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Five for Friday, This Machine Kills Fascists edition 
9th-Jun-2006 07:14 am
I guess it's pretty clear where my head's been at this past week.

As always, please play along...

Five Great Protest Songs

1. Billy Bragg, "Help Save the Youth of America." I remember a Rolling Stone review of a Billy Bragg concert from 1988 that quoted part of his stage patter as (something like) "Sorry if I'm a little hoarse tonight. I spent the whole day screaming 'Asshole!' at people with Bush bumper stickers." My how times stagnate. This is just Bragg and an acoustic guitar played like it's a weapon. Woody would be proud. "A nation with their freezers full/Are dancing in their seats/While outside another nation/Are sleeping in the streets."

2. Jackson Browne, "Lives in the Balance." While we're on the subject of commentary from the 1980s that inexplicably doesn't go out of style:

You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

3. Sleater-Kinney, "Combat Rock." I'm certain I've brought up this song before, a fierce refutation of the smothering culture of conformity that was orchestrated after September 11th:

Our country's marching to the beat now
And we must learn to step in time
Where is the questioning where is the protest song?
Since when is skepticism un-American?
Dissent's not treason but they talk like it's the same
Those who disagree are afraid to show their face
Let's break out our old machines now
It sure is good to see them run again

And all propelled by a typically crunching Sleater-Kinney guitar attack. This would be a better world if Sleater-Kinney had the record sales figures of, say, U2.

4. Public Enemy, "Fight the Power." Back before it was all about the Benjamins (Flavor Flav's bling was a five dollar clock on a rope), PE made sure it was all about the angry cries against the establishment. There was a time when that powers that be were actually scared of rap music, not just in that rock'n'roll-leads-to-juvenile-deliquency way, but as a real threat, the opening musketfire of the new revolution. When rappers become more preoccuppied with misogyny and extolling the virtues of capitalism, the fatcats stopped worrying. Hmm, interesting.

5. Ani Difranco, "Face Up and Sing." An eloquent challenge to those who are complacent with simply buying the politicized albums: "Some chick says 'Thank you for saying all the things I never do.'/I say, 'You know the thanks I get is take all this shit for you.'/It's nice that you listen, it'd be nicer if you joined in/As long as you play their game, girl, you're never gonna win."

9th-Jun-2006 01:24 pm (UTC)
1. public enemy- fear of a black planet
as a female, i find this song to be especially significnt. if you look at the utter disrespect and degradation that woman receive in all areas of (mostly commercial) music, songs like this are as much needed today as they were years ago.
"man you ain't gotta worry 'bout a thing/'bout your daughter/nah she ain't my type/(but supposin' she said she loved me)/are you afraid of the mix of black and white?/we're livin' in a land where the law say the mixing of race makes the blood impure/she's a woman i'm a man/but by the look on your face/see ya can't stand it"
i will always have a great amount of respect for chuck d. to this day he appears in magazines like bust, talking openly about the struggle that women face in our culture. i believe he is what we refer to as a "role model."

2. kimya dawson- 12/26
this is one of the tracks off her new album. it's about the tsunami that hit asia on december 26, 2004. i heard it the a few weeks ago on prk, and it's stuck with me since.
"you can call me crazy but it seems to me
we could have sent more than we spend in one day killing iraqis
to help the hundreds of thousands who are injured and diseased
and hungry and homeless and without families
i'm appalled by our government's initial reaction
and the fact that they asked for a verbal retraction
from the folks who called them stingy, they're just covering their assets
well they think they're greedy god for wiping out the lower class"

3. tori amos- me and a gun
i don't care what anybody says, but i consider this to be a protest song. just look at the fact that rape is one of the most taboo subjects in our culture, and i'd say that when a woman comes out and openly speaks (or in this case sings) about her own experience with sexual assault she's fighting the power. "yes i wore a slinky red thing/does that mean i should spread?/for you, your friends/your father, mr ed"

4. m.i.a.- sunshowers
i guess when you are raised in a home where your dad is a active separatist with the tamil tigers, writing songs about war and social inequities would just come easy to you. "semi-9 and snipered him/on that wall they posted him/they cornered him/and then just murdered him/he told them he didn't know them/he wasn't there, they didn't know him/they showed him a picture then/'ain't that you with the muslims?'" i also really like it when music you can dance to says something.

