TOP TEN EARTH SONGS
By B SHAWN CLARK
Rising like the plumes of pollution from tail pipes and smokestacks, that replaced the mystical (if not mythical) times of yore, when all was well on the cobblestone streets of Our Town, and where fields of pastureland, crops and trees once held forth before giving way to asphalt and steel, the angry voices of those Pretenders who once dwelt in their Town of old spew forth into the air – and airwaves – then into the discussion of what are the best examples of what pop music has to offer listeners who lament the passing of our world from a jungle filled with nature to the variety made of concrete.
Selling a hard-core message decrying the perversion of the once urbanesque dreamscape of a bygone era in Akron, Ohio, with a hard-core rock and roll beat from, well, a pretty hardscrabble singer-songwriter of Chrissie Hynde’s stature – who left her beloved Ohio behind for more enticing urban renewal experiments of the more London kind – earns My City was Gone (Backside of Back on the Chain Gang – 1982) by the aforementioned Pretenders a spot at Number 7 on the Best-Of Earth Tunes.
There is no intended hint of hypocrisy here, as the lament she expresses has been repeated through time immemorial, from a perspective that ever changes with the passage of time and the urban landscape itself – a place where humans endeavor to “improve” upon a surrounding environment that Mother Nature bestowed upon them. She left that same sort of manufactured place she remembers so fondly, that had already radically changed from the perspective of Akronites who remember a dreamscape of how nice Akron REALLY was back in the REAL good old days.
Thus, many of those who remained stuck in the Akron from which Chrissie departed had already left the one they loved so well that now existed only in their memories – a world where they were, and in a way, that their mind’s eye made into a time and place that maybe was not so great after all – before becoming the subject of a song by Barbara Streisand (The Way We Were – 1973).
When Chrissie came back from London to her beloved Ohio, she surveyed the wreckage of a place she remembered as being maybe a little more than what it really was, a place that in truth had been built upon the ruins of a natural world that humans had previously paved over time and time again:
Well, I went back to Ohio
But my family was gone
I stood on the back porch
There was nobody home
I was stunned and amazed
My childhood memories
Slowly swirled past
Like the wind through the trees
But like other urban dwellers, these Ohioans had already long since left the beauty that is a community of people sharing their lives together in exchange for convenience and for comfort, separate and apart from that distant world from whence their ancestors had come, but that seemed so far away, living their lives away from that place, indulging in a memory of what they now long for, but had forsaken. When Chrissie tried to find her way back to that place, she discovered that it no longer exists, without really questioning if it ever really did:
I went back to Ohio
But my pretty countryside
Had been paved down the middle
By a government that had no pride
The farms of Ohio
Had been replaced by shopping malls
And Muzak filled the air
From Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls
Said, ay, oh, way to go, Ohio
Chrissie told us almost 35 years ago, in no uncertain terms, to take stock of where we are now, and where we thought we were back then in the good old days. We can forgive her for helping to usher in that new place we all embraced in an urban landscape leaving behind the natural world in a time and place we long ago abandoned as a place we wanted to be, bringing city dwellers back again to their recurring point of perspective:
Longing for what is natural and real, looking forward to a day sometime in the future when they will be able to look back and see a time and place that was as good as the good old days used to be.
B Shawn Clark is a conservationist and attorney turned freelance writer who is attempting to reprise the role of Thoreau in shaping human thought and reflection through life in nature. He is currently holed up in the seaside town of Englewood, Florida at a self-styled “Man Cave” in a wooded area populated by wildlife (not counting those kids next door) beside a creek reminiscent of Walden Pond, where he continues to ponder the law, and the law of human nature.