Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Boulder Memories

That dynamic duo -- Jello Biafra and moi.

Craziest Day: Thursday. I was already on two panels -- "Dude! Where's My Constitution?" at Boulder High School and "Should National Service Be Mandated" back on the campus. I receive an early morning call to see if I can sit on the panel, "Beatboxers, Hip-Hoppers & Punk Rockers: A Battle Cry For Social Change." Apparently, my revelation to Jello Biafra that I was a punk rock fan intrigued the organizers. They wanted me to fill in for a last- minute cancelled. I said sure, but the music panel ran until 1:50 and I had to be at the high school at 1:20. So, they said, OK. Do the music panel; we'll grab you in the middle and take you over to the HS. That's what happened.

I started off the music panel by asking the audience a question I knew they were almost assured of getting wrong. For one thing, this was a rare panel where college students made up more than two-thirds of the audience (not surprising, given the topic. The rest were various Gen-Xers, boomers, et al. The question was: "Who was British prime minister when the Sex Pistols and The Clash released their debut albums?" Sure enough, immediately, a handful of voices yelled out, "Maggie Thatcher!" WRONG! Now, one might argue that in our history-challenged society, Thatcher and Tony Blair may be the only British PMs Americans know. However, given that the New York Times made the same mistake -- in the middle of a Joe Strummer "appreciation" shortly after he died in 2002 -- I felt it was fair of me to ask this to make my broader point.

The PM by the way, was the little remembered Labourite James Callaghan -- preceded by another Labour PM Harold Wilson, who was completing his second tour in 110 Downing St.

The overall point was that so-called "protest" or political music isn't necessarily inspired by conservative governments or politics. Punk arose from economic and social frustratrions that had been building for decades, but broke out during a Labour government. Much of the protest music associated with the '60s was a response to liberal Lyndon Johnson, rather than the (relatively) conservative Richard Nixon. Hip-hop began in the late-70s under a Jimmy Carter presidency (even though some of the more lyrically provocative artists emerged in the late-80s of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush).

I was followed by hip-hop artist Shamako Noble, who surprised me by thanking me for my comments and saying that he didn't want rap to be co-opted by Democrats -- or any party, for that matter. While his view that he wanted a world influenced more by love than anything else may strike some as naive, his broader point of wishing for independence from explicity partisan views was refreshing.

Jello Biafra followed and spoke of his own evolution and how he was finally inspired to start his own punk career after seeing the Ramones (apparently, it was the same concert attended by the future leader of the aggro-punk band Ministry). After he finished, I couldn't resist scribbling a note to him an observation I forgot to include in my original comments: "Remember, Johnny Ramone was a Republican!" He whispered back, "Yeah, I know. They finally broke up because Joey couldn't deal with Johnny listening to Rush Limbaugh all the time." He was serious -- and I think that is roughly true approximation of event. Ah, Johnny and Joey Ramone, RIP.

It was a special moment as Jello and I bonded.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook