Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special No Matter Who You Vote For, The Government Always Gets In Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental palm pilot Fah Lo Suee and I are off to...and at this point I was going to write [Insert Penn State/Joe Paterno joke here] except that...well, except that the whole business really isn't funny.

At all.

So -- because things will nonetheless be quiet around here, as is customarily the case, until Monday, here's a fun and hopefully otherwise relevant little project to help us all wile away the idle hours till my return:

Most or Least Fatuous Post-Beatles Politically Themed Pop or Rock Song(s) Ever!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Six is/are:

6. The Butthole Surfers -- The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey Oswald's Grave

These guys were such kidders...

5. Freda Payne -- Bring the Boys Home

A terrific piece of pop/soul with a message that resonated quite powerfully at the height of the Vietnam War, and still does alas. Of course, given that "Band of Gold," Freda's previous hit, had been about her husband's inability to cut the proverbial mustard when it counted, one did have the feeling listening to this one that her pining for the boys' return might be an example of the personal as political. If you know what I mean.

4. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young -- Almost Cut My Hair

Yeah, Dave -- that'll show 'em.

3. John Lennon -- Woman is the Ni-clang of the World

Honorable mention: Patti Smith's "Rock 'n' Roll Ni-clang." Hey -- I'm sure everybody involved with those songs meant well, at least.

2. Graham Nash -- Chicago

Sorry, I can't take a political song that rhymes "change" and "rearrange" seriously. YMMV.

And the Numero Uno Total-Victory-is-Ours-Comrades! ditty of them all simply has to be...

1. Sha Na Na -- The Vote Song

The Nixon reference dates it, obviously, but it's still pretty relevant and pretty funny. Incidentally, while it's true that one of the Sha Na Na gold suit guys has turned into a Teabagger, it was nice to see lead singer Jon "Bowser" Bauman on Tuesday night celebrating the unions win in Ohio.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?


cthulhu said...

Well, being the Who-phile that I am, obviously I'm going to suggest Won't Get Fooled Again in the "least fatuous" category. But you knew that already...

Richard Thompson's 'Dad's Gonna Kill Me is one of the better political songs from this century.

Lots of Tonio K to choose from, but I'll pick Say Goodbye from the "Amerika" disc.

Worst: Oh, what the hell, if I'm going to piss people off, go whole hog - John Lennon's Imagine.

word verification: luiseriz

pete said...

Damn! I sprinted to get in my hatred of "Imagine" only to find ct got there first. My hat is off to you.

But once again I'm gonna paste in an old blog post. Sorry, guys, but it's the only way I can get anyone to read them!

At one of my favorite open-mikes, I heard a woman about my age sing John Lennon's "Imagine" unaccompanied. And even if her tempo had not gotten progressively slower, her face set in a rictus of self-righteousness, hands clasped over her breast as she wrung the last drop of didacticity from the lyrics I would have disliked it, because I just dislike the song.

It's not just that it's a sappy lyric set to a dull, monotonous tune. There is something profoundly dishonest about "Imagine." To begin with, there's the basic hypocrisy of it. Lennon sneers "Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can" at the same time he owns an English manor home, a Long Island manor home, an apartment in the Dakota, and who knows what all else; and you know what he'd have done if we arrived at his door asking him to give them to us. He'd have called the cops.

It's more than just hypocrisy, though. Lennon is positing an egalitarian paradise with "all the people sharing all the world" when he knows that the only way this can be brought about is not for everybody to have everything but for everybody to have only the bare minimum to survive. How does Lennon know this? Because they tried it in England when he was growing up. It didn't work, because it never does.

But Lennon was willing to pander to his audience's desire for some gauzy, undefinable peace on Earth, just so he could make even more pots of money than he had already, despite the fact that the system that gave him those pots of money did so the way it always does, as the reward of his talent, a reward he would never have gotten in the sclerotic society he wants us to "Imagine," because that society might very well have lined the Beatles up against a wall and shot them.

Capitalist society, for all its faults, at least rewards the innovative, the unconventional, and Lennon thus was able to reward himself with a binge of luxury drug-taking that left him an addled shadow of his former self, capable of writing dreck like "Imagine" and believing it so sincerely as he sang it that later on the suckers lined up ten-deep outside the Dakota to sing it after he died, never guessing that when he sang it he must have known it was bullshit. Now that's genius.

Shriner said...

Sheesh -- Bowser is still around? I had no idea...

David Rasmussen said...

Yoko must hate the song, too. She keeps giving it away for fund-raising causes.

