I've never been a hippie. I never went through that deadhead, barefoot, tie-dye, frisbee stage in college, and I've never felt the urge to jam, peace-out, toke up, raise awareness, or think globally.
Now, I'm not a pipe-smoking, sweater-wearing, cheese-eater either. I'm just definitely more Clash than Phish. So right away I'm sort of biased against the whole music-as-vehicle-for-change concept.
That's not to say I'm not down under certain circumstances. I was right there with Bono in '83 to help rid Northern Ireland of the British (I think). I was there in '85 to help usher in good race relations and awareness of heroin abuse (I believe). I was there in '87 for those Red Hill Miners and whatever the hell "Bullet the Blue Sky" was about.
But today, I have no idea if Bono is for or against Vertigo, which I think might be either a dance club or purgatory. Or it could be the top of the Eiffel Tower, which is the only place I've ever experienced actual vertigo. And if we're going anti-France, then rock on!
I do know this. If there's one thing that I will hoist a placard against right now, it's protest music.
I thought the Dixie Chicks had gone away. They aren't even protesters to begin with, unless chastising philandering rednecks got added to the lexicon when I wasn't watching. What they did do was say something on stage, in Europe, in an attempt to froth an audience unaware of the simple joys of RC Cola, corn dogs, and county fairs, about Bush being a Texan and a jerk. But that's not really protesting, that's just bad stage banter.
Anyway, their new album, I'm told, is rife with protest songs. This is the next step in their valiant crossover from Country to hip -- a feat last accomplished by no one and last attempted by Garth Brooks with the aid of eyeliner and a mighty sense of self-worth.
Except their protest songs aren't.
The record is in fact full of songs about the maelstrom that came down on them after said quip about Bush being a jerk. I don't remember a maelstrom. But it hurt them so bad that their only recourse was to pose naked for a magazine cover that most Country fans don't read. Naked. Even Natalie. I know!
So the protest comes down to taking an unwavering stand against mean people.
Rock the Casbah, ladies, and even though you've alienated mean people everywhere, I think you'll sell a jillion records. But I still don't like your music. Or that disturbing, stompy dance you do. Or the fiddle.
Okay, so maybe I just don't get the hillbilly as protester vibe, so I'll take a flyer on the Chicks and move on.
Neil Young, who has officially run out of younger, more talented groups to stand in the limelight of, has also jumped back into the antagonist game, this time taking his sights off corporate America -- sigh -- you might remember that song he recorded while under the employ of one of the most evil, customer-suing, payola-making record companies in the nation and for which he won a video award from one of the largest media conglomerates on the planet. Now Young is also gunning for Bush.
Is that sentence dirty?
I give you the title of his call to arms, a song called "Let's Impeach The President."
Wow. That's no "Keep On Rockin' The Free World."
Neil, when you say "impeach," you mean "overthrow," right?
Exile? Vanquish? Bludgeon?
I just can't get fired up about that particular procedure. The title oozes with all the passion of the unforgettable "No On 15," with George Bush in place of that awful Stan Gable (who, let it be known, was definitely a mean person.)
Could it at least have been more like, "Let's Appropriate Funds For The Study Of The Impact Of Pre-Packaged Foods On The Dietary Habits Of Inner City Kids"? Which I just wrote.
I think mine makes for a better sing-it-with-me-now-just-the-folks-in-District-15 chorus.
Impeach. Man. That's just a little less aggressive than "telling" and a little more effective than "pouting."
Maybe we need to get more current. The new Pearl Jam record is full of miff. In other news, water is still wet. God love them, they're still trying to silence all those guys up front holding up lighters and screaming "Jeremy" during the encore. Plus, have you ever tried writing "Dick Cheney has significant ties to the oil industry while the Bush family can be linked directly to Saudi Arabian royalty and the coincidences are just way too numerous to be ignored" on your arm in black magic marker during a guitar solo? Believe me, you need forearms like Popeye to even get close.
But now that we've got the genre, let's split hairs. Green Day's American Idiot is probably the best musical attempt to assuage the masses, and I love Billie Joe for keeping that '80s punk vibe happening, but there's a couple things that bother me.
