Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Thursday, October 10, 2002
You Say You Want a Trickle Down Monetary Policy

Andrew Northrup and Charles Kuffner had some fun with this list from Bruce Bartlett of the Top 40 conservative songs. That inspired me to look it up, and the list was even sillier than I had thought.

For starters, #1 is Paul Anka's 'Having My Baby'. Now I'll grant that it does have some conservative tendencies - and the right can have it. How hard up for material do you have to be to make this number 1? It's sugary tripe, one of the very few hits of the era that makes 'Seasons in the Sun' sound good by comparison. Bartlett cites the anti-abortion reference in the lyrics to claim it for conservatism, but that's dubious since nothing in the lyric says that abortion is morally wrong. The real conservatism is in Anka's sexism - the phrase 'my baby' appears 12 times in the recording, the phrases 'our baby' or 'your baby', 0. (Incidentally, to make that count, I had to actually download and listen to the damn song. Never let it be said that the Nuisance won't bear any burden and pay any price to give my readers accurate information.)

Number 2 is 'Revolution' from the Beatles. This song, written as the Weather Underground was being born and the Black Panthers were in their prime, is certainly critical of revolution as a means of changing society, but it seems to be supportive of the basic goals. I can't see how it belongs in any real list of conservative tunes.

Bartlett also cited two anti-war song's, Pete Seeger's 'Turn, Turn, Turn' and Kenny Rogers' "Ruby, Don`t Take Your Love to Town', a song about a man whose life was ruined by being crippled in Vietnam. Another one making the cut is Ray Davies's 'Sunny Afternoon'. Here are some of the lyrics Bartlett cites for their supposed anti-tax message:

The taxman's taken all my dough
And left me in my stately home
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
I can't even sail my yacht
He's taken taken everything I've got
All I got's this sunny afternoon...

My girlfriend's gone off with my car
And gone back to her ma and pa
Tellin' tales of drunkenness and cruelty
While I'm sittin' here
Sippin' at my ice-cool beer
Lazin on a sunny afternoon

Isn't Bartlett aware that the taxes the song refers to were originally passed largely on the argument that they would be paid by people exactly like the speaker? With his tin ear for irony, I'm amazed that Bartlett didn't also include Randy Newman's 'Political Science'.

Approximately 1/3 of the list are religious songs, many from the great tradition of African-American gospel music, taken on the apparent belief that religious faith is inherently conservative, which I guess explains the long association of Rev Jesse Jackson with the Republican Party.

After all these, the biggest howler comes at the end, when Bartlett declares: "I frankly think it would be much harder to put together a companion list of the most left-wing songs." Bartlett's #1, as noted above, is a dreadful song, and his number 2 doesn't legitimately belong on the list. His top 10 also includes two utterly forgettable and largely forgotten songs, 'The Three Bells' and 'God, Country, and My Baby', the protest song 'Turn, Turn, Turn', and a song (Neil Diamond, 'America') which was prominently played at the 1988 Democratic Convention.

If I were to put together a similar left-wing list, my top choice would be between 'Blowing in the Wind', 'Imagine', and 'I Shall Be Released'. Competition for spots in the top ten would include 'American Pie', 'War', 'Born in the USA', 'Society`s Child', 'The Revolution Will not be Televised', 'Sounds of Silence', 'After the Gold Rush', 'Me and Bobby McGee', 'Sympathy For the Devil', 'Living for the City', 'Mother`s Little Helper', 'Sixteen Tons', 'Give Peace a Chance', 'Feel Like I`m Fixin` to Die', 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', 'The Star Spangled Banner' (Hendrix version), 'Fortunate Son', 'Everyday People', and 'American Song'. That's off the top of my head. Every single song in the above list and a bunch of others I either forgot or didn't list are way the hell better than 'Having My Baby'. I really don't think Bartlett wants to put his list up against mine.

Update: Max Sawicky also posted on the list, and his remarks drew a blizzard of comments. But none of Max's commenters seemed to have mentioned that Max described the lyrics of 'Turn, Turn, Turn', taken from Ecclesiastes 3, as 'Jesus material'. Holy Moses, Max! Who knew you were such a schlemiel?
My remarks above on certain songs are very close to some made by Charles in the post linked to.