Monday, May 22, 2006
Quit calling us squares, you beatniks!
No love for the Nuge?
A reader found a blog that’s reprinted the NRO’s Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs. The deep, deep irony that is the #1 pick is enough to make this one a thigh-slapper.
1. “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who. The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naпve idealism once and for all. “There’s nothing in the streets / Looks any different to me / And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye… Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” The instantly recognizable synthesizer intro, Pete Townshend’s ringing guitar, Keith Moon’s pounding drums, and Roger Daltrey’s wailing vocals make this one of the most explosive rock anthems ever recorded—the best number by a big band, and a classic for conservatives.
The fact that they fall for the “small government” line and continue to elect Republicans who drive up deficits and curtail civil liberties demonstrates that conservatives are in fact easy to fool over and over and over again. Anyone who still trusts Bush after he lied to get us in the Iraq war is demonstrating a depth of gullibility previously unmeasurable by any instruments known to man.
But the choice of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was inevitable. The critical mythology of neo-conservatives is that they were once idealistic leftists and totally cool and could so get laid and knew where to buy the best weed but the tawdry stupidity of liberal beliefs ran them off. The seedy reality is that the only known human being to actually make the legitimate case that this is his life story is P.J. O’Rourke. The rest of them were just Marxists who ran off to be right wingers when they realized the American left wasn’t ever going to embrace Stalinist authoritarianism. All attempts to claim the mantle of pseudo-cool rebellion must be viewed in this light.
3. “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Rolling Stones. Don’t be misled by the title; this song is The Screwtape Letters of rock. The devil is a tempter who leans hard on moral relativism—he will try to make you think that “every cop is a criminal / And all the sinners saints.” What’s more, he is the sinister inspiration for the cruelties of Bolshevism: “I stuck around St. Petersburg / When I saw it was a time for a change / Killed the czar and his ministers / Anastasia screamed in vain.”
The only real question is does this mean that when capitalists kill children, they do it with Jesus’ blessing?
5. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” by The Beach Boys. Pro-abstinence and pro-marriage: “Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true / Baby then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do / We could be married / And then we’d be happy.”
This selection demonstrates the futility of trying to wedge anti-sex views with a fondness for rock and roll. The 60s were a time of smuggling lust under the guise of sweet romance and the band that performed the song “Good Vibrations” can hardly be said to have a Puritanical view of pleasure. They’d have done better with “Little Deuce Coupe”, on the theory that the car probably has shitty gas mileage.
8. “Bodies,” by The Sex Pistols. Violent and vulgar, but also a searing anti-abortion anthem by the quintessential punk band: “It’s not an animal / It’s an abortion.”
They should have just picked “Smack My Bitch Up”, because it conveys the same sort of message but in a much more digestible form.
10. “20th Century Man,” by The Kinks. “You keep all your smart modern writers / Give me William Shakespeare / You keep all your smart modern painters / I’ll take Rembrandt, Titian, da Vinci, and Gainsborough… I was born in a welfare state / Ruled by bureaucracy / Controlled by civil servants / And people dressed in grey / Got no privacy got no liberty / ‘Cause the 20th-century people / Took it all away from me.”
If you’re stubbornly against modernity, then why would you be desperate to prove you like rock music, too?
13. “My City Was Gone,” by The Pretenders. Virtually every conservative knows the bass line, which supplies the theme music for Limbaugh’s radio show. But the lyrics also display a Jane Jacobs sensibility against central planning and a conservative’s dissatisfaction with rapid change: “I went back to Ohio / But my pretty countryside / Had been paved down the middle / By a government that had no pride.”
Ironically, they have a pro-environmental destruction song a couple of notches up. I guess they voted for environmental destruction before they voted against it.
18. “Cult of Personality,” by Living Colour. A hard-rocking critique of state power, whacking Mussolini, Stalin, and even JFK: “I exploit you, still you love me / I tell you one and one makes three / I’m the cult of personality.”
And for some reason, that makes it ideal for people who support a President who’s on a mission to consolidate as much power into the top levels of government as he can.
20. “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash. After 9/11, American radio stations were urged not to play this 1982 song, one of the biggest hits by a seminal punk band, because it was seen as too provocative. Meanwhile, British Forces Broadcasting Service (the radio station for British troops serving in Iraq) has said that this is one of its most requested tunes.
I was going to try very hard to be understanding that anyone putting this list together has to know that he’s engaging in a fool’s errand of cherry-picking certain lyrics and ignoring the rest of the band’s career or the very meaning of the word “context”, but picking a Clash song for a list of “conservative” rock songs is just beyond the pale.
24. “Der Kommissar,” by After the Fire. On the misery of East German life: “Don’t turn around, uh-oh / Der Kommissar’s in town, uh-oh / He’s got the power / And you’re so weak / And your frustration / Will not let you speak.” Also a hit song for Falco, who wrote it.
Picking relentlessly at the Communist Bloc is not the way to endear yourself to the neocon establishment that adores their methods. I’m just saying.
28. “Janie’s Got a Gun,” by Aerosmith. How the right to bear arms can protect women from sexual predators: “What did her daddy do? / It’s Janie’s last I.O.U. / She had to take him down easy / And put a bullet in his brain / She said ‘cause nobody believes me / The man was such a sleaze / He ain’t never gonna be the same.”
If Daddy overdoes it on the male entitlement thing, at least on a regular basis, you get one shot to the head. Thanks, Patriarchy!
32. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by The Georgia Satellites. An outstanding vocal performance, with lyrics that affirm old-time sexual mores: “She said no huggy, no kissy until I get a wedding vow.”
Yes, and he’s irritated. Well, I guess it’s old-fashioned in that women are blamed for everything.
35. “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Written as an anti–Vietnam War song, this tune nevertheless is pessimistic about activism and takes a dim view of both Communism and liberalism: “Five-year plans and new deals, wrapped in golden chains...”
If being annoyed at mealy-mouthed liberals who won’t push harder for progressive goals makes you a conservative, I’m a conservative. Who knew? I want my check from a think tank now.
40. “Wake Up Little Susie,” by The Everly Brothers. A smash hit in 1957, back when high-school social pressures were rather different from what they have become: “We fell asleep, our goose is cooked, our reputation is shot.”
If your reaction to a song about kids losing their reputations unfairly because no one can adhere to impossible standards is longing for that world’s return, you are a sadist.
50. “Stand By Your Man,” by Tammy Wynette.
Needless to say, this indicates they couldn’t come up with 50 rock songs. What, Ted Nugent didn’t have a single song they felt comfortable cramming in as filler?
So, here’s the idea that we were working with at Pandagon--try to come up with your own rock songs that are most definitely not politically conservative but under great duress could be read that way. One of my suggestions from comments was “The KKK Took My Baby Away”, because while it’s not approving of the right, they do basically win the girl in the song.
I find it interesting that a lot of these songs on here are anti-choice and anti-divorce. Apparently there’s a great deal of sentiment on the right that the law is obligated to make it very hard for women to run off and leave them for Fabio. Who knew?