Do NOT RIP, David Koch. I hope your last days, months, and years were horrific and you died miserably.
Oh, I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, you say? This cocksucker doesn’t get that kind of magnanimous treatment.
Just read Jane Mayer’s excellent New Yorker piece on the Koch Brothers from 2010. The Koch Brothers have done more harm to the world’s environment and America’s democracy than any two individuals ever. They deserve a fate worst than death. Prostate cancer wasn’t horrible enough for David Koch. A good old public Medieval disemboweling, castration, hanging, and quartering would have been better.
He died being worth over $42 billion. How many billions of humans will suffer from the environmental calamities that this bastard and his even more vile older brother Charles helped to create by spending a good part of their fortune to block even the mention of the word “Global Warming,” let alone how many politicians they bought to keep our government from acting even the least bit sensible and proactive? How many poor American children will starve or go without adequate health care because of this so-called “libertarian” tax cut advocate? And your legacy will be that you were a gigantic, vile, evil, useless piece of shit exiting the asshole of hell. Yeah, you’re worth all that money and your asshole still rotted out, you fucking creep.
Fuck you, David Koch. I hope your asshole brother, Charles, dies even more horribly, perhaps by some Biblical malady like being eaten from the inside out by huge maggots while being gang raped by a pack of rabid and syphilitic wolverines. OK, if I ever read the Bible, and I haven’t, that would be how I would hope someone evil died in days of yore.
Surrealist vs Realist Progressives
Perhaps as recently as 10 years ago I would have been included in the surrealist faction of the Democratic Party, a place where a vivid imagination meets the bold and visionary determinism to “do good for all” and right all the wrongs in America as quickly as possible. End all racism, sexism, homophobia, and the ugly specter of divisive hate that has poisoned the USA since its inception. Bridge the massive—and growing—income inequality. Provide government-financed health care for all citizens. Protect and uplift all children by providing excellent public schools and government programs to shield them from hunger, extreme poverty, and abuse. Reduce crime by reducing the reasons to engage in criminality in the first place (such as more well-paying jobs). Provide government-financed drug treatment for the millions of addicts across the country. Clean up the environment to provide safe and clean water and air, moreover reduce greatly the pollutants and behaviors that have led the world down the perilous path of increasing global warming and catastrophic climate change. Reduce the massive number of incarcerated citizens, many of whom are charged with drug crimes of simple possession and use, where treatment would have been a better option rather than prison terms. Decrease the Defense budget and stop the USA from engaging in unnecessary military engagements that have nothing to do with national security. Banking and business reform for a business community where superbanks, too big to fail, poison our financial system and commerce, and massive mega-monopolies control our markets. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and restrict the sale of guns through better background checks.
All bold, noble, lofty, and yet cogent ideals. All shared by a vast majority of Democrats I am sure. All provable to work too, as most of our Social Democratic European allies have implemented these progressive ideals for decades. One can visit Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, and Spain, for instance, and witness the success of so many of these ideals in practice. It can be costly and these folks pay more taxes than citizens of the USA, but the quality of life in these countries is far better for all citizens than in the USA.
Some would call it Socialism; I call it Social Democracy since Socialism was originally devised to be foisted on the proletariat by revolutions against the ruling class and run by a hierarchical, all-powerful, “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Meanwhile citizens freely choose Social Democracy through free elections, and vote for the government that manages it. It’s huge distinction, one which, of course, the dopes on FOX News and other far-right media outlets fail to make in all their irrational, logical-fallacy-laden blathering.
So why do I call this a “surrealist” viewpoint? Simply because, while I agree with the eventual implementation of all these great ideas and programs—unlike the surrealists who want everything now—I believe, as a realist, that most Social Democratic change can only be truly enacted slowly and incrementally in a country greatly divided not only over political ideology, but also religiously and philosophically. Most importantly, it must be done with the will and assent of a majority of the citizenry with respect to our Constitutional process for passing laws, not through revolutions, coups, or any other shortcut to usurping power from the people.
Nearly half the country doesn’t want most of these things, or at least it doesn’t think it does. It isn’t much of a democracy if we try to force the other side to submit to ideas for which it holds no purchase. Which, in a way, is quite funny, since the country right now is ruled at all levels—national, state, local—by a determined, mostly shamefully gerrymandered, minority political faction who do believe it’s perfectly fine to force their ideology on those who oppose it, and who will assume power by any ruthless means necessary, the Constitution and people be damned. That is the fundamental difference between right-wing ideology and the progressive, Social Democratic left. Democracy matters to the left.
