I think so many of the best songs are [juxtapositions], really. The verses could seem pessimistic, but once you realize the chorus, I think you can look at the verses from a different angle and I don’t think they necessarily are [pessimistic]. I think they are about perseverance and independence and self-reliance.
I think those are some of the images being thrown out in the verses, and the chorus makes that realized, that all of those adverse feelings are absolutely okay, and they’re motivating. And to not accept the meandering, free-falling feeling of being in the middle. I do believe there has to be something better, and accepting the middle is just not a great option for anything you’re doing .
There's a lyric that references “The long broken arm of human law.” What were you expressing there?
Well, that’s human expectations and human nature that can’t be relied upon. I think everybody clearly usually knows what the right thing to do is and what the wrong thing is. It doesn’t mean you can always make those choices, but they’re presented to us pretty obviously I think, what the right thing is. I consider that to be human law. But you can’t depend on it -- not for yourself or for other people -- even though you’re aware of it. But that’s the beginning of breaking down any barriers, because if you don’t have any human law, then it’s a free fall; it’s a free for all. I guess maybe I suppose I was trying to get that across.
Okay, this one is maybe a little bit more pragmatic: Independence Day is not a typically cold time of year. Was there a specific instance that inspired that line ("She said, 'It's cold, it feels like Independence Day")?
You know, there is, and I’m actually glad you asked me that because that has floated around for quite some time, the criticism that it’s Independence Day, the Fourth Of July, so it shouldn’t be cold. I expected more people to easily get the Bruce Springsteen reference from his song “Independence Day.” Understandably in hindsight that wasn’t picked up upon, but that was a nod to Bruce Springsteen. As well as the last verse, “turned the engine but the engine wouldn’t turn.” That’s also a reference to Bruce and his inspiration to me.
And actually you know, I sang that song once with Bruce Springsteen [at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards]. We did a duet of it, and that verse happened to be his: “I turned the engine, but the engine doesn’t turn.” I felt immediately very self-conscious, so I felt the need to tell him, “You know, I took that from you.” And he just smiled and said, “I know.” And then I made him sing it.