ATTACK OF THE RED DAWN PARTY SONGS
MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
Today marks another Groundhog Day, when Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog predicts the remaining weeks of winter at Gobbler’s Knob in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. The tradition has not ceased to gain the attention of the news media.
The world could be on the verge of ending and yet we await word on whether or not an oversized rodent can use his shadow to predict the weather.
I am also reminded today of a film that starred Bill Murray called, Groundhog Day where his character Weatherman Phil is trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day every day.
IMAGE CREDIT: COLUMBIA PICTURES
At first he just embraces it with a life of pleasure seeking , but soon gets fed up and tries to commit suicide multiple times, only to wake up to Sonny & Cher’s I Got You Babe every morning.
Here is a spoiler – he escapes the time loop, but many people do not know just how long he spent trying to figure how to get out.
According to Weatherman Phil, it was eight years, eight months and 16 days.
The late Harold Ramis, who directed the film, wanted Phil 10,000 years, of forever living the same day without ageing.
That is a lot of listening to I’ve got you babe by Sonny and Cher.
I kind of have the same problem, every day I am awakened to The Who’s song, “Who Are You?”
The reason is my old phone was inherited from my wife and she had the song as her wake up alarm.
Imagine over and over again “whooooo are you hoo hoo hoo hoo.”
So over and over again, I wake up to the song “Who are you” I go down stairs make me a small cup of coffee and turn on CNN.
For the past year, I have felt a bit like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day – waking up to the same song – turning on the TV and hearing about Russian interference in my government.
Last night I declared that Russia is not the enemy, and asked why are we in this continuous fake Cold War time loop brought to us by the neoconservative, neoliberal globalist, Red Dawn Party?
I received e-mails and tweets telling me I am so wrong about this and proceeded to tell me that Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe and declared that they would take over the US without firing a shot or The Cuban missile crisis, or Ronald Regan saying that Russia was the evil empire.
Yes all of those things were said all of it is part of a bad time in history where we were all being programmed by Bert the Turtle to, Duck and Cover.
Back then, the Cold War had its own lexicon; things were said then that we rarely say now.
Many of us are old enough to remember words like “mutually-assured destruction,” and the ever-popular “collateral damage.” I don’t think that any millennial would know what a fallout shelter is. What CONELRAD stood for or what Civil Defense did.
The language used in the narrative was not as interchangeable as the words “red” to illustrate a commie and “pink” to describe Jane Fonda have lost their power, but the word “Pinko” can still raise the occasional eye-brow. It was TV characters like Archie Bunker who used “Commie Pinko” effectively, and that was nearly 50 years ago.
From that era there are a few leftovers that we can remember fondly like “Iron Curtain,” “subversives,” “Checkpoint Charlie,” the “Berlin Wall,” the “red menace,” and “Commie rat fink.”
Once again those terms were used over 50 years ago.
They mean nothing now.
Yet I was very surprised that after last night’s show some of the e-mails that were sent, were calling me “comrade and commie pinko” after last night’s show. I felt that I was living in a Dave Berg comic strip on the pages of a 1974, Mad magazine.
The words actually triggered the creative side in me actually.
One of my inspirations in radio, Dr. Demento visited me a few weeks ago and appeared with former Ramones manager, John Cafiero. Cafiero now manages the Misfits and leads the band Osaka Rockstar. He also is the brains behind a new album called Dr. Demento “Covered in Punk” an album where many of the songs that Demento played on his radio show are covered by punk bands.
IMAGE CREDIT: GROUND ZERO WITH CLYDE LEWIS
I remember when I was a kid Demento would play all kinds of crazy sounding novelty songs and actually gave Weird Al Yankovic his break.
After having pizza with both Cafiero and Dr. Demento and interviewing them for my local segment, I asked if they would come back on the show for my syndicated show to promote the album.
They said they would.
This wasn’t the first time I met Demento. One day he popped into my cubicle when Ground Zero first started its national syndication and said hello.
It was kind of a synchronistic moment because I was going to talk about how there was a time where the Military Industrial Complex had a hand in creating war propaganda music and so I bent his ear and asked him about the song “The Ballad of the Green Berets” that was a Number 1 hit for Sgt. Barry Sadler.
We talked about how a song that was pro war could make it to the top of the charts during the times of Eric Bourdon’s “We got to get out of this Place” and Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.” He was saying that patriotism won out. It was also a matter of a Military that bought up a bunch of 45’s (meaning records not guns) in order to push the record to Number 1.