The realists want the same things as the surrealists, at least philosophically. The problem has become that the surrealists have wrapped themselves in an arrogant and self-righteous stance fueled by their so-called belief they are “woke,” and hence more enlightened and certain that their beliefs are more correct and just than the rest of humanity on issues of race, social justice, economics, environmentalism, and public policy. Being “woke” is some sort of divine enlightenment that implies a higher state of consciousness about “what is going on and what needs to be done,” which is, of course, a ridiculously puerile kind of arrogant and often destructive certainty also held by religious fanatics and a vast gaggle of political radicals in the past—fascists, communists, socialists, and anarchists—who did great harm to societies all over the world by trying to shape them into narrow and restrictive, often repressive confines poisoned by their radical certainty and arrogant belief that their way was the only way. It is a destructive mindset regardless of the ideology or belief system guiding it. It is also highly anti-Democratic.
This divide is growing in the Democratic Party and was partially responsible for Hillary losing the 2016 election. A great many of the surrealist followers of Bernie Sanders just couldn’t seem to hold their noses and vote for the realist Hillary Clinton. Moreover, Hillary’s campaign did a poor job convincing the surrealists—and many independent voters alike—that she was on their side. Of course, it didn’t help that she lacked the charisma and mass appeal that should have sold her to her own party and created enough unity within it to carry her to victory as Obama had done in 2008 and 2012. Sadly, Hillary was not Obama, who would have crushed Trump in 2016 as he had done to McCain and Romney in the two previous elections.
It will be interesting to see if one of the current candidates can unify these two biggest factions of Democrats. I think, honestly, Elizabeth Warren has the greatest chance and is a solid, smart, and masterful political leader, but so far she’s polling behind Joe Biden, a centrist and realist, and to me, honestly, an utterly ridiculous choice merely because of his advanced age and the fact he’s always been a bit of a boob and bumbler, not a bad second banana as he proved working as Obama’s Vice President, but being the top leader, the POTUS? No. Biden hardly inspires the surrealist or realist, but he is still a better choice than bumblefuck Trump and most of the other Democratic candidates. That’s not saying enough in my mind. Warren is clearly more capable than Joe on most intellectual levels, but even I acknowledge Uncle Joe has a warmth and inspirational side that makes Trump look like the fat, ignorant child that he is.
Bernie Sanders. Ah, Bernie. On Bernie I am conflicted. He’s too old, he’s too irascible and petty at times, and far too radical for a vast majority of centrist voters. Yet of course—of course!—he has some amazing progressive ideas, and as the only admitted Socialist in the race, he does inspire the left with his promises of health care for all, bridging the income gap, taxing the rich more, attacking global warming with gusto and substantive legislation, providing free university education, and the like. Bravo, Bernie! The man has brass balls and never fears to speak his mind. We all love the bastard for this. Without a doubt all leftist progressives, especially the surrealists, love Bernie. He and Liz Warren are the only candidates capable of articulating a real path to change in this country. I just don’t feature Bernie as the leader of the free world. His job is to keep the Democratic Party inspired to push progressivism as far as is possible with a hostile conservative Congress, even if its the minority on both houses after 2020.
Beto O’Rourke has lots of energy and ebullience, but he often seems awkward at articulating intellectual subjects on the fly, which hardly inspires confidence that he’s got the depth to grasp the big picture. Kamala Harris has an impressive political résumé, but, like Beto, seems awkward at articulating on the fly on deeper subjects, and her policy proposals lack any sense of gravitas compared to Liz Warren, who literally has a good plan for everything. Cory Booker has always had a boatload of ambition, but to me he’s never really shown the moral courage and spine to handle leadership under fire. Mayor Pete seems nice and smart, but he’s also boring and uninspiring, plus, and I hate to say this, a lot of America will not vote for a gay man for President. Maybe in eight years, Mayor Pete. The rest of the field, who the fuck cares, they can’t win.
It’s Warren or Biden, I’m afraid. I hope that’s enough.
While I disagree with the surrealists because of their often myopic and ridiculously arrogant approach to public discourse, where they often shout down even those with whom they are mostly in agreement on what must be done to fix this country, I do agree heartily with what they believe on most issues. And while many issues do require a greater sense of urgency—the environment comes to mind—democracy isn’t about always getting your way, it is about two sides of an issue agreeing to compromise in the best interest of all citizens. Surrealists, much like far-right and religious fanatics, fail to grasp this. Yet I do not hold any malice or hatred toward surrealist progressives like I do the far right and religious fanatics in this country. I realize the surrealists are of course my brothers and sisters, and I love and cherish their deterministic values and passionate desire to change this country for the betterment of all people. I only dislike their tendency toward intellectual myopia, hysteria, and excessive certainty.
