I found the above John Prine cassette this weekend at a church garage sale for 50 cents. While playing it at home, I was reminded of his song, Spanish Pipedream, from his debut self-titled LP, the chorus of which proposes a kind of life hack from an exotic dancer in a bar:
Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own
The implication here seems to be advice on how to live a simple life. By blowing up my TV and throwing away my paper, I can have time to build a home in the country, plant a garden, eat peaches and find Jesus. Sounds nice.
Written in 1971, the major personal distractions in life were the TV and newspaper, both instruments of mass distribution of information. But in 2019, we have an entire new tool for information distribution, the cell phone. Would John Prine edit these lyrics in 2019 to say “Blow up your phone” instead? Or perhaps he should say, “Blow up your TV, throw away your phone”?
Of course, the phone is still an instrument of communication. It’s how we talk to family and friends, even if it’s just a quick text. So throwing away the phone itself might be asking too much. Maybe we just need to throw away the smart phone apps meant only to distract us and make others money, leaving us only feeling jealous and inadequate.
That being said, “Blow up your TV, throw away social media” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. But it still might be the kind of advice that leads to what happens at the end of the song when the soldier runs away with the exotic dancer…
We blew up our TV, threw away our paper
Went to the country, built us a home
Had a lot of children, fed ’em on peaches
They all found Jesus on their own
Listen and find out for yourself…