December 29, 2010

"[T]he worst pop song designed to reflect a profound moral conscience. I.e. the smuggest, most pretentious pop song in history."

Andrew Sullivan sets up a poll for what he (a bit inaptly) calls the "Shut Up and Sing" award. You can't really shut up and sing. He's just looking for bad lyrics of a particular sort.

I only know 4 of the 10 songs on his list, and they don't really bother me. I mean, it's fun to knock Sting, but other than that, who cares what Madonna was actually saying in "American Life"? And if Stevie Wonder wants to sing with Paul McCartney about racial harmony using a piano keyboard metaphor, that's too sweet to get upset about. As for "Okie From Muskogee," that song has aged fabulously well. I was around in the 1960s when we hippies loved hating Merle Haggard for the things he said in that song, but it's nuts to take it the way we did back then:
"Okie From Muskogee," 1969's apparent political statement, was actually written as an abjectly humorous character portrait. Haggard called the song a "documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time."... "I wrote it when I recently got out of the joint. I knew what it was like to lose my freedom, and I was getting really mad at these protesters. They didn't know anything more about the war in Vietnam than I did. I thought how my dad, who was from Oklahoma, would have felt. I felt I knew how those boys fighting in Vietnam felt."
That text is from Wikipedia. "Abjectly humorous character portrait"? Somebody doesn't know the meaning of "abjectly." But I'm inclined to say that Andrew Sullivan is abjectly humorless... at least when it comes to marijuana....

"We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee..."



Smug? Pretentious? Absurd!

You know what deserves to win the award Sullivan defines. It's damned obvious and it's not on the list. Imagine all the peeepull....

Really, this award is no fun if you take shots at lightweights like The Partridge Family and the New Kids on the Block — as Sullivan does. Get the guys who've been taken seriously, like Bob Dylan. ("He that gets hurt will be he who has stalled...") Pick a worthy target or... as they say... shut up.

231 comments:

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Scott M said...

Hands down the NKOTB song. Not only was it a horrible pop song, but consider the source...a horrible pop group, manufactured in the most cynical, money-grubbing way possible.

"Shut Up And Sing" could be an ironic side-swipe at Laura Ingram.

campy said...

The Partridge Family and the New Kids on the Block — as Sullivan does.

Sully's really punching up, huh.

Robt C said...

I second "Imagine" as the most overhyped song of the century. I wish there was a write-in option on the SUAS poll.

rdkraus said...

I admit it, that Lennon song was my first thought too. But, if I sat down and thought about it, I could think of many many others.

I really know only two songs on that list, and one is Haggard's.

I am SO OLD.

I actually used to be pretty knowledgeable about lots of music. Then, when disco came along, I gave up for a long time.

shoutingthomas said...

"Imagine" is the worst piece of self-serving treacle ever written.

Well, I can't prove that.

Imagine a billionaire who can screw any girl in the world lecturing the rest of the dumb proles about the futility of money and possessions.

And the video! Yoko and John polish their halos for the world to see! Wearing white saint robes to boot!

John Lennon apparently had a death wish. He was literally begging some nut to shoot him.

Not surprisingly, some nutjob granted Lennon his request for martyrdom and plugged him in the back.

Talk about stupid. Lennon was one of the most annoying idiots of the Twentieth Century. God rest his dumb soul.

You know, the dumb bastard could have lived another 40 or 50 years and had a hell of a good time if he'd just dumped the stupid martyr bit. What in God's name was he martyring himself for? Still to be determined.

Lennon was a classic example of a dumb guy who couldn't tell the difference between generating PR and reality.

shoutingthomas said...

And, I've got to say the obvious:

I'll bet Merle has smoked one hell of a lot of weed.

He's still a genius.

"Momma Tried."

shoutingthomas said...

OK, I'll shut up after this.

Dylan's lowest point was his propaganda song for the boxer, Hurricane Carter.

Classic bit of the "hero of the lower classes" genre.

Dylan made a hit song out of his propaganda piece shilling for Carter's innocence in a murder case.

Unfortunately, Carter was (and is) guilty as hell of that murder.

The Prophet Dylan got a little carried away with his Woody Guthrie, Hero of the People pose on this one.

michaele said...

Loved the video...it set off off my nostalgia meter...so sweet and simple. Haggard was one of the feted at the Kennedy Center Honors that was on TV last night. He is one lived hard looking dude. Ironically, he has aged to look like an Okie who is just barely scraping by in the middle of the Depression. His face is fascinating.

John Bragg said...

U2--In the Name of Love. Apropriating MLK.

Honorable or Not Mention: Silent Running, Mike and the Mechanics. "Swear Allegiance to the Flag, Whatever Flag they offer." ALthough maybe that got some east European samizdat play?

99 Red Ballons, even if it wasn't in English, it was still commie tripe, and that was her only hit. Put that on shuffle with Ballad of the Green Berets, I suppose.

Oh, Rage Against the Machine's entire career.

shoutingthomas said...

Well, fuck me, I've got to tell you about this!

If you're really interested in "moral conscience" music, and you don't want to be a complete old fart dinosaur, then listen to the narco corridos from Mexico.

The music is a wild celebration of the narco gangster life of the Sinaloa gangs. Try Larry Hernando: Pilotos Canabis

You can't get mad at these guys, because the music is incredibly good natured and swings! Accordians! Brass bands! Pretty, fat girls in outrageous K-Mart makeup and wigs!

I was up until 2 a.m. watching narco corrido songs on YouTube. Laughing my ass off. And astonished at the sheer energy and low class wallowing in cars, girls and drugs.

Clyde said...

I don't see "One Tin Soldier" on the list. Shouldn't it be?

Shanna said...

You know what deserves to win the award Sullivan defines. It's damned obvious and it's not on the list. Imagine all the peeepull....

Word! Once you start digging up NKOTB and Partridge family (and Justin Beiber!) your poll itself isn't serious. (He also left off the "I"d like to teach the world to sing" song and "I believe the children are the future". There are so many real songs that deserve this award, however made up it is!)

And no way in HELL does Okie from Muskogee deserve to be there. That song is a classic.

Clyde said...

I'd say that Sullivan is probably walking on the fighting side of Merle. If he makes it through December, he'll be fine.

Chase said...

Man! How I hate "Imagine" by John Lennon.

John Lennon was an interesting man of slightly above average songwriting abilities. The worship of John Lennon says far more about the worshipper than it possibly can about the man.

I blame the American Public Education system from 1962 onward. Seriously, at least in great part.

Chase said...

Oh, Rage Against the Machine's entire career.

Add Green Day to that. American idiots for sure.

Mr Evilwrench said...

Oh jeez, Dylan. Nothing to write home about as a musician, terrible singer. It's the lyrics, though. When he's not utterly incomprehensible, he is utterly pretentious. A lot of wannabe intellectuals make noises about appreciating him. I hope they get laid, anyway. That's what it's about, isn't it?

The only thing bad about Lennon being bigger than Jesus was him thinking he was bigger than Jesus. He was a good singer and songwriter, really. He just got too full of himself, but that's par for the course. So, somebody shot him. Then the Lennon junkies come out, and the gun controllers come out, yadda yadda.

"Okie from Muskogee" has some beautiful truth to it. Don't let the poseurs take that from it. They'll try, you know. It's what they do.

Shanna said...

Add Green Day to that. American idiots for sure.

Except I like the song American Idiot so much I don’t even care about the message. If you just have to do a message song, do it like that.

(of course it will never be a classic like Okie, which still gets a ton of play. And I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
A place where even squares can have a ball....I also like the part about holding hands and pitching woo. It's so quaint!)

Leland said...

+1 for "Imagine" on the write-in ballot.

Paul Zrimsek said...

And if Stevie Wonder wants to sing with Paul McCartney about racial harmony using a piano keyboard metaphor, that's too sweet to get upset about.

Sweet, maybe, but awfully maladroit. Black and white keys only sound well together when they're not next to each other.

Scott M said...

Black and white keys only sound well together when they're not next to each other.

Aren't most chords played with a majority of white keys? (snicker)

(that was, of course, said to serve at the snark alter. My limited knowledge of all things piano wouldn't fill a pamphlet the size of one covering Jewish sports heroes)

William said...