5. marvin gaye- what's going on?
i just bought this album before i moved into my new place, and have been listening to it with some frequency. see, back when gaye originally brought the track berry gordy (the head of motown records) gordy refused to put it out claiming that it was too political and informing gaye that it was "uncommercial." gaye refused to record anything else until gordy released the single, and he eventually caved and put it out. after the success of the song, motown released the entire album.
"father, father we don't need to escalate/you see, war is not the answer/for only love can conquer hate"
9th-Jun-2006 08:41 pm (UTC)
Damn right the Tori song is a protest song. I got your back on that. I thought about that PE and also considered the Marvin Gaye song. That's a great album.
10th-Jun-2006 10:32 pm (UTC)
thanks. i'll argue the merits of that being a protest song until i'm blue in the face. interesting enough, i read that tori drew a lot of the inspiration from public enemy and the fear of a black planet album. she even covered the title track for strange little girls, but it never made it on to the album.

and it's like what's going on?, grace and blacklisted on repeat in my apartment/cubicle/car. it's kind of an odd mood i'm in right now.
9th-Jun-2006 02:00 pm (UTC) - Hear, hear
This should bring a good response, Dan. I believe, to quote an old influence, there should be many singing from the same hymnal this week.

1. CCR, "Fortunate Son"
This one never goes out of style. A fine exempler of the Vietnam-era protest song, the recurring themes of an elite sending the powerless to do their dirty work for them, reverberates yet today.

"Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give,
oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yoh,"

2. L7, "Pretend that We're Dead"
As you highlighted quite well with your first two, timelessness in the lyrics can make for a great protest song. And this has always been one of my favorites.

"We turn the tables with our unity,
They're neither moral nor majority.
Wake up and smell the coffee
Or just say no to individuality."

3. Bruce Cockburn, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher"
Similar in many ways to Billy Bragg, in that the songs either seem to be political or personal, no inbetween. Any while both of their political catalouges offer many choices, it is the resonance of these lyrics that makes this a strong choice for this week. Remove the specific Central American references, and this could be Sudan, or Indonesia. And while I find myself too much of a pacifist to hold by violent retribution, I haven't put myself in the middle of it all like Mr. Cockburn has.

"On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation -- or some less humane fate
Cry for guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher...I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...Some son of a bitch would die "

4. Stiff Little Fingers, "Alternative Ulster"
While they agitated in the early '80's for the Irish Catholics of Northern Ireland to stand up and throw off the yoke of British-sponsored repression, the spirit of their argument still lives. By demanding of their compatriots to "fight the power" and make the changes themselves, to rely on no one else, speaks not only of self-reliance, but realization that change starts at home.

"They say they've got control of you
But that's not true you know
They say they're a part of you
And that's a lie you know
They say you will never be
Free free free

An Alternative Ulster
Grab it and change it it's yours
Get an Alternative Ulster
Ignore the bores and their laws
Get an Alternative Ulster
Be an anti-security force
Alter your native Ulster
Alter you native land"

5. Radiohead, "2+2=5 The Lukewarm"
Again, foreign artists writing songs that seem weirdly applicable to another country's issues.

"It's the devil's way now
There is no way out
You can scream and you can shout
It is too late now

You have not been
Payin' attention
Payin' attention
Payin' attention
Payin' attention"

9th-Jun-2006 08:43 pm (UTC) - Re: Hear, hear
I wish my lefty singer-songwriter from the 80s and 90s had been Cockburn instead of Browne. I remember the days of segueing from that song to Ed Haynes' "I Want to Kill Everybody." Good times.
9th-Jun-2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
1. Phil Ochs, "White Boots Marching In A Yellow Land." The Ochs story is a tragic vignette about one man's obsession with the Vietnam War. Sadly, because of his outspoken blatancy, many of his songs did not age well, relegating him to the silver medal to Bob Dylan's gold.
The comic and the beauty queen are dancing on the stage/Raw recruits are lining up like coffins in a cage/We're fighting in a war we lost before the war began/We're the white boots marching in a yellow land.

