I hate propaganda. I hear it every day, Left and Right. I hate it even more in music. I’m not talking about making a political point in a song. That has been done artfully countless times. I’m talking about attempts to beat me over the head with blatant half-truths (at best). “We are the World” stands to this day as the worst ever, but that atrocity came about only in response to the bevy of Brit pop stars who made a children-starving-in-Africa video that was actually a good song: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Yeah, it’s a good song in its reverbed sappy way, but it contains what is perhaps the most fucked up line I’ve ever heard: “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” Wow. That’s what you want me to do, o celebrity saints? This is a morality I am to embrace? Let’s just hope the masses didn’t take you up on it.
But I rant. I like the Clash’s political rants, because although they are no doubt of the Left, at least they rail against the government too. That’s good enough for me. And anyway, I don’t ague that the Left doesn’t have some legitimate gripes. It’s what they want to do about them that bothers me. Always, every single time, they rob us or force us to do their will, or both. I am morally opposed to theft and forcing others to do my will, making exception only for my children when they were (are) children. Indeed, the irony has been forcing the little dears to think for themselves. I grant the Left this one good argument against freedom: people don’t want it. They want to be told what to do and think. This was, you may recall, a major argument in favor of slavery down through the centuries. Now that’s irony.
The following song is not propaganda at all, it’s straight description and damned good description. And of course the lyrics are only one facet of the song, even the icing on the cake. I don’t think the world appreciates Mick Jones as a singer. His singing makes Janie Jones and Complete Control and Remote Control and Safe European Home to name only a few. I think this one is among their very best.
The Clash mostly managed to not be doctrinaire in any song. At the same time, the problems they ranted about, and the solutions they described, are real things.
Balancing these two things is the challenge of every rock band trying to make a hit and not be a moral ass, and similarly the challenge of a teen with little real chance to get out of the crap who, um, acts out.
Wow Gene. What a rant. I am not sure what it means (are Libertarians Conservatives on acid?) but any excuse to get the Clash out here is a good one.
And, well, no use for “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or “We are the World” (though I agree with the sentiment) any more than I think “Spirit in the Sky” is a good song (what a piece of crap).
But, the Clash? Anytime, anyhow, anywhere.
This time around the verse vocal hits me as very Stranglers. Wonder if that was purposeful, subliminal or total coincidence?