Hornsby, Bruce and the Range – The Way It Is

Bruce Hornsby and the Range - The Way It Is frontCutting edge pop music? Regurgitated AOR? A pleasing tune?

Yes, yes, yes, all of the above. Remember, there are only two types of music, good music and the other kind. If you like it, listen, sing along, get up and dance. You know the drill.

In the case of the sixteen-year-old me of course, there was no option but to go out and buy it. Which, on 5th September 1986 is exactly what I did. On 12″! I doubt that I did it after double maths in the afternoon given that I did have to rush for the bus, so it’s more likely that I bought it at lunchtime.

The track was quite a diatribe against the situation in 1980s America. Given that Hornsby was and is a progressive Democrat, it is hardly likely that he was happy about the situation in the US with Reagan as President.

Analysis of the three verses reveals that the first refers directly to people waiting inline for their welfare checks (cheques). A man, wearing a silk suit, walks past and insinuates that those stood inline are not trying hard enough to find work. The second verse goes on to refer to race – then as now, never mind in the sixties, a hot topic in US internal politics.

Finally, the third verse delivers the punch line – reiterating that yes there was a change in 1964 with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, but more is required to see true equality, both in terms of color (colour) and in terms of the redistribution of wealth.

Bruce Hornsby and the Range - The Way It Is backThe song made it to number one in the US, Canada and the Netherlands. In the UK it made number 15. As always, I do like to think that I did my bit – buying it in the week before it reached its highest position.

In many ways, the song is a twin to The Valentine Brothers’ Money’s Too Tight To Mention, which was of course covered to great effect by Simply Red. Without referring to the race issue, Money’s Too Tight is perhaps a less subtle attack on the Monetarist policies followed by Reagan in the US and of course Thatcher here in the UK.

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