“How are you even a conservative?” my rock-band-promoting friend Heather Lowe once asked, back around 1995, when it seemed obvious to me conservatism was turning its attention to the important things, like economics and reducing government waste — and equally obvious to a lot of South Carolinians like Heather that conservatism pivoted on topics like religion, sex, and race.
I would contend not only that markets are the most important institution to conserve (and to defend against the ever-encroaching state) but that bourgeois, Western phenomena as different as rock n’ roll and National Review are obviously side effects of markets.
Indeed, just as we can barely tell the difference between eighteenth-century political factions from our vantage point, I doubt people living a century from now would see much difference between two Western, English-speaking, political, Christian, millionaire, media-savvy, and pro-capitalist-magazine owning figures such as William F. Buckley and Bono (Buckley having owned National Review, Bono owning a portion of Forbes — a reminder that his divinely-inspired long-term plan for saving the world probably doesn’t involve communism, fortunately). To the historians of the future, slight differences in their degrees of rebelliousness or stuffiness will be barely distinguishable, despite people attaching great importance to that metric in the rock n’ roll era.
(Speaking of confusing U2 with other people, I am reminded that although some of my college pals loved U2 but looked down their noses at the band the Fixx, my sophomore roommate Marc Steiner, whose wedding I mentioned in yesterday’s Retro-Journal entry, mistook “Deeper and Deeper” by the Fixx for a U2 song the first time he heard it — no insult to either band, in my opinion. And this marks the tenth blog entry in which I’ve mentioned the Fixx, this being the seventh song of theirs I’ve linked to, all seven universally hailed as stupendous. Incidentally, my guitar-playing friend Dave Whitney was married the same half-year as Marc — though I missed the ceremony because that day, like today, I was sick — and Dave once commented that to dislike U2 you’d have to be missing some part of your soul, a sentiment with which I’m inclined to agree — at least if we’re talking about the early stuff — even if I’d phrase it more materialistically than Dave or Bono would. Fixx lead singer Cy Curnin has his own brand of missionary zeal, albeit of a green-pagan-futurist variety, but all I really care about is that these bands sound good regardless of what kind of crazy they’re pushing.)
It shouldn’t be a big surprise that those evangelical peaceniks towering over a Buenos Aires audience in U2 3D are capitalists, though — U2 were savvy businessmen from the get-go, as described in detail in what I regard as the Sacred Text for U2 fans, Bill Flanagan’s book U2 at the End of the World. Unlike so many bands who taste fame, discover they aren’t instantly rich, fall to bickering, and break up, U2 had money sense, patience, and a large staff from their earliest days. And since then, they can’t have failed to notice Irish free-market-based reforms that have catapulted Ireland to the top of economic-prosperity charts after years of it being a poster child for work-seeking emigration — not that we mind work-seeking immigrants, as the audience vote at Lolita Bar established Wednesday night. The results of market-based reforms are so obvious and dramatic that the left survives only by turning an utterly blind eye to them — or, like the vicious Naomi Klein, by rationalizing that reform is covert repression.
As for the less-earthly question of whether religion naturally lends itself to musical inspiration or merely renders music overblown and sanctimonious, as more than one person has accused U2 of being: perhaps we can settle that question on April 2 at Lolita Bar, when our debate question will be “Does Christian Rock Suck?” — with Christian rock’s detractor, ironically, being South Carolinian believer-in-God and former rock singer Brian McCarter and its defender being “ignostic,” Jewish, humor-writing New Yorker Daniel Radosh, author of the impending survey of Christian pop culture, Rapture Ready! (which will be the ToddSeavey.com Book Selection of the Month for April).
In the meantime, whether you consider them Christian rockers or merely rockers who happen to be Christian, here’s a terrifyingly young-looking teenage band called U2, singing “Street Mission” in disco-saturated 1978 — and for all the strangeness that entails, already showing hints of video-savvy greatness (I for one didn’t even realize the band existed before the EP U2 3 and their great first album Boy from 1980, and if there’s footage of them performing when they’re any younger, I may be too frightened to see it — though I’m grateful to Dave for pointing out “Street Mission”).
ADDENDUM: One thing Michael Malice, Buckley, and I have in common besides libertarian sympathies is a dislike of the Beatles, who Buckley once called “the High Popes of Anti-Music” (though he later softened) — no doubt Dave would say this makes us as soulless as U2-haters, though (and indeed, Malice dislikes U2 too, and dislikes Buckley, for those keeping track of all this). The truth is I like a dozen or more Beatles songs (particularly the ominous “Eleanor Rigby”), but in a world that seems to think they could do no wrong, I feel as if that’s not good enough to qualify me as a Beatles fan. And in truth, I find most of their songs as annoying as though they’d deliberately put the notes in the wrong place, if you know what I mean — or should I say meeEEEEEEaaan? Like mice getting their tails pulled at unpredictable intervals. Bah.