Sunday, February 22, 2009

Political Songs For The Dying West

The Secret Museum
Michael Mooney & Jim Webb

Sing to Me of War

Anarchy! Go apeshit
Let them know you're sick of it
Write your congressman, tell him he sucks
He's only in it for the bucks

Anarchy burger!
Hold the government
Anarchy burger!
Hold the government

-The Vandals

Inspired by recent reportage at the Horse Fly, Jim and I decided to list some notable political songs. Turns out there are way too many of them, though not enough on a local level (how could there be?), so we’re going with a double LPs-worth of more or less idiosyncratic protest songs. Everybody sing along.

1. Summertime Blues- Eddie Cochran (1958)
Creepily subdued (cheerful even, and more effective for it), teen impotence and Rock
and Roll rage begin here.

2. Dead End Street- The Kinks (1966)
Lou Reed’s favorite Kinks song, it reached #5 in the UK. No chance of doing the same
in the USA. This is why:

There's a crack up in the ceiling,
And the kitchen sink is leaking.
Out of work and got no money,
A Sunday joint of bread and honey.

What are we living for?
Two-roomed apartment on the second floor.
No money coming in,
The rent collector's knocking, trying to get in.

We are strictly second class,
We don't understand,
Why we should be on dead end street.
People are living on dead end street.
Gonna die on dead end street.

On a cold and frosty morning,
Wipe my eyes and stop me yawning.
And my feet are nearly frozen,
Boil the tea and put some toast on.

What are we living for?
Two-roomed apartment on the second floor.
No chance to emigrate,
I'm deep in debt and now it's much too late.

We both want to work so hard,
We can't get the chance,
(Dead end!)
People live on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
People are dying on dead end street.
(Dead end!)
Gonna die on dead end street.

Dead end street (yeah)
Head to my feet (yeah)
Dead end street (yeah)
Dead end street (yeah)
Dead end street (yeah)
How's it feel?
How's it feel?

3. Monster- Steppenwolf (1969)
John Kay’s history of America in 9 minutes, 16 seconds:

We don't know how to mind our own business,
'cause the whole world's got to be just like us.
Now we are fighting a war over there.
No matter who's the winner, we can't pay the cost.
'Cause there's a monster on the loose,
it's got our heads into the noose (sic).
And it just sits there... watching."

4. Won’t Get Fooled Again- The Who (1971)

5. Feel Like A Number- Bob Seger (1978)
Bob doesn’t like being numerated. Neither do I.

6. Clampdown- The Clash (1979)

7. Big A Little A- Crass (1980)
A reasonably catchy “Introduction to Anarchism” via Religion, Royalty and Margaret
Thatcher. Sung by Steve Ignorant, it goes like this:

Big A, little A, bouncing B
The system might have got you but it won't get me

External control are you gonna let them get you?
Do you wanna be a prisoner in the boundaries they set you?
You say you want to be yourself, by christ do you think they'll let you?
They're out to get you get you get you get you get you get you get you

Hello, hello, hello, this is the Lord God, can you hear?
Hellfire and damnation's what I've got for you down there
On earth I have ambassadors, archbishop, vicar, pope
We'll blind you with morality, you'd best abandon any hope,
We're telling you you'd better pray cos you were born in sin
Right from the start we'll build a cell and then we'll lock you in
We sit in holy judgement condemning those that stray
We offer our forgiveness, but first we'll make you pay

External control…

Hello, hello, hello, now here's a message from your queen
As figurehead of the status quo I set the social scene
I'm most concerned about my people, I want to give them peace
So I'm making sure they stay in line with my army and police
My prisons and my mental homes have ever open doors
For those amongst my subjects who dare to ask for more
Unruliness and disrespect are things I can't allow
So I'll see the peasants grovel if they refuse to bow

External control…

Introducing the Prime Sinister, she's a mother to us all
Like the dutch boy's finger in the dyke her arse is in the wall
Holding back the future waiting for the seas to part
If Moses did it with is faith, she'll do it with an army
Who at times of threatened crisis are certain to be there
Guarding national heritage no matter what or where
Palaces for kings and queens, mansions for the rich
Protection for the wealthy, defence of privilege
They've learnt the ropes In Ireland, engaged in civil war
Fighting for the ruling classes in their battle against the poor
So Ireland's just an island? It's an island of the mind
Great Britain? Future? Bollocks, you'd better look behind
Round every other corner stands P.C. 1984
Guardian of the future, he'll implement the law
He's there as a grim reminder that no matter what you do
Big brothers system's always there with his beady eyes on you
From God to local bobby, in home and street and school
They've got your name and number while you've just got their rule
We've got to look for methods to undermine those powers
It's time to change the tables. The future must be ours

