Friday, August 23, 2013

Against the 80s (With Footnotes)

Here is the seventh in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my debut mixtape, "Core Nerd!"

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "Against the 80s."

This is an answer song, not in a negative way, as if I'm trying to battle someone, but in that it's a song that I agree with and I'm extending that conversation. Punk bassist Mike Watt did a solo album in the early 1990s that had a series of guest singers, including a song with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam called "Against the 70s." The basic point of the song was summed up by the chorus: "The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70s/It's not reality/just someone else's sentimentality." They were protesting the fact that 70s nostalgia had become a big business that was being foisted on teenagers as a marketing ploy. I agreed with that and by the time I wrote this song, which was the second full song I ever wrote, I also thought it was true of the 1980s. Hence the song.

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 1980s
It's not reality, just mass-marketed sentimentality

The hook comes directly from the Mike Watt song, with minor adjustments to the lyrics to fit this song.

Flipping through the channels and I'm almost done
Find I love the fucking 80s on Vh1

VH1 and their 70s and 80s nostalgia shows are one of the key drivers of this problem.

Sweet like honey-dripped triple chocolate cake
Bullshit nostalgia, served up nice and fake

This maybe my favorite simile I've ever come up with. It's a great image and it flows well.

What they don't tell you is the movies sucked
Try expanding your mind and your ass was fucked

This is one of my big problems with nostalgia, people remember the great stuff and forget the bad stuff and act like things used to be better, when that's rarely true. 80s movies were particularly notable for their lack of intellectual content most of the time.

What they don't tell you is the music sucked
A few good artists, a whole lot of junk
Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, some kind of curse

Same problem with music and looking back at it retroactively, most 80s music was terrible, particularly the more popular stuff.

What they don't tell you was the tv was worse
Superstation reruns of Gomer Pyle and Ralph Malph

Even most of the good shows from the 80s haven't held up well, but with cable being limited back then, you ended up watching a lot of reruns of older shows.

Stupid, racist and that little guy Alf...wait, I liked Alf

I love the way the music drops out here so I can respond to this line. I'll repeat it later.

Gordon Gekko said that greed is good
On the backs of the poor his followers stood

The movie "Wall Street" was widely lauded but many people took it the wrong way and embraced its villain, and the 80s were the time of evil corporate tycoons who screwed over the economy and the average person.

That Wendy's lady said where is the beef
A b movie actor was commander in chief

Even a lot of things we remember fondly from the 80s, such as the "where's the beef" lady are pretty terrible. And, of course, Ronald Reagan was one of our worst presidents, something I'll come back to several times in the song, since it's one of the most important factors in the 80s sucking.

Wax on, wax off, I'll be back
Like, oh my god, Grody to the max

So much of the pop culture of the 80s was shallow and vapid, from "Karate Kid," to Arnold Schwarzeneggar, to valley girl slang.

Nancy Reagan said just say no
No to the broke, no to the low
Seriously, in 1981 the Reagan USDA declared that ketchup and pickle relish were vegetables for the purposes of cutting nutrition in the school lunch program

The "just say no" campaign was really one of the dumbest things I remember from growing up and the overall war on drugs is a nightmare. The Reagans were also very strong champions of screwing over poor people. I love this part of the song ending in this little rant, too, which is totally accurate.

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 1980s
It's not reality, just pre-packaged sentimentality

The chorus again, but with a little change in what type of sentimentality it refers to. This has a payoff later.

They bombed Honduras, bomb, bombed Grenada

The format of the next section is based on a John McCain quote where he said "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys "Barbara Ann," which was a horrible thing to joke about. The series of countries listed here were all places where we had military interventions and this section was to show how warlike the 80s were.

Sold us crack, the smack came later

We learned that the government played a role in the distribution of hardcore drugs in the inner cities, in particular.

