After I spent some quality time with workingman's hero, Mister Bruce Springsteen, a friend of mine asked how it was that the Boss could still get away with painting himself as anything but a millionaire rock star. My initial reaction was to say that you don't have to be an axe murderer to write about axe murderers. This, in turn, raised another question: Who is writing the songs about millionaire rock stars?
Bruce came close when he wrote "57 Channels (And Nothin's On), starting with: "I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills, With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills." Home entertainment doesn't save the narrator's relationship, and "So I bought a .44 magnum it was solid steel cast, And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast." He gets arrested for disturbing the peace, and in the end is knocked off his pedestal, down here with the rest of us.
The same can't be said of Randy Newman, who may have the best take on this particular vision of life in these United States. On "It's Money That I Love," he sings "They say that money Can't buy love in this world, But it'll get you a half-pound of cocaine, And a sixteen-year old girl, And a great big long limousine. On a hot September night, Now that may not be love, But it is all right." A few years later, he even invoked the Boss in his ode to the good life, "My Life Is Good" in which he describes a meeting with a certain young man at a Beverly Hills hotel: "I'll tell you what he said to me. He said, 'Rand, I'm tired. How would you like to be the Boss for awhile?'" His life, he reminds us, is good.
What makes a good life? Money. Pink Floyd wrote about it, somewhat definitively, as did Barrett Strong who believed, "Money don't get everything it's true, What it don't get I can't use. The Brains told us that "Money Changes Everything," so when Dire Straits sang about "Money For Nothing," we weren't surprised. Rock stars weren't working. The got their chicks for free. Joe Walsh had clued us in with the Eagles about "Life In The Fast Lane" before he confessed that "Life's Been Good" for him, so far.
So, maybe signing about the good life, even tongue in cheek isn't so rare after all. Even Cole Porter knew about the good life in songs like "Did You Evah?" So good in fact that Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry sang their own version decades later. And maybe that's what Iggy meant when he sang about a "Lust For Life."
All of that may be true for millionaire rock stars, but I'll have to agree with the Beatles: "Money can't buy me love." Unless it's by the hour.