The surrealists’ destructive approach to public discourse often turns off the great mass of people in this country who just do not even begin to understand what they truly need. These largely indifferent and/or ignorant people need to be respected even in their indifference and/or ignorance, not berated or condescend upon, nor should they be talked over in the national discourse as if they are children or incapable of making rational choices. This great mass of indifferent and/or ignorant voters is the key to winning back our democracy if we progressives can state our case to them in a rational, respectful, and convincing manner. Shouting at ignorant and/or indifferent people, calling them pejoratives like “racist” or “redneck” or “moron” or “deplorables” won’t win their vote. Treating them, not as unenlightened enemies, but instead as potential allies who just need to hear our views without treating them as inconsequential—but instead extremely vital—is the key to trouncing Trump.
A great communicator can do this, as Obama proved so effectively. Obama, however, probably failed to implement as much progressive ideology as he could have, and that was why many surrealists came to embrace Bernie Sanders in 2016. They felt that Obama fell short of their lofty expectations, and to be honest, they were not wrong. Obama was too much a realist and centrist and not enough surrealist progressive. His ultimate failure was not doing enough when he had the chance, when he held the power to make significant changes. Had Obama done this, there never would have been the need for a Bernie Sanders to voice the frustration of so many progressives as we witnessed in the 2016 Democratic primaries.
A realist always understands the amazing power of reason, logic, and rational discourse. Passion is great, sure, but only if it’s wrapped in the above principles. Passion without reason, logic, and rational discourse is fanaticism. And it’s destructive. What we truly need is a leadership that embraces progressive idealism, but also can communicate a sane, rational, and realistic path by which we can implement these great ideals. Moreover, this leadership needs to convince the tens of millions out there who are, ideologically, on the fence, and win them back to where they will be championed by people who not only believe in what is right for them, but can convince them of this without insulting them.
I don’t see a Democratic Presidential candidate who is doing this very well. Trump is very successful at roiling up the ugly, mean, and divisive hate that so many people who follow him feel inside themselves; that they are mad is justifiable, but what’s wrong is Trump makes them mad at everything–Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese, etc. etc.—except why they should really be mad. We need someone who can reach these mad and frustrated people and help enlighten them on why they are being screwed, not make them angrier like Trump does over false boogiemen and phony red herrings. Let the facts convince the masses. Just present them better and with more clarity. It’s a tough task given the angry and divisive era in which we live, but it can be done.
Trump doesn’t give two shits about helping or uplifting these people at his rallies, he just wants their votes, and he says the things that appeal to their uglier irrational sides, not their reason. Demagoguery always wins in a vacuum. If it’s countered with a positive and rational set of progressive Democratic arguments that also appeals to the same masses who respond to the demagoguery, then Trump can be defeated. Hillary lost because she always sounded shrill and condescending to the very people she needed to convince to vote for her, while Trump stirred them up by appealing to their worst selves. Millions of people voted for Trump as a “fuck you” to the elites who so often talk down to them or treat them as inconsequential. So let’s start treating these fellow citizens as how they should be treated, as our allies who we need to convince about our cause, not ignorant children for whom we think we know better.
We need surrealists and we need realists in the Democratic Party. But what we need most is to win, not to always be right and just and “woke.” We need to focus on what we can do realistically, and meanwhile how we can convince millions of our fellow citizens that we are on their side and they are on ours, not how pure and righteous and just our cause is, to that they are stupid and wrong because they fall outside our lofty expectations. That never wins converts. That never wins elections. That never wins power in a democracy.
I was born in 1963, and my fondest childhood memories in the 60s were of riding with my large brood of siblings and my parents in our station wagon as we headed to our favorite quaint little family resort called Turkey Hallow, run by our dear friends the Verschor family. It was a small lake with a beach and camping grounds, and most of its members were friends of my parents or older siblings. During that hour-long ride from our house in Rock Island, IL to the lake located to the southwest of the city, we’d have the radio blaring all the hits of that magical era, and we’d all sing along, usually badly and without knowing all the lyrics, but who cared, we were together, happy, and life was fun.
