Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special The Man Can't Bust Our Music! Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental prop jet mechanic Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to Tinseltown, i.e. fabulous Hollywood California, for a weekend story conference about the most eagerly awaited Marvel Comics superhero film adaptation of them all. Yes, the X-Men's Iceman is finally getting his own movie, and frankly there has never been a better High Concept than the one genius creator Stan Lee came up with back in 1963: A man is bitten by a radioactive ice cube. Who amongst us does not remember where we were when we first read his origin story.....

In any case, and because things will be relatively quiet around here for a couple of days, here's a fun and not particularly relevant to anything in particular little project to help us wile away the hours till we return:

Best or Worst Pre-Punk or Post-Punk Politically Themed Rock Record!!!

Just in case you don't see where I'm going with this, I'm specifically excluding first generation punk bands like the Sex Pistols or the Clash because they're just a little obvious. And I'm insisting that we limit the discussion specifically to rock records, for sort of the same reason -- all that early Dylan or Phil Ochs folkie protest stuff is way too obvious.

And yes, I'm sure we've done something more or less similar to this in the past, but I've been kind of obsessing on the awfulness of our national discourse of late, so indulge me.

And with all that stuff out of the way, my totally top of my head Top Five is/are:

5. Vince Vance and the Valiants -- Bomb Iran



This is so offensive in so many ways that it's hard to enumerate, and it has been ever since it first appeared in 1980. I should add that John McCain's reintroduction of it to the American public during the 2008 campaign is yet one more reason that there's a special mavericky Circle of Hell awaiting him.

4. The Beach Boys -- Student Demonstration Time



I suspect that rewriting the Leiber and Stoller prison classic to reflect the political turmoil of the early 70s seemed like a good idea at the time, and in fairness what resulted is a terrific performance and production. Unfortunately, it sounds crassly opportunistic and condescending to contemporary ears (or at least mine) and I've got to say it comes damn close to ruining the otherwise wonderful Surfs Up album for me.

3. Tonio K. -- La Bomba





Words fail me. In this case, words in Spanish.

2. Randy Newman -- A Few Words in Defense of Our Country



"Let's turn history's pages, shall we?" Okay, this isn't a rock record, but Newman's a genius and his own category, so I'm making an exception. Besides, this characteristically ironic rumination on the USA in the waning days of the unimaginable catastrophe that was the Bush-Cheney era is perhaps the profoundest thing the guy has ever written. Certainly it's the most depressing.

And the Numero Uno "Up Against the Wall, Running-Dog Lackey of the Bourgeoisie" rockers of them all clearly have to be....

1. Rage Against the Machine -- Bullet in Your Head



I basically think these guys hearts are in the right place, and Tom Morello is a pretty cool guitarist, if not particularly my cuppa tea, stylistically. But gimme a break, RATM -- the revolution will most definitely not be televised. More to the point, it will not be marketed by Epic Records and the Sony Corporation, the capitalist megaliths for whom you toil. For money.

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

32 comments:

cthulhu said...

Well, obviously for me (Who-phile that I am), the Who's classic Won't Get Fooled Again is as good as it gets. "Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss" just about sums it up, although it's probably too nuanced for RATM.

Nice tip of the hat to Tonio K.'s La Bomba; I would also nominate The Funky Western Civilization with, of course, the wisdom of Joan of Arc thrown in.

Richard Thompson's 'Dad's Gonna Kill Me is worth a listen, whether you agree with it or not, for the melancholic fire of the guitar and the imagery of the lyrics. Also on "Sweet Warrior" is Guns are the Tongues, a look at a terrorist cell. And also Thompson's evisceration of Tony Blair, Sneaky Boy. Great disc, by the way...

I'll wrap up with a walk on the awful side: Lou Reed's Good Morning Mr. Waldheim from the (for me) fallen-from-grace "New York" CD. I may agree with the sentiments but am appalled at how heavy-handed and clumsy the presentation is.

Dave said...

The first song that popped into my mind is Bruce Cockburn's "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," which contains all the passion you would want with none of the self-righteousness you want. It's a lovely song, too.

I could name so many Billy Bragg songs, and this one was written before BB was born, but "Which Side Are You On" is rather timely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbddqXib814

pete said...

I know Political Bruce can't hold a candle to pre-Landau transcendent-street-poet Bruce, but there have to be some moments in there somewhere, although when he played one of his solo, the-new-Woody-Guthrie shows at the State Theater in New Brunswick each evocation of the oppressed masses was preceded by a roadie bringing him yet another brand-new black Takamine at 2000 bucks a pop.