2. Crass, "Yes Sir, I Will." I could list hundreds of d-beat/crust/peace punk bands, but really, I could just list Crass. I suppose you couldn't really call this a song ("Fight War, Not Wars" would work, though), however, it is an important statement regarding protest within art. Crass were always an assault on the senses, which ultimately did not help in recruiting new members to the cause. Those who had a tolerance for annoyance were rewarded with their beautiful manifestos.

3. Elvis Costello, "Oliver's Army." My all-time favorite song about conscription. Slowly unfolding itself first as a beautiful pop song worthy of ABBA, then as a jingle used for recruiting young soldiers, and finally as a bitter indictment of that jingle, this may be Declan's greatest political statement, reminding us to always stay vigilant about what the media tells us, no matter how shiny the package.
But there's no danger/It's a professional career/Though it could be arranged/With just a word in Mr. Churchill's ear/If you're out of luck or out of work/We could send you to Johannesburg.

4. Joe Strummer, "The Unknown Immortal." It's the story behind this that is the protest... Joe Strummer composed the score for Alex Cox's Walker and sang in three of the songs. This one is of the campfire sing-a-long variety, about being in the unit of Gen. William Walker, an American soldier of fortune who became the dictator of Nicaragua in the 19th century. However, Cox used the tactic of artistic anachronism to parallel the fact that yes... America was raping other countries back then, and America is raping other countries right now. The only difference is that they had muskets in the 19th century, we had machine guns in the 20th century. The score was only recently reissued, but the film has been banned in the US for several years.

5. Chumbawamba, English Rebel Songs 1381-1984. Seriously... they took thirteen traditional folk songs and sung many of them a cappella. Though originally released partially in response to the miners' strike of '84-'85 (the same miners' strike responsible for resurrecting the Mekons), the songs are timeless and will always ring true. Whereas "Tubthumping" was a song for the working class to drunkenly sing at night, this record was a collection of songs for them to sing in the daytime.
9th-Jun-2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
1. Buffalo Springfield...For What it's Worth...cheesy obvious brilliant...musicaly(did I just spell it that way)haunting..."you better stop children what's that sound everybody look what's going down"....

2. Tom Robinson Band...Glad to be Gay...for obvious reasons...instead of lyrics I present this quote fro Tom Robinson...
" Politics isn't party broadcasts and general elections,...I got no illusions about the political left anymore than the right: just a shrewed idea which of the two side's gonna stomp on us first. All of us-- to stand aside is to take sides. If music can ease even a tiny fraction of the prejudice and intolerance in this world, then it's worth trying.I call that standing up for yur rights. and if we fail, if we get swallowed up by big biznis before we achieve a thing, then we'll havta face the scorn of tomorrow's generation; but we're gonna have a good try. Fancy jioning us? Tom Robinson NME 1977

3. Billy Bragg...It Say's Here...
It says here that the Unions will never learn
It says here that the economy is on the upturn
And it says here we should be proud
That we are free
And our free press reflects our democracy

Those braying voices on the right of the House
Are echoed down the Street of Shame
Where politics mix with bingo and tits
In a strictly money and numbers game

Where they offer you a feature
On stockings and suspenders
Next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders

It says here that this year's prince is born
It says here do you ever wish
That you were better informed
And it says here that we can only stop the rot
With a large dose of Law and Order
And a touch of the short sharp shock

If this does not reflect your view you should understand
That those who own the papers also own this land
And they'd rather you believe
In Coronation Street capers
In the war of circulation, it sells newspapers
Could it be an infringement
Of the freedom of the press
To print pictures of women in states of undress

When you wake up to the fact
That your paper is Tory
Just remember, there are two sides to every story...

* Fox News...Fair and Balanced*.....

