I know it is silly to label songs or artists as “liberal” or “conservative” but since John Miller of the National Review Online started this debate I’ll take the bait.
A variety of other people have also responded to the list from Pete Blackwell here at Blogcritics to Pete Townshend of the Who – who had the #1 song but was not crazy about the selection – to the Proclaimers, who were amused by having one of their songs picked.
At first I thought this was a joke. Maybe it’s a desperate attempt for one or more conservatives to appear hip and cool. Seriously, how can anyone in their right mind consider ANY songs by the Sex Pistols, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger or The Clash as conservative?
But when I saw the story about the list in the New York Times I knew this piece by Miller, National Review Online’s national political reporter, was serious. John Miller responded to the reaction by adding a few thoughts and then listing 50 more conservative songs. Blackwell responded to that list too.
Miller laughingly complained about rock critic Dave Marsh calling the list “a desperate effort by the right to co-opt popular culture.” Miller responds: “In other words: The 62 million Americans who voted for President Bush’s re-election don’t actually participate in the creation and consumption of pop culture, but we steal it and twist it in dastardly ways.”
To which I say, “What? I don’t remember there being anything on the ballot about the Who, the Sex Pistols or music at all? What does George Bush have to do with rock music?”
The whole polarizing piece by Miller reminds me of the time President Reagan referenced Bruce Springsteen during one of his speeches. He seemed to have no idea about the true meaning of the songs on Born In the USA, which was not exactly an endorsement of the conservatives' position on Vietnam.
My thoughts on some of the selections:
1. “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who
The only way this song is conservative is that conservatives repeatedly voted for Bush (senior and junior) and then were dismayed by his decisions. Yes, they got fooled again. Incidentally Pete Townsend says that this song is neither a conservative song nor a liberal song. And he should know since he helped write it.
2. “Taxman,” by The Beatles
Miller uses this song as an attempt to get on a soapbox and suggest only conservatives oppose taxes. That’s simply not true. That’s like suggesting only conservatives oppose crime and support law enforcement.
3. “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Rolling Stones
Well, I agree with this one. How else can you explain Dick Cheney and Karl Rove still being part of the White House administration?
4. “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sure, if the conservatives want to claim this song, a favorite tune of those who are sad the south lost the Civil War, then they can go right ahead and have it.
5. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” by The Beach Boys
Miller says this song is about marriage and being pro-abstinence. This song reminds me of John Lennon’s “Imagine” in that both are what-if scenarios. But I don’t suppose the National Review wants to be associated with any song with the word peace in it.
6. “Gloria,” by U2
Saying U2 intentionally wrote a conservative song is about as silly as suggesting the same about the Sex Pistols (“Bodies,” #8), Metallica (“Don’t Tread on Me,” #9) or Bob Dylan (“Neighborhood Bully,” #12.) The Dylan song is chosen, Miller said, because it is pro-Israel. Again, why is that a solely conservative stance? Are there no liberals who support Israel?
7. “Revolution,” by The Beatles
"You say you want a revolution / Well you know / We all want to change the world . . . Don’t you know you can count me out?” What’s more, Communism isn’t even cool: “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao / You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow. (Someone tell the Che Guevara crowd.)
The Beatles would be saying, “Count me out” on the Iraq war. (Someone should tell the pro Iraq war crowd.)