Where’s the napalm?

Just about all aspects of the similarities between Vietnam and Dubya’s military adventures have been delineated by bloggers, perhaps it has even gone to the <I>ad nausium</I> level.  There is one thing that hasn’t been discussed:  where the hell is the memorable music to go along with it?

What song was no. 1 the week the World Trade Center disappeared in a cloud of dust?  Can anyone think of Vietnam and not think of the smorgasbord of music that was exploding in America’s cultural scene at the same time? 

So, tell me, will future movie makers punctuate their stories of the Bush Wars with the sounds of . . . Mondana?  Hellfire, only the artists who wrote protest songs during Vietnam are writing (as far as this columnist can tell) any dissenting material for the new millennium. 

In the San Francisco area, where are the top 10 music stations?  All you can hear is Uncle Rushbo and Foxettes singing the praises of Dubya’s obsession with WMD’s and bringing democracy to the Middle East (except for Kuwait which was returned to the ruling royal family).  Where has top-10 radio gone?  Yeah, there’s a new oldies station, but what do they play?  Vietnam era rock and roll? 

Who dominates the live concert scene?  Gees, doesn’t that honor go to the greatest rock and roll band in the world, and doesn’t one of their songs just happen to be an integral part of the Apocalypse Now soundtrack?  Is there any contemporary “music” that will still be relevant forty years from now?  You really think Fiddy Scent will be used to summon any future nostalgia for the Bush years?  Will he, perhaps, slide in complete obscurity like Russ Columbo or Arthur Tracy, the street singer, have?

Didn’t World War II also have it’s distinctive music?  Ask a Brit about “Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “Bless ‘em All.”  Ask a G. I. about the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.”   “Lilly Marlene” will bring back memories for both the German and American soldiers who fought in the European theater.  Depending on which side you were on, it might make a difference which version you heard.  She had hits with the one song in both German and English versions.

Do certain songs bring back memories of Korea for those vets?  You’ll have to ask Bob Hope’s bandleader about that.

The Vietnam War not only brought with it a collection of music that was on both sides of the issue, it also brought with it a simultaneous massive change in the entire art world.  Can anyone recap the Sixties without mentioning Andy Warhol, Twiggy, or the James Bond novels and movies? 

One of Dubya’s lesser noted contributions to American history is that he seems to have stifled much, in not all, cultural interest in both art and science.  If a certain soft drink company were to replay their older ads that feature polar bears (Ursus maritimus), do ya think Rev. Hogwash would quash the idea because of the stealth endorsement they would convey regarding the polar bear’s place on death row?  Not to mention the liberals’ attempt to invoke science as a way of getting a stay of execution motion?

Thanks to the shrinking news hole in newspapers and the proliferation of the conservative clowns on the radio, art and science have taken a “standing nine count” in arena of contemporary American culture.

Who is the new era Andy Warhol?  Don’t expect to find the answer on the Internet.  When was the last time you saw a story online by a huffing and puffing writer, who was worn out by his (or her) efforts to inform you about a worthwhile art opening?  We remember it happening rather often in the Sixties.

The age of niche coverage has diminished the ability of media to present a vast array of cultural news.  Do the people who run I-pod care what movies are in production?  Does the Rotten Tomato site want to promote Neal Young’s latest protest song?

Uncle Rushbo’s idea of cultural news is to encourage his listeners to boycott the Dixie Chicks’ music.  When was the last time he talked about a good read?  Hell, he ain’t never gonna give one of Carl Hiaasen’s books a plug, because the Florida columnist is pro environment.  Don’t that writer guy know that good Americans are in favor of knocking down Paradise to put up a parking lot?  It’s good for bidness and it creates (ta-dah!) jobs!

Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, and Mike Douglas (no not the one who introduces the NBC Evening Talking Points) used to have writers as guests.  Can you dig it?  They would waste good air time talking about something people might enjoy reading.  They could have (like St. Reagan did on his radio show in the late seventies) been using their time to promote the conservative agenda.  Interview writers?  Good Christians won’t waste their time reading “The Harrad Experiment” or the like.  Why give the authors of books like that a free ad by talking to them on air?

You saw what happened when Ed Sullivan asked Mr. James Morrison to change the offensive lyrics of his hit song, didn’t ya?  Dumb bastard balked and got banned.  Think kids these days care about the correct lyrics to “Light My Fire!”?   Bet they don’t even know the name of that guy’s band.  Ha!  Think he’d change his mind if he had that chance again?

Back in the Sixties, there was (I’ve read somewhere) an episode of a TV series that followed the adventures of a band of rascals who were traveling through space (and apparently time also) and they came upon a fellow who told them that when the century that contained the Sixties ended, there would be a period of relative calm.  Global conflicts, like World War II, would be a thing of the past.  There would only be little, localized skirmishes.  They would be called “Bush Wars.” 

So it is that truly religious folks are content to let the devil’s music die and concentrate, like good Christians should, on continuing the slaughter and carnage in the Middle East.

Only old fogies care about hearing music today that will evoke memories of the contemporary scene ten years from now.  Odds are that ten years from now, young Americans will still be working on the efforts to bring democracy to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and maybe even Yemen and so songs that are a decade old won’t make one bit of difference, so why worry about them.

There ain’t never going to be a Bush Wars Soundtrack Album because the artists are too busy making money to waste time on putting cumbaya moments into the product.  Today’s musicians are capitalists, just like Reagan and Rush. 

There’s an old saying:  “If you can remember the Sixties; you weren’t really there.”

Now, the disk jockey will play “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” “Eve of Destruction,” “Masters of War” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”  It’s time for us to go over to Spraul Plaza and see what the kids are protesting this decade.  Have the kind of week that would make Lloyd Thaxton proud.


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