Saturday, 5 November 2011

I've found the perfect right-wing rock song for the next Tory conference

There are few things more amusing in life than rock stars getting  into a sweat-panic at the prospect of being branded right-wing. It was doubly funny when Primal Scream threw a hissy fit on being told that “Rocks Off” had been used as a theme song by those horrid Tories at their Party Conference – and then discovered it wasn’t true.

Given that the first verse contains the lines "Whores keep whoring/Junikies keep scoring" and that the title of the song is a synonym for orgasm, you might have thought they'd have had their suspicions!

The song was in fact another Rolling Stones homage/rip-off: “Bohemian Like You” by The Dandy Warhols – who, in turn, threw a hissy fit when they found out. So terrifying is the threat of being identified as a Tory that guitarist Johnny Marr recently forbade David Cameron from liking The Smiths! My all-time favourite example, though, was blue collar Democrat, Bruce Springsteen getting in a massive grump when Ronal Reagan cited “Born in the USA” as a patriotic song.

I mean, Paul Weller had to turn himself into a left-wing revolutionary firebrand after uttering some mildly conservative sentiments in the late 1970s. And it took Eric Clapton a long time to expunge the stain of having made pro-Enoch Powell comments earlier in that decade (while pissed, no doubt).

In the 1980s Neil Young amazed everyone by making remarks which implied that Reagan’s build-up of US defences might be the right policy. But in the wake of the Iraq War he began producing kindergarten-level musical critiques of American military involvement - phew!

Apart from a few exceptions (Ted Nugent and Phil Collins spring to mind, but I can’t be bothered with their stuff) the music profession is so uniformly and slavishly left wing it’s always surprising to hear even vaguely right-wing sentiments in a mainstream rock song.

I can remember to this day how odd it was to hear George Harrison complaining about Britain’s punitive rate of supertax (“Should five percent appear too small/Be thankful I don’t take it all”) on Revolver. Then, at the height of hippiedom, were any of us not wrong-footed by John Lennon’s assertion “If you go carryin’ pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow”? By the time of his New York sojourn Lennon had seen the error of his ways and had morphed into the worst imaginable kind of malignant, random-nonsense-generating, pseudo-revolutionary, dickbrained rock star.

To this day, it’s hard to credit that the Kinks had a hit with a hymn of praise to the rule of Queen Victoria (“Victoria”, obviously) in 1968. And then there was “Village Green Preservation Society”:

We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards

Similarly, The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” was so out of sync with the times, it appeared positively surreal – especially when covered by (of all people) Joan Baez!

I’m willing to concede that some of these songs might have been satirical – but imagine any popular music lyricist today being daring enough to display any sort of imaginative sympathy towards conservative modes of thought. Randy Newman’s brilliant Rednecks album – in particular the title track – simply couldn’t be released today, even as a satire:

Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart ass New York Jew
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too
Well he may be a fool but he's our fool
If they think they're better than him they're wrong

Such is the triumph of political correctness and the unthinking, dogmatic nature of the modern Liberal Left that Newman – a thinking West Coast Jewish liberal - would be branded a traitor for simply thinking those thoughts now, let alone releasing them on an album.

Back in 2006, the right-wing American journal, National review, published a list of fifty Conservative rock songs (republished here in the New York Times).  Of course, most of them aren’t in the least right-wing – it was evidently done tongue-in-cheek – but I thoroughly enjoyed the bracingly right-wing lyrics of the Eagles’ “Get Over it”. I’ll end with two verses:

Turn on the tube and what do I see
A whole lotta people cryin' 'don't blame me'
They point their crooked little fingers ar everybody else
Spend all their time feelin' sorry for themselves
Victim of this, victim of that
Your momma's too thin; your daddy's too fat

Get over it
Get over it
All this whinin' and cryin' and pitchin' a fit
Get over it, get over it

You say you haven't been the same since you had your little crash
But you might feel better if I gave you some cash
The more I think about it, old Billy was right
Let's kill all the lawyers, kill 'em tonight
You don't want to work, you want to live like a king
But the big, bad world doesn't owe you a thing

And if that wasn’t enough to satisfy any right-winger’s soul, it ends with the quite splendid line: “I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass”.

What finer theme song could there be for the next Tory conference!


  1. Which gives me an excuse to trot out one of my favourite great guitarist stories. When Joe Walsh, Eagles guitar maestro, first met Ringo, now his brother in law, he asked about the guitar part on "And Your Bird Can Sing" on Revolver. As a teenager he had practised the complex, breakneck, descending two string coda in his bedroom every night for 3 months before he had mastered it. How on earth had George Harrison played it so fluently? "Well, as I remember" replied Ringo, "he did it double-tracking one note at a time and it took him three days".

  2. This reminds me of James Burton's story of almost crippling himself learning to play all Scotty Moore's Elvis guitar parts, hitting every note twice to get that rockabilly echo effect - only to discover eventually that Moore had used an early tape loop gizmo to achieve the effect. "Oh, darn!" is how I imagine he reacted.

    Still, it didn't seem to do Walsh or Burton any long-term harm!