Looking through Bruce’s setlists on Bruuuce.com, The Old Playground is a song which appears to have been more or less discarded by the passage of time. This would be understandable, as the song is a reminiscence about good times past – and there comes a time when we must all move on in life at some point, for better or worse.
However, the theme (and rhythm) of the song is not all that different from a song such as Rainbow’s Cadillac, which still appears regularly on many, if not most, of Bruce’s recent setlists. So it is at this point that I appeal to Bruce to bring back The Old Playground once in a while, possibly in segway with Rainbow’s Cadillac.
There – that’s my soapbox out of the way – on with the lyrical interpretation…
As a touring folk harpist here in Wales, I am familiar with the following joke:
Q: How many folk musicians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two. One to change it, the other to sing about how good the old one was.
The Old Playground is, musically, one of the more complex songs on Scenes from the Southside. Goodness knows what the time signature is. However the overall theme is very much in the folk tradition of singing a straight song from the heart about the way things used to be.
It also touches on the positive aspects of human existence: “Everybody knows how you play is who you are” (identity, self-respect) “For some it’s a way out, some its a way in, most of us don’t even care” (belonging, finding an individual role) “Just call your own foul” (finding common ground / consensus – at which the young usually put the old to shame).
Whichever way you care to look at it, it’s a strong song which deserves to survive either on its own or in sequence with Rainbow’s Cadillac, although I’ve probably been defeated by the passage of time on this one.
The Old Playground
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Band show; soundboard
August 27 1988