My childhood coincided with the golden era of Rock & Roll, which began with the Beatles and Stones and the rest of the British Invasion, and lasted until the late 70s when Punk tore it all down. It was a musical era of bold experiments and brilliant pop, of larger-than-life superstars and brilliant singer-songwriters who turned the simple chords and beats of Rock & Roll into art. It saw the rise of the massively wide appeal of its brightest stars and their sold-out stadium tours, and also of the abject depravity of the decadence surrounding these wild tours. Within all this madness came the music. Oh, man, the music! It defined my generation, and its greatest anthems, even now, forty and fifty years later, echo with amazing potency to our future generations
It would be difficult to list ten of my all-time favorite Rock & Roll anthems, as there were hundreds of amazing songs from my youth that would be worthy of such high praise. However, there are a few that, as a 56-year-old, still resonate in my memories like a brilliantly-bright star that refuses to collapse. I will list them from 10 to 1, the anthems that ruled my life for so much of it. I could easily list 100 others of almost equal potency, but I like to think these are the most cherished by me.
10. Cinnamon Girl – Neil Young with Crazy Horse (1969)
Young was—is—a moody, irascible, restless artist who would change musical direction with each song he wrote, never comfortable as a pop star, though of course he was one of the biggest of his generation. His voice could be shrill and annoying, and he wasn’t the deftest guitar player, and yet the man wrote so many songs of lasting brilliance and popular appeal. What Neil had was a depth of feeling that translated perfectly to his music, and at his best he could captivate the listener with songs written in simple chord progressions and even simpler beats, and yet within that narrow confine lay something of sublime sonic beauty. I smoked a ton of pot listening to Neil Young in my teens, often at night in my bedroom with my headphones on, and during this song I dreamt of a gorgeous girl, a classmate in junior and senior high of mine I adored, unrequited, for many years, and I was sure Neil had written about her specifically in this superb song. Powered by a simple but catchy guitar chord progression and Neil’s winsomely subtle vocal harmonies with the rest of Crazy Horse, this song captures the romantic vision of the type of girl like my youthful obsession, a free-spirited, mysterious, tight-jeans-clad, ethereal beauty who left me breathless with desire. I wish you all could have known her; I felt honored just to be able to be in her majestic presence despite the fact she barely noticed me. Later, as adults, we got together in Las Vegas in 2010 and I confessed my undying teenage adoration of her. She was like, dude, you should have talked me, you were cute and I so would have dated you. Whatever, c’est la vie. My Cinnamon Girl was too good for my teenage version of myself in my insecure mind.
9. Ventura Highway – America (1972)
Yes, yes, they were a knockoff of Crosby, Still, and Nash, blah, blah, blah, but in 1972-1973 I was a monumentally-depressed boy watching his father slowly die of a brain tumor, and the older brother of my best friend murdered, during that horrible awful painful fucking two years, and music was my only respite from the horror show, especially America’s sweet, simple, folksy, extremely catchy pop songs that kept me afloat as I slowly drowned in sorrow. It was the life preserver around my neck. Dewey, Dan, and Gerry captured magic in a bottle on some of their best songs, and this was reflected in the high pop chart positions this bottled magic yielded as millions (fuck the critics!) hummed along to them as they played on radios or hi-fi stereo systems all across America and beyond. For years after my Dad died, I couldn’t listen to this song without bawling, so I avoided any memory that took me back to that horrible place, even if it had been something that kept me from slashing my wrists or jumping off our roof as I contemplated so many times. I owe music my life. It kept me sane even in my darkest moments. This beautiful little tune was my drug of choice to keep me alive. I am forever grateful.
8. Madman Across the Water – Elton John (1971)
See #9 for reasons for Mat Scheck to live, the 1972-73 edition of my life. While America’s songs were the drug that kept me sane, Elton’s best songs were the pacemaker that kept my heart beating. I have no happy memories from those years, not a single fucking one. I hated the world and I wanted to die. But here I am 46 years later, living, breathing, thriving. Thank you, Elton and Bernie. You lads wrote some amazing tunes. I owe you both more than I could ever repay.
