Sunday, June 18, 2006

Rock with a capital W

GOP 'Top 50'? More like 'Top 30 plus wishful thinking'!

John J. Miller at National Review has compiled a list of the top 50 conservative rock songs, fancifully titled, "Rockin' the Right."

My first thought upon reading this list was, "Did they really find 50?" Considering Miller's bizarre criteria, however, I guess I shouldn't be too shocked:

What makes a great conservative rock song? The lyrics must convey a conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values. And, to be sure, it must be a great rock song. We’re biased in favor of songs that are already popular, but have tossed in a few little-known gems. In several cases, the musicians are outspoken liberals.

So, basically, conservativism can be defined as a distrust of authority, a love for a mean guitar lick and appreciation for the message put forth by liberals! Who knew?

Miller's selection process, augmented by reader input, centers largely on face-value interpretation of titles and selective quoting of lyrics. But that isn't to suggest that several of the songs are misplaced. Disclaimer: I like virtually every song on this list that I've heard, even the right-wing ones, and mean nothing against fans thereof. For purposes of this discussion, I'm going strictly on political content. With that in mind, here are the songs that make perfect sense:

Won’t Get Fooled Again--The Who
Though the lyrics ("Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss") could be interpreted as a pro-Green anthem just as easily as a Republican one, this song belongs on this list for its title alone. After all, George W. Bush is known to utter variations of this song's title when garbling simple proverbs.

Wouldn't It Be Nice--The Beach Boys
A classic ode to every Christian kid's yearning to wait until marriage to hold hands, written by a totally neurotic anti-Semite who married a Jew and then considered sleeping with her sister. Still, in spite of these weaknesses, Brian Wilson may be the least Republican Beach Boy. And I still like him.

20th Century Man--The Kinks
If a song mentions welfare, it must be Republican. Also, note the nostalgic factor for living in past centuries.

The Trees--Rush
A song about cutting down trees, by a band named Rush. A shoo-in. Another Rush song making the list is Red Barchetta, a defiant song about driving a gas-guzzling speedster. Man, I used to like Rush!

Bodies--The Sex Pistols
Does this mean the GOP is embracing a band who performed "Anarchy in the UK"? Well, the song does mention abortion, so it's Republican by default.

Stay Together for the Kids--Blink 182
Celebrated for what has to be the single worst piece of advice ever uttered to contentious parents. Everything I expect from the "family values" crowd.

Presents the flip-side of the divorce equation, that a kid's pain over parental separation would be worse than any future loose screws they'll incur over time because the parents stayed in a hellish relationship.

Small Town--John Mellencamp
I'll give Miller this one, even if he does omit Mellencamp's teeth-clenching delivery and the telling lyric, "My job is so small town / Provides little opportunity."

Wake Up Little Susie--Everly Brothers
A nod to the days when staying out too late with your girlfriend was seen as a bad thing. Ah, the good old days! Gee, I wish I was there (and square) right now!

Two Sisters--The Kinks
Because singlehood is hellish and unworthy of a human being.

A Hannity-worthy racial rant from the shlockiest Christian-rock band. Definitely a ripe choice.

Sweet Home Alabama--Lynyrd Skynyrd
A catchy, upbeat song with a very ugly subtext? That's about as Republican as it gets!

Finally, what is a list of conservative songs without a trimester's worth of pro-baby balladry?

You Can't Be Too Strong--Graham Parker
Makes the list for the radically Republican message that abortions hurt. And here I thought they were good, clean fun.

Brick--Ben Folds Five
Miller notes that this song concerns abortion. Still, being that the song is relatively subtle about the issue, I can't totally vouch for its having sprung from a Republican mind. A truly GOP song about abortion would have lyrics like, "Abortion is gross and evil / Don't stab your kid's brain / Had to be a slut, didn't you? / You deserve all your pain."

Abortion--Kid Rock
Now that's what I'm talking about!

Naturally, some songs need no explanation for GOP cred:

Sympathy for the Devil--The Rolling Stones
Neighborhood Bully--Bob Dylan
Don't Tread on Me--Metallica
I Fought the Law--The Crickets
Get Over It--The Eagles
Capitalism--Oingo Boingo
Janie's Got a Gun--Aerosmith
You Can't Always Get What You Want--Rolling Stones
The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down--The Band
I Can't Drive 55--Sammy Hagar
Property Line--The Marshall Tucker Band
Everybody's a Victim--The Proclaimers
Taxman, Mr. Thief--Cheap Trick
Government Cheese--The Rainmakers
Why Don't You Get a Job?--The Offspring

And now, presenting the inclusions on Miller's list that make about as much sense as Reaganomics:

Taxman--The Beatles
One of two songs on this list with "Taxman" in the title (the other one being mentioned above), this is an interesting choice, considering how the tax burden has shifted under the Bush administration. "Taxman" is a textbook example of how skewed guidelines serve to make the song Republican: because, obviously, liberals want to tax everything on God's green Earth. Anyway, weren't the Beatles (or most of them) not about this kind of stuff?

Damn. Is my favorite U2 song really on here? Of course, because any song about religion has to be Republican, because liberals don't believe in God. Listen, John: the song is by Bono, and even you concede that the song isn't necessarily conservative. Huh?

Revolution--The Beatles
Is this about the Nike ad? Because it certainly isn't about the severely butchered lyric Miller cites: “You say you want a revolution / Well you know / We all want to change the world . . . Don’t you know you can count me out?” He left out the part about destruction and giving money to bigots. In any case, John Lennon's call to not be like Chairman Mao is not exactly a ringing endorsement of conservatism.

My City Was Gone--The Pretenders
Miller perversely inteprets gentrification and urban sprawl as GOP bugaboos, when in fact most Republicans consider that sort of thing good old Capitalism.

Right Here, Right Now--Jesus Jones
Could be Republican, considering that the song is about the end of Communism and that its lead singer shares the name of the honorary head of the GOP. But the song could just as easily be about the end of Reaganomics, the Gulf War and the recession.

Cult of Personality--Living Colour
Every time I listen to Living Colour, I ask myself why more bands can't pull off social activism so smoothly. Was I this wrong about them? I doubt it; even though the song name-checks JFK, Mussolini, Stalin and Gandhi, it could just as easily as refer to today's leaders.

Kicks--Paul Revere and the Raiders
Because only conservatives Just Say No to drugs.

Rock the Casbah--The Clash
Miller doesn't even make an argument for this being a conservative song, aside from its popularity among British troops. That says more about Miller's ignorance of foreign political climates than it does about the song's ideology.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner--Iron Maiden
Does any type of song fit conservatism less than a metal ballad based on literature?

Keep Your Hands to Yourself--Georgia Satellites
Miller praises the lyrical delivery of this song. I like it too, though I fail to see how the vocalist's snide citation of his lover's words is in any way a celebration of what she said.

Godzilla-Blue Oyster Cult
A song about the horrors of human invention, such as nukes? Makes me wonder if conservatives are seeing the increasing destruction of the Earth as a good thing.

Who'll Stop the Rain--Creedence Clearwater Revival
An anti-Vietnam ballad with a tinge of progressive powerlessness. Yeah, this really belongs here!

Stand By Your Man--Tammy Wynette
An ironic choice indeed, considering that Hillary Clinton stood by her man while most prominent GOP politicians are divorced several times over. But I suppose the "be a good wife" subtext cancels that out.

There, I've simplified the list! Now Miller has plenty of slots to fill with Lawrence Welk, Ted Nugent and that crappy band who did "Bush Was Right."


Nick said...

That's a pretty crappy list. Obviously the parties responsible for that list had no clue what the hell they were doing.

V'ron said...

Not to mention that a good portion of the artists on that list have been fighting the right wing for a good portion of their careers.

You know what this reminds me of? When the right wing tried to co-opt Springsteen's "Born In the USA" as a jingoistic rah-rah song for Republican Values. Did anybody bother to read the lyric sheet? Did anybody bother to ask Springsteen himself? Jesus.

Ian McGibboney said...

Thr right-wing co-opting of "Born in the USA" wasn't a simple misunderstanding. That's like holding up Daily Kos as a celebration of Republicanism, or driving Ralph Nader around in your new Chevy Cobalt.

On some righty-blog thread, someone asked why "Don't Worry, Be Happy" was not on the list. It probably had to do with the fact that the song is actually a highly ironic ode to the troubles of the late 1980s. Bobby McFerrin is God.

Newspaper Hack said...

I guess they forget that "Small Town" was an anthem for John Edwards, and that Mellencamp played at the '04 DNC. And "Right Here, Right Now" was about the spread of democracy and average people gaining power. Nothing says "GOP" like taking power from the common man and giving it to a wealthy dude (see: killing the minimum wage bill, cutting the estate tax).