May 26th, 2006

You say you don’t want a revolution

In case you missed it, here’s John J. Miller’s list of the fifty greatest conservative rock songs (and here’s a NY Times article about the list).

“Conservative rock songs”–sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? And I have to admit that some of the tunes on Miller’s list do represent a bit of a stretch. Witness the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which is less a conservative song than one describing a more culturally and socially conservative time, the era in which it was composed and performed (ah yes, I remember it well). Mellencamp’s “Small Town” doesn’t seem especially conservative, either, so much as populist or non-elitist. And one could probably criticize many of the other choices, as well.

One song I particularly remember in context was the Beatles’s “Revolution.” Here are the lyrics:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
Ah

ah, ah, ah, ah, ah…

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
all right, all right, all right

It’s a song that appears to come more from a pacifist than a conservative viewpoint, and this impression was solidified when I looked up some background to the song, here: Written in 1968, it:

…was the first overtly political Beatles song. It was John Lennon’s response to the Vietnam War. John Lennon wrote this in India while The Beatles were at a transcendental meditation camp with The Maharishi. The original slow version appears on The White Album. The fast, loud version was released as a single. In the slow version, Lennon says “count me in” as well as “count me out” when referring to violence. This gives the song a dual meaning.

An ambivalence that is not exactly surprising, given the times. But the lyrics as written were considered fairly hard-hitting when they came out, and were a pretty bold slap in the face of many of the Beatles’s college-age fans, who fancified themselves revolutionaries, as so many did in the 60s.

So I guess it qualifies as at least a partly conservative song after all, one that’s stood the test of time. Yes, good old Chairman Mao; the test of time has been less kind to him (except, perhaps, in China itself):

In the epilogue to her biography of Mao Tse-tung, Jung Chang and her husband and cowriter Jon Halliday lament that, “Today, Mao’s portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital.” For Chang, author of Wild Swans, this fact is an affront, not just to history, but to decency. Mao: The Unknown Story does not contain a formal dedication, but it is clear that Chang is writing to honor the millions of Chinese who fell victim to Mao’s drive for absolute power in his 50-plus-year struggle to dominate China and the 20th-century political landscape. From the outset, Chang and Halliday are determined to shatter the “myth” of Mao, and they succeed with the force, not just of moral outrage, but of facts. The result is a book, more indictment than portrait, that paints Mao as a brutal totalitarian, a thug, who unleashed Stalin-like purges of millions with relish and without compunction, all for his personal gain. Through the authors’ unrelenting lens even his would-be heroism as the leader of the Long March and father of modern China is exposed as reckless opportunism, subjecting his charges to months of unnecessary hardship in order to maintain the upper hand over his rival, Chang Kuo-tao, an experienced military commander.

Using exhaustive research in archives all over the world, Chang and Halliday recast Mao’s ascent to power and subsequent grip on China in the context of global events. Sino-Soviet relations, the strengths and weakness of Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese invasion of China, World War II, the Korean War, the disastrous Great Leap Forward, the vicious Cultural Revolution, the Vietnam War, Nixon’s visit, and the constant, unending purges all, understandably, provide the backdrop for Mao’s unscrupulous but invincible political maneuverings and betrayals. No one escaped unharmed. Rivals, families, peasants, city dwellers, soldiers, and lifelong allies such as Chou En-lai were all sacrificed to Mao’s ambition and paranoia. Appropriately, the authors’ consciences are appalled. Their biggest fear is that Mao will escape the global condemnation and infamy he deserves. Their astonishing book will go a long way to ensure that the pendulum of history will adjust itself accordingly.

18 Responses to “You say you don’t want a revolution”

  1. neoneoconned Says:

    1980…..as is this

    PAY YOUR RATES

    Pay your rates
    Pay your water rates
    Pay your rates
    Pay your water rates

    If your rates too high
    Write a snotty letter
    If your rates too high
    Put your life on this bit of paper

    Advice on rates
    Advice on rates

    Pay your rates
    Pay your water rates
    Pay your rates
    Pay your water rates

    If your rates too high
    You’d better sign this letter
    If you don’t pay your rates
    You’re gonna end up here

    Or end up on debtors’ retreat estate
    Or debtors’ retreat escape
    Debtors’ escape estate

    Debtors’ escape
    Debtors’ retreat escape
    Debtors’ retreat estate
    Neuroticred landscape
    A socialist state invention
    The old government bones working

    [Legendary Chaos tape:
    Let's hear it for the working class traitors
    Hello Warren Mitchell]

    Debtors’ escape estate
    Debtors’ retreat estate
    A no-motivation estate
    Debtors’ escape estate

    Pay the borough
    Pay the borough
    Pay your rates
    Pay pretty sharp
    Pay the borough
    Pay the borough
    Pay the borough

    Pay your rates
    Pay your water rates
    Pay your rates
    Pay your rates

    old mark e smith never liked trendie lefties – hated the beatles with a passion and thought hippies were a bunch of middle class weaklings who ought to get a proper job. The Fall are still going although he has a record as an employer that would match some ofthe worst hire and fire bandit capitalist…….

    you would think i would hate it ….but it is very good…and you never know what he is going to come up with next

  2. neoneoconned Says:

    no its the fall….i love this band have done for nearly 30 years…but god he has his head up his ass

    read this

    ENGLISH SCHEME

    O’er grassy dale, and lowland scene
    Come see, come hear, the English Scheme.
    The lower-class, want brass, bad chests, scrounge fags.
    The clever ones tend to emigrate
    Like your psychotic big brother, who left home
    For jobs in Holland, Munich, Rome
    He’s thick but he struck it rich, switch
    The commune crap, camp bop, middle-class, flip-flop
    Guess that’s why they end up in bands
    He’s the green piece in us all
    He’s the creep-creep in us all
    Condescends to black men
    Very nice to them
    They talk of Chile while driving through Haslingden
    You got sixty hour weeks, and stone stone toilet back-gardens
    Peter Cook’s jokes, bad dope, check shirts, lousy groups
    Point their fingers at America
    Down pokey quaint streets in Cambridge
    Cycles our distant spastic heritage
    Its a gay red, roundhead, army career, grim head
    If we was smart we’d emigrate


    1982 i think

  3. Ymarsakar Says:

    Best Conservative Song (Jacksonian, perhaps) is obviously March of Cambreadth.

    How many of them can we make die?

  4. Unionsbuerger Says:

    we want a leitkulturevolution

    http://www.leitkulturevolution.de

  5. douglas Says:

    cmon, best comservative song- easy one: Taxman, Beatles.

  6. douglas Says:

    It’s also interesting to note that Lennon may have donated money to support the IRA…

  7. confusedforeigner Says:

    Conned,

    Agree with you about Lennon. I loathed the Beatles and am repulsed to this day by McCartney as much as I was by the mean spirited nasty individual that Lennon was.

    As far as the divorce goes though, she hasn’t got a leg to stand on. :-)

    The jury is out on strummer.

  8. neoneoconned Says:

    …and neo…if you listen to revolution ….the words clearly say you can count me out in.

    John Lennon was the archetype of the posturing rich lefties you spend so much time despising.Look at the New York album if nothing else.

    I am prepared to believe that all rock stars are conservatives – a bunch of rich dull people. Bono! ha. how boring and silly do you want to get. The Sex Pistols – rubbish, south of England punk as radical as McDonalds, and about as satisfying.

    However. They all mouthed left wing ideas because they knew the spirit of the time would not let them do much else. It does not make the arguments much more right or wrong and it is surely one of the more desperate bits of scrabbling around for support that you lot have engaged in. but not much more than most days – any post in a storm eh neo.