"Taxman," anyone?

"Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die" by Country Joe and the fish- the test of a good anti-war song is if soldiers like it. Also best Louis Armstrong rewrite.

And where would the canon of pretentious, self-righteous, and just plain incompetent political rock be without CSN? "Teach Your Children"? "Almost Cut My Hair"? Can I have some of your purple berries, man?

Notice I said CSN, not Y. "Rocking in the Free World" is just scalding. I'd have loved to hear MC5 do it.

dave™© said...

"Chicago" and "Military Madness" from Graham Nash come to mind.

And I always enjoyed "Student Demonstration Time" - a lot more than "Don't Go Near the Water," that's for sure!

dave™© said...

And maybe these two are a little less "rock" than Steverino would like, but I just think you'd have to include Dylan's "George Jackson," backed with that Joan Baez parody from the Lampoon's "Radio Dinner" album... you know the one I'm talking about...

Blue Ash Fan said...

On the best side, I'd have to say R.E.M's "Ignoreland." Sums up the Reagan/Bush I years with amazing historical accuracy. Nice meta touch, too, when Stipe admits that he's venting his spleen.

Grant Lee Buffalo did some cool political tracks, as well, that were angry without the self-righteousness. "Homespun," about the militia movement, springs to mind immediately.

As for Bruce, Pete, what do you expect him to do? He's a pro and he's filthy rich. Should he be using the $200 guitar/amp starter kit combo from Guitar Center? When he starts writing songs about how his taxes are too high, then I'll be pissed at him.

danny1959 said...

Is Gang of 4 too obvious? I always liked "To Hell with Poverty." There are some pretty awful ones from the early '80s when Grand Funk Railroad turned into right-wing tools.

steve simels said...

Dave said...

The first song that popped into my mind is Bruce Cockburn's "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," which contains all the passion you would want with none of the self-righteousness you want. It's a lovely song, too.


True story: In the early 90s, after the disastrous breakup of a four year romance, somebody offered me the chance to make a solo record, which I was going to call "MORE SONGS ABOUT ANGER AND EMBITTERED SELF-PITY." The concept was: I would do punkish covers of songs about horrible relationships and girlfriends from hell.

The first song I was gonna do was Cockburn's "If I Had a Rocket Launcher". Until I finally listened to the lyrics and realized he was talking about Reagan's Latin American policies and not a revenge fantasy about a woman who'd wronged him.

Like I said -- a true story.
:-)

Shriner said...

I've always had a soft spot for Patti Smith's "People Have The Power"

And Lennon's "Power To The People", for that matter. ;-)

edward said...

Heaven 17 - Fascist Groove Thing can fit in as best and worst

Tom Robinson Band - Long Hot Summer

As noted above Billy Bragg has too many, most good, some awful.

Tom Waits - Road To Peace is a wonderful one for any AIPAC members you know.

Ramones - Bonzo goes to Bitsburg (or does that not count as pre/post punk?)

And another exception for Randy Newman - Political Science

Brooklyn Girl said...

U2 did a few --- "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Bullet the Blue Sky" immediately come to mind.

Bruce's "44 Shots" and "Born in the USA" (which is often misinterpreted by people who don't really listen to the lyrics --- same is true for "Last to Die")

I also consider "Imagine" a political song.

Gummo said...

I've mentioned this one before -- and been mocked for it -- but I will always love Steppenwolf's "Monster". The lyrics are a lot more nuanced than most people give them credit for (and as relevant as ever), and the first and last sections are as sing-alongable as any Top 10 pop song.

"I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" - X; the Reagan era in a rotting nutshell.

How about Neil's well-nigh-unlistenable "Let's Impeach the President" -- or the rest of that well-night-unlistenable album?

And in honor of the Buff Springfield reunion, "For What It's Worth."

Kid Charlemagne said...

Worst ever: Jan and Dean's "The Universal Coward." Dean Torrence didn't want to have anything to do with it, so it was issued as a Jan Berry solo single.

steve simels said...

And then of course there's this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-z2D9lo9-8

Odd to think that punk is now rightwing country music.
:-)

Faze said...

The point of punk is to outrage. "Bush Was Right" outrages. Mission accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Merle Haggard's "Irma Jackson" - interracial love song that was waaay ahead of its time...
For my Sconnie friends, The Waco Brothers' "Plenty Tough and Union Made."
Sonic Youth's "Youth Against Fascism." ("I believe Anita Hill...")
Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus."
Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" - (Even the dippy "save the babies" parts - MASTERPIECE...)
"Shipbuilding" - Elvis Costello (Chet Baker's last stand. The Robert Wyatt version is great, too...)
James McMurty's "We Can't Make It Here." - bill buckner

Elroy said...