Imagine. The song posits the theory that the world would be a much nicer place if everyone had the lofty consciousness of John Lennon. What makes the song particularly annoying to me is that at one time I fell for it and that John Lennon truly owned a grand talent.....Muskogee takes on the pretense that people from Muskogee are unpretentious. If only that were true.

TML said...

"Imagine". Yes. I'm more interested in what the choices say about Sully and how Ann has pried open that door. It's like a bully picking on the nerds. I know that's what they DO, but if they had any real ambition, they'd be all over the football players. But imagine how much against the grain of Sully's very being 'twould be to put the song that would win the poll in the poll? I also nominate that horrendous Christmas "We Are The World" fisaco. Beyond pathetic. Geldof's sanctimony about legitimate suffering in Africa due 100% to corrupt marxist tyrants running almost every country didn't even get a mention as a cause. Frauds.

Pogo said...

Cat's in the Cradle, by Harry Chapin; probably started the whole damned men's movement crap.

Helen Reddy's I Am Woman is sure to be on endless replay in hell.

Palladian said...

Late-career Michael Jackson. Later-career Green Day. Bob Dylan until '64.

Individual songs? I agree that "Imagine" is the absolute worst. "Luka" by Suzanne Vega. "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy. "Signs" by The Five Man Electrical Band. "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere & The Raiders. "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.

The early 1990s was also the golden age of pretentious, one-world, new-agey cod-profundity.

TML said...

OK. That last sentence was most ill constructed. What I meant was:

Geldof's sanctimony about the legitimate suffering in Africa was deeply misleading. We know now (and then!) that it was due 100% to corrupt marxist tyrants running almost every country. But that didn't even get a mention as a cause.

Apologies.

Palladian said...

"We Are The World"

Oh God, that's almost tied with "Imagine". Wretched.

Clyde said...

I'm still gonna be a contrarian and go with "One Tin Soldier." Either version, Coven or Original Caste.

Meade said...

Shut up and just strum your banjo.

rcocean said...

My nominees:

-Imagine
-I am Women Hear me Roar
-Cat and the Cradle
-Half Breed
-Indian Reservation
-American Pie

Some of these I enjoyed the first couple times. But now, its like chalk on a blackboard. Of course, most people don't care about lyrics.

As for Merle, I hated that song when young, but listening to it now, its actually pretty good.

deborah said...

Pitching woo.

campy said...

"Abraham, Martin and John," anyone?

donttread2010 said...

OK my 'heavy hitter' awful song of all time goes to:

'Having My Baby' by Paul Anka.

Honorable Mentions to:

'Run Joey Run' by David Geddes.
'I Love the Night Life' by Alicia Bridges
ANYTHING by Yoko Ono.

Shanna said...

I also nominate that horrendous Christmas "We Are The World" fisaco.

Yes! I was trying to remember this one. We need an update with our own poll…

Cat's in the Cradle, by Harry Chapin; probably started the whole damned men's movement crap.

Yeah, in the end he’s complaining about his son not coming to see him when the sons kids have the flu rather than actually going and visiting his own son when he’s clearly retired. And unlike the dad, his son is spending time with his own kids.

-American Pie

NO!! That song isn’t really saying anything is it? It’s just 60’s drug addled glorious nonsense.

shoutingthomas said...

Thanks for reminding me of the infamously odious Pete Seeger.

"If I Had a Hammer," is a classic bit of commie propaganda. And it's crazy as hell.

Who was it who said:

"In the glorious old Soviet Union, you couldn't buy a fucking hammer because there weren't any to buy. In the decadent, capitalist U.S., you could drive down to the Home Depot and buy a bag full of hammers cheap?"

In defense of Dylan, he dumped the old commie stooge, Seeger.

Leland said...

I agree with the honorable *ahem* mention for "We are the World". But I place it behind "Imagine". If you remove the cause *ahem* from "We are the World", the lyrics are not quite as bad. It does work as a Christmas melody in the sense of doing for the weakest/poorest among us to "safe ourselves". In comparison, we have "Imagine no possessions", as if Marxist leaders actually believed in no possessions.

EDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Firehand said...

From Jennifer it was 'Shut up and dance, monkey!"
http://injennifershead.com/?p=1841

EDH said...

Imagine all the peeepull...

Actually, wasn't "Imagine" meant to be something of a counter-culture "Okie."

If "Okie" was as an "abjectly humorous character portrait" and precursor to "you might be a redneck if," then wasn’t "Imagine" a "you might be a starry-eyed liberal if"?

Wasn't Lennon setting-up a similar tongue-in-cheek, though in most ways inverse, character portrait of himself as Haggard?

Sheepman said...

"Eve of Destruction" has got be near the top of any such top 10 list.

Richard Dolan said...

A "pop song designed to reflect a profound moral conscience" would be a strange thing indeed, if it had ever been written. But songs, like movies and poems, are best at capturing a feeling; their power lies in the ability to magnify a particular, often fleeting moment. They aren't essays or homilies in disguise, and the form of a pop song (usually 3-5 minutes, built around lots of musical repetition) is an especially poor fit for "reflect[ing] a profound moral conscience." A songwriter, or movie maker or poet, who doesn't understand that is likely to turn out only hackneyed, syruppy mush. Like "imagine all ...."

Salamandyr said...

'Imagine', which, in addition to being ridiculous leftist treacle, is a lousy song, that undergrads still use to try to convince girls they are deep.

'Luka' isn't a bad song, but it'll forever be in my personal hell because of one DJ, who would introduce it as "as song..." breathy rasp to show he cares "about child abuse" (dun DUN!!!).

Yes you moron! We know. Just play damned song!!!

twinsdaddy said...

somewhere Barry McGuire is jumping up and down yelling "over hear, over hear"..and anyone who writes such drek as "Ohio" ,should not be allowed to still charge 100 dollars a ticket.

Comrade X said...

Wemoweh. It really symbolizes the moral conscience of Marxist Pete Seeger since he stole it from a dirt poor black South African. From each according to his ability, to each according to his ability to steal. But he claims he asked his record company to send the guy a $1000 check!

Pogo said...

Not quite moral conscience land, but Bobby Goldsboro's Honey can make anyone long for a Yoko Ono medley, or a glass-eating contest.

twinsdaddy said...

the pun was intentional

E.M. Davis said...

"Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire
"The End" by The Doors
"Land of Confusion" by Genesis
"Imagine" by John Lennon (

jerryofva said...

Shana:

Boy did you miss the meaning of American Pie. It is anything but drug adled. It is a conservative song. Don McLean hated the 60s drug culture and the song reflected that hatred. He was a devout Roman Catholic.

donttread2010 said...

@Pogo

"Helen Reddy's I Am Woman is sure to be on endless replay in hell."

Good catch, almost forgot that one.

We musn't forget the insipid country quake 'Achy Breaky Heart' of the rat-tailed, pickup truck with balls-driving Billy Ray Cyrus either...just awful.

BTDGreg said...

Of course, the key to understanding "Okie From Muskogee" is knowing that Merle Haggard did, indeed, inhale. A lot. That puts the some properly into context.

"Imagine" is on the video game Rock Band 3, which my family got from Santa. My wife and I had to try to explain to my daughters (half of our Rock Band band) why we hate the song so much, but also felt the need to add the caveat that a lot of people really love it. It basically boiled down to the fact that the lyrics are just stupid Leftist bumper stickers.

Lem said...

All your songs are Handel Messiahs compared to..

Al Otro Lado Del Rio - The Motorcycle Diaries

Wait.. King of Kings, Lord of Lords, for ever and ever ;)

t-man said...

Free to Be You and Me

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

You people are all COMMUNISTS…. American Pie is a GREAT song…if it suffers from anything, it suffers from over-play/over-exposure, like Stairway to Heaven. You can only listen to something, even something good, so many times. American Pie is talking about the difference between the New Frontier Liberals and the New-New Left of the Marxists/Hippies/Radicals, via the music. The there is/was a TREMENDOUS difference between the 1954-64 Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power/Black Panther Movement, and American Pie addresses that gulf.

