Live in Houston

by David Rovics

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about

Live recording made at an intimate show at the venerable Dan Electro's Guitar Bar in the grand megalopolis of Houston, Texas on March 30th, 2018.

If you download the album or Subscribe to me on Bandcamp or at www.davidrovics.com/subscribe, you'll also receive an MP3 download of the entire set, including all the talking, which was otherwise omitted from the album.

credits

released April 13, 2018

Jeremy Rojas of Sugar Hill Recording Studios recorded and edited the show for this album. One song from my set was omitted from the recording because of a technical problem. (Shit happens. Jeremy and Sugar Hill still rock.)

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David Rovics Portland, Oregon

"Absolutely brilliant. David Rovics says exactly what needs to be said."
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Track Name: Ballad of a Wobbly
When I came to this country, left Scotland far behind
Evicted from the highlands, told to go and find
A new life in America across the Atlantic Sea
Where I joined the millions of other refugees
Who ended up at Ellis Island as the century began
The wretched of the Earth from every foreign land

When I came to this country, broken and bereft
I quickly saw I'd have been no worse off if I'd never left
Such awful deprivations as I'd never had to face
Borne by Swedes and Russians, Africans and every other race
Millions of people trying not to end up dead
From cholera or blacklung or getting clubbed on the head

When I came to this country, to have something on my fork
It was obvious the first thing was to get out of New York
I learned to hop the freight trains, some other stiffs and I
Caught a westbound rattler to give Oregon a try
Signed up for the logging camps, became a timber beast
If I'd stayed there any longer I'd have surely been deceased

When I came to this country, I worked the copper mines in Butte
I was a gandy dancer in Spokane in a gandy dancer suit
I heard the Rebel Girl speak one night in a railway yard
I joined the union right away and got my first red card
I became a hobo organizer for the One Big Union grand
Preaching the Wobbly gospel across this starving land

When I came to this country, I soon enough lost track
Of the number of times I felt a billy club upon my back
Or how many times I saw the tents with freezing kids
Working in the mines instead of living on the skids
How many times I heard the horrid crying from below
Of those trapped there in the dungeons with nowhere left to go

When I came to this country, it was a hopeful time of desperation
The red flags flew all across the nation
But when the war began in Europe we refused to die and kill
We refused to fight a bosses' war and serve the bosses' will
That's when they got the Legion to burn down our union halls
All across the land, where there used to be four walls

When I came to this country, I had no great expectations
But I didn't think I'd end up back here awaiting deportation
On a steamship on the Hudson, I watch the sunset fade
With 20,000 others swept up in the Palmer Raids
Counting myself lucky that I'm still alive
Remembering the moment that I first arrived

When I came to this country...
Track Name: East Kilbride
Jet fighters bombed the palace, we all watched it on TV
The 11th of September, 1973
All across the world people cried in vain
As we heard stories of the people being tortured and slain
Stories of the workers, shop stewards and the rest
Being slaughtered at the new dictator's behest
Labor groups condemned it, said we were on the workers' side
Including all the engineers of East Kilbride

People organized a boycott of General Pinochet
Who had overthrown Allende with a Hawker Hunter jet
Then a few months later, March of '74
Bob Fulton came to work at the Rolls Royce factory floor
He looked at the orders that had come in that day
And found crates with jet engines from Chile
Jet engines from the Air Force across the ocean wide
Sent to be repaired in East Kilbride

It didn't take a minute for Fulton and his mates
To come to the decision that they would not touch these crates
Soon four thousand Rolls Royce workers voted they agreed
To stand with the Chileans in their hour of need
Management decried them, the Tories screamed and cussed
But the Hawker Hunter engines were left to sit and rust
Nowhere else on Earth were workers qualified
To repair the engines sitting there in East Kilbride

It's often hard to know if you've changed anything a whit
But decades later a Chilean general would admit
For a time in Santiago there were no fighters in the sky
Because the whole Chilean Air Force had not one jet that could fly
They may not have changed the world, this group of union engineers
But these crates of metal sat corroding for four years
So here's to British labor, how for four years it tried
To do what could be done from East Kilbride

Jet fighters bombed the palace, we all watched it on TV
The 11th of September, 1973
Track Name: Famine, Flood and Fire
An old woman approached me just the other day
“I lived in Washington, DC,” she began to say
“They all sang 'We Shall Overcome' back in 1964
Where did that all go now that it's needed even more?”
I thought I should have an answer – I think I should now, too
But when I look around me now, I'm afraid I haven't a clue
With the country and the world sinking ever deeper in the mire
In this age of famine, flood and fire