"Playing off of John Lennon’s iconic song “IMAGINE”, Hard Rock International has teamed up with Yoko Ono Lennon and WhyHunger in a global campaign to raise awareness and funding for the fight against childhood hunger and poverty. Through December 31st, consumers are invited to participate by sharing via social media, purchasing a limited edition bracelet or merchandise via the Hard Rock Shops and online or texting $10 donations directly to WhyHunger."

ms. rosa said...

I second "Dad"!

The Buttholes were wickedly funny and I'll let them narrow my choices down to Reagan-era ditties:

Fearless Iranians from Hell - Blow Up the Embassy

The Ramones - My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down/Bonzo Goes to Bitburg

Dead Kennedys - California Uber Alles

The Dickies - Stukkas Over Disneyland

And speaking as we are indirectly of riots...
Here's a link to Fear's infamous performance of "Let's Start A War" (or at least a few seconds of it.)on SNL. Fave part: "It's great to be here in New Jersey!".

I miss funny political rock...

steve simels said...

One or two comments on Imagine (Hi, Pete!):

I actually think it's kind of insipid -- Lennon's political side is far better represented by Working Class Hero, IMHO -- but...

To be scrupulously accurate, the song DOESN'T say "Let's have a society without possessions" -- it says "Imagine such a society." Which is a big difference.

I should also add that I'm not sure just which "society might very well have lined the Beatles up against a wall and shot them."

I assume you're referring to some theoretical Stalinist hellhole. But in real life, the last time I checked, the society whose internal security apparat was spying on them and (in Lennon's case trying to get him deported) was the society run by those noted Communists J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon.

Plus "and no religion too" just warms the cockles of my heart.

Still not my favorite Lennon song, though....

steves said...

I confess to having always liked Lennon's "Luck of the Irish" which is also on Sometime in NYC (don't know if the non-US politics are acceptable for this exercise, however). Ditto "Happy Xmas/War Is Over," although I admit throwing up a little in my mouth when I first heard it as that TV ad, "Come Back to Jamaica."

A somewhat guiltier pleasure was Arlo Guthrie's skewering of Nixon in 1974's "Presidential Rag," which, though hopelessly dated, still brings a nostalgic smile to these aging lips whenever I chance to hear to it.

Admittedly, all of the above are pretty rich in their fatuous content. For low-BS choices, I'm going with Elvis's "Shipbuilding" and Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush."

Anonymous said...

Like: Indigo Girls - Faye Tucker, Pink - Dear Mr. President, a load of Steve Earle post-prison

Dislike: My Ayatollah (that really happened, didn't it?

billy b said...

Hell, I like both the CSNY-type tunes. Once again, seems simels and me ain't on the same page. Go figure...

billy b said...

the google doodle is a yellow ribbon tied around the old oak tree. I wonder why that one didn't make the list?


steve simels said...

I should add that I interviewed Bowser at the height of Sha Na Nas pre-TV show fame, and he was the single nicest rock star I ever spent time with.

He was out of drag, looking for all the world like a nice Jewish boy graduate psychology student at NYU, and we had pastrami sandwiches in the conference room at his record company. Totally charming.

He also told me that they, Sha Na Na, used to grease their hair back with KY Jelly. Water soluble, you see...

jackd said...

ms. rosa, thank you. I remember watching that SNL episode on Halloween 1981. My roommates and I were dumbfounded. The screen went black, stayed that way a long time, and finally a commercial came up. No good-night, no closing credits. What the hell just happened? I have always wanted to be able to show it to other people.

And for the Listomania, let's recall Zappa's "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" single from back in the Sheik Yerbouti era. Then let's forget it again.

edward said...

So many songs, so little time.
More votes for Imagine and Dad's Gonna Kill Me.

Oh, and if you like this subject, read this book. A really interesting history of protest/political music and why it so rarely works:

Billy Bragg has plenty to fall in both catagories, but mostly good stuff. Acccident Waiting To Happen, Between the Wars, The Few

Elvis Costello's Oliver's Army is probably the most dancable protest song. Night Rally is always timely.

We'll leave the Clash catalog as an exercise for the reader.

Most fatuous and no one has mentioned Eve of Destruction??

Street Fightin Man anyone?

Jai Guru Dave said...

I never liked Grahan Nash's "Chicago" either; but the B-side "Simple Man" was always a fave of mine. And if his hair was for sale, even now at 60 whatever, I wouldn't even bid; I'd just "Buy it Now"

portly neighbor said...

Jai Guru Dave- I was thinking something along the same lines - At that age I'd love to look like Nash (but I'll probably settle for Crosby).

Rich Sturges said...

The Butthole Surfers song sounds even funnier/more political when played at 33 rpm, which I did for the first two years I had the record.

DEMO said...

Nominees for Least Fatuous:
Randy Newman, Let's Drop the Big One
Phil Ochs, Outside A Small Circle of Friends