I’d put Imagine as the worst song, as well as Sting’s The Russians and along with it, the video for Depeche Mode’s People Are People. Sting and Depeche Mode get at something, but fail utterly to comprehend what they’re trying to say…Russians DID love their children and as 30 million of them died in a war they decided the best way to ensure their children’s safety, was to be armed to the teeth and fight the next war in Germany, not the Ukraine! And once the Germans have killed 30 million of your nation and destroyed 80% of the buildings from the River Bug to Moskva, you’ll understand what makes a man hate another man…. “Pop” musicians ought to be banned from discussing larger issues…can we pass a law?

shoutingthomas said...

Shit, Lem, you win by a landslide!

A romantic ode to Castro's executioner, Che Guevera!

How can you beat that?

Is there a romantic ballad about Uncle Joe out there somewhere? Must be.

Imagine, a close second.

Titus said...

Madonna's American Life was the worst show she put out and I love her long time.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

ShoutingThomas…If you look around a bit, you can find a Pete Seger album that was released, JUST PRIOR to 22 June 1941. It implores the US to stay out of the Capitalist War and may speak well of Comrade Stalin. Once the Fascist Hooligan Google-Eyed Oafs attacked the Rodina the album was recalled and destroyed, but a few copies remain.

shoutingthomas said...

For a great take down of Imagine, read this.

And just to add to the immortal awfulness of the song, remember that it was produce by the convicted murderer, Phil Spector.

Shanna said...

Don McLean hated the 60s drug culture and the song reflected that hatred.

I know nothing about Don McClean except that song (very much NOT a child of the 60s!) but it blends in with the other druggies stuff in that it drifts all over the place. Not that I don't like the song, because I certainly do.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

Shanna, LISTEN TO THE WORDS, read the lyrics…
Now the half-time air was sweet perfume (Drugs)
While the sergeants played a marching tune. (Beatles)
We all got up to dance,
Oh, but we never got the chance! (His generation left behind)

Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A generation lost in space (His generation left behind-double reference to the TV show)

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage.
No angel born in hell
Could break that satan’s spell.
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite,
I saw satan laughing with delight
The day the music died (Not a fan of Mick Jagger-though Jagger IS very much the Capitalist, the Stones are best musically as an R&B band, they are only an “OK” Rock band)
And in the streets: the children screamed, (Rioters)
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken; (Sounds of Silence)
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most: (Two Kennedy’s and MLK)
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.

The song is a lament by a folk-song singing, Buddy Holly-loving Liberal about the America of post-1968 Radicalism…

Anne B. said...

Oddly enough, I managed to miss ALL the songs Sullivan listed. Every single one. Though Lord knows I heard enough crap on the radio in the 60s and 70s.

Add my vote to the other commenters who named "Imagine" the biggest stinker of the bunch.

edutcher said...

Songs of social significance, as they were once called, are almost universally overblown - and overwrought, but, to throw a couple more logs on the fire...

Willie Nelson's "Pretty Paper"

and...

shoutingthomas said...

Thanks for reminding me of the infamously odious Pete Seeger.

"If I Had a Hammer," is a classic bit of commie propaganda. And it's crazy as hell.


... don't forget "Where Have All the Flowers Gone". Probably written by some guy named Vladimir in the fifth sub-basement of the Kremlin.

PS Those who are saying "American Pie" is against the whole counter culture thing are correct. Satan is drugs (" I saw Satan laughing with delight..."), the jester ("the jester, on the sidelines, in a cast...") is, oh no!!!!, Dylan. The whole idea of the phrase, "the day the music died", is the takeover of American culture by the Leftist, druggie crowd.

WV "petabar" A saloon where there is no free lunch.

PatCA said...

"Imagine all the peeepull...."

Oh lord, yes. Make it stop!

I blame the MacArthur Foundation, which funds all this Lennon/socialist utopia hype.

Titus said...

That Celine Dion Titanic song is really awful.

Actually, anything be Celine Dion.

And Celine Dion in general.

Celine Dion talking is especially awful.

Oh and Celine singing Imagine-absolute worst.

Titus said...

Oh and that Tammy Wynette revised song Justified and Ancient-God that was awful.

Carol said...

Aw, I'm late...some of my favorite pop songs overall have revoltingly liberal lyrics, like "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "That's Just the Way It I" (Hornsby not TimBuk3). Seems like the socially conscious lyrics were always pissy, myopic, ahistorical, melodramatic...you name it.

Oh and yeah, "Imagine" for sure. On the other hand, "Revolution" had about the best lyrics politically. I believe Lennon wrote both.

shoutingthomas said...

Oh and Celine singing Imagine-absolute worst.

Yes, I've got to agree with you for once Titus.

When I was on cruise, the big screen over the pool showed a video of Celine screeching and of her visits to poor people where she does wonderful things and says profoundly uplifting things.

Just about made me want to dynamite the screen.

Celine seems to be the queen of that style where you extend every vowel for 10 seconds and screech it across a mighty arpeggio transcending several octaves.

She is an icon of horrible taste and pretentious do-gooder-ism.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

But Titus, at least Celine Dion, AFAIK, isn’t trying to “improve” the world…She’s not an “Artiste” a la Sting or Madonna, trying to send a “message.” She’s a lounge singer who sings lounge songs, and could do with a couple of extra sam-iches.

lohwoman said...

Merle performed "Okie from Muskogee" on the "Last of the Breed" tour (with Ray Price, Willie Nelson). Willie joins him on stage midway and it's a kick to watch their facial/vocal rendition. Better than ever!

The Crack Emcee said...

Finally - we agree on something about music!

wv: "merle" - no shit!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I submitted "Imagine" the moment Andrew originally put up this topic, which must have been a couple of months ago. It didn't make the blog, though, until a few days later, after he'd published maybe a dozen obscure suggestions. I think finally enough people submitted it that he felt obliged to acknowledge them.

But not to put it on the ballot? I agree with half a dozen people upthread: We should mount a write-in campaign. It worked for Lisa Murkowski . . .

IIRC, "We Are The World" and similar celebrity-fundraiser songs were disallowed in the rules.

bagoh20 said...

What, no classical music? Powdered wigs are kinda pretentious. Imagine what they would say if they had a mike with some scarfs wrapped around it. Baby, Baby, Baby!

Shanna said...

Shanna, LISTEN TO THE WORDS, read the lyrics…

I've listened to the words, I've heard the lyrics, I've heard multiple interpretations of who the three men I admire most are... I'm just not interested in writing a thesis on the thing (which I know has been done). Nor am I a child of that era. So. To me. It drifts all over creation. I'm sure it all made sense to him and maybe it made sense to everybody of that generation. I believe you that he wasn't drug addled. Happy?

shoutingthomas said...

An interesting and related topic:

We are so fucking gullible when we are young, and this is when our taste in music is formed.

So, in general people have a passionate interest for five or ten years when they are dating. This period is followed by a 50 to 75 year period of nostalgia for that short period when they were actually open to music.

An astounding dynamic, isn't it? Astoundingly stupid, too.

Pogo said...

Little boxes by Malvina Reynolds.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

Yeah, Shanna… American Pie, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Babba O’Riley are what music CAN do when it puts its mind to it, sadly mostly what you get instead is Imagine. And yeah you get a thesis, when you make a claim that is wrong, and is self-evidently wrong, if you bother to think about what’s being said….

I’d also recommend a heavy dose of Frank Zappa, for your listening pleasure, and edification.

edutcher said...

Titus, what you don't like is her singing style. Another issue. A lot of people have sung, "Imagine"; only one was stupid enough to have written it.

As for the "Titanic" theme, it's no worse than the rest of the movie.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

Oh Pogo, you are right that was AWFUL! The funny thing is, Malvina IS describing something that exists…It’s called Liberal America and can be found in the Hamptons and outside P-Town….sadly she probably didn’t see it that way.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

shoutingthomas,

Is there a romantic ballad about Uncle Joe out there somewhere? Must be.

Pablo Neruda wrote an "Ode to Stalin" that tends not to turn up in anthologies of his work. I don't know whether anyone set it to music, though.

shoutingthomas said...

Little Boxes is also remarkably stupid in its premise.

It was written to ridicule the middle class development of Daly City, the first city south of San Francisco on the peninsula.

Daly City was and is a middle class paradise. Sure, the houses are middle class tracts. Middle class people can afford them! Oh, the horror!

Daly City sits atop a mountain bluff overlooking an astonishing panorama of the Pacific Ocean.

I knew people and had co-workers who lived in Daly City when I lived in San Francisco. They owned horses and motorcycles and spent their lives on the beach and in the mountains.