Of course the song was there to promote the Vietnam War, but of course, that war along with Korea was two of the proxy wars or police actions that we were engaged in during the cold war.
Anyway, our discussion went deeper into novelty songs that poked fun at the Cold War and other songs that were serious about the Cold War.
I told him that I remember him playing a song called Russian Bandstand by Spencer and Spencer. It was released in 1959 and was certainly a record that poked fun at the USSR.
What is troubling is that the song mocks the Russians and how they are coerced to liking certain propaganda songs and that one of the commercials is for a cigarette that has a microphone in it so the government can spy on you.
The Berlin Wall, that Cold War structure separating East and West Germany, The Iron Curtain all fell 29 years ago. There is now a generation with no living memory of this time. They never heard, like the baby boomers before them, a preposterous jingle about surviving nuclear holocaust by hiding under your school desk, or even walked the earth, like the Gen-Xers, burdened with that backburner dread of annihilation with Punk rock tunes from the Ramones, Sex Pistols reminding them of it. New wave songs by Nena like 99 Luftballoons or Der Kommissar by After the Fire and others, reminded everyone that there was still some looming fascism that needed to be beaten down by three chords.
There aren’t that many people today that realize that the fear of the bomb in the 1940’s and 1950’s sparked a whole genre of songs that were all about the Red Scare and the looming nuclear holocaust.
Once again it was Dr. Demento that played the novelty songs of the war. I remember the song Atomic Cocktail by Slim Gaillard. It was sort of jive, jazz guitar song that sand about the drink that you don’t pour.
It has sort of a creepy haunting mood to it and it kept me up at night with my flashlight hoping that I wouldn’t be an ember glowing at Ground Zero.
I guess this is what started it all, and from there I can remember songs that were popular from the era of my grandfather and my father that seemed to have a morose form of humor in them.
However, I am sure there are many people that are unaware that a few popular rock and contemporary pop songs also sang about the Cold War.
Warpigs by Black Sabbath has to be one of my favorites, but there are some popular songs that hide the cold war theme in the lyrics.
In 1999 by Prince, the lyrics explicitly speak of the aftermath of a nuclear bomb.
“The sky was all purple, “There were people running everywhere tryin to run from the destruction you know I didn’t even care” and “Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb, We could all die any day.”
In 99 LuftBalloons by Nena, a boy and girl innocently release a batch of balloons into the air; confused by these flying objects, international governments panic, triggering a nuclear holocaust. The lyric “It’s all over and I’m standing pretty/In this dust that was a city,” is obviously about the devastation of a nuclear war.
That song was considered a new Wave staple, but there were also the Punk songs that were about the cold war from two of my favorite punk bands “The Ramones” and “The Sex Pistols.”
The song, Bonzo Goes to Bitburg, recorded by The Ramones, was in protest of Ronald Reagan’s visit to a Nazi soldier’s cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany in May 1985. The visit had been criticized in Europe as well as in the United States because 49 members of the SS, the Nazi paramilitary organization that helped run the extermination camps during World War II, were buried there. Some of SS members buried at Bitburg came from units that committed atrocities, including the murder of American POWs.
Joey Ramone, who was Jewish, had started on the song lyrics after being almost physically sickened by the Reagan visit, feeling that the President had disrespected the six million victims of the Holocaust by visiting Bitburg.
The Sex Pistol’s, Holiday in the Sun, is another song that is sang with a snarl by Johnny Rotten “I’m looking over the wall and they’re looking at me” At the end of the song, J. Rotten says “I wanna go under the Berlin Wall, please don’t be waiting for me.”
These are amazing pieces of history.
It all comes to a crescendo with Sting and his song “Russians” where he hopes that the Russians love their children enough not to fire off a missile, the Scorpions were singing about how they could hear that the winds of change with regard to the new freedom that was being talked about in Russia.
However there was still a bit of pessimism as Randy Newman expressed that no one likes us and that perhaps it is time to just drop the big bomb and see what happens. In his song “Political Science,” he says that Australia is the only place that should be saved and that it can be turned into a huge amusement park for those who survived.
Funny – sometimes when there are any stories about a possible nuclear threat or even the Doomsday Clock moving to two minutes to midnight, that old Iron Maiden tune rips through my skull.
I guess I am a product of my programming — and still most of us are in this mobius strip thinking that Russia is still the enemy.
It is a post Cold War Groundhog Day where if we see the shadow of President Trump’s new nuclear policies we can expect a long bout of nuclear winter.