Walking on the ashes, through the toxic, hazy air
Past the chimneys – the only things still standing there
Now if we think ahead seven generations
What little might remain of what we call civilization
It was maybe damned to start with, but what a thing to comprehend
That you and I and our grandchildren may be the ones who watch it end
Now that it is past the time when it was only down to the wire
In this age of famine, flood and fire

I used to marvel at the people going out and having fun
I'd wonder if they thought of all that which must be done
Now it's too late to join them in the ignorance and bliss
I'll just wonder as I watch them, might their children live like this?
All the pot in California cannot numb the pain
And sometimes I try to figure out, in the time that still remains
How would I spend the rest of it just fulfilling my desire
In this age of famine, flood and fire

Perhaps a scientific breakthrough will allow us all to live
Now that industry has robbed the Earth of all it had to give
Maybe from the ashes, new life will arise
That will not be burdened by what I've witnessed with these eyes
Perhaps some global spring will be born out of the flood
A great forest will grow up from somewhere beneath the mud
But if I said I was an optimist then I would be a liar
In this age of famine, flood and fire
Track Name: Iceland, 2008
Iceland is an island with half a million or so Vikings
Mostly known for volcanoes, hot springs and fishing
Known for its welfare state, for being good and socialistic
Certainly not known for being corrupt or nepotistic
But in the USA and Europe when they were deregulating banks
Iceland's politicians took bribes and joined their ranks
Soon you had a situation, one would think just couldn't be
A bank whose debt was worth ten times the country's GDP

When Wall Street imploded, sure enough it spread
Banks all over the world were floating in the red
All over the world, governments made the plan
To cut spending and raise taxes on the working woman and working man
The banks were bailed out while the people had to pay
But in Iceland people thought there must be a better way
And the Earth stood still a moment, fear was struck in every toff
When Iceland told the bankers to fuck off

Folks were in the streets in Reykjavik and just couldn't be ignored
They said this is a debt we Icelanders can't afford
Let's guarantee deposits of all our people, yes indeed
But as for all the speculators motivated by their greed
To make really dumb investments, to them Iceland said good luck
Sorry for your losses but we don't really give a fuck
The 1% all trembled when they took away the trough
When Iceland told the bankers to fuck off

The UK called them terrorists, said we cannot let this stand
Who do these peacenik blonds think they are in Iceland
They threatened isolation, an economy in flames
But the Icelanders said sorry, but the banks can settle their own claims
Though that might be harder for them now that they're under house arrest
Or else they fled the country, as they were most unwelcome guests
And now Reykjavik's recovery just makes the fatcats sputter and cough
Since Iceland told the bankers to fuck off

If you haven't heard of this example, perhaps there's a reason why
The owners of the world don't want this kind of shit to fly
They say we all must pay up in this shakedown by the mob
If we can't afford to pay the rent 'cause we don't have a job
They say it's not their problem if we're forever shackled by their debt
We must save the 1% from the fate they should have met
But there is an alternative, though it makes the fatcats scoff
That Iceland told the bankers to fuck off
Track Name: Helen Keller, Revisited
Give to me a moment, I'll tell you of a woman
Who was a heroine of mine
It's half a century since she's gone
But her vision and her light still shines
She was born in 1880 and she spent her life
Speaking out against injustices she saw
Traveling and writing and supporting tactics
Both within and far outside the law

Give to me a moment, I'll tell you of a member
Of the Industrial Workers of the World
Who responded to the critics who said she was a stooge
For waving her red flag unfurled
By saying how could she do otherwise and still call herself a feminist
Or did they believe that women got a pass
That women were not workers, subject to the bosses
Just like every other member of their class

Give to me a moment, I'll tell you of a comrade
A celebrity, a thinker and a fighter
Her weapons were her words and she used them as an expert
As a touring speaker, as a writer
When workers were on strike she beseeched the public
To come out and support the union's stand
She said there could be no future except in solidarity
Every race, ability and gender hand in hand

Give to me a moment, I'll tell you of a citizen
Who spoke up against Wilson's war
Who said it's best to go to prison than to go kill other people
To settle some imperial score
Without this voice of reason, this servant of the people
The world surely wouldn't be the same
So here's to a fearless warrior who could neither hear nor see
Fellow Worker Helen Keller was her name

Give to me a moment, I'll tell you of a woman
Who was a heroine of mine
Track Name: Failed State
When you're working two jobs and living in a tent
When a house costs a million bucks and you can't pay the rent
When politicians say they'll help but it keeps getting worse
Each time the landlord lobby pulls the strings of the purse
When the human right to housing isn't even part of the debate
You know you're living in a failed state

When millions of citizens are spending half their lives
Locked up in a prison for trying to survive
When laws must be broken just to have a place to stay
When the prisons pay the senators to look the other way
If you have to be a criminal to put food on your plate
You know you're living in a failed state