Such was the horror of middle class conformity in Daly City. Daly City is now a favorite destination for Filipino families, who recognize the familiar beautify of a mountainous coastline.

And that fucking song sounded so profound to me when I was a teenager.

peter hoh said...

What Michelle said: Sullivan's readers pushed him to put "imagine" on the list. Sully published some back and forth between readers defending and attacking the song.

Yes, it should be on the final ballot. Not sure if Sully or his minions are responsible for assembling the ballot. Supposedly, he's on vacation.

Big Mike said...

For sheer smugness and pretentiousness how do you beat Lennon's "Merry Christmas (War is Over"?

jerryofva said...

Celine Dion gets all the "credit" for the vocals in Titanic but the actual soundtrack was sung by a Norwegian singer named Sissel [Krykyebo]

I know it's useless trivia.

c3 said...

Shut up and give

Pogo said...

I like the song, but it's always been funny that Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. was never meant to be a positive anthem about the US.

But it is certainly taken that way.
Heh.

Robert Cook said...

"I second 'Imagine' as the most overhyped song of the century. I wish there was a write-in option on the SUAS poll."

Is the poll for "most overhyped" songs or "most pretentious?" A song may be both pretentious and overhyped, but also only one or the other.

I have never been a fan of John Lennon, particularly, and the only song of his I own (as opposed to the Beatles) is "Instant Karma," but I disagree that "Imagine" is pretentious: its lyrics are plain and sturdy, not at all ostentatious or overwrought, and the sentiment expressed is simply one of a desire for a world where people can recognize their commonality as human beings and live in greater harmony, leaving ephemeral cultural, ethnic, political and religious differences aside.

There's nothing smug or pretentious about it. (This doesn't mean anyone has an obligation to like the song at all.)

"McArthur's Park" is pretentious.

shoutingthomas said...

Kookie,

I laughed my ass off over your comment.

You are a precious icon of the failed ideology of communism.

And apparently completely unaware of it, too.

Don't ever change.

You represent something so deeply stupid and pretentious in the heart of humans. The stupidity and pretension cannot be penetrated, not even by the genocidal murder of 100 million people.

You are awesome.

c3 said...

This may seem ironic but as a teen I thought this one was just....c'mon (maybe it was my Catholic upbringing with the earnest singing nuns.)

I can still recall kids on the school bus singing along with the song as it played overhead and thinking:

do they really understand what the song is saying? or is it no different than Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree (another crap song)

deborah said...

Good call, Big Mike. That should be way at the top.

G Joubert said...

Most all of pop music is abjectly insipid, whether or not political. It fits that one song mentioned here, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing", started off as a slick Coca-Cola commercial.

I read somewhere that Don McLean is still living quite well off the royalties from American Pie, for which he is forever grateful. I also read that Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song" originated from her response to watching Don McLean live onstage. Sorta like, that which goes around comes around.

Pogo said...

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks.

1) Lyrics by "poet" Rod McKuen, adapted from a song by Jacques Brel.

2) Endless pain on relistening.

3) We had joy, we had fun,
we had seasons in the sun.
But the stars we could reach
were just starfishs on the beach

shoutingthomas said...

c3,

Sorry, The Lord's Prayer doesn't make the list.

The idea of making a pop song out of the prayer is, of course, trashy and stupid.

The words are the most profound words in the history of humanity.

The key phrase is:

Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.

This describes the human condition so beautifully. And, it tells us how to deal with the reality of the human condition.

Unlike the communist ideal of Utopia, The Lord's Prayer admits that we sometimes step on the feet of others, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. We all do.

And the only answer is forgiveness.

c3 said...

Gosh, getting the video for "The Lord's Prayer" lead me to this one. I was 12 when it came out and even then I thought what a crappy song

Now I can listen to it and then listen to God Bless the USA and think:

basically the same song, just depends on your political bent

Acoustic cheetos.

shoutingthomas said...

You know, Kookie, I'm not going to ridicule you any more.

Communism failed. Utopianism proved to be nothing but genocide.

But the dumb yearning for the commie Utopia won't die in the human heart.

I think there will always be people like you who hate the world as it is, and would rather destroy it than live with its imperfection.

That seems impossibly stupid to me. But, it's a reality of the human psyche and heart. And, for some people, it's all that matters, this desire for the world to be a perfect place.

I'm glad I'm not stuck with it. You are. I don't know whether you are to be pitied, hated or ridiculed for this. But, you are an icon. I know dozens like you in Woodstock.

This is also part of the human condition. There will always be a tiny 1% of humanity that cannot rid itself of this affliction.

Fred4Pres said...

Isn't Trig Palin around to catch a kick or two from Andrew Sullivan?

DADvocate said...

As a Southern semi-hippie in the late 1960s, most of my friends and I liked "Okie for Muskogee". And, we were close enough to Nashville to know Merle had a wild side.

This is the Gypsy Woman I remember.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7gMeUCtXx4

AST said...

You could throw a dart at any pop chart from the 60s and 70s and probably hit one of these self-righteous protest songs. Eve of Destruction, anyone?


Right now a group called Arcade Fire has two songs out that deserve to be on the lists: The Suburbs and Modern Man. Their album seems to have a lot of songs along the same line, although I haven't heard them all.

The Suburbs is a cheerful dystopian ditty about Suburban War, which is another cut on their album.

rcocean said...

Yeah, "Little Boxes" is a elitist piece of snobbery.

And a reminder - Paul Anka is really, really, awful. Neil Diamond is Macho by comparison.

Lucien said...

Credit where credit is due: didn't Zappa actually put out an instrumental album called "Shut up and play your guitar"?

Robert Cook said...

"I know nothing about Don McClean except ('American Pie') (very much NOT a child of the 60s!) but it blends in with the other druggies stuff in that it drifts all over the place. Not that I don't like the song, because I certainly do."

Actually, it doesn't drift all over the place...the song is highly allusive to events and figures of its time:

"But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died"


This refers to the death of Buddy Holly in a plane crash.

"When the Jester sang for the King and Queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
In a voice that came from you and me"


A reference to Bob Dylan.

"Oh, and while the King was looking down
The Jester stole his thorny crown"


I believe this is refers to the rise of Bob Dylan and "socially conscious" music, and the loss of the innocent charms of Buddy Holly's songs and the era in which he and his songs lived. I'm not sure about the phrase "the King and Queen" or what it means, but "the King" is probably Elvis Presley.

"Helter Skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the Jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While the Sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance"


Multiple allusions here to the Beatles, ("Helter Skelter," "the Sergeants" (as in Pepper); Charles Manson ("Helter Skelter" again); The Byrds and drug culture ("Eight Miles High"); and Bob Dylan again ("the jester on the sidelines in a cast," a reference to Dylan's hiatus from activity after a motorcycle crash).

"So come on, Jack, be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire is the devils only friend"


Refers to Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, (and their songs "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Sympathy For The Devil") and by implication to the violence and druggy disaster of their Altamont concert in December 1969.

I think broadly speaking this is McLean's paean of loss to the innocence of the 50s, as contrasted with the turmoil and violence of the 60s, compounded by the drug culture and its casualties, and perhaps also to the flirting of some pop figures with radical politics.

There's a lot that can be said about this song, and I don't claim any special knowledge...I'm just reading the lyrics and seeing the references and drawing first-impression conclusions.

It's a great song.

G Joubert said...

Then there's always Les Crane's spoken-word recording of Desiderata.

jr565 said...

Shouting Thomas wrote:
Dylan's lowest point was his propaganda song for the boxer, Hurricane Carter.

Classic bit of the "hero of the lower classes" genre.

Dylan made a hit song out of his propaganda piece shilling for Carter's innocence in a murder case.


See and Id say the opposite. Regardless of his innocence, that is one of Dylan's tightest songs. The writing is verite and crisp and journalistic, and the arrangement (for a dylan song) is quite elaborate.
As far as John Lennons Imagine I have mixed feelings. On one hand the lyrics have to be among the most condescending in the annals of rock (maybe The Smitsh Meat is Murder ties with it), but on the other hand, musically it's a very good song.
On the same album there's the song Gimme Some Truth, and it's quite funny that the same guy wrote both songs.
Gimme Some Truth has the following lyrics:

I’m sick and tired of hearing thingsFrom uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocriticsAll I want is the truthJust gimme some truthI’ve
I’m sick and tired of hearing thingsFrom uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocriticsAll I want is the truthJust gimme some truth"
Coudn't those words apply to Imagine itself?Its funny how someone so smart on one hand could simultaenously be such a sanctimonious idiot.

