Go down Swinging
I walk through the hurricane
That blows hard across the land
For two bits I could go insane
But I'd rather have a plan
How low do I have to bow
To make a dollar in a day?
How long do I keep it now
Before they take it all away?
If I gotta go down
I'm gonna go down swinging
If I gotta go down
I'm gonna put up a fight
If I gotta go down
I'm gonna go down swinging
Not so bad to go down
If you go down to get it right
I join with the clamoring
We demand a new start
Too long we were hammering
On a dream that fell apart
While the masters of madness stare
Coldly down on all they see
They gotta laugh as they cut their share
Passing over you and me
I jump for the golden bell
But it always ends the same
I'm abandoned to hide in hell
When somebody rigs the game
I'm destined to have my say
Look for my picture on the news
I'm a dangerous dog today
Cause I got nothing left to lose
Commentary on Go Down Swinging by Tom Pumroy
Commentary to "Go Down Swinging" a work in progress..... It occurred to me that if I'm going to achieve my purpose, which is to get you to explore the many facets of Tom Cook I need to show you just what it was about him that lured me to him in the first place. Why should you want to get to know this man, what are the qualities that would endear him to an audience and get them to identify with his point of view?
I think his song "Go Down Swinging" aptly reveals some of these qualities. It is a song of struggle and defeat, it pictures a world where the common man presumably you and me runs smack into hardships that flail the mind and body, takes the wind from our sails and leaves us becalmed on a sea of woe and injustice.
The world he inhabits is going to chew him up and leave him lying on the gigantic heap of those who have been through the same experiences before him, he is all too aware of his fate but he is not going to let it happen without making an attempt to bring some meaning to his story. He sees the evil of his day and knows he will be defeated by it but he will redeem himself by making a song out of the experience, a song that can inspire hope.
Tom chooses here to portray our modern world as a hurricane blowing hard across the land. As a psychologist he is aware of the strong winds that buffet human beings from all sides causing anxiety and creating tensions that are hard to bear without becoming a victim. His fellow psychologists Carl Jung and Erich Fromm have said pretty much the same thing; that the modern world is very hard to navigate without crashing on the rocks of mental instability.
Tom says this plainly with "for two bits I could go insane" in other words it wouldn't take but a pittance just a little push and over the edge he goes into full blown insanity, that is a recognized danger. He envisions that this could easily happen; he and the rest of us are living just on the edge but. Make that a big but; if one has enough self awareness, that is knowledge of ones self then having a plan might temper the situation as in the cliché forewarned is forearmed.
If we are aware of the pitfalls along life's way we are more likely to avoid them than those without such an awareness. Having a plan or a map gives one a distinct advantage when facing the obstacle course this world presents.
In the second verse we have a scene that most of us recognize; if we want to live in this world we are required earn a living and in order to do that we must acquiesce to the powers that be. We are required to salute our so called superiors even when they are not our superiors because that's how this crooked game is played.
Then we come to the first round of the chorus. I should mention that Tom Cook creates really potent choruses; he has a real feeling for capturing the essence of his songs in the chorus; I've noticed this time and time again and they are often my favorite part to sing or what I call singing anyway.
It often seems like the tensions created in the verses are released when it comes to the chorus and the whole of the song is condensed and translated into another language that carries the point further into ones consciousness. In this case defeat is recognized as the subject it cannot be avoided this world is going to take its toll on us, like death all that is left is how we accept it.
Tom Cook's response to all the things that pull us down including ultimately death itself is not to curl up in a defensive ball of negativity; no if he is going to be brought down it will be with honor as someone still trying to make a difference in this world. In this song he is not going to give up in resignation or live in quiet desperation as so many do according to Mr. Thoreau; he is going to keep on swinging, fighting against the slings and arrows that affect us all.
