The 1989 release of this song by Concrete Blonde on their album Free never packed the same punch that the later live version did. It was a quiet little ditty at that time, but years later after Concrete Blonde came into their own as a band that never avoided controversy it became an anthem. The most well known live version began with a guitar grunting and Johnette Napolitano making a dedication. "This is for the Los Angeles Police Department." Later she would note in an interview, "You know, it sucks that this is still relevant."

There's a green plaid jacket on the back of the chair
It's like a moment frozen forever there

I've committed crimes in my life, probably enough to get my five to ten if anyone had managed to figure it out. On the other side of the coin, there are those out there who are helplessly flailing. Just because I considered myself to be righteous in my crimes doesn't make me any less so than some others. I did some very questionable things to bring my own form of justice to a rapist and a scumbag who thought he could blackmail his way to fame and fortune. They knew I had been there but had no idea who I was. Some of us are damned clever when it comes to stupidity.

Mom and dad had a lot of big plans for their little man
"So proud."
Mama's gone crazy 'cause her baby's shot down
By some teenage car chase war out of bounds
It was the wrong place wrong time wrong end of a gun.

There is law and then their is justice. Once upon a time I knew a nineteen year old boy who had a dirtbag father who checked out and disappeared over the horizon. He left his wife and four children in poverty. His mother didn't have the money to support them and going to work put her in a position where she would have to pay someone to look after the youngun's. Jimmy worked in a supermarket and was trying to save up enough money to go to college someday, but his boss was rather ripe in his treatment of employees. Jimmy worked his ass off and hoped for a promotion, but the boss told him he was "a stupid nigger who will go nowhere pretty fast" and laughed at him for trying. Jimmy came back two nights later, knowing there was a cash box in the back room and intended to take a little something for himself and his family. The cops showed up. The events that followed were a little hazy, but some reports said that Jimmy came out of the supermarket with his hands up high and pleasing for mercy. I believe those reports. I had once supervised Jimmy when I was the assistant manager at a gas station and he was like that when cornered. He took three bullets and was killed that night. Most reports pegged him as having fifteen dollars and change in his pocket from the grand heist.

Shoot straight from the hip
Gone forever in a trigger slip
You know, it could have been
It could have been your brother.
Shoot straight shoot to kill
Blame each other, blame yourselves
God is a bullet have mercy on us everyone

I knew another feller once upon a time. He was my neighbor growing up and he was impossible to be friends with. When we played Monopoly he told me all the money in the bank belonged to him because we were at his house. We never played at my house, so I never learned if the reverse was true. His brother was the head of the policeman's union and Timothy was earmarked to join him. Timothy joined the police force a year after college. Before he joined the force he was carrying four DUIs and a charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. His brother helped smooth things over. Later, Timothy made the local papers after beating a suspect to the point where hospitalization was required. He was working traffic detail.

They're gonna call me sir they'll all stop fucking with me
Well I'm a high school grad I'm over 5 foot 3
I'll get a badge and a gun and I'll join the P.D.
They'll see
He didn't have to use the gun they put in his hand
But when the guy came at him, well he panicked and ran
And it's thirty long years before they give him another chance
And it's sad sad sad

Life can end so abruptly and we are brought up to believe that law enforcement officials are trained professionals looking out for our best interests. More than a decade ago I went to a strip club with my friends Martin and Eddie. You see, Eddie was a weirdo. He kept up with the names and routines of all the strippers. He also didn't drink or use drugs, so he was the perfect designated driver. He just liked tits. He liked tits a little too much. He always drove when he convinced us to join us for a visit to the local strip joint. We were pulled over coming home one night. Martin and I were laughing hysterically as the cop put Eddie through the usual drunk driving tests. It was funny because Eddie was completely sober, but his sobriety caused him to be excessively nervous. He failed two tests while completely sober. The cop threw him against the car and repeatedly called him "fucko" while telling him he was endangering lives by driving in his condition. That same night a sixteen year old boy was shot dead and his seventeen year old friend was wounded in a police raid on a party. The story said they were being belligerent and had resisted arrest on crimes that were never named.

Anyone walking around with a weapon capable of suddenly ending the life of another human being has to eventually realize everything can change in an instant. Death changes everyone because something in life is suddenly missing. The bullet in the gun makes decisions we might never otherwise make.

John Lennon, Doctor King and four innocent guys, goddamn nothing
God is a bullet have mercy on us everyone

Lyrics by Johnette Napolitano
As recorded by Concrete Blonde
The lyrics are adapted for the live version of the song
Copyright 1989 Happy Hermit Music

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