See How We Are - X....possibly violating the "no punk" rule, but the song is worth he exception

Ohio - CSNY. This song still gets me, maybe more for the shock that Kent State still provides.

And Student Demonstration Time sure does stick out like a sore thumb on Surf's Up...I wonder if there's some kind of story regarding its inclusion on the album. Interestingly, the Google tells us that it charted as a single in Australia in 1972!

steve simels said...

Couldn't agree more about Ohio. Perhaps the greatest topical song ever written; certainly the greatest one that was a radio hit within days of the event it's describing.

J. Loslo said...

In the category of anti-war songs, I'm partial to the Pogues version of "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda."

LP Steve said...

Bad: "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire. How has this not already been mentioned five times? Must be showing my age.

Good: "The New World" by X. It was ALWAYS better before they voted for whatsisname!

kurt b. said...

I've always liked the POP-O-PIES "A Political Song."

Anti-Reagan and stuff, man. Yeah.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVDRqkTAwpM

Anonymous said...

Well the telephone was ringing
and they told me it was Chairman Mao
Well the telephone was ringing
and they told me it was Chairman Mao
You can tell him anything.
I just don't wanna talk to him now.

I've got a apolitical blues
and it's the meanest blues of all
I've got a apolitical blues
and it's the meanest blues of all
I don't care if you're John Wayne
I just don't wanna take no calls.

Take no calls.

Play the blues.

- Lowell George

And for the record, I hate and despise "Eve of Destruction." Even when you played it, Steve, it is a shallow, derivative, exploitative piece of Hollywood crap IMHO.

verification word: ficsimile

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Dollar Bill The Cowboy by the Waco Brothers.

In that vein, "Powers and Horror" by the Mekons, or "Last weeks Of The War", or for anti-political posturing, "Never Been IN A Riot". Also, "Trimdon Grange Explosion."

OK, I REALLY like the Mekons./

Peter said...

Pretty much anything by Midnight Oil.

(Example: Telling a few billion people exactly what they think at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.)

They were so political that when the band broke up in 2002, lead singer Peter Garrett went into politics and is now a Minister in the Australian Government. (He's currently the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth). You don't get much more political than that.

Noam Sane said...

"Tell Me That I'm Dreaming" by Was/Not Was, another (somewhat abstract) summation of the Reagan years.

"Over Your Head" by NRBQ. As Terry said - I believe in reference to this song - "If they keep on pushing the envelope, before long there's not gonna be anywhere to put the stamp."

"We Want Mine" by Crack the Sky. "We don't want your money...we want mine." More topical now than it was when it came out 20 years ago.

Karatist Preacher said...

Gummo said...

I've mentioned this one before -- and been mocked for it -- but I will always love Steppenwolf's "Monster". The lyrics are a lot more nuanced than most people give them credit for (and as relevant as ever), and the first and last sections are as sing-alongable as any Top 10 pop song.

Same here.

Also JA's "Volunteers' for me.

Dave said...

Steve said:

True story: In the early 90s, after the disastrous breakup of a four year romance, somebody offered me the chance to make a solo record, which I was going to call "MORE SONGS ABOUT ANGER AND EMBITTERED SELF-PITY." The concept was: I would do punkish covers of songs about horrible relationships and girlfriends from hell.

*************


I swear in the name of Brian Wilson that I added a tag to my post saying that "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" sounded like a love song to me. Some bitter songs are just too beautiful not to be love songs, regardless of their putative subject: I've always put "Positively 4th Street" in this category.

big bad wolf said...

springsteen's magic album had a number of excellent political songs. of them, i think the best are "your own worst enemy," "long walk home," and "devil's arcade."

eve of destruction really can't be beat as camp.

The Kenosha Kid said...

Fortunate Son by Creedence. Too obvious? Then why hasn't anyone mentioned it yet, huh?

Peter from LB said...

The Ballad of the Green Berets - as I recall it was released around the same time as Eve of Destruction. And I wouldn't really consider Sgt. Barry Sandler a singer/songwriter.

Samwell said...

(Sorry if there's a double post; it didn't seem to go the first time.)

With the metal perspective, I have to nominate Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime... pretty much all rock operas suck--save for JC Superstar. I'm just throwing red meat out there (tho JC really is the bomb).

Keith said...

"Common Man" by The Blasters - about Ronald Reagan.