Lyrics: Driving Through Mythical America |
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Driving Through Mythical America

by Clive James and Pete Atkin

Four students in the usual light of day
Set out to speak their minds about the war
Unaware that Eddie Pru was on the way
Things had to snap before they knew the score

They were driving through mythical America

A Rooney-Garland show was in the barn
Fields was at the Pussycat Cafe
No-one had even heard of Herman Kahn
And Jersey Joe was eager for the fray

Four students had to take it in their stride
And couldn't feel the road beneath the wheels
Of the car they didn't know they rode inside
Across the set and through the cardboard hills

They were driving through mythical America

They sold their Studebaker Golden Hawk
And bought a Nash Ambassador Saloon
Bogart said "Even the dead can talk"
And suddenly the coats were all raccoon

Four students never knew that this was it
There isn't much a target needs to know
Already Babyface had made the hit
And Rosebud was upended in the snow

They were driving through mythical America

Gatsby floated broken in the pool
The Kansas City Seven found a groove
Barrymore and Lombard played the fool
And Cheetah slowly taught John Wayne to move

Four students watched the soldiers load and aim
And never tumbled they were on the spot
Moose Molloy pulled ten years on a frame
The dough was phoney and the car was hot

They were driving through mythical America

Henry Ford paid seven bucks a day
Rockwell did the covers on the Post
FDR set up the TVA
And the stars rode silver trains from coast to coast

Four students blinked at ordinary skies
But the sunlight came from thousands of motels
A highway through the night was in their eyes
And waiting at the roadblock Orson Welles

They were driving through mythical America

Four students never guessed that they were through
Their history had them covered like a gun
It hit them like a bolt out of the blue
Too quick to grasp and far too late to run

They crashed and died together in the sun
They were driving through mythical America

Note (from Collected Poems)

This was the title track of Pete’s second commercial album. The multiple narrative hinges on the traumatic event at Kent State University, where the National Guard fired on protesting students, killing four of them. Eddie Prue is the psychotic killer in Raymond Chandler’s novel The Little Sister. Moose Malloy is the star hoodlum from another Chandler novel, Farewell My Lovely. Herman Kahn was a guru who pioneered the art of earning large fees from predicting what the world would be like far enough ahead so that nobody of mature years would be able to check up on what he had predicted. Lavishly supported with pie-charts and elastic statistics, his expert-sounding spiel helped to generate the thousands of futurologists who pull the same stunt now. Bogart said ‘Even the dead can talk’ in the film Murder Incorporated.