When you're facing climate breakdown, when the trees are all on fire
When half the country's underwater, when a climate change denier
Runs the nation and the opposition party
Votes for oil rigs and pipelines, this is not so much a country
As it is a corporation, buckling under its weight
You know you're living in a failed state

When your nation is an empire facing daily blowback
And the only thing your leaders can think to do is attack
Bipartisan consensus that we need to spend
700 billion before the year's end
On a military budget to make America great
You know you're living in a failed state

When almost every day some psycho with a gun
Has to open fire on a crowd before it's done
When a music festival becomes a free fire zone
And all they can say is it's OK now, he was acting alone
Buy some armor, pray to God and hide behind a gate
You know you're living in a failed state
Track Name: I'm A Better Anarchist Than You
I don't drive a car because they run on gas
but if I did it'd run on biomass
I ride a bike or sometimes a skateboard
so fuck off all you drivers and your yuppie hordes
sitting all day in the traffic queues
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't eat meat I just live on moldy chives
or the donuts that I found in last week's dumpster dives
look at you people in that restaurant I think you are so sad
when you coulda been eating bagels like the ones that i just had
I think it is a shame all the bourgeois things you do
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't wear leather and I like my clothes in black
and I made a really cool hammock from a moldy coffee sack
I like to hop on freight trains I think that is so cool
it's so much funner doing this than being stuck in school
I can't believe you're wearing those brand new shiny shoes
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't have sex and there will be no sequel
because heterosexual relationships are inherently unequal
I'll just keep on moshing to Anti-Flag and Crass
until there are no differences in gender, race or class
all you brainwashed breeders you just haven't got a clue
I'm a better anarchist than you

I don't believe in leaders I think consensus is the key
I don't believe is stupid notions like representative democracy
whether or not it works I know it is the case
that only direct action can save the human race
so when I see you in your voting booth then I know it's true
I'm a better anarchist than you

I am not a pacifist I like throwing bricks
and when the cops have caught me and i've taken a few licks
I always feel lucky if I get a bloody nose
because I feel so militant and everybody knows
by the time the riot is all through
I'm a better anarchist than you
Track Name: Stock Exchange
The year was 1918, the place, 69 Jagtvej
The unemployed and hungry gathered to ask why
The bankers and stockbrokers lived like kings and queens
While the ragged children starved behind the scenes
Tens of thousands rallied for action to be taken
For the state to show the poor had not been totally forsaken
When no response was coming, plans began to be arranged
For the taking over of the stock exchange

The syndicalists at Folkets Huset were all well aware
That undercover cops were everywhere
Plans were kept secret so there wouldn't be a snag
When the time came, follow the one wrapped in the red flag
Thousands followed then, knowing not what lay in store
Soon found themselves upon the exchange's floor
Where such ostentatious wealth cried out to be estranged
From the profiteers inside the stock exchange

The stockbrokers were not harmed, but the cops were kept at bay
As the floor was occupied for much of the day
The Battle of the Borso would be a story to retell
The protest and the prison time would be remembered well
They didn't overthrow the bankers but the actions of the date
Led directly to reforms of the Danish welfare state
Working class prosperity no longer seemed so strange
From the day the workers took the stock exchange

The year was 1918, the place, 69 Jagtvej
Track Name: If Only It Were True
I turned on my TV, though it was hard to see
These men who'd be head of state
What a great country, from sea to shining sea
We watch the Republicans debate
Newt stood with his third wife, and said you bet your life
The president is a red
He wants to tax the rich a lot and take your limo and your yacht
He wants to have the bankers' heads
And if he gets in again he'll paint the White House pink and then
He'll hire Chavez as his VP
Then we'll be right on track to give capitalism the sack
Along with the insurance industry

If only it were true, if only it were true I'd be so happy -- wouldn't you?
If only it were true, if only it were true, if only it were true

He'll give everyone food stamps and wheelchair ramps
He'll subsidize windmills and maple syrup
He'll cripple industries with eco-friendly policies
And pretty soon we will be just like Europe
He'll shut down oil wells and deliver solar cells
To each home in Delaware and Illinois
He'll ban logging in the parks, he'll send the works of Karl Marx
To the homes of every American girl and boy
He'll abolish pesticides, he'll be giving out free rides
And free lunches, too, inside his high-speed trains
He'll start lots of public works, full of union perks
He'll fill all the cities up with bicycle lanes

Chorus

Watch out, his critics tell, this shall be our death knell
He'll pull the troops out and end all of our wars
He'll gut military spending, our empire will be ending
And soon we'll be invaded by the Moors
He'll legalize all drugs, give away beer mugs
And hookas to every child -- and Korans
He'll ban religions from the schools, give 40 acres and a mule
To every person who makes less than 50 grand
He'll shut down Guantanamo, to torture he'll say no
He'll make us all drive electric cars
He'll reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, take off that damn flag pin
And he'll put Rupert Murdoch behind bars

Chorus
Track Name: St Patrick Battalion
My name is John Riley
I’ll have your ear only a while
I left my dear home in Ireland
It was death, starvation or exile
And when I got to America
It was my duty to go
Enter the Army and slog across Texas
To join in the war against Mexico

It was there in the pueblos and hillsides
That I saw the mistake I had made
Part of a conquering army
With the morals of a bayonet blade
So in the midst of these poor, dying Catholics
Screaming children, the burning stench of it all
Myself and two hundred Irishmen
Decided to rise to the call

From Dublin City to San Diego
We witnessed freedom denied
So we formed the Saint Patrick Battalion
And we fought on the Mexican side

We marched ‘neath the green flag of Saint Patrick
Emblazoned with “Erin Go Bragh”
Bright with the harp and the shamrock
And “Libertad para la Republica”
Just fifty years after Wolf Tone
Five thousand miles away
The Yanks called us a Legion of Strangers
And they can talk as they may

Chorus

We fought them in five major battles
Churobusco was the last
Overwhelmed by the cannons from Boston
We fell after each mortar blast
Most of us died on that hillside
In the service of the Mexican state
So far from our occupied homeland
We were heroes and victims of fate

Chorus
Track Name: Song for a Refugee
I breathe the air that you do
I drink the water just like you
I eat the fruits of this land
I hold the apple in my hand

I am

I feel the rain fall on my face
Like the rest of the human race
I hold my baby tightly when he cries
I see him when I look into his eyes

I am

When I walk for miles in the summer heat
Like you, I get blisters on my feet
When I cut myself, with blood I will perspire
When I try to climb over the wire

I am
Track Name: The War is Over
The President stood in front of the jet planes
The rubble’s all settled and democracy reigns
We’ve defeated their army and taken control
We dropped thousands of bombs, now they’ve taken their toll
The oil’s on fire, just like the blood
Of a billion Muslims dragged through the mud
And the world is safer with the dictator gone
And their lot will improve with our corporate pawn

The war is over, that’s what he said
Go back to your business, we’ve buried the dead
And the war is over

Fatherless children have taken the street
All that remains is the sting of defeat
Homes are in ruins, cancer is rife
For soldiers and newborns, the end of a life
Kids grown up with just hunger and fear
But lo, behold, the Yankees are here
And now all you people are gonna be free
‘Cause this land was made for Chevron and me

The war is over, that’s what he said
Just turn on your TV, we’ve buried the dead
And the war is over

The government files are all up in flames
His victims of terror, who remembers their names
The past doesn’t matter but the future is bright
As the Exxon refinery lights up the night
History’s looted like the library’s shelves
But we’ll fill them with Bibles and be proud of ourselves
We’ll turn your schools into compounds and make room for us all
If you’re missing your legs you can learn how to crawl

The war is over, that’s what he said
Forget it all happened, we’ve buried the dead
And the war is over

And the price was worth it, yes we’d do it again
With bombs or with sanctions — kids, women and men
‘Cause we have national interests and they must be met
We will enforce them by treaty or jet
And when time has passed and you’ve had time to rest
We’ll find a new villain ’cause that’s what we do best
Maybe a sultan or a grandson of Mao
But don’t trouble your conscience because as of now

The war is over, that’s what he said
Just put it behind you, we’ve buried the dead
And the war is over
Track Name: Make the Planet Earth Great Again
We could tackle the economy first – get rid of all the billionaires
Set the system up so that instead of hoarding, people share
Make housing, food, and health care basic human rights
Around the world, for everyone is how we'd set our sights
If we could get to that point I could say that then
We could make the planet Earth great again

With human rights around the world, there'd be no refugees
No safeguarding your homeland from terrorists overseas
No need for a border wall, no jobs to protect
With a global basic income established, it's pretty simple and direct
Free trade, fair trade, same damn thing – we get to that point, then
We can make the planet Earth great again

We could take on other issues, like the survival of our race
By which I mean the bipeds on this floating rock in space
The most invasive species anywhere around
The one that keeps on burning everything that can be found
The one that will get it together in the nick of time and then
Make the planet Earth great again

We can stop spending money on antiquated technology
Such as tanks and missiles and most other things military
We can use those vast resources to make us all safe and sound
Windmills in the air, coal and oil in the ground
We can be the envy of the rest of the galaxy when
We make the planet Earth great again

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