Patrick said...

"Billy, Don't Be a Hero." Bo Donaldson. I don't really remember, though, how seriously Bo took the song, or himself. For that reason, I will agree, "imagine" is the most pretentious song in histo written by the most pretentious pop culture figure in history.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Robert Cook,

[I]ts lyrics are plain and sturdy, not at all ostentatious or overwrought, and the sentiment expressed is simply one of a desire for a world where people can recognize their commonality as human beings and live in greater harmony, leaving ephemeral cultural, ethnic, political and religious differences aside.

Yes: a "commonality as human beings" that involves "no possessions," and a "leaving [of] religious differences aside" that involves "no religion." Sounds pretty ecumenical from here. Everyone welcome! So long as you renounce ownership of everything down to your underwear and your toothbrush, and solemnly swear that there is no God.

wv: hotripho. Some of the other commenters here might have some fun with that.

shoutingthomas said...

Here's an outlier that deserves mention: Barbra Streisand's People.

People does double duty in that it is (1) indecipherable jibberish and (2) it evidently aspires to be a profound demonstration of moral conscience. This is an incredible achievement.

Let me quote:

No more hunger and thirst
But first be a person who needs people
People, people who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world

This is World Saving re-interpreted through the eyes of a pretty gay boy Broadway songwriter. Absolutely empty tinsel masquerading as Deep Meaning.

Let's see anybody beat that.

deborah said...

I think Hurricane is one of his worst. Especially the forced rhyming.

Comrade X said...

what is the best pop song to reflect a moral conscience?

off the top of my head I love "In The Ghetto"

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

shoutingthomas,

People, people who hate people
Are the suckiest people in the world


is the version current among my friends. Much, much less annoying than the original.

shoutingthomas said...

See and Id say the opposite. Regardless of his innocence, that is one of Dylan's tightest songs. The writing is verite and crisp and journalistic, and the arrangement (for a dylan song) is quite elaborate.

Well, you could argue that.

Trouble is, Hurricane Carter was a ruthless murderer who gunned down a grandmother in cold blood. He also murdered two men in cold blood.

http://graphicwitness.com/carter/

Dylan's song led to the production of an atrocious motive about Carter that further advanced the theory that Carter was an innocent black man framed for crimes he did not commit.

Artistic license has its limits. I don't care whether the song was catchy. Lionizing a ruthless triple murderer as a civil rights hero was a disgusting play for publicity.

jerryofva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TMink said...

Althouse, thank you so much for identifying that this was a response to Sullivan. It kept me from wasting my time by reading the original post. I really appreciate that.

Trey

jerryofva said...

Mr. Cook:

Your exegeses remind me of the hacks who used to run the Literaturnaya Gazeta in the old Soviet days. So pedantic and pretentious but utterly devoid of original intellect.

Shanna said...

Actually, it doesn't drift all over the place...the song is highly allusive to events and figures of its time:

I know. But can you all, just maybe, see how, lacking a super 60’s decoder ring for every single line of the freaking song, stuff like “The players tried for a forward pass, With the Jester on the sidelines in a cast” might sound a little drifty? Picture this song as a video. All 6 verses.

I’d also recommend a heavy dose of Frank Zappa, for your listening pleasure, and edification.

Pass! I heard PLENTY of that stuff growing up. My dad is a child of the 60's.

c3 said...

ST;
I respect you view regarding the "Lord's Prayer" song but its that combo of lyric (profound or otherwise) mixed with pop fan sensibilities. In the opposite direction its the tween singing along to some song that explicitly describes a "degrading to a woman" sexual encounter.

AST;
I like Arcade Fire.

Pogo said...

"We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel sucks big time. Its mish-mash of events is meant to convey something, but I'm not sure what.

'We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it
'

Oooookaaaay, Billy.

jr565 said...

Shouting Thomas wrote:

Trouble is, Hurricane Carter was a ruthless murderer who gunned down a grandmother in cold blood. He also murdered two men in cold blood.

http://graphicwitness.com/carter/

Dylan's song led to the production of an atrocious motive about Carter that further advanced the theory that Carter was an innocent black man framed for crimes he did not commit.

Again, why I said, Im not sure he's guilty. I also think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, but was amused by JFK and thought it was a good entertainment (and it made me seek out more info on the subject where I became more convinced that the movie was in fact full of crap).In Dylan's defense I'm not sure how much of this info was available at the time, and he may have been going by what he heard at the trial. a lot of people go to bat for people they think are innocent who in fact turn out to be guilty. It deson't take away from the skill of the song.
I'm thinking of the art of the song, and not the truth of the song. If you sat down and listend to Hurricane, you'd know the (one sided)story of Hurricane as well as all the details of the case, and even if the case was not what Dylan portrayed, you'd have a good understanding of hte case as presented by Dlyan. So Dylan as the songrwiter achieved his goal. Was it absolute truth (probably not). As per your links, probably not even close.

djf said...

First: Merle Haggards "Okie From Muskogee" is holding up well as the decades go by. Another country song where the artist got tons of crap dumped on head at the time, but now is an all-time classic: Tammy Wynette "Stand by Your Man".

Second: Agree 100% that "Imagine" is nothing but a hymn to atheism by a spoiled multimillionaire commie rat bastard.

Third: One song missing from the list: "In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans. Pure distilled essence of hippie pretension.

Robert Cook said...

"Yes: a "commonality as human beings" that involves "no possessions," and a "leaving [of] religious differences aside" that involves "no religion." Sounds pretty ecumenical from here. Everyone welcome! So long as you renounce ownership of everything down to your underwear and your toothbrush, and solemnly swear that there is no God."

Well, that's one (moronic) interpretation.

Lennon is not making a prescription for a utopian society, but simply pointing out that people are more alike than not and wishing that we could recognize this and put strife aside. We are riven apart by abstractions: desire for personal riches, religious prejudices, etc.

I have friends and relatives whose beliefs are different from mine, don't you? I ignore our differences in favor of what I enjoy about them as people. I don't require that they swear fealty to my views, or they, me to theirs. This is all Lennon's song is talking about, that people can choose to set aside their differences and jealousies to find common ground.

If one is going to decry Lennon as a wealthy hypocrite for "imagin(ing) no possessions," one must condemn virtually all artists for the same sin. Artists are not their art, and many who have produced great works of art have been miserable human beings. (I don't mean to assert Lennon is a great artist, but he was an artist, of whatever low or high rank one may consider him, and he had no more obligation than any other artist that his personal life be consistent with his work.)

Pogo said...

And remember, sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much, and I have to close my eyes and hide.

Meade said...

Pogo,
Don't forget that toe-tapping pop song Malvina hit the charts with in 1978:

"Back Alley Surgery"

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1978 Schroder Music Company, renewed 2006.


Supreme Court sits in Washington
Every one a mother's son.
Women's fate is lost and won
Behind that heavy door.
The justices preside in noble ease,
None of them ever suffers pregnancies,
So they hand out decisions such as these:
Back alley abortions for the poor.

Yes, back alley surgery kitchen knife solutions,
Wire hanger abortions for the poor.

Well-to-do people can manage well,
Anything they need they can buy and sell,
But the teenage drifter can walk in hell
Or roll on the back room floor.
And the battered children who bruise and bleed,
And the mother with too many kids to feed,
Pro-life offers them in their need
Back alley abortions for the poor.

Yes, back alley surgery kitchen knife solutions,
Wire hanger abortions for the poor.

Youngblood said...

Shanna,

You don't need to know anything about Don McLean. The lyrics aren't that hard to figure out if you're at all familiar with the music of the era. It's very critical of the music of the 1960's.

Chip Ahoy said...

Two nights ago I deleted the whole American Idiots Green Day album from iTunes.

♫Don't wanna♬be an♪American i♩di♩ot.

As a friend would say, "But'cha aaah, Blanch, ya aaah!

Pogo said...