His recompense is his understanding that if he has to be defeated he will have at least tried to better the world by fighting for what he thought was right; like Paladin a knight without armor in a savage land. I have noticed that this is a theme he visits a number of times and I agree with him that those who continue to try are to be honored when so many of us are beaten by life into quiet submission.
I imagine the next verse to be a glimpse back to the sixties that we both experienced up close and personal. A whole generation of kids collectively saw that there was something rotten in this Denmark called the United States, we had been raised and fed a diet of lies and deceptions designed to make us see our country as the introduction to the Superman Show.
The gauze of American exceptionalism had been tightly wound round our still forming heads and they had become distorted with the misinformation applied so liberally by the propaganda machine we didn't even know existed. We were being held prisoners in a prison we didn't even suspect existed as well, and when it became evident there was much clamoring indeed, protests and all manner of rioting and calls for prison reform.
We demanded a new start, it was called for, we deserved it and we thought that society itself would be better off if a new set of values were to replace the old that had led to so much misery and war. We had a valid point; new values were called for, values that stressed the interests of the people in a more humane way, all of the people not just the privileged few at the top of the ladder.
The youth movement of the sixties had a good point; the whole culture was in need of re-vision, a re-evaluation of values was called for if we were to see a change from the status quo of commercial domination and immoral wars instigated by evil men in high places. They protested against these evil men and the values they held so dear; values that had brought the country to such an unwholesome and viciously negative holocaust.
But in the end the dream of a renewed, revitalized and more humane culture fell apart smashed on the rocks of the established order and the captains of an industry devoted to war and conquest by the sword held firm their grip on the nation. Looking back and reflecting on this I am of a mind that merely being against something is not enough, there has to be a potent positive component to such a movement or it is doomed to failure.
The protesting hippies of yesteryear found themselves drifting towards the uncomfortable realization that the establishment had all the cards stacked in their favor and so that made them begin to adapt to the situation and they soon saw the wisdom of joining it rather than protesting. I guess it is the old story that if you can't beat them join them; why suffer on the outside when the inside is so cozy and warm and all you have to do is become a conniving lawyer or a sniffling salesman of greed and oppression.
In this next verse we get a face to go with the insanity that modern life has become today. There is someone running the asylum; they are referred to as the masters of madness, they are the ones who profit from keeping us mentally disabled lost in the manufactured dream world they have carefully and with forethought constructed for us.
They observe their mad creation from above, they coldly stare because feelings have been extinguished; feelings are a definite liability if you want to exploit your fellow man the way they do. They send death and destruction world wide as a sport, they kill to get their way and when its time to split up the resources of a country you can bet the bank on where there going to end up.
That is the key word "insanity" I'm thinking that Tom Cook as a psychologist was seeing the whole world as insane because sane people would not behave the way people do. There are so many reasons to think this is a fact as observed in our relationships with each other and with the earth; we do not seem to be able to live without the violence and injustices that are at heart a result of this insanity, at least some might say.
In the final verse Tom expresses the feelings of the Tom Joad's of this world; he is the "everyman" who rarely gets out from under the rat race because at the back of the golden dream painted about the American way are perfectly unscrupulous people pulling strings attached to power. Trying to play the game by their rules and losing time and again eventually becomes a tiresome pursuit it might make you feel like you've been abandoned in hell if you were of a sensitive nature.
Having seen through the game and identifying the perpetrators, the ones who make sure all the odds are stacked in their favor we have the bold assertion that with the aid of destiny this man is going to have his say. He has looked into the future and is confident that his contributions to the cosmic conversation will have the effect they are intended to have and if you don't believe him look for his picture on the news, he expects it to be there, this is solid reality to him.
When a human being is pushed to the brink anything can happen, the rules that ordinarily govern behavior are replaced with animal instincts for survival. Push a good man hard enough and you will get explosions of insanity, put enough stress into the equation and normally good human beings will do or support the most outrageous acts or policies, they will betray their better selves and without thinking become monsters doing the bidding of their leaders.