Victim, What Victim?
I have Sirius radio and I like it. But one channel (Outlaw Country) will not stop playing perhaps one of the worst songs ever to hit vinyl: Bruce Springsteen's Johnny 99 from his much-hyped and much-heralded-by-lefty-critics album "Nebraska."
Instead of just ranting about what a bunch of garbage this song is and how it so perfectly illustrates the modern liberal, I will resort to a song fisking.
Well they closed down the auto plant in mahwah late that month
Ralph went out lookin' for a job but he couldn't find none
Poor english and dropping your g's make you a more authentic storyteller
So he decided Oh well, I tried. Now that I officially qualify as a victim, I shall commit a felony"?
He came home too drunk from mixin' tanqueray and wine
I've mixed Tangueray and wine more times than I care to (or can) remember, but have never committed a violent felony. Okay, one, but it was against a Packers fan. And he had it coming
He got a gun shot a night clerk now they call'm johnny 99
Notice that "Ralph" (later "Johnny") has a name. Bruce is personalizing him for the audience. The worthless POS criminal has a name. The victim is simply a "Night clerk"
Down in the part of town where when you hit a red light you don't stop
Johnny's wavin' his gun around and threatenin' to blow his top
Threatening to blow his top? The guy just killed an innocent person! I believe that qualifies as top-blowing
When an off-duty cop snuck up on him from behind
Get it? The cop snuck up on him. A legitimate official of a non-corrupt culture would have asked him to draw at high noon
Out in front of the club tip top they slapped the cuffs on johnny 99
Well the city supplied a public defender but the judge was mean john brown
My God the clichés are flying so fast and furious now it's hard to keep up, but the city "supplied" a public defender. That's wink-wink language for the Macalaster set to mean that our criminals aren't being served. And the judge was "Mean?" Mean? The guy is not your boyfriend. He's a judge. Only a teenager would call a law and order judge mean.
He came into the courtroom and stared young johnny down
A heinous criminal is being made to feel bad. How dare that Judge!
Well the evidence is clear gonna let the sentence son fit the crime
Prison for 98 and a year and we'll call it even johnny 99
Notice how Bruce completely skips the whole trial by a jury of this loser's peers thing? Was he tried? We don't know, because bringing that in takes away from the drama of a mean judge putting away this misunderstood victim of society.
A fist fight broke out in the courtroom they had to drag johnny's girl away
Johnny's girl. How sweet. How innocent. I'm sure had Johnny not been busy shooting a clerk for a few hundred dollars on a bender like a total coward, him and his girl would have gone out for hamburger sandwiches and French-fried potatoes.
His mama stood up and shouted judge don't take my boy this way
Her boy. Not the worthless adult man she failed to raise like a proper member of society. Now it's on the judge, not the person that had the most influence over this weasel during his formative years
Well son you got a statement you'd like to make
Before the bailiff comes to forever take you away
Now judge I had debts no honest man could pay
But most honest men DO pay their debts. But our precious Johnny he was different. He had debt, so offing an innocent in a stupid attempt at easy cash was excusable, or atleast should make us think about him differently
The bank was holdin' my mortgage and they were gonna take my house away
Wah wah wah. This is called being an adult. You don't blame the bank, you pay your bills and you don't go around killing people because it's easier than working
Now I ain't sayin' that makes me an innocent man
How gracious. What self-awareness
But it was more `n all this that put that gun in my hand
Yes! Society! Victims united shall never be held accountable for their own actions!
Well your honor I do believe I'd be better off dead
That can easily be arranged in many states you scum
So if you can take a man's life for the thoughts that's in his head
Thoughts? The state is taking his life because he took the life of an innocent. Now he pays. Pretty simple. We could care less about the thoughts or lack of thoughts in you head you callous, evil coward. It is your behavior the judge is interested in.
Then sit back in that chair and think it over judge one more time
And let `em shave off my hair and put me on that killin' line
I love how the criminal is trying to get the judge to be more self-aware and conscious. He didn't kill anybody!
Now the song ends here. And all of the deep thinkers are supposed to think deeply about capital punishment and criminals and society and there but for the grace of God go I and Alan Alda and caring for the less fortunate--but not the innocent person that was killed by this worthless animal.
You just have to wonder why Bruce Springsteen was so concerned about the fate of a spineless murderer and could care less about his victim. I would think that a song about a guy that has debt and takes a second job as a night clerk then gets wasted by a criminal would be at least AS compelling as the tripe he went with.