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December 02, 2004

What Are the Conservative Protest Anthems?

That Ukranian protest song got me thinking.

We all make fun of the painfully-earnest and stridently-liberal balladeers who fill us with so much excess stomache acid, but, hey, I'll be the one to admit it: I'm jealous.

Where's my protest anthem? Where's my catchy sing-a-long rock rebellion?

Sure, such songs don't really advance a philosophical position. They're the near-religious chants of the already-converted. But damnit, it gets kinda tedious just quoting Larry Kudlow and Deborah Orin all day. Why can't we occasionally just be able to sing our politics and maybe even groove to it?

"Preaching to the converted" is almost always said dismissively, but the converted do need a lot of preaching, too. The Prodigal Son is great and all, but how about a little attention to the faithful flock once in a while, too?

If you're on the left, you have your pick of poisons. You can hum along to Bruce Springsteen's drunken-stumble mumblings on 41 Shots. You can rant along with Public Enemy. You can, even, dig on that funky fiddling in a Dixie Chicks song.

But on the right, we've only got a few anthems. Well, if you count country music (and yes, increasingly I do, but I'm still a rock guy at heart), I guess you've got a lot bigger choice as far as musical affirmation. But keeping it strictly to rock, punk, and related genres, what the hell out there is there to crank in order to annoy the liberal neighbors?

Jesus Jones was probably as left-wing as any band, but at least they had the good sense to be unambiguously and unconflictedly celebratory about the fall of the Evil Empire. Right Here, Right Now captures the magical feeling of that moment pretty effectively.

I'm not big on abortion politics, but the Sex Pistols' Bodies is about as stridently pro-life a song as you're likely to hear this side of, say, Amy Grant.

And that's all I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure Ted Nugent's put out some pro-conservative tracks, but I'm also quite sure I've never heard them. (I don't count Wang Dang Sweet Pootang as having much of a political import, except, perhaps, as an affirmation of heterosexual coupling.)

The only real conservative protest anthems are only such if considered metaphorically, or loosely. There aren't too many songs with lyrics which explicitly champion conservatism.

The best you can find, really -- and this is either sad or pretty cool, depending on your taste -- is the sort of dunderheaded fuck-you heavy metal screw-your-parents-and-teachers rock of the eighties. The actual specifics of the lyrics are usually pretty irrelevant to politics -- unless your politics is in fact fighting for your right to party -- but often just the attitude and a phrase in a chorus is close enough to an expression of the conservative discontent as to qualify as a bona fide political anthem.

And the song that I think is best example of this is Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It. Yeah, it's kinda silly, but that guitar and drum really kick, and the lyrics, actually, are pretty easily read as a conservative manifesto:

We've got the right to choose it
There ain't no way we'll lose it
This is our life, this is our song

We'll fight the powers that be, just
don't pick our destiny, 'cause
you don't know us, you don't belong

We're not gonna take it,
no ain't gonna take it
We're not gonna take it anymore

Oh you're so condescending
Your gall is never-ending
We don't want nothin',
not a thing from you

Your life is trite and jaded
Boring and confiscated
If that's your best,
your best won't do

We're RIGHT (Yeah!)
We're FREE (Yeah!)
We'll FIGHT (Yeah!)
You'll see! (Yeahhhhh!)

If anyone can top that -- by a rock performer, not by Darryl Whorley, Tobey Keith, or Charlie Daniels -- I'd like to know about it.

NOTE: Dee Snyder seems to say "don't pick YOUR destiny" pretty clearly, but that lyric makes no damn sense. Printed lyrics have it as "don't pick OUR destiny," which actually does make sense. I'm using the "our" version and figuring Snyder just blew the take on that particular version of the vocal track.

ANOTHER NOTE: Who knew there was such discrepency about TS lyrics? Tall Dave claims that the lyric is "boring and confUscated" (confused), not "confIscated" (stolen), and he says that Dee Snyder himself claims this.

Um, maybe. But "confiscated" works better on the anti-tax tip, and besides, dude, I just listened to it three times-- it sure sounds like "confIscated."

Dorky Window Into the Mind of An Idiot: When I write, I usually have a theme song for the piece which I play incessantly until I'm done. I've listened to Queen's Another One Bites the Dust all through the writing of a screenplay, for example; I swear, I heard it more than a thousand times in a two month period. I've also used Rocky Mountain Way and Positive Bleeding for others. Even Dean Martin's Ain't That a Kick in the Head.

This dumb song -- We're Not Gonna Take It -- was my go-to song throughout the presidential campaign. Whenever I'd really feel stuff flowing, whenever I thought we were ahead, I'd hear that cowbell-heavy drum intro at the start of the song. That was sort of my "Let's Kick Ass" soundbite in September and October.

I Meant to Mention This Update: Bush made use of a song in the 2000 campaign that thrilled me. At one appearance -- only one I know of -- in Florida on one of the last days of campaigning, if not the last day, he began a rally by playing Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow) and then scrrraaaaatched that record off in favor of The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Now that's a Yeeeaaaaahhhhh! that puts Howard Dean's to shame.

Jeff B. is another one of those fucking government-trained brain-snoops who's always poking into my noodle and swiping all my good ideas. He writes:

I've said this before when people talk about there being no great rock anthems which espouse classically "conservative" or "right-wing" political views: the greatest one has been sitting under your noses for years, and familiarity has dulled you to its message.

It's "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who. Pete Townshend (a supporter of the Iraq war, no less!) has said hundreds of times that even though it was part of his weird conceptual wang-dang-doodle Lifehouse is was written as an explicit repudiation of the mindless sloganeering left-wing "Viva la Revolucion!" attitudes so prominent among the 60's generation.

Okay, I'll give you that one too. But I still give the nod to TS, because that Who song, like so many other Pete Townsend songs, is a bit "thinky" for my moron mind to grasp.

I'll also say that that song is more about skepticism of one political movement in favor of apathy and dropping out, not in favor of supporting another political movement. Lennon's Revolution says pretty much the same thing.

Another Good One: Garfield Ridge offers "The Imperial March," the Vader anthem from Empire Strikes Back

Okay, yeah, that fits. And it's great. But it doesn't rock.

Garfield Ridge likes to argue, and as evidence that the Imperial March can rock, he offers this death-metal styled version of the theme, as well as a version by No Doubt.

I don't know. Without seeing Gwen Stefani, or at least hearing her, No Doubt is basically just an even dorkier version of Oingo Boingo.

How Could I Forget? Alex offers Cheap Trick's "Thief Mr. Taxman," a song I don't know, which of course recalls George Harrison's* Taxman, which should be played whenever Steve Forbes enters the room.

* Yeah, I know, it's really "the Beatles," but they were all pretty much doing their own songs by then, so it's really George Harrison on the Beatles imprint.


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posted by Ace at 11:40 PM

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