Friday, May 26, 2006

The Right Wing Rocks Out

Forget spandex and studded leather cuffs, this is Brooks Brothers rock!

The National Review has compiled a list of the top 50 conservative rock songs. In true conservative fashion, it's not available on their website as they'd rather you pony up the dough to buy a print copy of the magazine. The whole list plus capsule explanations has been reprinted on the New York Times website, which only asks for a free registration so they can track your every move like the NSA.

So what's a conservative rock song, exactly? John Miller explains:
The lyrics must convey a conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values. And, to be sure, it must be a great rock song.
As far as I'm concerned, they stumbled right out of the gate. Since when is skepticism of government a conservative value alone? Does that make people who think the Bush administration knew about 9/11 conservatives?

Anyway, on to the list. There are a number of songs that are justifiably included here, including several anti-abortion numbers like "Brick," by Ben Folds Five and "The Icicle Melts," by the Cranberries. Apart from these types of songs, the reasoning gets a bit more tenuous. They included "Taxman, Mr. Thief," by Cheap Trick (number 45) and "Taxman," by the Beatles (number 2) for obvious reasons. But is it really conservative to not want to pay taxes? Nobody wants to pay taxes. The only difference is that liberals want other people to pay taxes.

A huge number of songs on the list made it simply because they express anti-Communist ideas. They include "Sympathy for the Devil" (Satan inspired Bolshevism), "Right Here, Right Now," by Jesus Jones, "Heroes," by David Bowie, "Der Kommissar," by After the Fire (really) and "Wind of Change," by the Scorpions (scandalously left to languish at number 46) amongst others. They even included that notoriously right-wing band Creedence Clearwater Revival for "Who'll Stop the Rain," thanks to a passing reference to 5-year plans and the New Deal. As much as the National Review would like to rewrite history, however, they can't erase the fact that huge numbers of liberals opposed Communism, particularly as expressed in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Being pro-Communist may well be a left-wing position, but being anti-Communist is by no means an exclusively right-wing ideal.

The number one spot is claimed by the Who for "Won't Get Fooled Again," which deflates the nitrous oxide bubble of hippy idealism. Considering the fact that Townshend and Company have an equally dim view of the alternative, it's not quite fair to call the song conservative. Anti-hippy? Sure, but more nihilistic than conservative. Maybe they were drawn to it because of this line: "I get on my knees and pray." The number 7 slot goes to "Revolution," by the Beatles, both for its anti-Mao sentiment and for its criticism of the 1968 youth protest movements. It beggars belief that the whip smart fellows over at National Review would accuse the author of "Imagine" of being a conservative.

As with any top-whatever list, there are questionable inclusions and glaring omissions. The most noticeable of the former is "Godzilla," by Blue Oyster Cult, which made the list on the strength of the line, "History shows again and again / How nature points up the folly of men." And how does history do this? By unleashing a giant, angry (and no doubt conservative) lizard to destroy Tokyo. Come to think of it, "Godzilla" could just as easily be about global warming. Somebody tell Drudge.

I'm sure there are scores of songs that could easily have made the list, based on the magazine's criteria. There's certainly no excuse for shutting out Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach." She is, after all, keeping the baby. And as far as defending traditional values, why did they omit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band? It's about a kid who defeats the Devil—with a fiddle! Values don't get much more traditional than that.

There's no Ted Nugent on the list, which is quite surprising, since shooting critters (and hunting buddies) appears to be a conservative value. There's also nothing by extreme right-winger Gary Numan. He's got a bunch of paranoid songs about the government that are more conservative than, say, anything by the Clash ("Rock the Casbah" checks in at number 20).

The number one omission, according to the criteria for this list, would have to be "Who Needs the Peace Corps?," by Frank Zappa. Released in 1967, at the height of the flower-power summer of love nonsense, this song is a scathing indictment of all things hippy, making "Won't Get Fooled Again" look tepid in comparison. Of course the song's not actually conservative, per se, but neither are most of the tracks on this list. But hey, however the National Review guys want to rationalize their record collections—and there appears to be an alarming amount of Rush in there—is fine by me. Rock on, my right-wing brothers!

Update: I reposted this story over at Blogcritics.org and one commenter took it upon himself to list the Top 25 Movies a la National Review. Sample:
The Wizard of Oz: Plucky red-state ingenue learns that "big government" doesn't have all the answers.
Brilliant. Click on over and check out comment number 6.
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