First of all, it's a concept album, it might even be a rock opera. I don't think I have to elaborate on that. Also, I don't know, I gave up on Green Day right around Nimrod, when it became achingly clear that they were cutting up the masters from Dookie, putting them in a box and shaking it up, splicing it back together, and putting on new outfits for the tour. There's only so much E A B you can do before the Ramones will want a word with you.
At the end of the day, I can't find anything to get behind. I want to. I'm still mad, rock-and-roll mad, at a lot of things. But all this finger pointing, to me, seems like a veiled attack, and that separates all of us, which is exactly what the man wants (I think).
But I figure that heroin thing isn't fixed yet, and we're probably still bulleting the blue sky. So for now I'll stick with what I know. In the meantime, it looks like the Dixie Chicks have scored themselves a hit record. So, you know, mean people?
Your days are numbered.
Want to play the critic? You can anonymously rate this column and provide the author with constructive criticism. Just sign in or join up. It's free and painless.
CRITIQUE THIS COLUMN
Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.
ABOUT JOE PROCOPIO
more about joe procopio
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
6.2.06 @ 7:41a
True, the context for the protest (hippe, punk, billy bragg) ethos has been swalloed up. It's now, like GreenDay's punk, pasterized and safe for general consumption.
When everyone's pointed in the same direction, it's difficult to actually protest yourself with any level of success. The music industry hardly appears the place to be 'punk' anymore. Same goes for Hollywood. It's not about art anymore.
Bono at least seems to be using his brain and celebrity and passion for something worhty, but maybe more constructive and solution-oriented for the average angst-ridden protest monger to get behind. Let alone flying it over most people's heads. How punk of him.
6.2.06 @ 8:21a
That's a dead-on sentiment, Jim. I tried to stay light, hopefully funny, and completely apolitical (which is next to impossible when everyone seems to be gunning for Bush), but I can't get over how all this angst is being spread without a single solution, offering, countermove... anything.
I feel like Bono (and maybe Geldof is he weren't so market-savvy) is leading the way with no followers.
Eh. Maybe Clooney and the Darfur region... but that's all just talk too, as far as I know.
6.2.06 @ 9:31a
Or, you know, Angelina Jolie starting her children of the world menagerie. Glad she's "concerned" 'n all that, but please.
Didn't Bono once by a first class plane ticket to fly his favorite hat to his concert location? M and I were discussing this just last night.
By the by, I spit out breakfast at the "writng...on your arm in black magic marker." EV, Gawd love 'im.
Incubus did protest well with "Crow Left of the Murder" a couple years back, but I got really tired of the whine after a while. A few songs to show you're aware is great - but then, sometimes I just want to roll my windows down and sing really loud without thinking. There needs to be a balance.
Dixie Chicks. Pfffft.
michelle von euw
6.2.06 @ 10:13a
Dude, I'd take Pearl Jam's "Bu$hleaguer" over a thousand inspid "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me" type songs every day of the week. But that's just me.
6.2.06 @ 11:56a
Much too much:
Katie Couric says: Addressing the annual convention of CBS affiliates, Couric predicted that the "pretentious era" of the evening-news anchor is going to be a thing of the past. (Reuters)
Katie Couric does: CBS isn't the only new home for Katie Couric. The former Today host has paid $6.3 million for a two-story, 11-year-old cedar-wood-shingle house on about an acre and a half in tony East Hampton, N.Y., the Wall Street Journal reports. (People.com)
Bill Clinton says: Former president Bill Clinton keynoted a Phoenix Democratic fundraiser Thursday evening, saying the Republican Party is dominated by "right-wing, white Southerners." Clinton also hit the GOP for favoring the rich and practicing "crony capitalism".
Bill Clinton does: Clinton headlined a fundraiser for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Pederson at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa. The event was attended by 500 persons and raised approximately $500,000 for Pederson, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl in November. Pederson is a shopping center developer, former Arizona Democratic Party chairman and an ally of Clinton and his wife Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. (both from Phoenix Business Journal)
(I suppose rich, left-wing white Southerners call it something other than "crony capitalism" when they do it.)
