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“Some rock songs really are conservative, and there are a lot more of them than you think”, according to the National Review, which lists the 50 “greatest conservative rock songs of all time”.
The Sunday Times (London, of course), argues that this is all rather silly:
Does the devil have the best tunes? If you are a leftie this morning, you could be forgiven for thinking so. America’s conservative National Review has a big feature declaring there is nothing prog about rock. It lists 50 pop standards that are, apparently, right-wing.
They range from the obvious, such as Taxman by the Beatles, to the debatable Won’t Get Fooled Again by the Who, to the shocking: even the Sex Pistols are claimed as true blues for an anti-abortion rant called Bodies. Oh, and the Clash for Rock the Casbah.
Imaginatively, so are the Everly Brothers for Wake Up Little Susie. Heroes by David Bowie is apparently a cogent condemnation of Soviet militarism; the Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil is an attack on leftie moral relativism as satan makes us believe “every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints”. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd is lauded for praising a place “liberals love to loathe”. Yikes.
Clearly some policy wonk has spent many lonely nights doing what he should have given up aged 14: taking pop lyrics very seriously.
You can say that again.
But how surprising are the findings? Bryan Ferry, Eric Clapton and much of Pink Floyd rock for the rights of toffs to wear pink in pursuit of foxes. And Ray Davies, an old English romantic who lazes on sunny afternoons, tells us to respect our culture. Rockers may have trouped out for Red Wedge the way we dutifully trudge to memorial services. But then it was back in the Bentley to a home counties trout lake singing God Save the Queen.
Still, it used to be the original version — now, presumably, even the Pistols’ version will be tickety boo for the next Tory barn dance in Tring.
To search for conservatism in the words of rock songs misses an important point: the world of rock and roll is intrinsically conservative, whatever the apparent content of the songs. Fiscally conservative, that is, but socially liberal. Like the New British Tories. This was noted by Mark Steyn in a Telegraph opinion piece over two years ago:
The true essence of rock 'n' roll is: don't do as they sing, do as they do.
Your average rock colossus wants to keep all his dough and live in a swanky pile in the country, but get laid and do drugs as often as he likes. The New Tories want economic independence and personal debauchery, not just for pop stars, but for everyone.
This was pre-Cameron, of course. It isn’t clear where Cameron’s “General Well Being” fits into the world of rock and roll. (I refuse to call it rock ‘n’ roll, as this reminds me of Toys “R” Us, the worst ever name for a shop.) However, I sincerely hope that all his talk about “quality of life” and “ethical work” is as meaningless as the words of a rock song and that, if they get elected, they will do what a Conservative Government is supposed to do – cut taxes and stay out of people’s lives.