    Lynard Skynard were a bunch of fine musicians who just happened to be a tad racist. If you agree with their political opiions i will have endless fun passing skynard quotes across.

    Who cares what a bunch of coke snorting rich self-obsessed people say. that isn’t the real world. For someone who professes to despise the MSM (pah! how silly is this whole thing) you seem to spend an awful lot of time worrying about it neo. McCartneys divorce, American wahteveritis called and now this. Turn the tv off and start thinking about the real world -not the version the MSM give you.

    best radical song ever – Chicken in Black – Johnny Cash

    Best right wing song ever

    Pay your rates – the Fall

    or The English Scheme – The FAll

    that guy was a neo con before you even thought of it.

    and yrdwnkr if we are on about music you remind me of the charater in Big Black’s song Kerosene – go find it. you wil love it – promise :-)

  9. Jack Trainor Says:

    What happened was, my side won the culture war, in the sense that rock and related music is the dominant musical form, not only in the U.S. but around the world…
    –Dave Marsh

    elmondo — I’ve read a fair amount of Dave Marsh and I don’t think this is snide or condescending. It’s just accurate.

    The good news, though, is that people–even young people–don’t take rock all that seriously anymore. Bruce Springsteen and Michael Stipe were openly touring against Bush in 2004 to little effect. I can’t find the Stipe quote now, but I remember him being mystified that fans came to the concerts but seem to have little interest in the message he and Springsteen were peddling.

    Similarly, MTV’s Rock the Vote! has been going since 1990 with little impact.

  10. Jack Trainor Says:

    I was surprised not to see “Silent Running” by Mike and the Mechanics on that list.

    It’s a scifi kind of song about a society that has been taken over by a superior, sinister force. The father is with the resistance and leaves instructions to his wife to take care of the kids, pray to God, and bide time until they can rise to fight again. It’s the antithesis of Lennon’s “Imagine.”

    Take the children and yourself
    And hide out in the cellar
    By now the fighting will be close at hand
    Don’t believe the church and state
    And everything they tell you
    Believe in me, I’m with the high command

    There’s a gun and ammunition
    Just inside the doorway
    Use it only in emergency
    Better you should pray to God
    The Father and the Spirit
    Will guide you and protect from up here

    Swear allegiance to the flag
    Whatever flag they offer
    Never hint at what you really feel
    Teach the children quietly
    For some day sons and daughters
    Will rise up and fight while we stood still

    Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
    Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
    Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
    Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?

  11. Elmondohummus Says:

    Oooof… ouch… (cringe)… They put Mellencamp on the list? Yow…

    My reaction isn’t disagreement. It’s simply that I’m pretty sure Mellencamp himself would react rather poorly to being linked in any way, shape, or form with “conservatives”; he’s pretty much in the mold of Bruce Springsteen, maybe just a hair sharper in his opinions. Yes, I know the list isn’t trying to say that he’s conservative, it’s just rendering judgement on one of his songs, but still… if the myths around here in Bloomington are to be believed (now you all know where I live), his ability to fly off the handle is supposed to be legendary.

    To be fair, those are all 3rd hand accounts, and I have no personal experience in that regard (just for fun, I’m only 3 degrees of separation from him, but no, I haven’t met him personally :) ).

    And back to the list:
    “Any claim that rock is fundamentally revolutionary is just kind of silly,” he said. “It’s so mainstream that it puts them” — liberals — “in the position of saying that at no time has there ever been a rock song that expressed a sentiment that conservatives can appreciate. And that’s just silly.”

    Um… isn’t there a difference between saying a song “…(expresses) a sentiment that conservatives can appreciate”, and outright calling it conservative? One’s a shade of distinction, the other is a broad stroke, painting the entire object in question. Yes, I know he’s only having fun and being superficial — I mean, c’mon! I don’t care what anyone else says, someone who puts the label “conservative” on anything by the Beatles, the Stones, or The Who has definitely got to be tongue-in-cheek about it — but still, regardless of any fun or superficiality, there’s a gap between what he said and calling something a “conservative song”. He’s being a bit sloppy in his arguments.

