Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rock n' Roll, and the Limbaugh/Hynde/PETA Terrorism Connection

In plugging tonight’s Jen Dziura/Molly Crabapple event, I chastised the general depravity of the City — but unlike your average depravity-chastiser, I am aware that popular culture didn’t just get naughty in the past decade or two. If someone said to you that there is a catchy song likening a woman’s sexual prowess to massive killings in a recent war, you’d probably think only the moral callousness of gangsta rap or the sociopathic irony of punk could be the cause — and if you were the Pope, making your visit to NYC this past weekend, you would lament the decline of civilization.

But was the “culture of life,” which the Catholic conservatives always say is faltering, really stronger in 1957, when rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson sang this upbeat little tune, “Fujiyama Mama,” without much apparent moral angst?

I’ve been to Nagasaki, Hiroshima too
The same I did to them, baby, I can do to you
Cause I’m a Fujiyama mama and I’m just about to blow my top
Fujiyama-yama Fujiyama
And when I start erupting ain’t nobody gonna make me stop

I drink a quart of sake, smoke dynamite
I chase it with tobaccy and then shoot out the light
Cause I’m a Fujiyama mama…
Well you can talk about me say that I’m mean
I’ll blow your head off, baby, with nitroglycerine
Cause I’m a Fujiyama mama…

Well you can say I’m crazy, stone deaf, and dumb
But I can cause destruction just like the atom bomb
Cause I’m a Fujiyama mama…
I drink a quart of sake…

This is not to suggest that things haven’t tended toward more explicit sex and violence, of course — not to mention ever-increasing irony. I was wary even back in college two decades ago of the fact that some bands were playing/singing badly on purpose for ironic effect (just as many Big Band fans were probably wary of rock from the start). If I was worried about that trend two decades ago, though, it’s a miracle I can even listen to alternative rock of today, with its default twee, self-effacing, sarcastic, effete, mopey faux-despair pose — but in some ways, alternative rock is smarter than ever, for all its sneering air of proudly-masochistic self-defeat. Mudhoney covers the land and the Jesus Lizard rules over all, in the long run, though I thought of those sorts of bands as “Those weird, sarcastic-sounding bands my friend Jake likes” back in college.

(Memo: I really need to find time to fill up that iPod thing I have one of these days. I am told that many new rock n’ roll ensembles have formed since the Smiths broke up and do not want to seem like one of those bland guys you’d meet when I was in college who neither cared about real oldies or cool new stuff but tended instead to say things like “Yeah, me and some of the guys went to a Bachman Turner Overdrive show once — that was wild.”)

In other rock news, you wouldn’t normally think of Chrissy Hynde as someone whose music is promoting violence — nor think of Rush Limbaugh as supporting terrorism — but the Wikipedia entry about him notes that he’s had to pay Hynde $500,000 a year for repeated use of the Pretenders song “My City Was Gone” (though it’s plainly more paleo than mainstream-conservative) and that she in turn donates the money to PETA, a group that has repeatedly funded animal-rights terrorists, at the very least for legal-defense purposes and in some cases without it being clear what the money was used for (so reports the cover story of the May/June Skeptical Inquirer). Animals are plenty cute, but one hates to see their near-mindless interests trump those of the one species on the planet capable of reason, abstract thought, moral philosophy, and the sophisticated discussion of ideas. Humans rock, whereas most animals are not far removed, mentally, from rocks.

That is not to say humans don’t do plenty of stupid things, as in this incident involving a priest pointed out to me by Katherine Taylor.


Dylan said...

“Fujiyama Mama” is a great song. A real oldie, to be sure. I’m pretty out of the loop in terms of new music myself.

That’s funny, I was just wondering the other day what the deal was with Limbaugh and “My City Was Gone.” I found it hard to believe that Hynde allowed Rush to use it without significant compensation. I’m actually still surprised she allowed him to use it all, considering what I’ve heard about her politics.

Dylan said...

oops, should have been “use it at all.”

Todd Seavey said...

She’s quite left-wing but says her parents are Limbaugh fans — and having political foes close by like that can help keep us all civil.