The Sad Bastard Hall of Fame | Neko Case – South Tacoma Way

Today, we’re starting a new Hall of Fame here at Speakers in Code.

The Sad Bastard Hall of Fame.

We know you’re excited, but let us explain a few things first about the SBHOF:

1. We’re inducting songs, not artists. Because, you know, some of our favorite musicians have a whole lotta sad bastard going on. And we are not interested in limits here at SIC.

2. The SBHOF is not intended to make you sad. Think about that.

3. We shall take nominees for the SBHOF (remember: songs, not artists).

Okay, that should do it for now. We reserve the right to add to the list above, of course.

Let’s get to our inaugural SBHOF selection:

Neko Case – “South Tacoma Way” (from Furnace Room Lullaby, 2000)

I met Neko Case once at Off Broadway in St. Louis. We talked for a couple of hours. The problem: I didn’t know it was her (in my defense, she was wearing a hoodie). She played along, gracefully, but declined when I tried to buy her a drink. This happened ten years ago.

After the show, we had a laugh, and I asked about “South Tacoma Way.” She told me a story about the song, its origins, its meaning. I’m not sure if it’s my place to discuss the specifics, but I can discuss the lyrics, which are heavy:

So lost I would sleep in the palms of your hands
in dreams we were happy and safe
I can’t comprehend the ways I miss you
they come to light in my mistakes

and earlier:

I didn’t make it to your funeral
I didn’t want ritual or resign

There are ghosts in this song; they are an old sweater, stupid angels…they are in the air while driving down Tacoma Way.

Finally, there are the cross streets, where the “tears come warm and heavy.” Earlier in the song, the tears wouldn’t come. They do now.

And perhaps it’s because these streets do have a name: yours.

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