But today's "methinks [they] doth protest too much" award goes to Greenpeace, for their brilliant no-nukes memo: Wash. Post article
6.2.06 @ 12:07p
Ah, and about Bono... I agree with James; I think he's gotten so far past the angry youth in the crowd that they just stare blankly at him. Bipartisan dialogues over reducing debt to underdeveloped nations? Dude, what happened to chanting "NO MORE WAR" during "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"?
Kids just want to be angry and self-righteous about stuff. When they rage against The Man (or The Machine) it makes 'em feel all happy.
Lemme tell ya, kids: All that does is give you practice for the day when you'll stand around the water cooler or the break room or the local bar and bitch about your boss, your spouse, or anyone else who's harshing your vibe and not giving you everything you believe you're entitled to. Then one day you wake up and you're not a an angry YOUNG man, you're a cranky OLD man and you've wasted the best years of your life howling into the wind.
6.2.06 @ 12:22p
Are you calling me a cranky old man?
I believe the story about Bono's hat is an urban legend.
I can tolerate anti-war sentiment. War is war and war is bad and war is hell. To me it seems like this is also just smacking Bush around (and is that sentence dirty as well?) or, in the case of the Dixie Chicks, whining about the repercussions over the PURPOSEFULLY CONTROVERSIAL statement they made.
This bugs me most, I believe it's the fiddle player:
"I'd rather have a small following of really cool people who get it... than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith. We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do."
Actually... lecturing your fan base will limit what you can do.
6.2.06 @ 12:33p
Small followings don't sell CDs. Or fill arenas.
Dissing Reba McEntire and Toby Keith (and their fans) is no brilliant scheme, either.
6.5.06 @ 5:16a
Singers/musicians have become so politically active when I read a headline on AOL today stating "Sting Helps Capture Terrorists" referring to a police sting in Canada used in a terrorist bust, my first thought was Sting, the singer, somehow got involved in this.
I don't think it's wrong to use your forum from a creative perspective to protest anything you feel is wrong or could be better. It's a artist's right. It's the right of the public to not watch/listen/buy the product.
Personally I agree with the Dixie Chicks, but I don't think I own one song by them. I have several Springsteen albums and he does speak out about his political beliefs.
It doesn't hurt sales to make a very public statement just before releasing your album, and if the album doesn't live up to the expectations of the consumer, what can the consumer do? After you open the package you can't return the cd/dvd/video, and some stores won't even let you exchange the item for the same item. It's a win-win for the artist.
6.5.06 @ 11:08a
If anybody truly deserves being smacked around it's El Shrubbo. Speaking of protest songs, I went to a Bob Dylan concert in May and the song which got the wildest stand up hootin' hollerin' rave was "Masters of War." I met a University of Florida senior outside during a smoke break who categorically stated, "Bob Dylan is the greatest poet/songwriter ever to have lived." He reminded me of people his age forty years ago. As an old hippy-yippy-whatever I LOVE protest songs. I marched around in the street to the tune of many of them. BTW, Dylan has forgotten the tune to "Mr. Tambourine Man."
6.14.06 @ 12:14p
Why do we allow rock stars and actors (or today's botox-induced-expressionless talking head news show hosts) to be considered economic and foreign policy experts?
Why do their whinings get so much of our intellectual and perceptive attention?
Why isn't that we fall short on judging their actions and greater context of their comments and duplistic whinings (see russ carr 6.02.06)
Are we, as a society, that naive and willing to succumb any reasonable thinking to some botoxdiva's political sound bite vs. actions?
Actually, I'm not sure i want to know the answer...
6.14.06 @ 12:31p
Funny, I'm not sure where or when or how, but we've stomped all over the lines between entertainment and intellectual discourse. While Pearl Jam isn't CNN or USAToday or Katie Couric, aren't they in the same business? They all are in business of creating and selling their neatly packaged simplified and apolitical content for their respective core target audiences?
Maybe that's why we have 'dials' on our radios and TVs.
I guess we should be happy we have the ability to choose such messages, entertainment and opinions.
Disagree? Got ideas of your own? Add to the discussion! Just sign in or join up.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?