). Contemporary music is entertainment. It’s on tap 24/7 and so consequently we notice it more when it’s not there. Music is devalued in the 21st century to the point where a man with a seagull on his head is more entertaining than a guitar veteran with 30 years experience. Ironically, it is Buckberry’s experience that advises him that 3 chords and the truth will be ignored just as completely as an orchestra performing a 2 hour suite. Despite that, or in spite of that, he performs anyway and in the simplest of terms. The prevailing logic being for those who have ears a more accessible format will ensure that the message is passed along without great haste or tarrying.
“The System” might catch on – that is, if we’re lucky. Buckberry has put it out there as a gesture of hope. It may well inform the right people. Those individuals that do not focus on defeat and despair, those who still believe that in this hopelessly comfortable, distractible world there are a handful of like-minded souls who believe that accomplishing a change thru rational calculation is doable.
“The System” is shamelessly political, while containing enough substance to transcend the limitations of that genre. Take note: for those amongst us who enjoyed The Beatles “is Paul dead?” clues, you may be surprised to learn who the journalist in “The System” film clip is. Likewise as to whom “…the ballsy rookie” just might be…how does the name Mario Savio factor into this song…and so on and so forth.
Any sudden impact of this song may warrant a follow up article. As the author himself concludes: “Pick each battle wisely, and good luck….”