We must first of all dispute the Wikipedia entry on bogans though, which claims the term is ‘usually pejorative or self-deprecating’ and indicates ‘a person who is, or is perceived to be, of a lower-class background.’ Boganism is an attitude not dependant upon your income. It is also celebrated as a positive description, often.
Wiki goes on to say ‘According to the stereotype, the speech and mannerisms of “bogans” indicate poor education, cheap clothing and uncultured upbringing. ‘Bogans’ usually reside in economically disadvantaged suburbs (often outer metropolitan) or rural areas.’ We should note though that later this website does admit to the celebration of bogan culture just indicated, finishing by acknowledging the site bogan.com.au has been archived by Pandora (it is of lasting cultural importance).
Anyway, that’s all just introductory small-talk. What we are interested in here is how the emotional range of the bogan is composed and articulated. Are they prone to experience greater pleasures and pains than that of the normal (we conflate sophisticated and normal here, for our own inscrutable purposes) person? Is it because of the cultural product attached to their prevalent fashions and attitudes? Should they be allowed greater community tolerance because of this? As a Socratic interlocutor might say in answer to all of these question, Yes indeed. It is to be our first and only three-part-hypothesis.
In the beginning of ‘Saturday Night’ we hear the title repeated by a number of voices a number a times. Four notes ascend to finish on a crisply shortened ‘Night’; then to this is added the famous whistling riff. The feeling is of hushed expectation, if of anything, tinged with joy (we can say this almost certainly inheres in the whistling). They got this right. For many of us – bloggers included – going out on a Saturday night, or Friday night is usual, and despite the usualness of it all, it tends to bring on the usual sense of anticipation. This is associated with many things.
But the petulant Don Walker then launches into the verse proper, which is a descending lament in a minor key. Apparently Chisel aren’t going to dally in Saturday night for too long. He sings ‘Saturday night’s already old / Walking into Sunday, and I find / All desires are cold’. What’s that about? We were just getting ready to go and have a few beers at the local, to get a nice relaxed buzz about us and to slip into that old sentimental anecdotal vein. It’s far too early for the regrets, isn’t it? We may have thought so originally, but what needs to be understood is that bogan-life gives one a special capacity for feeling, an extended emotional range, and therefore (perhaps lamentably) an ability to dwell in a state of premonition. And so what is said need to be put below what is felt. This is the way we need to read the song. Literary allegory doesn’t come into the bogan aesthetic because it’s too much about the words. Boganism is all about predicting the future in a manner haphazard.
Don Walker then tells us that the light of your company (you? girl ambiguous?) helps to show him the path on which he’s bound, the other benefit being a blurring of what he’s leaving behind. But as said, the lyrics, the apparent grasp at metaphor, must be cast aside in favour of context. He’s drunk, thinking of a girl he once loved (picture a beautiful girl from a town somewhat smaller than Sydney. Or an outer suburb – indeed this would fit the Wiki entry better, and sits well with the video clip that has a camera pulling back over the Harbour Bridge at the end of the song…) and he just can’t remember what he did earlier in the evening. All he knows is he’s walking. Walking into this Sunday morning which suddenly doesn’t look so good (unless he superimposes a past image of a girl).
Then, strangely, the triumphant chorus announces itself. Barnes begins to scream on about having ‘the keys to the city’, some ‘luck’, ‘two days money’. This is punch your fist in the air kind of triumph. This is the feeling when it’s great to be out in the city – nicely addled, having a great time. And yet. The light comes back. ‘If you light me up / this heart will shine’. Poor bogans. They are cast adrift in this sea of chasing love on Saturday nights. There is no good time for a good time’s sake, unless it involves scoring with a hot chick. It’s risky because often that won’t happen. And then you start dreaming of the one you don’t have, perhaps even quoting French lines about being a slave to love in a song that never really needs or wants such a thing.
It is all an up and down journey for the bogan and it just can’t be easy on their emotional well-being. But we must put it to you that this song at least helps us (remember, us: sophisticated / normal) understand the plight. Imagine if you were forced to experience the highs and lows such as are in this song in such quick succession. Then, imagine if the succession wasn’t linear (like when the intro’s hushed expectation comes back in sax-form combined with the bombastic guitar of Barnes’ chorus). You too would reject the more measured approach to analysis. You too would reject approaches to fashion that demonstrate work, hours spent in focussed craft. All you know is the circular upheaval of work, lust, recreation, sadness, nostalgia, violence. Only the random admixture of these forces makes sense. With just a little understanding – and promulgation of this understanding we must think of as being the major achievement of the Cold Chisel song – harmony can be attained.