"If one is going to decry Lennon as a wealthy hypocrite for "imagin(ing) no possessions," one must condemn virtually all artists for the same sin."

And I do, if they tell me to imagine no possessions.

Robert Cook said...

jerryofva,

If you want to refer to my off the cuff remarks as an "exegesis" for purposes of deriding my lack of "original intellect," that's your prerogative. I think you're just being silly.

Pogo said...

But Meade, remember the dictum: No more wire hangers!!!

Chip Ahoy said...

OMG, I finally discovered how to get the whole character palette back which disappeared with Snow Leopard. It's the tiny button on the top right of the box. Click it, and it closes/opens the "all characters" window. My heart just leapt with joy.

Youngblood said...

When it comes to Imagine, Elton John said it best:

Imagine six apartments
It isn't hard to do
One is full of fur coats
Another one for shoes


(John and Yoko did keep several apartments at the upscale Dakota, one of which served as temperature-controlled storage for their impressive fur coat collection.)

Chase said...

MacArthur Park? Pretentious?

Jimmy Webb (Wichita Lineman, Up, Up and Away, By the Time I get to Phoenix) wrote that song and I have no opinion of it, except:

I only know that he and I had the same college music theory teacher in the early 70's. Jimmy scored a B in the class, and I bested him with the first A ever given by this hard teacher.

I got the A.
Jimmy has millions of dollars.

Sigh.

jr565 said...

Midnight Oil's Beds Are Burning

The time has come
To say fair's fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share

The time has come
A fact's a fact
It belongs to them
Let's give it back

How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning
How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning


So who did the aborignes take their land from and why don't they have to give it back? And how did all that giving back work out in the first place?
And if the world is always turning, wouldn't that mean we could never actually dance?
By the same token, I can see why the song was a hit. It's very catchy. It's just really stupid and pretensious.

edutcher said...

Imagine, a song only Cook could love.

shoutingthomas said...

Here's an outlier that deserves mention: Barbra Streisand's People.

Not sure, but I think it's a (gasp!) show tune.

(if wrong, I'll happily stand corrected)

jerryofva said...

Cookie:

I gave you the award for your life long efforts to keep the red flame burning.

You wouldn't make it in the House of Commons.

chickelit said...

@Meade: re your posting of lyrics at 12:23:
Heart rendering, yet somehow I feel more for the brave young woman who visited that fire station on Christmas Day in L.A.
_______________

Has no one yet mentioned Bruce Cockburn's "If I had A Rocket Launcher (some SOB would Pay)" Link.

Pogo said...

Oh yeah, Cockburn. I know he sang "don't believe in generals or their stinking torture states," but what I really wanted was a rocket launcher.

Free to be you and me.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Here comes the story of Tricky Dick
The man the Democrats tried to kick
Around for what he neeever done
Hounded out of office, but ooone tiiime
He was the leader of the Free Wooorld.

Robert Cook said...

"Imagine, a song only Cook could love."

Two errors in seven words: I don't love the song, and very many others do.

CincyBill said...

I heard this expression for years in my church-going days. Somebody would get up to sing a solo and preach to us for a number of minutes before getting to the song. People were to polite to say it in church, but later people would say, "I wish she'd just shut up and sing." I assume that Sullivan was saying "Don't use your music to preach to me."

rcocean said...

Those who think "American Pie" is conservative, need to explain this line:

"The three men I admire most - the Father, the son, and the Holy ghost - they caught the last train for the coast - the day the music died".

Sounds rather anti-Christan to me.

jerryofva said...

rc:

Context my man, context. McLean is devout Roman Catholic. This is a commentary on the decline of the post Vatican II church and the decline civilization. These are not happy sounds.

Youngblood said...

"Those who think 'American Pie' is conservative, need to explain this line..."

"The three aspects of the God I admire most" has too many syllables. It doesn't scan.

(For what it's worth, I don't think that American Pie is "conservative" as much as a solid criticism of the standard Boomer narrative.)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Robert Cook,

I have friends and relatives whose beliefs are different from mine, don't you? I ignore our differences in favor of what I enjoy about them as people. I don't require that they swear fealty to my views, or they, me to theirs. This is all Lennon's song is talking about, that people can choose to set aside their differences and jealousies to find common ground.

What to say? The lyrics are, as you said earlier, perfectly "plain and sturdy." They don't say "Let us set aside our differences." They say "Let's get rid of any differences altogether."

Not "Let us reach across national boundaries," but "Let's get rid of nations." Not "Let us reach across religious boundaries," but "Let's renounce all religion." Not "Let us not consume ourselves in greed," but "Let's abolish private property." You have to read the lyrics very oddly to come up with anything else.

wv: crismse

Robert Cook said...

"Those who think 'American Pie' is conservative, need to explain this line:

"The three men I admire most - the Father, the son, and the Holy ghost - they caught the last train for the coast - the day the music died".

Sounds rather anti-Christan to me."


Why does this seem anti-Christian to you? Because it refers to the Trinity as "men?" Perhaps McLean was just being expedient or economical in his choice or words.

And, why do you assume that conservatism and Christianity have any relation to one another? Christianity is one of the more radical philosophical precepts on how to live of (relatively) recent times. This is why it is so rarely seen in actual practice.

rcocean said...

OK - so what is the meaning of them "catching the last train for the coast"?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
Those who think "American Pie" is conservative, need to explain this line:

"The three men I admire most - the Father, the son, and the Holy ghost - they caught the last train for the coast - the day the music died".


Uh, because it refers to John F Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King? As to American Pie being CONSERVATIVE, I think you have confused a critique of Smelly Hippies with Conservative. I would argue, see above, that McLean is a LIBERAL, you know JFK, FDR, LBJ, Hubert Humphrey, not a McGovern, Abbie Hoffman, Barak Obama, you know RADICALS?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
OK - so what is the meaning of them "catching the last train for the coast"?
That they’re DEAD? Plus an added reference to the Death of Religion in the 1960’s, due to Hippies, but also the rise of, what my friend called, the “Tambourine Church.” You know the Church that is “relevant”, “hip”, “with it” and “modern”?

edutcher said...

Robert Cook said...

"Those who think 'American Pie' is conservative, need to explain this line:

"The three men I admire most - the Father, the son, and the Holy ghost - they caught the last train for the coast - the day the music died".

Sounds rather anti-Christan to me."


Why does this seem anti-Christian to you? Because it refers to the Trinity as "men?" Perhaps McLean was just being expedient or economical in his choice or words.

And, why do you assume that conservatism and Christianity have any relation to one another? Christianity is one of the more radical philosophical precepts on how to live of (relatively) recent times. This is why it is so rarely seen in actual practice.


Get real, Cook. You don't see the the Commie-loving Left living by it, much less treating it with any reverence unless they think they can snow a few of the Useless Idiots into going along with them by trying to say, "It's the Jesus thing to do", or something equally inane.

The "last train" is a reference to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper (Father, Son, etc. )

jerryofva said...

RC:

It's a metaphor.

Joe:

A JFK liberal is a Reagan Conservative (Reagan ought to know since JFK was the last Democrat he supported). And no, the line really does refer to the Trinity. I repeat McLean was a church going, communion taking, taught the Baltimore Catechism, Roman Catholic.

edutcher said...

PS It's neither pro- nor anti-. It's just a metaphor.

Robert Cook said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson,

You're being too literal.

Lennon's lyrics are about human strife. This applies to individuals and to societies and nations. He wasn't writing a treatise but a song. It would be inartful to say "let us reach across national boundaries," or "Let us not consume ourselves with greed," rather than what he did say, "Imagine there's no countries" and "Imagine no possessions," and so on.

Pogo said...

What's a metaphor?

To keep cows in! Har!




Sorry.

shoutingthomas said...

And, why do you assume that conservatism and Christianity have any relation to one another? Christianity is one of the more radical philosophical precepts on how to live of (relatively) recent times. This is why it is so rarely seen in actual practice.

This is where you get extremely confused, Kookie.

Christianity postulates ideals! It is to be given that few of us live up to those ideals. I'm not sure why this seems so profound to you. At the very same time that Christianity postulates ideals, it sets forth as a basic tenet of the faith the idea that we are all sinners, i.e., we all (except for God) fall short of attaining those ideals.

