Why call it All Along the Watchtower?
First, you gotta admit: it’s one of the coolest song titles out there.
All Along the Watchtower has stood the test of time. It is the quintessential anti-establishment song, flawlessly combining the fury found in an Alice Cooper tune with cryptic and poetic references lifted from the Bible. Even the song’s history adds to its complexity, mystery and bravado.
The lyrics are “super bad” cool, and it is a tune that can transport you back in time as easily as it can lull you into a hypnotic trance, forcing you to contemplate a future gone somehow terribly wrong.
How did it start?
All Along the Watchtower was also the perfect anthem and column moniker for a down-on-his-luck reporter who decided it was time for someone to start paying serious attention to the antics of his hometown’s state legislative delegation.
The newspaper column was part satire, part participatory journalism, part investigative reporting and part something that I could never define.
It was pitched to my publisher as edgy, but still newsworthy…
My version of All Along the Watchtower made its debut on the editorial pages of the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier on the second week of January, in the year of our Lord, 1999.
In the early days, All Along the Watchtower focused on legislators from Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach. It morphed into much more over time, but its beginnings were pure, at least in theory.
Nearly a year later, the column became the basis for a community-based television show. That weekly talk show ran on Biddeford’s community television channel for nearly two years until a controversy involving another program temporarily halted all community programming.
But the city council was nowhere near strong enough to kill the dead-tree version of All Along the Watchtower. In fact, the provocative column thrived, reaching a weekly audience with smart-ass political commentary and personal observations for the better part of the next five years.
The column came to a standstill in December 2005, when I left the newspaper business. There was no way for me to know how much I would miss writing it and covering local politics.
What is it now?
Flash forward six years to the summer of 2011.
I was asked to help a friend in his quest to become our city’s next mayor. Up until then, the demands of my new job rarely afforded me the opportunity to spend much time thinking about the city where I was raised; the city where I am raising my own children; the city where I own a home and the city where my friends live.
Once hooked into that campaign, my emotional neuro-receptors were fully triggered. I was hooked like a doper on heroin.
During my newspaper days, I always used to tell people: “Don’t let my boss know, but I’d do this for free.”
I was one of the lucky ones. For a brief and glorious moment in time, I got paid to do something I loved, something that really mattered to me.
Although we won that campaign, the postpartum depression of leaving Biddeford’s political scene hit me like a brick just moments after the votes had been tallied and the champagne had been spilled.
And then my wife reminded me of what I always used to say. “Why not do what you used to do?” she asked. “Why not bring back All Along the Watchtower online?”
So, here we are….and like the man says, “there’s no reason to get excited.”