Big A, little A, bouncing B
The system might have got you but it won't get me

Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do
I am he and she is she but you're the only you
No one else has got your eyes, can see the things you see
It's up to you to change your life and my life's up to me
The problems that you suffer from are problems that you make
The shit we have to climb through is the shit we choose to take
If you don't like the life you live, change it now it's yours
Nothing has effects if you don't recognise the cause
If the programme's not the one you want, get up, turn off the set
It's only you that can decide what life you're gonna get
If you don't like religion you can be the antichrist
If your tired of politics you can be an anarchist
But no one ever changed the church by pulling down a steeple
And you'll never change the system by bombing number ten
Systems just aren't made of bricks they're mostly made of people
You may send them into hiding, but they'll be back again
If you don't like the rules they make, refuse to play their game
If you don't want to be a number, don't give them your name
If you don't want to be caught out, refuse to hear their question
Silence is a virtue, use it for your own protection
They'll try to make you play their game, refuse to show your face
If you don't want to be beaten down, refuse to join their race
Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do
I am he and she is she but you're the only you

8. This Ain’t No Picnic- Minutemen (1984)
D. Boon feels like a number:

Working on the edge
losing my self-respect
for a man who presides over me
the principles of his creed
punch in punch out
8 hours 5 days a week
sweat pain and agony
on Friday I'll get paid

Hey mister don't look down on me
for what I believe in-
I got my bills and the rent
I should go pitch a tent
but our land is not free
so I'll work my youth away
in the place of a machine

I refuse to be a slave

This ain’t no picnic!

-Michael Mooney (#A07187)

1. Sixteen Tons- Tennessee Ernie Ford
This classic 1955 Number One tells of a coal miner’s (and all workers in general) fate;
you try to scratch out an honest living, but no matter how hard you work, you still wind
up in debt to someone. I dedicate this song to all the Taos County miners who lost their
jobs- I hope they find new work quickly.

You load sixteen tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper and debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me, ‘cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store.

2. Rain on the Scarecrow- John Mellencamp
As far as I’m concerned this is easily Mellencamp’s best song. A tune about small,
independent American farmers and the difficulties they have in surviving in today’s
world. Why does our Government constantly bail out the The Banks and other financial
institutions in dire straits of their own making, while thousands of ordinary people
simply get crushed (through no fault of their own) and lose everything? Written in
1985, this song is even more relevant today.

Scarecrow on a wooden cross, blackbird in the barn
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
I grew up like my daddy did, my grandpa cleared this land
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand

Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
This land fed a nation, this land made me proud
And son, Im just sorry theres no legacy for you now
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow

The crops we grew last summer weren’t enough to pay the loans
Couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the farmers bank foreclosed
Called my old friend Schepman up to auction off the land
He said, “John its just my job and I hope you understand”
Hey, calling it your job, ol’ hoss, sure don’t make it right
But if you want me to, Ill say a prayer for your soul tonight
And Grandma’s on the front porch swing with a Bible in her hand
Sometimes I hear her singing Take Me To The Promised Land
When you take away a man’s dignity he can’t work his fields and cows

Well theres ninety-seven crosses planted in the courthouse yard
Ninety-seven families who lost ninety-seven farms
I think about my grandpa and my neighbors and my name
And some nights I feel like dyin’ like that scarecrow in the rain

3. No Human Rights for Arabs in Israel- Muslimgauze
Muslimgauze was the musical brainchild of a British-born white male named Bryn
Jones. All of Jones’ hundred plus releases dealt with Arab causes, and specifically
the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. He became a fervent anti-zionist after Israel’s
1982 invasion of Lebanon and was a tireless supporter of the Palestinian cause. This
song from a 1995 release contains Middle Eastern percussion with
electronic/ambient pulses and occasional have snippets of Arabic dialogue drifting
throughout. Jones died in 1999 at age 37 of a rare blood disease.

4. Black Cloud of Islam- Roy Harper
Written in 1989 by legendary U.K. singer/songwriter Harper (close friend of
Pink Floyd & Led Zeppelin, among others). Roy explains that it’s a rant against
organized religion and those who would use God’s name to justify violence, though
the song’s considerably more pointed than that.

I'm sick to the teeth of the news on the screen
of Hezbollah scum and jihad the obscene
whose men plant the bombs and then live feeling free
to watch women and children be killed on T.V.

Which Satan delivers a child a death curse
in the name of a worn out collection of verse
I've not read the book so I cannot recite
but I'd bet Salman Rushdie is just about right
underneath the black cloud of Islam

What kind of publicity needs so much blood
that's not for some sad diabolical god
selling himself as a two-bit Macbeth
as the expect in sentencing cousins to death
and what kind of god can this be anyway
that you have to prostrate to him five times a day
with hate in your heart and a gun in your hand
is force the only thing to understand
underneath the black cloud of Islam?