7. Sitting Still – R.E.M. (1983)
My Army buddy Jim Torey rushed into my barracks room with a record album under his arm, and he was nearly hyperventilating with excitement as he manically described what he was sure was the best fucking album he’d ever bought. Jim was a deep, nutty, and brilliant guy, ergo this declaration had to be taken seriously, so we we spent a few hours listening to R.E.M.’s album Murmur that day, and, damn, Jim was right, it was the best fucking record I’d ever heard in my life. There was nothing like it. NOTHING. The music was somewhere between the jingle-jangle rock of The Byrds and the Do It Yourself fuzzbox cool of Punk, moreover you couldn’t understand a lick of what the singer was inarticulating, but the sound was so crisply cool, so moving and magical, and so utterly original, that Jim and I were immediately enthralled. It changed our lives in 1983. Music would never be the same to us. R.E.M. opened up whole new sounds and styles and forms on this record. Strong words, I know, and a bold declaration, but you had to be there at Fort Benning that day and feel the immense vibes created by this amazing music by this band from Georgia that captured our love in that moment. Thirty-six years later I still have no idea what Michael Stipe was singing, and I still don’t give a fuck. I still love this song as much today as I did then. It still moves me to almost indescribable bliss.
6. What Difference Does It Make? – The Smiths (1983 Peel Sessions Version)
Hatful of Hollow was the first album by The Smiths I bought, and by the second song on Side One I knew—KNEW—this would be my favorite band. The brilliant level of musicianship and lyrical eloquence grabbed my sensibilities almost violently, almost painfully. This song in particular, played live in the studio for John Peel’s BBC show, just spoke to me in ways I couldn’t even explain back in 1985 when I bought this album. It just worked for me. It had the anger and energy of Punk, but it wasn’t Punk, it was amazing guitar rock with a driving sound and the nuttiest fucking lead singer ever. This lead singer had a funny high baritone timbre and he sounded like a prissy, persnickety sissy with nutty homoerotic obsessions, but goddamn was he also smart and funny and utterly fucking relevant to me, moreover the guitar player was freak-of-nature great, wildly inventive and superbly sublime, and, finally, goddamnit, as if to add insult to the happy violent injury in my already elated brain, the bass and drums were just plain perfect. This was a great fucking band. I was smitten, floored, and forever enthralled with this weirdly wonderful and highly original Rock & Roll band from Manchester, UK. Oh fuck yes.
5. Ten Years Gone – Led Zeppelin (1975)
Like so many American teenagers from the 1970s, I had a few years where Led Zeppelin was my favorite Rock & Roll band; how many nights did I lie in bed listening to all their amazing songs? Untold. I could name ten songs by this great band that could make this list, but this subtle, sad lament about past love has always been my favorite Zeppelin song. You can feel Robert Plant’s remorse not only for his lost love from days gone by, but also for the fact his vocal range will never be what it once was from his younger years, and there’s a sadness to that fact. He was still a great singer, but he’d never hit the high notes again as he had back in 1969. That made me sad in 1975. By 1978 Zeppelin fell hard from my favorites as I moved on to other bands and newer sounds, and for years afterward I never really gave their records a whirl. But in the mid 70s the band’s music defined so much of my life.
4. Bad – U2 (1984)
I saw U2 live in Paris on July 4, 1987 with my then girlfriend, a beautiful German girl from Zweibrücken named Tanya, who bought the tickets for my 24th birthday. Tanya was a tall, lithe, and super-sexy ginger with mesmerizing eyes who looked like the actress Scarlett Johansson, and she was by far the singular love of my life; no woman has ever loved me with such passion and intensity as this gorgeous German girl with a violent temper and almost destructive intensity. Our romance was tumultuous as fuck as she never fully trusted me, mainly because I was a philandering fool who never gave her good reason to earn her trust; it all ended a few months later when she caught me with another girl. She was the only woman I had ever even imagined making babies with, and holy fuck would she and I have made some beautiful ones. To say I fucked up here is an understatement, the greatest romantic tragedy in a life filled with such toxic disasters.
We drove to the show from Martinshöhe, Germany, where I lived, in my 1980 Pontiac Firebird, an exotic American muscle car few French people had ever seen, so when we parked it became a popular oddity for so many of the show’s denizens who parked near us. The show was of course magnificent, as U2 never fails to deliver live, but on this song, while high on hashish and crowd energy, and just weeks after the worst imaginable experience of my military career, The USS Stark Incident where I played a key role in recovering and identifying the dead sailors from that horrible tragedy, I broke down in tears like a child. Tanya had been my rock during the horrible aftermath of my USS Stark experience where I often needed a tremendous push just to get out of bed every day, and she immediately grasped the magnitude of the psychic pain I was releasing in my tears as U2 played this fucking powerfully beautiful song that night in Paris. It didn’t fully heal me, but it did get easier each day afterward to get out of bed and get back to the fun of living again. When Tanya left me in September 1987 I thought I could find another like her, but 32 years have passed and no one has ever come close to her. How many women have I fucked since her while I imaged it was her? All of them.
