Tracy Chapman (ASCAP) Tracy Chapman Elektra 1988
You got a fast car And we go cruising to entertain ourselves You still ain't got a job And I work in a market as a checkout girl I know things will get better You'll find work and I'll get promoted We'll move out of the shelter Buy a big house and live in the suburbs
This song, like Chapman herself, came out of nowhere in 1988. I first heard it while driving in my own fast car, a 1986 Dodge Conquest TSi. "Cool!", said I, "A song about me and my car!"
It wasn't until our lesbian paper-hanger clued me in that I took the time to really listen to the words. That's when I realized: This song isn't about a car at all. The car is a mere plot device, providing continuity in this pathetic story of failed trickle-down economics. Hitchcock would have called it a MacGuffin.
The singer is one of the disadvantaged, to use the PC terminology. Abandoned by her mother, with an alcoholic father to care for, her shiftless husband cruises the bars with his pals, leaving her with the kids.
But she knows things will get better.
Nowadays, whenever I hear this song, it hauls me back to those days. I'm cruising in my Conquest — and wondering if she ever got her big house in the suburbs.