Monday, June 05, 2006

What it Means to be a Conservative Rocker

by Ken Houghton

I Meant to do this last Friday--years ago, Internet-time--but the work got in the way.*

And I see (via Sadly, No!, who got it from tbogg, which makes me at best tertiary for being a few days late) that Charles Pierce has destroyed John J. Miller's "50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs" (warning: link may cause brain damage/total eclipse).

Since Pierce is a better writer than I, stealing his work seems appropriate. First, Pierce himself
it’s not easy finding the essential conservatism of Led Zeppelin's “Battle of Evermore,” but our man teases it out of Robert Plant's addled Tolkienisms.

then, Pierce quotes from Miller
“The tyrant's face is red.”

“It's hard to miss the Cold War metaphor,” writes Miller,

and then Pierce's coda
who perhaps has moved on to a study of those noted communist propagandists, The Cyrkle.

“The morning sun is rising like a red rubber ball.”

An Internationale for the bubblegummers, no doubt. And what about the captive Baltic states anyway?

The phrases from the professional writer who actually knows something about his subject bracket the worst case of hyperextension since Dave Dravecky broke his arm in mid-pitch.**

Pete Townshend has discussed "Won't Get Fooled Again, which may lead us to wonder just what Miller considers "conservative."

1) Believe in driving faster than is safe (#22 - Red Barchetta,” by Rush, #38 - “I Can't Drive 55,” by Sammy Hagar) but not paying for the roads that make such possible (#2 - "Taxman," where Miller specifically quotes, "If you drive a car, I'll tax the street")

2) For property rights (#27 - “Obvious Song,” by Joe Jackson, 39. “Property Line,” by The Marshall Tucker Band) but against actual development (#13 - “My City Was Gone,” by The Pretenders)***

3) Not having sex (or involvement with the opposite sex) before marriage (#5 - “Wouldn't It Be Nice,” by The Beach Boys or #32 - "“Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” by The Georgia Satellites).

Personally, I think of the latter song as "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" for Southerners--and therefore wonder about how positive a message it sends.

For the former, it is necessary to quote Pierce:
This is how he can type, with a straight face, that “Wouldn't It Be Nice?” is pro-abstinence and pro-marriage, despite the fact that, at the time he wrote it, Brian Wilson was doing young ladies three at a time and Hoovering up Chinese heroin at an alarming pace, although it’s possible that Miller sees Wilson in this light as having blazed the trail through moral consistency that Newt (“Got a cold, dear? I want a divorce.”) Gingrich, Rush (“Why Wasn't I Born An East German Swimmer?”) Limbaugh, and Bill (“Where The Hell’s ‘Tumbling Dice’ On The List, Anyway?”) Bennett could later follow.

It's possible that divorce disqualifies someone from being conservative in Miller's view; that would explain his apparent Reagan-bashing (see #5 below).
4) Worried that teens are having sex (40. “Wake Up Little Susie,” by The Everly Brothers)

I need to pause here for a consideration of 28. “Janie’s Got a Gun,” by Aerosmith. Miller describes this as "how the right to bear arms can protect women from sexual predators," a phrase that almost has a many inaccuracies as words:
a) My definition of "protect" includes keeping something from happening; Janie already has been violated (Miller quotes "She said ’cause nobody believes me" but does not understand its implications)
b) the "sexual predator" is her father. Given the multiple laudings of anti-divorce songs as being pro-family (17, 43, 50), isn't Miller's hero destroying her family?
c) no one has ever suggested--and the video makes clear--that Janie doesn't actually own the gun she uses; it's likely her father's. Isn't she infringing on his property rights?

The song, in summary, is a bleak reflection of how her family has failed her, the laws have failed her, and how she sees no alternative but stealing and using her father's gun on him. But it is closing the barn door, a la The Dixie Chicks "Goodbye Earl" (a far superior exemplar for conservatives), not at all a matter of "protection."
5) Against property rights, when the "neighbor" is someone Miller doesn't like (12. “Neighborhood Bully,” by Bob Dylan)

Again, Miller: "this ironic number could be a theme song for the Bush Doctrine." Need we do anything other than quote Miller's historic context? "A pro-Israel song released in 1983, two years after the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor." Which is the year Rumsfeld greets Hussein and smack in the middle of "The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984," as the NSA Briefing Book notes.

Point #6 of Miller's definition of "conservative" was made well by Pierce:
It allowed Miller to establish once again [National Review]'s longstanding affection for the Confederate States of America with the inevitable “Sweet Home Alabama” and The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” While it’s true that old WFB stood in spirit always with “the guv'nah” in that schoolhouse door, it’s also plain that Miller can't possibly ever have listened to the devastation in Levon Helm’s voice. Secession, as my friend, Roy Blount, once wrote, was a bad idea at the time and looks even worse in retrospect. Also, it’s interesting that Confederate nostalgia rates so high as a conservative value that it rates two songs. None dare call it treason, I guess.

The only other point to make is that Miller's declaration that the band "[took] a shot at Neil Young’s Canadian arrogance along the way” is a bit wonk as well:
The feud between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young was always good-natured fun. They were actually big fans of each other. Ronnie Van Zant often wore Neil Young T-shirts on stage and is wearing one on the cover of Street Survivors, the last Skynyrd album before his death.

Once again, we have to understand the true key tenet of being a conservative: "Never let the facts get in the way."

UPDATE: My loyal reader (and the person who first e-mailed me the list link) e-mails this link, which gives even more detail about the "feud."
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