    I’m not taking offense at all of this; I’m a conservative myself, after all. It’s just that I’m amazed at the chutpaz he’s showing in making this list. There’s no way some songwriter with a song on the list isn’t going to react poorly to his/her song being listed, even if it is all in fun. On the other hand, why bother? Putting aside the fact that this is all in fun, is it really necessary to inject political views into rock? As Ann Althouse said in her own post on this topic, the list more of a Rorschach test of the reader than anything else (link).

    Or is that the point?

    ‘Nother thought:
    Dave Marsh, the longtime rock critic and avowed lefty, saw it as a desperate effort by the right to co-opt popular culture. “What happened was, my side won the culture war, in the sense that rock and related music is the dominant musical form, not only in the U.S. but around the world…”

    Wow… that’s pretty snide, and condescending besides, don’t'cha think?

  12. Sigmund, Carl and Alfred Says:

    One more thing- See this:

    http://www.tednugent.com/

    Ymaskar, you’re a freakin’ encyclopedia!

  13. Sigmund, Carl and Alfred Says:

    Ted Nugent. How could you have missed Ted Nugent!

    Great Gonzos is a ‘best of’ album.

    Here’s his National Review interview:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/kudlow/kudlow051702.asp

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    The link is now fixed.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    oh great, blogger won’t show the comments on the regular page, only the post-comment page.

    Something wicked this way comes

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    Using exhaustive research in archives all over the world, Chang and Halliday recast Mao’s ascent to power and subsequent grip on China in the context of global events. Sino-Soviet relations, the strengths and weakness of Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese invasion of China, World War II, the Korean War, the disastrous Great Leap Forward, the vicious Cultural Revolution, the Vietnam War, Nixon’s visit, and the constant, unending purges all, understandably, provide the backdrop for Mao’s unscrupulous but invincible political maneuverings and betrayals. No one escaped unharmed. Rivals, families, peasants, city dwellers, soldiers, and lifelong allies such as Chou En-lai were all sacrificed to Mao’s ambition and paranoia. Appropriately, the authors’ consciences are appalled.

    People who read my comments here, may remember that I wrote about what the Japanese term “genkai” and what the West knows mostly as “Rate of Fire”. The Japanese word is much more rich and appropriate, because it applies to people instead of just firearms and inanimate objects.

    One thing I said in relation to this, is that propaganda and psychological warfare is MORE destructive than Weapons of Mass Destruction. Why? Well, simply because the genkai on WMDs is much lower than that on propaganda.

    And we see it now. If you killed as many people with WMDs as Mao killed with purges, you could never be as popular as Mao. But because Mao killed using propaganda as a tool, Mao is loved for his killing. The limits are higher, because propaganda can be repeated over and over, while WMDs can perhaps be used only twice in a hundred years.

    Human nature is pretty consistent. Intimidation is very effective because human nature is so consistent.

    So in the end, propaganda is much more dangerous than WMDs simply because you can use it more often. It is as if you had an endless con-game, stealing a few hundred dollars from everyone that passes you by instead of a big out armed robbery of Fort Knox.

    I’m telling you, Napoleon wasn’t kidding when he said the morale to the physical is as 3 is to 1. Neither was Sun Tzu kidding when he said that the achime of skill is to win a war without fighting.

  17. paleomythia Says:

    Ahh!! One of my all time favorites by the Sex Pistols!

    8. “Bodies,” by The Sex Pistols. ; buy CD on Amazon.com
    Violent and vulgar, but also a searing anti-abortion anthem by the quintessential punk band: “It’s not an animal / It’s an abortion.”

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    The first link is incorrect, but when I try to fix it, for some reason Blogger won’t let me post. So here’s the correct link to the full list.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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