« Limits of insurance | Main | Pub quiz answer »

April 12, 2005

Comments

Chris Brooke

It's a good question, and one I'll worry away over for a bit, at least.

One thing that leaps to mind is the weird rightist appropriation of leftish pop songs -- so Ronald Reagan used "Born in the USA" in 1984, George Bush (Sr)'s unofficial election campagin song was "This Land is Your Land", and (most astonishingly of all) under Thatcher the Tory Party conference used to sing John Lennon's "Imagine" together.

Michael Howard's Tories now use Elvis, "A Little Less Conversation". That's disturbing, but for other reasons.

James Hamilton

"You’ll not find many Tories among the performers and audience of English folk songs." Not now, no. But I'd be surprised, given the right-wing origins of many other currently left-wing preoccupations (Scottish nationalism, environmentalism)if this has always been the case. (And interests in such folk traditions are reappearing in far-right circles now)
I'm not sure that one can really make the "political" claim about music of any kind, popular or classical. It's not as if people go through life with their politics fixed and clear like some kind of psychic fingerprint. A communist balladeer of the '20s and '30s would have had views about traditional societies and international solidarity that are largely absent from the left these days; the modern BNP combines racism with an otherwise socialist manifesto.
Chris, yes about "Born in the USA". I can remember, the first time I listened to it with any care, wondering what had gotten into whichever Republican had thought to appropriate it.

Dander

Pop stars tend to find their right-leaning tendencies when they have to stump up taxes. Does anyone remember Rod Stewart's tax-exile shenanigans? More recently Busted pronounced themselves "Tory Boys" who were fed up with funding Gordon Brown.

Paddy Carter

Wasn't Joey Ramone a Reaganite? (and (disputed) racist?) I wonder what Lemmy Motorhead's political affiliations are (his collection of Nazi memorabilia emphatically not being an indicator of his sympathies, so I understand).

I think you're correct that the left's "it's so unfair/why can't life be better/the establishment are bastards" makes for a more rousing song than the right's "this is the best we can do/ let's look at the facts/ we should just leave people to get on with it"

And, if the cliche that most (decent) people start up idealistic and wanting to change the world, and end up migrating right, then that explains a lot - most music is made by youngsters (or oldsters repeating songs the wrote as youngsters).

Rob

I don't fully understand this either. There must be reason which isn't just 'the right is the Man, and pop music hates the Man', but that - insofar as it's what surely some people who write protest songs think - is the best that I can come up with.

Blimpish

Frank Sinatra was a Democrat into the 1960s, but moved very Rightward thereafter, if I recall correctly. He was very definitely a Reagan man - endorsed him in 1980. There are two main explanations for this: first, he was probably a Right-wing Dem anyway, and was left standing as the party drifted Left; second, his troubles with the Nevada gaming commission weren't helped by his Democratic political connections. Probably a bit of both...

On your central point, conservatism tends animated by defence of some conception (however realistic) of the status quo rather than any progressive ideal.

Now, artistic expression is dominated by the particular - it's bloody difficult to make a good song about the evils of free markets (say) in the abstract; but a good bluesman can weave a wonderfully sorry tale about losing your job and exploitation by the Man, and so on. The connection between the abstract and the particular is though pretty clear - the bluesman's tears appeal directly to fears over capitalist injustices.

Conservative particulars and abstractions aren't so easily connected. A lot of extremely conservative people just aren't at all political, and very much down-to-earth. Whereas there are a lot of consciously Leftist people who don't get politically engaged, Rightists tend to become conscious of their politics as they become politically engaged (often because their particular world has been intruded upon in some way).

There's also a much wider issue about the position of artists in modern society, which became in the 20th century automatically Leftist. Before then, the balance was much more to the Right - read Blake or Flaubert; listen to Wagner most of all, but plenty of other classicals too. A lot of this comes with a changing view of the bourgeoisie - before the late-19th century, the Right hated them because they were the liberal trading class; since then, the Left have come to hate them... because they are the liberal trading class. Why this is so is a much larger question...

Paddy: Joey Ramone was more than a Reaganite - he was a Goldwater kid, back in '64. When the Ramones were put into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame (or whatever it's called), Joey's speech included praise for Dubya. The racism rumour is that he allegedly had a KKK membership card - I don't know if true or not.

Re Lemmy - he became an expat in the 1970s because of Labour tax rates, and I seem to recall him being on TV (that awful C4 late-night Jo Wiley programme of a few years back) and saying he'd not be coming back now that Labour were back in power. So I guess he might well be anti-Left, if not necessarily Right.

Oh, and what about the Beatles' "Taxman"?

Blimpish

Frank Sinatra was a Democrat into the 1960s, but moved very Rightward thereafter, if I recall correctly. He was very definitely a Reagan man - endorsed him in 1980. There are two main explanations for this: first, he was probably a Right-wing Dem anyway, and was left standing as the party drifted Left; second, his troubles with the Nevada gaming commission weren't helped by his Democratic political connections. Probably a bit of both...

On your central point, conservatism tends animated by defence of some conception (however realistic) of the status quo rather than any progressive ideal.

Now, artistic expression is dominated by the particular - it's bloody difficult to make a good song about the evils of free markets (say) in the abstract; but a good bluesman can weave a wonderfully sorry tale about losing your job and exploitation by the Man, and so on. The connection between the abstract and the particular is though pretty clear - the bluesman's tears appeal directly to fears over capitalist injustices.

Conservative particulars and abstractions aren't so easily connected. A lot of extremely conservative people just aren't at all political, and very much down-to-earth. Whereas there are a lot of consciously Leftist people who don't get politically engaged, Rightists tend to become conscious of their politics as they become politically engaged (often because their particular world has been intruded upon in some way).

There's also a much wider issue about the position of artists in modern society, which became in the 20th century automatically Leftist. Before then, the balance was much more to the Right - read Blake or Flaubert; listen to Wagner most of all, but plenty of other classicals too. A lot of this comes with a changing view of the bourgeoisie - before the late-19th century, the Right hated them because they were the liberal trading class; since then, the Left have come to hate them... because they are the liberal trading class. Why this is so is a much larger question...

Paddy: Joey Ramone was more than a Reaganite - he was a Goldwater kid, back in '64. When the Ramones were put into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame (or whatever it's called), Joey's speech included praise for Dubya. The racism rumour is that he allegedly had a KKK membership card - I don't know if true or not.

Re Lemmy - he became an expat in the 1970s because of Labour tax rates, and I seem to recall him being on TV (that awful C4 late-night Jo Wiley programme of a few years back) and saying he'd not be coming back now that Labour were back in power. So I guess he might well be anti-Left, if not necessarily Right.

Oh, and what about the Beatles' "Taxman"?

Chris Brooke

Andrew Lloyd Webber was a fairly prominent Tory supporter, wasn't he?

I also vaguely remember him saying he'd leave the UK if Blair were elected, but I don't recall whether he did or not.

Peter Briffa

Rush.

David Wildgoose

Motorhead and Rush - both excellent.

But as for your question, perhaps the obvious answer is "The Devil has all the best tunes".

Jim

Here's a theory: rock music is inherently anti-establishment, and appeals to teenagers who yearn to believe that they are totally different from their phoney, compromising parents. Each new generation learns to love the new and spikey and hate the old and comfortable, and thus each new generation thinks it is overthrowing rather than replicating the existing cultural and political structures. However, your choice of music makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to the underlying structure of society. So rock music ultimately legitimizes the reproduction of existing class divisions.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad