I grew up in the 70's and 80's, and yes, we have a lot to answer for, musically speaking. We will probably never overcome, as a society, the dual whammy put on us by the simultaneous scourges of Rick Astley and the Fine Young Cannibals, for example.
But in a way, we can't really be blamed. Let me tell you what it was like to grow up vaguely counter-culturalish and leftish in those dark days of the Reagan Administration. We were reminded, over and over and over again, that we had failed. Our generation, not Baby Boomers, but not yet Gen-X, were the baby bust, and so there weren't as many of us as there had been or would be. But yet we failed. How did we fail? Simply put, we weren't hippies. We didn't drop enough acid or eat enough 'shrooms, and precious few of us ever really dropped out of society altogether. We were Alex P. Keaton, soulless and empty, with our Gary Numans and our Oingo Boingos. Where were our impassioned political singers? Where were our rebels? Alex P. Keaton's nemeses Nick Moore and Skippy Handleman?* John 'Johnny Slash' Ulasewicz? We knew they sucked, but they were all we really had. Is it any wonder we listened to The Fixx and The Cure?
(And a note: it's worth pointing out here that there were plenty of things to protest in the 80's: nuclear proliferation, apartheid, Iran-Contra. And I protested all of them. But I don't recall seeing many ex-hippies at those events. In that sense, I think they key text might be the film Rude Awakening in which hippies return to find that they themselves, their contemporaries, became soulless and money-grubbing during the 80's. In th inimitable phrasing of Steve-o's dad in SLC Punk!, "I didn't sell out, son. I bought in.")
I was dwelling on this "those damn kids" response, which I remember well as a sort of pervasive cultural force, when I heard this song the other day.
Compelling, and unfortunately still timely. A solid piece of protest rock. It was even something of a hit, for which my generation must be given some credit. (It is an outrage that the proper video for this song isn't on Youtube.) The other tune which struck me in this regard was the warning about the doomsday effect of trigger-happy Americans.
We don't always think of this song as a protest song, but we should. I forget sometimes that we lived under the cloud of nuclear war for much of my childhood, and yet somehow we managed to keep our civil rights. Huh. I knew well that my industrial town, pumped to the gills with defense contractors, was a second-strike target. And yet we weathered it. Thers and I knew a girl in grad school who claimed that she thought about nuclear annihilation several times every day. And we laughed, because this was the mid-90's and it was pretty stupid.
My kid tells me that Linkin Park has a good anti-war song on their new record, and I gather there's a lot of that sort of stuff out there. My point is that no one who has taken a stand against greed and violence has a reason to feel ashamed, or to let older generations tell them they're not rebellious enough.
*Note to self: just because it exists on the internets does not mean you need to read it. Case in point? Apparently, there is Family Ties fanfic out there. Just so long as it's not hentai, I guess.