Catholic Communists are quite common. After all the root of "communion" and "communism" is the same. I've met a lot of these Catholic Communists. The Sandinistas' ranks were full of seminarians and priests seduced by liberation theology.

Neither conservatism nor liberalism are endorsed by the Church or by Christianity. You can make a case for one or the other if you like. Christianity is a moral and theological system.

On the one hand, I've often heard of Christ referred to as the ultimate revolutionary. (I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword. ) On the other hand, the patriarchal concept of God the Father is constantly attacked by the left for a variety of reasons, most recently by feminists, as a justification for authoritarian rule.

I suspect that the Trinity is intended to contain the entire spectrum, just as the Wheel of Dharma does.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
A JFK liberal is a Reagan Conservative (Reagan ought to know since JFK was the last Democrat he supported). And no, the line really does refer to the Trinity. I repeat McLean was a church going, communion taking, taught the Baltimore Catechism, Roman Catholic.
You may be too old to remember, but 1968 was the year that killed Liberalism, in the Democratic Party. LBJ and Humphrey were Liberals, Social Justice/Unionism/Keynesianism at home, Staunch Anti-Communism overseas. After ’68 the Party became increasingly the home of the likes of Hayden, Rubin, McGovern and others, supporting a Marxian, redistributionist domestic policy and much softer foreign policy…My point being that a “Liberal” is much different in 1964 than it is today. And I use “Liberal” in that sense. And I would argue that one can be a Believing Catholic and a Liberal…we call them Blue Collar Democrats/Ethnic Democrats nowadays. I just argue that American Pie is a liberals lament about the death of his nation/weltanschauung.

Youngblood said...

Rcocean,

Like Jerry said, it's a matter of context.

The song follows the progression of popular music (and youth culture) from the late 1950's through to the early 1970's, from sock hops to Altamont. The love, joy, and tranformative power of pop music is replaced, first by political activism and then by nihilism. By the time McLean matures as an artist and gets to participate, the magic and wonder is gone. Rock'n'roll, which once made people kick off their shoes and dance, has become a dark and monstrous force.

The transformative power of pop music is gone. The love is gone. The joy is gone.

Alex said...

"Everybody Wants to Rule the World" has some pretentious liberal lyrics, but that tune is so damn catchy you almost want to buy in!

jerryofva said...

Joe:

We are saying the same thing with a different slant. Wouldn't you agree (how's that for Cookian language) that someone fighting for traditional liberalism against the radicals who eventually took over the Democratic Party as essentially conservative?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Robert Cook,

I'm being too literal, am I?

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky


[...] And no religion too

The Cook translation: We ought all to recognize each other as fellow humans, whatever our religious beliefs.

You don't get any, um, whiff of hostility to religion as such here? Your take is that Lennon was totally keen on organized religion, and just wanted everyone to play nicely?

wv (seriously): humun

k*thy said...

Shanna, I'm with you. I didn't have that 60's decoder ring either. It's been fun learning more about the song, though.

But it is certainly taken that way. Heh.

Heh. Not.

shoutingthomas said...

To put an end quote around this:

I recently played with a 50s & 60s girl and R&B group. What a refreshing experience! Absolutely no political or social significance attached to the music. Nothing by boy/girl love songs.

I'd almost forgotten how wonderful this is, since I so often find myself playing in 60s and 70s hippie nostalgia bands.

Here's a typical opening line:

There's no good in our goodbyes
True love takes a lot of trying
Oh, I'm crying

I am astounded by the emotional impact of these supposedly teeny bopper lyrics.

They are, to use a 60s hippie phrase, "right on!"

Alex said...

If one is going to decry Lennon as a wealthy hypocrite for "imagin(ing) no possessions," one must condemn virtually all artists for the same sin. Artists are not their art, and many who have produced great works of art have been miserable human beings.

It's true it's important to separate the message from the messenger. We should evaluate "Imagine" on it's own merits, regardless of Lennon's hypocrisy.

Roger Sweeny said...

The real "counter-culture Okie"--and actually humorous, unlike "Imagine"--is the Youngblood's "Hippie from Olema."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OimAEdj7Qa0

Olema is a little part of Marin County, north of San Francisco.

Robert Cook said...

"...the radicals who eventually took over the Democratic Party..." are DINOs, as they are actually Republicans.

shoutingthomas said...

"...the radicals who eventually took over the Democratic Party..." are DINOs, as they are actually Republicans.

What would Kookie World look like?

Tell us, Kookie.

You hate everything and everybody. Nothing on this earth is good enough for you. If you could blow up everything and create Kookie World, what would it be?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
We are saying the same thing with a different slant. Wouldn't you agree (how's that for Cookian language) that someone fighting for traditional liberalism against the radicals who eventually took over the Democratic Party as essentially conservative?
Yes and No, I don’t consider Jean Kirkpatrick a “Conservative” nor William Kristol. They are “Neo-Conservatives.” As Kristol says, they respect Locke and Smith, whereas I, as a Conservative, tend to REVERE Locke and Smith. With the passing of the USSR, people like Kristol felt we needed a “New National Purpose”, I don’t…America’s “National Purpose” is to be a free, capitalist Republic, with individual liberties.

Now to Obama/Matthews/Olberman, Kristol=Bush=Palin=Rand Paul…”They all look alike to me,” but within the Movement yes there are major differences. That’s why Krauthammer, a “Conservative” says don’t defund ObamaCare…because he was a speech writer for Walter Mondale! In his world the Government can do go things FOR people, and we need to let it to so. I think the centre of gravity of Conservatism is the belief that government is LESS LIKELY to be a source of solutions…I’d argue Krauthammer is more a LIBERAL, than a CONSERVATIVE…

Bottom-Line: Krauthammer=Liberal, Palin=Conservative, Jesse Jackson/Nancy Pelosi=Modern Democrat. In some ways the differences between Dr K and Palin are SMALL and in others VAST…

Michael said...

Robert Cook: No matter what, please do not consider John Lennon a deep thinker or his hilarious song profound. Stick with more doctrinaire communism. Lennon was a dope and the song silly on stilts.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
"...the radicals who eventually took over the Democratic Party..." are DINOs, as they are actually Republicans.
Jesu Christi Cooke…short of calling each other “Comrade” a la Labour, the people you see as “Republicans” couldn’t be much more leftist…I guess they fail in that have no Glavnoye upravlyeniye ispravityel'no-trudovih lagyeryey i koloniy and still have Bourgeois Elections.

Robert Cook said...

"You don't get any, um, whiff of hostility to religion as such here? Your take is that Lennon was totally keen on organized religion, and just wanted everyone to play nicely?"

Again, you're too literal. Lennon's point is that what divides humans (and nations) are abstractions having little to do with the actual daily lives of most of us. He's saying that humans should try to understand one another as fellow human beings, free of these abstractions. How is a "Christian" different from a "Muslim" different from a "Jew" different from a "Hindu" different from an atheist? How is an American different from a Britisher different from a German different from a Russian, etc.? At bottom, we're all just animals with the same emotional and physical needs and drives and hopes and dreams, and we're all condemned to brief lives often filled with pain and loss as well as love and joy, and a mother or father in Iraq is no different than a mother or father in Brazil or Yemen or America in their desire that their children grow to be healthy and happy.

One could boil Lennon's song down to the more inelegant:

"Life's too short; don't sweat the small stuff,"

or the Golden Oldie:

"Treat others as you would like to be treated."

Alex said...

one thing I've noticed on this blog is that ya'll go 'round and 'round the mulberry bush with Robert Cook even though he never provides any evidence for his kooky assertions. Can anyone tell me what fun is that?

Alex said...

Cook - I don't buy the simple version of "Imagine". IT's clearly advocating some kind of Communist utopia, not "live and let live".

Robert Cook said...

Michael said,

"Robert Cook: No matter what, please do not consider John Lennon a deep thinker or his hilarious song profound."

Have I indicated anywhere that I consider Lennon a deep thinker or his song profound? Please read for comprehension.

Robert Cook said...

"Cook - I don't buy the simple version of 'Imagine'. IT's clearly advocating some kind of Communist utopia, not 'live and let live'."

Talk about unsupported kooky assertions!

damikesc said...

I just wonder how Cook reconciles the reality that Communists survived Nazi concentration camps better than they survived living in the USSR under Stalin. When the "motherland" is riskier than a regime that hates and has no problem killing you...you have a screwed up system.

