"What is this thing called rock 'n' roll? Some of it's sex, some of it's drugs, some of it's hope, some of it's tragedy, some of it's family, some of it is just driving a car down the freeway and trying to pretend there is a tomorrow when there isn't."The image of the automobile as a mechanism for escape has been a pre-eminent theme in rock and roll almost since its birth. Rock and roll came of age at about the same time that car ownership, and specifically car ownership by teenagers, became commonplace. Cars were cool, gas was cheap, and the birth of the US superhighway provided inspiration throughout popular culture.
--Pete Townshend, 1993
As rock evolved, so did its themes; instead of songs about cars and girls, things got a little deeper, a little darker. Cars weren't just fun, they were tools of deliverance and escape. From Chuck Berry to Bruce Springsteen, cars have become more than just transportation.
"Sliding out of reverse into driveContinuing from the previous Song X, Rearviewmirror, MFC could very well be the second song in a trilogy, with RVM being the first song. RVM is the moment of escape, with its feelings of anger, despair, rage; MFC is the next step. It's anger transformed into power; there's distance between the person or situation that precipitated the escape. The feeling is one of a car on the highway, in those great distances between cities ("there's a lot to be said for nowhere"), the flat horizon stretching off into the distance - the simple, repetitive notes of the song echo that feeling of looking out the window, telephone poles and road signs flitting by as you pass. It's you, the road, and the car; you're in control of every facet of your situation. You have time and space to breathe, reflect, think, the sound of the wind rushing by the car.
This wheel will be turning right, then straight
Off in the sunset she'll ride
She can remember a time denied, stood by
The side of the road, spilled like wine, now
She's out on her own and line high..."
Some fans have complained that MFC is "too simple," but if you look at the lyrics and match them to the theme, the feeling that's trying to be created, it's all there (and not there), for a reason. The tumble of images and thoughts in the initial bout of anger and escape are gone, vanished in your rearviewmirror; this is the second stage, where there's peace and space. Personally, I cannot identify as strongly as some fans do with the emotion of Rearviewmirror, while the strength and calm of MFC resonated with me immediately. It's not a question of which song is "better," it's simply a matter of what works for you. :)
While MFC was first played at the soundcheck of the 11/17/96 show, most fans are familiar with its first real performance on 12/4/96, when Eddie appeared at a small club in Rome with a pickup band of local musicians. After playing a bit of the "Jeremy" riff, Ed announces, "This is a new song ... my favorite new song right now," before charging into a frenetic version of this song (481k), which was allegedly inspired by the traffic in Rome.
The lyrics of this original live version support the premise of this song being the logical successor to RVM even more strongly than the later studio version:"There's no leaving hereThese original lyrics are strikingly similar to "Untitled" on Live On Two Legs, which has been identified by fans as the intro to "MFC" from 9/18/98 (although "MFC" from L2L is not from the same show):
No seat belts here
I feel so clear....
There's no assholes here
No need to swear
Just you my dear
A friend and your car..."Got a carWhen this song was first released, many of us anticipated that the song would be made longer with a lengthy, extended jam, much like RVM. While the song has not (yet!) evolved that way, "MFC" was omnipresent this summer, played at almost every show. It was so consistently excellent that it was hard to pick one to feature, but we finally settled on the version for the underrated, excellent 7/10/98 San Diego show, where Ed introduces it by saying, "If you gotta get out...get a small car."
Got some gas
Oh, let's get outta here
Get outta here fast
Oh, everyone's confused
So I stay in my room
If I go, I don't want to go alone..."
All we need now is the third, yet-to-be-written (maybe?!) song in the trilogy. :) Maybe "Untitled" is a hint of answers to come? We sure hope so.
- MFC, live from 7/10/98 [mp3 - 2,395K]
© 1999 Caryn Rose