By now many of you have heard about or read an article recently published in The National Review called “Rockin' the Right: The 50 greatest conservative rock songs.” The article was written by John J. Miller and includes his pick of the top 50 rock songs that have, as he put it, politically conservative messages.
A lot of people were perturbed by this list, mostly because it included several bands that have spent their careers raging against the conservative machine-bands, such as U2, The Kinks, Bob Dylan, Joe Jackson and Pretenders, that wouldn't embrace conservatism if it were the last ideology on the planet.
Now, I don't necessarily align myself with any particular political party, and am loathe to make generalizations about such complex worldviews as liberalism and conservatism, but what I find most incredible about the list is not which liberal-minded bands were included, but, rather, which messages Miller claims are “politically conservative” in the first place.
For example, Miller cites “I Fought the Law” as a conservative rocker because, he says, it is “the original law and order song.”
Fuken conservatives-always bragging that they are tougher on crime than liberals. Do conservatives really believe that liberals walk around all day thinking, “Gee I hope somebody murders my entire family and gets off on a loophole”? Idiots. Conservatives and liberals are both anti-crime; they just tend to focus on different types. Conservatives focus on street thugs, druggies and victimless transgressors such as prostitutes and consensual sodomites, while liberals focus on criminals within the system: dirty cops, unethical district attorneys, corrupt judges, etc. The liberal knows that power inherently corrupts and that's why he doesn't mind so much when a murderer gets off on a technicality. Because due process is not a technicality. Due process is a collection of safeguards designed to restrain crime within the system and that, my conservative-rock-music-list-making friend, is entirely a pro law-and-order position.
And that's how it goes with Miller's list. He erroneously stakes claim to all these moral constructs as the sole property of conservatism, and then uses them to claim ownership of some of rock's greatest songs-no doubt to be misused for some sinister, conservative, über-movement such as selling automobiles on TV or piping limply into elevators.
Example: “20th Century Man” by The Kinks. Miller claims this is a conservative-minded song because of the following lyric: “Got no privacy / Got no liberty / 'Cause the 20th-century people / Took it all away from me.”
Oh, really? It's the conservatives who are the protectors of privacy and liberty? And exactly how do they do this? By trying to dictate whom you may not marry? By aiming to restrict the manner in which you may not protest your government? By passing laws about which orifices you may not penetrate in the privacy and liberty of your own goddamn bedroom? Sorry, buddy, but conservatives are every bit the privacy-and-liberty leeching creatures that liberals are, if not worse, and, therefore, you may not claim “20th Century Man” by The Kinks.
Example: “Revolution” by The Beatles. “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao / you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”
Yep, that's right, only conservatives hate despots-and liberals adore them! Isn't that a giant simmering crock of cow-ass soup? Conservatives tend to mistake liberal unwillingness to assassinate tyrants or invade their countries as admiration for said tyrant. Actually, the opposite is true. Liberal hatred of despots is so fierce that they are consumed with a compulsion to never become one, which is always the danger when you go around invading and assassinating everyone. So, no, sir, you may not impale your soiled flag of conservatism into “Revolution” by The Beatles.
Example: “My City was Gone” by the Pretenders: “My city had been pulled down / reduced to parking spaces.”
“The lyrics,” wrote Miller “display a Jane Jacobs sensibility against central planning and a conservative's dissatisfaction with rapid change.” Well, that's one way to look at it. Another way is that the lyrics display a Ralph Naderian revulsion for greedy, malicious, corporate, parasitic, land-raping, automatous agents of the Borg devouring everything in their path and forsaking the common good for the bottom line. Ahem. Please remove your toxic-sludge-stained hands from my “My City was Gone” by the Pretenders.
Example: “Stand by Your Man,” by Tammy Wynette. Miller chose this song (among others) because it is pro family values. Again, conservatives think they're the only ones with family-values values. Well, liberals value family-values values, too, you know. They're just not as exclusive about what defines a “family.” But you know what? You can keep “Stand by Your Man” by Tammy Wynette. For one reason, it doesn't rock very much. Another is because of Elsie the babysitter:
When we were young, my siblings and I were cared for by an obese, trailer-trashy witch-beast babysitter named Elsie (real name). One year, Elsie gave me a Tammy Wynette record for my birthday. It was the first time I heard “Stand by Your Man,” and it was awful. How Elsie figured a 13-year-old boy who got off on Zeppelin and Sabbath could appreciate Tammy Wynette was a mystery. It was also pure irony, though, since shortly after my birthday, we learned that her man-Elsie's pig of a husband-was serially raping their 12-year-old daughter, who then became pregnant with his baby. Elsie, being the brick-witted bovine that she was, forgave him.
Stand by your man, huh? Nah, you conservatives go ahead and keep that one. There are many other examples of songs and ideologies Miller mistakenly claimed as conservative. It's unfortunate because there are plenty lesser-known tunes that truly do espouse conservative values and would have been perfect for the list: Songs like “Fuck the Little Guy” by The Corporation and “Don't You Use that Hole” by The Bedroom Police. There's also a rockabilly tune called “Let 'em Suffer” by Country Dan Ashcroft and the Anti Medical Marijuana Pricks and “Sex is Dirty” by The Puritans and, of course, “You, Who Hate the Troops” by Warmonger. Now thems some true-as-dirt conservative ditties.
E-mail Ed[at]edwindecker[dot]com and editor[at]SDcitybeat[dot]com.