Alex said...

Ah geez Cookie - after a million listens I think the point of "Imagine" is pretty clear. Abolish religion, abolish private property, abolish nations...

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

[...] And no religion too

Jesu Christi Cooke, again…this is ATHEISM, it’s not “don’t sweat the small things.” Of course a good Comrade, such as yourself, is going to be an apologist for a Fellow Traveler…I see why Trooper respects you, but honestly beyond your Marxist-Leninist consistency I really can’t see much in you.

campy said...

Not sure, but I think it's [Barbra Streisand's "People"] a (gasp!) show tune.

Yep. Funny Girl, 1964. Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill.

Robert Cook said...

"...beyond your Marxist-Leninist consistency I really can’t see much in you."

Well, if that's what you see, little as it is, you're wrong even in that.

jr565 said...

Robert Cook wrote:
Again, you're too literal. Lennon's point is that what divides humans (and nations) are abstractions having little to do with the actual daily lives of most of us. He's saying that humans should try to understand one another as fellow human beings, free of these abstractions.

What makes the song so obnoxious is the line "I hope someday you'll join us, adn the world will live as one". as if he's already in the camp of those imagining a world of no possessions, and those who still labor under such delusions may someday become enlightened like him. Yet at the same time he is a rich multimillionaire living the live undreamed of by most people in the world. How about I instead imagine I could be a beatle and live in the Dakota and have all the stuff that Lennon has? Maybe then I'd be just as enlightened.

Goju said...

The anthem of smug self-righteous arrogance: Southern Man

Michael said...

Goju: Bingo!!!!

Youngblood said...

Imagine is a song that's so simplistic, lyrically, that there's no real room for interpretation.

Lennon is asking us, directly and unambiguously, to imagine a world with no religion, no borders, and no personal property. That this is the same world that Marx, Lenin, and Mao asked us to imagine is not a coincidence.

Of course, when push came to shove and Lennon was involved in a multi-million dollar dispute and one of his friends teased him about the song, he angrily snapped back that it was "just a fuckin' song".

Four legs good, two legs better.

J said...

I’d also recommend a heavy dose of Frank Zappa, for your listening pleasure, and edification.

One doesn't just listen to Zappa. The pleasure of FZ muzack usually involves other...participants and activities. As the classic J****H p*****s goes--long as she does it...4-on-the-floor.....

reader_iam said...

Was "Billy Don't Be A Hero" one of the choices?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cdFuMgMkBM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

reader_iam said...

Maybe that one SSS just bad and Paoer Lace to all wimpy and satisfied with it.

Cedarford said...

As the HIV rots his brain, Andrew should at least farm out the job of creating his posts or lists to better thinkers than he is these days.....

As for songs, "Imagine" does have rivals in self-reverential pretentiousness. Bob Gelforf's "I sing because I care about humanity" dreck, The insufferable crap of Neil Diamond as his head swelled bigger than a Macy's Day balloon - "I Am. I Said."

In sheer awfulness, most of the really bad stuff is not by a famous person or a hit, so we remain blissfully unaware of it. Similar to a bear shitting in the woods and no one having to smell it or step in it.
Sometimes the truly awful does get through. Beach Boys eco-awareness songs from the excretable Mike Love, Madonna crap, Zanger and Evans "In the Year 2525".

I'd take exception to some songs mentioned. Lena's "99 Luft Balloons" was a brilliant song of an exceptionally dangerous time for Germany and Europe as things destabilized as the Super Powers amped up the tactical nuclear targets in Europe their SRBMs and cruise missiles aimed at and hawks in DC and Moscow talked about a "winnable nuclear war" in Europe.

Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" was about the power of past events to frame our present lives. It was a wonderful song and video.

And "Abraham, Martin, and John" was a beautiful capstone song for the great Dion Dimucci.

As for the perpetrator of "Imagine", John Lennon, I consider it one of several "bads" but in a constellation of "goods" and "greats" the guy did. He WAS a smart guy,quite perceptive and witty, a formidable song writer, who said dumb things and brilliant things.

dbp said...

Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil should be on the list, but Imagine should win.

damikesc said...

I can't say Imagine was terrible because all of Lennon's stuff was terrible. It's not that much worse than his other shit.

The Captain said...

If Andrew Sullivan has anything against the Hag, he can suck my...wait a minute. He wasn't supposed to like it.

The father, son, and holy ghost refer to Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. The song is a poem about remembering when their plane crashed and events that ensued between that day and the time he wrote American Pie. All the references are to music. That's what Don McLean says.

William said...

Some songs fall upon the ear like a soft cow plop, and you know right away they're crap. "In the Ghetto," by Elvis Presley, the entire oeuvre of Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Celine, etc. What makes Imagine special is the seductive quality of the melody, and the unsentimental way Lennon phrases the lyrics. It takes a moment of quiet reflection to understand that you have been plopped upon. This is what gives the song it's claim to the title of most pretentious: the other songs sparkle like sequins, but only Imagine has the true deep shine of poly vinyl cloride.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

William,

It takes a moment of quiet reflection to understand that you have been plopped upon.

Well said, sir! That's exactly it.

(Anyone care to spot Robert Cook a moment of quiet reflection?)

ricpic said...

What, no classical music?

Ravel's Bolero. First time, great. Second time, hurry up and get to the climax already.

Interestingly Ravel again, Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte. First time, moving. Second time, bathetic.

Hucbald said...

The abject pain of remembering it must be clouding all of your minds: From a Distance.

I win.

JOHN L. JORDAN said...

Boby Dylan? Are you talking about the same Bob Dylan that wrote this:

Every Grain Of Sand

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music

ricpic said...

A tiny dose of Manilow every now and a long while is one of my secret pleasures. There. I admitted it...ducks for cover.

Troy said...

Shut up and sing is a well known swipe. Shut up (talking) and sing. It's not such a big deal. Sullivan does so much else wrong this is an odd nit to pick -- of course you do so much right it seems odd for to pick this nit also.

M Jordan said...

Stonehenge. By Spinal Tap.

It took me close to the edge but not quite over.

M Jordan said...

Actually, a lot of songs you all have listed are really good poetic efforts. Imagine is a great paean to Marxism. Never mind that Marxism has been completely repudiated. The song works poetically.

Didja all know that the airport in Liverpool is named after John Lennon. Guess what their airport slogan is? "Above us only sky." One of the greatest slogans ever.

lindsey said...

Still remember the first time I heard "Imagine".
Stopped what I was doing, listened to the whole thing. Thought to myself "Music is beautiful, but lyrics are awful!" couldn't agree with a word of it.

Alex said...

Ask yourselves(I do) why THE most talented songwriters are ultra lefties. It seems correlation and causation apply here. The part of the brain that enables musical/poetic creativity at the same time seems to disable rational thought processes.

Simon Kenton said...

Imagine - All of you are right about the 999-fine, high-assay fatuity of the song. But I think the unacknowledged problem here, the actual set-your-teeth-on-edgery, is that an administration and its base have gone all Fulghum on it: "All I need to know about foreign policy I learned from Imagine.'

Please. I'm asking, and not rhetorically, either. Refudiate me.

Kirk Hawley said...

"Ravel's Bolero. First time, great. Second time, hurry up and get to the climax already."

Ravel himself called it "Fifteen minutes of orchestration without music."

-Kirk

Andrea said...

Anything by, from, about, or of David Crosby is the most pretentious, the smuggest, the most hectoring-lectoring, preachiest, barf-inducing, flaming gaseous anal emission in all of pop musicdom. Wooden Ships or Almost Cut My Hair or Long Time Gone ("Speak out, you gotta speak out against the madness; All I'm sayin' is speak your mind, that is, if you you still can and have the guts to; don't don't don't try to get yourself elected; and if you do forsake this child, you'd better cut your hair").

Kirk Hawley said...

"Boby Dylan? Are you talking about the same Bob Dylan that wrote this:

Every Grain Of Sand

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair"

Not to mention "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face." God DAMN.

-Kirk

steveH said...

"I also read that Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song" originated from her response to watching Don McLean live onstage"

The only problem with this being that the song was composed by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, and originally performed by Lori Lieberman.

Flack had better press flacks, apparently.

ken in sc said...

Anything by Neil Diamond. How did he get left out of this thread?

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