Archive for the ‘Rock music’ Category

Something about the last day of a year makes people make lists and wallow in nostalgia, so here goes my contribution. Today, I’m thinking about what I regard as the quintessential rock song: Won’t Get Fooled Again.

This song, written by Peter Townsend and performed by The Who, is well-known, especially these days when even Jim Carrey is impersonating C.S.I.: Miami:

The music is a technical masterpiece, and Roger Daltrey belts out the words and that unforgettable scream. But for me, the lyrics are the heart of the song. I’m a writer, though I bang around on the drums when I have the chance. Let’s consider the words:

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet,
And the morals that they worship will be gone,
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song.

Rock and roll is about rebellion, having grown up in a time when radical social change boiled up in the United States and inspired the youth of Britain. There’s a natural connection between rock and revolution. And as the first verse says, an uprising often ends up throwing out much that forms a society’s foundation. Of course, we’re reminded that revolutions are just as frequently spurred by people in the shadows who have motives not aligned with the wishes of the mass movement.

But as Eric Hoffer told us in The True Believer, revolutions all look alike. The song says the same thing:

Change it had to come,
We knew it all along,
We were liberated from the fall that’s all.
But the world looks just the same,
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war.

People rise up in search of rights and justice, and that is one of the constants of human nature, but too often, those movements devolve into the chaos of permissiveness and private interest. The Occupy Movement is a good illustration of this, a bunch of people who demanded this and demanded that without any leaders or direction. The result of all the change is often more of the same:

There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me,
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye.
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right,
And the beards have all grown longer overnight.

But it’s even worse than that. Look at the French Revolution. That society under Louis XVI was bad, but the Reign of Terror was no better, and Napoleon’s restoration of order brought about a deeper disaster for France. The same pattern held in Russia in 1917 and following.

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive.
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
For I know that the hypnotized never lie.

Tyranny is too often the result of revolution, and people go from poverty to terror without any resource. The chorus of the song captures the feeling of being in the middle of the action:

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution,
Take a bow for the new revolution,
Smile and grin at the change all around,
Pick up my guitar and play,
Just like yesterday,
And I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again.

And it gives a warning. In the movement, we’re at risk of being swept along toward an end not of our choosing. Such movements are hard to control once they get going, leaving prayer often the only thing available to those in the flow. But the gods of revolution are rarely forgiving or merciful.

The closing words sum up the point of this song:

Meet the new boss,
Same as the old boss.

This is true about revolutions and about many changes of all kinds. We went from Bush to Obama, and the change was in many ways to go deeper into government spying on citizens and other violations of rights. In jobs that I have worked over the years, a change in management most often results in a lot of busy work to end up right back where we started.

Rock and roll can rise to the same heights as any other form of music, and while Rush is my favorite band, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is for me the definitive rock anthem. It is in the spirit of the genre, but it also acts as a caution about where that spirit will lead in excess.

Enough discussion. It’s time for the music:

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