4. Laurie Anderson...Sharkeys Night...
"well I drove down to big DC
And I walked into room 1003
And there they were
The Big Boys.
And They were talking
Big B
Little O
Little M
Silent B
They were saying:
Let's teach those robots how to play hardball
Let's teach those little fellas a lttle gratitude

Deep in the Heart of Darkest America
Home of the Brave
Wel Ha HA HA
You've already paid for this.
Listen To my heart beat.
(the sound of a neuclear attack warning siren)

5. John Prine...You're Flag decal won't get you into heaven Anymore
Cause yr flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore It's already overcrowded from your dity little wars and Jesus don't like killin no matter what the reasons for and yr flag decal won't get you into heven anymore.....

9th-Jun-2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
I think all the typos and gramar mistakes negate my list...sheesh..."you're" what am I, 5?....
9th-Jun-2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
The sentiment behind that John Prine song alone prevents your list from being negated for any reason.
12th-Jun-2006 01:41 pm (UTC)
oh honey, i'm the queen of the typo/grammar error. i also tend to leave out words entirely.
9th-Jun-2006 06:53 pm (UTC)
I will update this more later, but I didn't want anybody to steal the first great protest song that got stuck in my head when I read this....

1) Nena - 99 Luftballoons.
10th-Jun-2006 04:48 pm (UTC) - And, just so you know, I STILL ain't gonna play Sun City!
1) “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” – Bob Dylan - …but, truth be told, I have a soft spot for the Edie Brickell and New Bohemians cover version from the soundtrack of “Born on the Fourth of July,” for indeed, that is the version that taught me to know my song well before I start back-selling…er, singing. Lyrically, Dylan throws in everything but the kitchen sink – and assuming that the pipes are leaching deadly lead into the soil, hell, the sink is in there as well. Because of the sheer scope of the thing, it will stand timeless.

2) “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” – Elvis Costel –

Oh, shit, “Hard Rain” isn’t over yet –

1) And truth be told, I am that blue-eyed son.

OK, is it over now? Jeez…

2) “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” – Elvis Costello – In the days leading up to Desert Storm, KROQ in Los Angeles played this one practically on the hour, and it says a lot that, even though most acknowledge that was a just conflict (it obviously did take out Saddam’s arsenal and, ultimately, his capacity to develop WMDs), Costello’s anthem has an honesty and potency that reminds us, war, good God y’all, what is it good for, absolutely nothing.’ If I ever learned how to play the acoustic guitar (us pianist’s hands tend to cramp up, dontcha know), this would be one of the first songs I’d master.

3) – “Dirty Laundry” – When Henley’s solo album came out in 1982, MTV was all over “Johnny Can’t Read,” itself a pretty damn fine socially-conscious song, but this was the gem that charged out of radio speakers with corrosive bile and a chugging backbeat. Quick, who is your personal “bubble-headed bleach blonde?” You can see every image in your mind’s eye, can’t you? And for us old fogies, there’s the sound of a teletype spitting out reams of radio-ready copy. God, I miss that sound. Sadly, in these propagandistic days of Fox News and all the damage it has inflicted upon us, how I WISH that the news media was only preoccupied with sensationalism.

4) – “Allentown” – Billy Joel – For those of us who grew up in mill towns, Mr. Joel’s paean to the working man – or rather, the non-working man – struck a resonant chord in 1982. It’s also a reminder that not all protest songs are to be performed standing with a fist, as the most powerful line is “…and I won’t be getting up today.” (Kudos to Billy for shaving off the poundage and looking FABulous in the latest issue of “New York” Magazine. “

5) – “Industrial Disease” – Dire Straits - While Reagan inflicted his reign of terror on these shores, the poor Brits had to grapple with Maggie, but, by crikey, them blokes knew how to riot! Since youthful discontent in the UK gave us a whole new musical genre (hey, I think I finally stumbled on an angle for last week’s list!), it’s fun to watch Mr. Knopfler and Co turn the chaos on its head and deliver this bouncy ditty. How can you not love a song that includes the line, “Two men say they’re Jesus / One of them must be wrong.” Anybody out there wanna do a Haliburton-inspired update?
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