Monday, 25 March 2013

Turning a wrecking ball into a land of hope and dreams

The Boss crowd surfing at Rod Laver. Spot him?
It was hard to attend the Bruce Springsteen concert this week without thinking about Wayne Swan. That really did almost kill the mood for me as I walked into a sold-out Rod Laver Arena. Swan penned an infamous essay in The Monthly last year attributing The Boss the dubious honour of having inspired Swan’s politics – something about battlers and Rineharts and Palmers and a mining tax that’s proved to be anything but taxing.

Confronted last week by a journo about his biggest political fan, Springsteen seemed bemused at the suggestion that our Treasurer would build a fiscal policy platform based on   his music. 
“I’m not great with money,” he chuckled.

But listening to Springsteen’s latest album and the title of his current tour, Wrecking Ball, something began to dawn on me. Forget all the old, angsty Darkness on the Edge of Town stuff. It feels like Swan and Julia Gillard may have been sharing a couple of beers and an air guitar while listening to the tracks on this latest album and using them as inspiration.

While Tony Abbott has had an extreme personality makeover, which pretty much involves him saying absolutely nothing while keeping his blue “I’m a decent bloke, trust me” ties on high rotation, Gillard seems to be recasting herself from the object of his misogyny to a “tough, feisty bastard”. When she blurted, “Take your best shot” across the Parliamentary table last week, we all assumed she’d been listening to Pat Benatar to channel the new “feistiness”. But actually, it’s Springsteen who’s her inspiration with his title-track lyrics:

Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers,
I've seen champions control freak PMs come and go
So if you got the guts mister, yeah if you've got the balls
If you think it's your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball

Bring on your wrecking ball
Come on and take your best shot, let me see what you’ve got

It’s there! Right there!  And now with all the pesky business of the challenge that wasn’t over, Swan and Gillard are gearing up to move to track 10 – a soaring belter of a tune called “The Land of Hope and Dreams”. No doubt this was piped through the Canberra halls as she sat down to pick through the remaining loyalists to assemble her new team. The synergies couldn’t be more compelling, with the lyrics:

Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder's Electoral annihilation’s rolling down the tracks
You don't know where you're goin'
But you know you won't be back [To Kevin. Like. Ever.]
Darlin' if you're weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We'll take what who we can carry
And we'll leave the rest [To rot on the backbenches]  

So it’s all aboard the train bound for the promised land – a place where the sunlight streams – presumably an imagined world six months from here where Gillard and Swan will rein supreme over adversity and “faith will be rewarded”.

Swan will be singing sweet nothings into Gillard’s ear, channeling his muse:

Well I will provide for you
Ya and I'll stand by your side
You'll need a good companion now
For this part of your ride
Ya leave behind your sorrows
Ya this day at last [He’s dead! Kev said never again!]
Well tomorrow there'll be sunshine
And all this darkness past

And while the Rudd agitators have been shoved off at the last station, the train’s carriages are flung open to all other people – saints and sinners, losers and winners, whores and gamblers and lost souls, which pretty much offers forgiveness for all other transgressions (take note Craig Thomson!).

So while the Labor gentry shake their heads forlornly at the decaying carcass they see before them and are probably downing cheap bourbon to Springsteen’s wretched “This Depression” or “Swallowed Up (in the Belly of the Whale”), Jules and Swannie are singing obliviously along to “You’ve Got It”:

You've got it in your bones and blood
You're real [Julia] as real ever was
Baby you've got it

And as the ‘Wrecking Ball’ riff continues, Gillard and Swan will be clinging to its repeating lyric: hard times come, hard times go. They’ll just be hoping for no more “unseemly” derailments.