3. L.A. Woman – The Doors (1971)
When I was at Burning Man in 2000, I related to the group who sat with me around the bonfire about the story of my brief friendship in 1983 with a nefarious and motley group of bikers and outlaws I met through my stripper girlfriend, who I met at a club on the outskirts of Fort Benning. They lived in a rural campground out in the nowhere of Southwestern Georgia near the Chattahoochee River, a gaggle of redneck gypsies and hardcore bikers and their old ladies who consumed drugs and alcohol in such copious quantities that I, an Army medic, stared in wonderment that they weren’t all dead from overdose. The men were all roughnecks and the women both beautiful and yet feral; the men got by selling dope and fixing cars and cycles while the gals all danced at the clubs for Benning’s endless supply of horny soldiers with fistfuls of payday cash.
My crazy new friends lived free and on their own terms in campers and tents, and didn’t give a fuck if tomorrow ever came as long as tonight was epic. Every night they’d build a huge bonfire and blast music, and the campground turned into an insane orgy of dancing, illicit substance abuse, and sexual perversity that would have made the Romans of old embarrassed. Fast forward to Burning Man in 2000. I said to the so-called “rebels and outcasts” and whatever these dippy kids thought they were, you have no idea what it means to be a crazy outcast until you met this wild crew I met in the summer of 1983 is Southwestern Georgia out in the swampy woodlands near Fort Benning. These motherfuckers were crazy, free, and insane like no one I ever met again; they really didn’t give a fuck. I was so terrified by this freedom I ran away from it after a few weeks when I dumped my crazy stripper girlfriend who dragged me to this encampment of nihilistic insanity and licentious self-destruction. I would guess most were dead by 2000. I asked, can we play L.A. Woman by The Doors and dance around the fire like I did back in ’83 with my insane outlaw pals? The Burning Man gang, eager for “alternative” authenticity, of course agreed. And off we went. Still, it wasn’t much like my experience with my stripper baby and her insane gang. But the memories sure felt good. You wanna get your hippie dance on, motherfuckers, like my crazy redneck gypsy biker friends and their stripper old ladies in Southwestern Georgia who embraced my straight-laced Army ass that summer of 1983, well, put this fucking awesome song on your music player and TURN IT THE FUCK UP.
2. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones (1969)
I was six in 1969. Men walked on the Moon. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated the year before. There seemed to be almost nightly reports of horrific race riots in every major American city. The fucking 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent shit show as Chicago cops beat the fuck out of hippies while CBS News videotaped it all. The Vietnam War raged on and we watched the casualty lists daily to see if another relative or neighborhood boy serving over there died. And the horrors in ‘Nam never seemed to end: Khe Sanh, The Tet Offensive, Hamburger Hill, etc. I am sure there was plenty of free love and peace in America, but it was a lie to say things were good. Things were not good. We were a country divided, mortally wounded, and angry. These pale British Rock & Roll superstars put out a song that captured all this psychic angst in one bold, powerful, beautiful song that captured the airwaves as 1969 turned into 1970. Goodbye, hippie love fest, hello reality, motherfuckers. Reality was a police nightstick smashing a black face as buildings burned in the background and the Viet Cong killed Billy down the street who joined the 101st Airborne after high school. We were in pain and this was the anthem. Unity in America died in 1969 and it’s never come back.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (1976)
We were driving from our new home in Indiana to our old one in Illinois to visit friends and family, I recall it was a cold, shitty day in 1976, when this nutty song came on the radio. I was sitting in the back seat with my sisters Jeanne and Maggie, and when this played we looked at each other, both puzzled and yet we could not help but fall in love with this crazy, weird, wonderful song. When it was over we looked at each other and were too confused by what we heard to speak. And then, about 20 minutes later on another radio station, we heard it again. On that 5-hour car trip were heard it about six times. By the sixth it was our favorite song and we knew all the words and sang along like idiots. Queen had pushed the limits of Rock & Roll way beyond what anyone thought was the outer boundary, and this insanely brilliant song is testimony to the band’s hubris and genius. It’s silly, sure, but also has powerful moments and kicks ass; it fucking ROCKS. It’s easily the most memorable Rock & Roll song of my lifetime. It’s Metal; it’s Pop; it’s Opera; it’s Rock & Roll! I dare Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga or Beyonce or some other shitty pop star from today to come close this kind of brilliance. I double-dog dare you.