Speaking of terror...

>> Sunday, March 06, 2011

...it seems the natural way to follow yesterday's post is with another gorgeous song about Latin American war crimes with a fan video of U2's "Mothers Of The Disappeared":

I wonder how many people remember this, what with all the airports being named after the guy, and the success Grover Norquist's had in lionizing him, and the way the modern right has posthumously turned him into some kind of Republican's answer to John Kennedy, but the guys who made people "disappear" in Central and South America throughout the 1980s were ultra-right-wing governments that operated with the recognition and support of the Reagan administration. Sometimes the brazenly illegal support of the Reagan administration. But it's okay, those fascists and cryptofascists south of the border were anticommunist, like Reagan, you know, and the people they were abducting and summarily shooting in the backs of the heads and burying in anonymous mass graves were probably communists, so it's all cool. Plus it's not like any of those guys spoke English, which means technically they weren't even white people.

It's funny: I was re-reading Tolkien not long ago, and thinking that part of the appeal of fantasy literature in that vein is that good and evil were so clearly delineated. Which I bring up because when I was a teenager and listening to U2 and R.E.M. and Roger Waters and Bruce Springsteen and reading Mother Jones and Rolling Stone, good and evil was just as clearly delineated, come to think of it. What's really funny now, in retrospect, is the realization that I must have been on the wrong side. Because if the Reagan crowd was as idolized as they clearly are now, and their sins as forgotten as they are now, and everybody aspires to be "Reaganesque," even the Democrats, it appears--well, I guess I was on the side of the orcs and Nazgul all along and I just never knew it. Guess it's not enough that a man might be dragged out of his house in the dead of night, a sack pulled over his head and a bullet put in the back of it--you have to wait and let history be a judge of it, and history says Ronald Reagan was a nice man with a jar full of jellybeans, not somebody who claimed he didn't remember people selling arms for hostages to launder money for bloody butchers.

Here's something more happily nostalgic, or more neutrally nostalgic at least: I think my first copy of The Joshua Tree was another pirate, a copy of a friend's cassette tape and his copy may have been a copy, come to think of it. And The Joshua Tree is fifty minutes long and didn't fit onto one side of a ninety-minute cassette. And in fact I'm pretty sure my copy must have been a copy of a copy, else I probably would have put "Mothers Of The Disappeared" on the other side of the tape, but instead it cut out about halfway through the song. I didn't even know there was another half of the song, I don't think, until I was in college and finally bough the CD instead of food, and here was a whole 'nother verse to the song and a complete outro and everything. But for those of you born after 1980-and-something, this was how we listened to music.

Here was the thing when you're in high school (or college) and love music--at least back in the day before file-sharing and so on: you might have a job and some extra cash for music, but the choice is between buying an album nobody owns and some blank tapes or buying something a friend has or that you can check out of the library; the smart thing is to buy the blank tapes and the album nobody has, because everybody gets more music that way. And this was, and maybe still is, how loving bonds are formed between fans and fans and fans and bands; you couldn't just tape somebody else's music, you had to offer up something in return, like a chance to copy your Violent Femmes or whatever. I don't know that it cost sales in the long run (though it obviously did in the short), since what inevitably happened was that people got turned on to artists for spans of time that outlasted the technologies that were used to spread the love: the cassette tape may be a technological dead end, but I still listen to a lot of the same bands.

Not U2, so much, but only because they haven't been interesting since the mid-'90s. It happens, y'know? But The Joshua Tree is still a phenomenal album, and eventually I paid for a copy.


Random Michelle K Sunday, March 6, 2011 at 9:20:00 AM EST  

I think my favorite song on that subject is Sting's "They Dance Alone"

It's an absolutely gorgeous song and the beauty of the music is an amazing counterpoint to the content of the lyrics.

Eric Sunday, March 6, 2011 at 11:44:00 AM EST  

It's a great song, Michelle, and one of the high points of Sting's solo career.

I'm reminded of what Neil Young once said about "Ohio": that he was sorry he had to write it. It's a terrible thing that songs like "Dance Alone," "Disappeared" and "Flowers" had to be written in the 1980s, or at any time.

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