And the butchers who've got all this blood on their hands
are the ones who need god to be stood where he stands
blessing this kidnapping, murder and war
with books written hundreds of ages before

and woman in veils walking paces behind
doesn't sit easy in my mind
it speaks of oppression and no other choice
that rigid compliance with the loudest voice
underneath the black cloud of Islam

You can put a lead bullet clean through this guitar
'cos I'm not overjoyed with the story so far
sharing a world with the nutters of god
is as good as being six feet under the sod

Words that are written are all here to say
and these are the latest there are anyway
and I am the prophet so don't believe me
I'm the same as the old ones expect that I'm free
to give you a piece of my mind which is this
you're the worst of Jehovah’s blind witlessnesses
with your feet in the door of the deepest abyss
which is underneath the black cloud of Islam

5. Rich Man’s War- Steve Earle
It’s difficult to choose just one from Mr. Earle, but this is my favorite track from his 2004 release The Revolution Starts Now. This song begs the question- Would George Bush have sent either of his two young daughters to fight in Iraq?

Jimmy joined the army ‘cause he had no place to go
There ain’t nobody hirin’
‘round here since all the jobs went down to Mexico
Reckoned that he’d learn himself a trade maybe see the world
Move to the city someday and marry a black haired girl
Somebody somewhere had another plan
Now he’s got a rifle in his hand
Rollin’ into Baghdad wonderin’ how he got this far
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

Bobby had an eagle and a flag tattooed on his arm
Red white and blue to the bone when he landed in Kandahar
Left behind a pretty young wife and a baby girl
A stack of overdue bills and went off to save the world
Been a year now and he’s still there
Chasin’ ghosts in the thin dry air
Meanwhile back at home the finance company took his car
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

When will we ever learn
When will we ever see
We stand up and take our turn
And keep tellin’ ourselves we’re free

Ali was the second son of a second son
Grew up in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks when the tanks would come
Ain’t nothin’ else to do around here just a game children play
Somethin’ ‘bout livin’ in fear all your life makes you hard that way

He answered when he got the call
Wrapped himself in death and praised Allah
A fat man in a new Mercedes drove him to the door
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

6. War- Bob Marley & The Wailers

The lyrics came from a speech that Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie gave before the U.N. General Assembly in 1963.

Until the philosophy which holds one race superior
And another inferior is finally and permanently
discredited and abandoned -

Everywhere is war -
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes -
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race -
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained -
Now everywhere is war - war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola, In Mozambique, South Africa
Sub-human bondage have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed -
Well, everywhere is war -
Me say war.

War in the east, War in the west,
War up north, War down south -
War - war - Rumors of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
will not know peace,
We Africans will fight - we find it necessary -
And we know we shall win
as we are confident
in the victory

7. Beds Are Burning- Midnight Oil
A passionate song about the native Aboriginal tribes of Australia, and how they were forcibly moved off their ancestral lands and relocated. Seems like a common solution used around the world when Das Kapitalists need more space.

Out where the river broke
The bloodwood and the desert oak
Holden wrecks and boiling diesels
Steam in forty five degrees

The time has come to say fair's fair
To pay the rent, To pay our share
The time has come, A fact's a fact
It belongs to them, Let's give it back

Four wheels scare the cockatoos
From Kintore East to Yuendemu
The western desert lives and breathes
In forty five degrees

How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning
How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning

8. Armalite Rifle- Gang of Four

U.K. band from Leeds in 1978 unleashes an anti-gun diatribe against both the police and the I.R.A. Ties in nicely with America’s current ongoing battles between hunters/ gun enthusiasts vs. citizens against semi/automatic weapons. The I.R.A. labeled its favorite gun “The Widowmaker”.

Armalite rifle- police and IRA
Armalite rifle- use it everyday
Breaks down easy, fits into a pram
A child can carry, it do it no harm
Armalite rifle and the holy trinity
It’s used against you for Irish jokes and the BBC
Armalite rifle- please skew the aim
Armalite rifle- use it everyday
The rifle does harm, it shoots for miles
If a bullet gets you in the heart, destroys your insides
Armalite rifle- police duty eh?
Armalite rifle- use it everyday
It’ll do you damage, it’ll do you harm
Blow your legs off, blow your guts out
I disapprove of it, so does Dave
It’ll do you damage, it’ll do you damage
Damage damage damage damage damage

Next time- our favorite Bubblegum Songs.
-Jim Webb

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