They bombed Libya, bomb, bombed Iran

I think the bombing of Libya was my first memory of watching a U.S. military intervention in realtime. At the time I was opposed to Qaddafi and supported the campaign. Then I grew up. The fact that Reagan played both sides in the Iran-Iraq war was a pretty significant war crime and help set the stage for al Qaeda's rise and attack on us.

Ignored AIDS, Bush was the man

Reagan's ignoring of the rise of the AIDS epidemic was just another in his long list of crimes. Reagan begat Bush, of course, whose mediocre presidency would later lead do his son's horrible presidency.

They bombed Panama, bomb, bombed Iraq

I was obviously no fan of Noreaga or Hussein, but we killed civilians and interfered in the sovereignty of so many countries in the 80s.

Made us all afraid of a nuclear attack

Those who naively say that terrorism is the worst threat we've ever faced don't remember how pervasive our fear of total annihilation via nuclear weapons was.

They bombed the media, bomb, bombed the airwaves
Tried to turn us all into mental slaves

The 80s also was a pure assault on the media, news, accuracy, fairness and the like. It was also the real rise of the horrible marketing industry.

They killed John Lennon, Marvin Gaye dead

The next section goes down a list of personal icons who died in the 1980s. Lennon was of course the musician who most influenced me early on. Gaye's death by gunshot from his own father was one of the first times I realized how fucked up the world is.

They killed Andy Kaufman, John Belushi dead

Kaufman is one of my favorites in any field of performance and I always think of his tactics when I'm writing. Belushi's movies were huge in my development, as was Saturday Night Live.

They killed Bob Marley, Ian Curtis dead

Marley's "Three Little Birds" is one of my all-time favorite songs and he was obviously my introduction to reggae. Curtis was the lead singer of Joy Division, and I not only was a big fan of his music, but he was one of my first introductions to alternative/indie rock, which remains one of my favorites.

They killed television, radio is dead
They killed the movies, art is dead

I was a big fan of TV, radio and movies when I was younger, not surprisingly, but the tactics introduced in these industries, as well as the commercialization of art, pushed all of these things in worse directions.

They killed D Boon, Phil Lynott dead

D Boon was the singer for the Minutemen, a band that Mike Watt was also in. Lynott did some amazing things with Thin Lizzy.

They killed Gilda Radner, Andy Warhol dead

Radner was one of my first female comedic icons (along with Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball). I've always been fascinated with Warhol and the web of connections and artists he kept around himself. I do a milder version of that now.

They killed Alfred Hitchcock, they let Ronald Reagan live? Seriously?

Hitchock's movies and TV show were some of the first scary stuff I got into, which is something which later became a major part of my life. After all of Reagan's sins, some of which were listed in the song, he obviously deserved death more than anyone else on this list, yet he was merely wounded in the assassination attempt against him.

The adults of today should defend themselves against the 1980s
VH1's not reality, just mother fucking sentimentality
It won't work for you, it didn't work for us
A little bit of shiny, and a whole lot of rust

The chorus slightly tweaked again. Then another line from Vedder's vocals, coupled with a metaphor that I really like.

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 1980s
It's not reality, just
mass-marketed
pre-packaged
mother-fucking
freeze-dried
vacuum-packed
state-of-the-art
high-concept
super-sized
cutting-edge
long-lasting
fast-acting
oven-ready
ready-to-wear
built-to-last
user-friendly
toll-free
bite-sized
fully-equipped
order now
don't delay
act now or forever rest in pieces
...sentimentality

This is meant to emulate the fast-talking spokesman of the MicroMachines toys and several other ads and also to allude to the rise of the MTV-style quick editing that greatly contributed to our declining attention spans. The terms here are mostly marketing terms from commercials, but quite a few come by way of George Carlin's bit "Modern Man," which I'm turning into a song. Also, the first three go back to the earlier choruses, repeating the changed adjective before sentimentality for each one of them. Theoretically if there were more choruses, they would continue to go down this list in order.

Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up

Another line from an 80s commercial, the ubiquitous MedicAlert bracelets that were unintentionally funny (and sad).

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