Use It Up references


"...Use it up, don't save a thing for later."

This lyric is attributed in the albums accompanying booklet to Raymond Carver. An American short story writer and poet, Carver was a master at the post-modernist, existentialist, 'seize the day' style of writing and philosophy that also influenced Courage and can be further explored in the bonus track Problem Bears. Carver himself hated what he called the "academic and elitist" labels and praise his work attracted. In his biography of Carver, professor William Stull wrote:

"Carver was a belated child of the Great Depression, and well into times of postwar prosperity his house lacked an indoor toilet. His poem "Shiftless" (1986) lays out the economics of his childhood: "The people who were better off than us were comfortable. The ones worse off were sorry and didn’t work." Like Chekhov, Carver knew intimately the marginal lives of hardship and squalor from which he crafted luminous stories of empathy, endangerment, and hard-won affirmation. "They’re my people," he said years later of the inarticulate laborers and service workers who form his submerged population. "I could never write down to them."

Carver's bibliographical essay, "My Father's Life" gives us a window into his personal character, as well as the type of thinking which Carver shared with Hugh Maclennan and obviously appeals to Downie: "it tells about his upbringing what his highly-acclaimed stories tell about others: the grind of poverty, the ruin of alcohol, the endless threat of breakdown and break-up, the resolve of those who keep going when their only sure direction is down."

"And come together on more than Springsteen
Though most days it's been enough"

Bruce Springsteen, or as his mother calls him, "The Boss," was the biggest thing in 80's rock, and then he wasn't. Bruce's career made a huge impact on pop culture during the ninth decade of the twentieth century, but he faded faster than big hair and thin ties. It would take him a while, but he eventually overcame his personal struggles and regained a credible position atop the music industry. 

Springsteen released "The River" in 1980, a follow up to his hugely successful 1978 album "Darkness on The Edge of Town." By 1984, with "Nebraska" already a monster hit hanging from his back pocket, Springsteen unleashed the quintessential 80's rock album "Born in the U.S.A.":

An amazingly successful world tour followed, but unfortunately for Bruce, so did the pesky "personal demons." His famous E-Street band broke up, and Springsteen disappeared for a few years.

An early 90's comeback was attempted with limited success as Bruce released two albums, "Lucky Town" and "Human Touch," at the same time in 1993. He embarked on his first tour in nearly six years, but only aging, intoxicated groupies were being pulled on stage this time around.

The Boss' big comeback began when he latched his guitar to Tom Hanks, writing "Streets of Philadelphia" for the film "Philadelphia," which netted both he and Hanks Oscars for their respective work. Bruce's comeback wouldn't hit full stride until a disaster struck near his home of New Jersey. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bruce wrote and released "The Rising" during the summer of 2002 and dedicated it to his fallen countrymen. The album reunited him with the E-street band for the first time in over a decade, and sold 238,000 copies in it's first week of release.

"...And music that can help you feel great
and come together in 'the fictive dream'
In a kind of Randy Newman take."

The 'fictive dream' lyric which appears in quotations, is attributed to "On Becoming a Novelist" by John Gardner. Gardner was a famed novelist who had written "Nickel Mountain," "October Light," and "Freddy's Book" as well as scholarly books works including "The Life and Times of Chaucer," and "On Moral Fiction." In addition, Gardner was a medievalist, a banjo player, a poet, and what one biographer called a "dispenser of general good advice."

"On Becoming a Novelist" is a hard luck tale of a writer wondering about his abilities, hoping for a big break, and praying to God for any small semblance of success. It is the often told tale of a writer seeking justification for his craft. The book matches the theme found in "Use It Up," "All Tore Up" and "My Music At Work," which preaches that struggling bands and writers (both song and otherwise) must actively seek success, make their own breaks and never give up.

The forward to "On Becoming a Novelist" is written by one of Gardner's former students; the above mentioned Raymond Carver.

Carver wrote: "Failure and dashed hopes are common to us all. The suspicion that we're taking on water and that things are not working out in our life the way we'd planned hits most of us at some time or another. By the time you're nineteen you have a pretty good idea what you're not going to be; but more often, this sense of one's limitations, the really penetrating understanding, happens in late youth or early middle age. No teacher or any amount of education can make a writer out of someone who is constitutionally incapable of becoming a writer in the first place. But anyone embarking on a career, or pursuing a calling, risks setback and failure. There are failed policemen, politicians, generals, interior decorators, engineers, bus drivers, editors, literary agents, businessmen, basket weavers. There are also failed and disillusioned creative writing teachers and failed and disillusioned writers. John Gardner was neither of these."

Gardner died in a motorcycle accident in 1982, one week after uttering this quote which could have come straight from Carver or Maclennan and seems to sum "Use it Up" nicely: "All my life, I've lived flat out. As a motorcycle racer, chemist, writer... I was never cautious."

Randy Newman is the composer and songwriter best known for his contributions to film soundtracks, most notably Disney film soundtracks. His most recent Oscar win was for Toy Story 2's "When She Loved Me." However, before his recent career twist, Newman wrote such hits as "You Can Leave Your Hat On" and "I love L.A." He was regularly and hilariously portrayed by Will Sasso (Who basically played Kenny Rogers and Randy as the same character with different accents) on the Fox series "Mad TV."

Fittingly enough, Newman also fits into the existential realist attitude shared by Carver and Gardner and admired by Downie, saying on his website that it's not his style to "look forward with optimism, or look back either in anger or emotion."

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