You have to watch this video of Neil Young's new song, "Fork in the Road." It's funny and cutting all at the same time. There are barbs aimed at Wall Street and corporations and Apple (AAPL) and the music industry and the government and the war and the economy and the repo guys hauling away his flat-screen TV and Neil himself.
The clip shows Neil via a Web cam, singing over a stomping track and offering his five-minute time capsule of what he sees. (Note, there's a little off-color language.) Impossible to do it justice here, but let me pull out a couple of lines. One chorus goes like this:
There's a bailout coming, but it's not for me.
It's for all those creeps watching tickers on TV.
I have to think he means stock tickers there, not news tickers, but it's hard to know for sure. That's probably a distinction without a difference anyway. I do know he likes to hold up a mirror to the world, and the image, to me, is one of a society obsessed with the micromovements of the market and the minutia of the world.
I know, I'm probably reading too much into it, but hey, I'm blogging, work with me!
Another chorus goes like this:
There's a bailout coming but it's not for you.
It's for all those creeps hiding what they do.
Is he talking about Bernard Madoff there? Over-the-counter derivative markets? Crooks? Again, it doesn't much matter -- consider it a call for transparency. Quit being creeps, quit doing business in the dark, let in some sunlight -- pretty simple.
Are we listening?
You can dismiss it as "just a rock song," but personally I think that's a mistake. Neil Young is not only a big rock star, but a profoundly patriotic guy who is engaged in the issues of the day. He's turning his old Lincoln into an electric car and he performs at benefits for farmers and the poor and the other left-behind people he sings about. He's also been a good barometer of what people are thinking; remember, long before the outcome of last year's election was obvious to anyone, he sang:
Someone walks among us, and I hope he hears the call.
Maybe it's a woman, or a black man after all.
No business exists without public permission, and in finance that means the trust and confidence of investors and the public at large. The events of the last year have wiped out any good will that the Street might have had. Neil Young has just delivered a little musical reminder that we have a long road ahead to get it back. And if it's not too corny for me to say it, the road back is paved with transparency and good practices.
Hat tip to RollingStone.com for posting the video and to my friend Ed for sending me the link.