Archie Bunker – Those Were The Days

This song is actually written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, who are known for Broadway’s “Bye Bye Birdie.” Of course, it’s performed by actors Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, and is the theme song from the 1970s television sitcom, “All In The Family.”

All In The Family” was set in the context of social changes in the 1970s, such as related to women’s liberation (feminism) and racial equality.

They lyrics express views similar to the ideology of conservatism, which dovetail with the views of the main character, Archie Bunker. Archie resisted the 1970s changes!

That’s because conservatism maintains reverence for the way things were, feeling that modern times change too fast, with untested, unproven ideas and reforms.

Specifically to the times, Archie felt that younger people had become dependent on government to bring them up and support them (“didn’t need no welfare state, everybody pulled their weight…” But in the past, people took care of themselves with initiative and elbow grease.

And the line, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great”? That’s a reference to a Buick automobile.

Beach Boys – Roll Plymouth Rock

“Smile” is the legendary Beach Boys album that consumed Brian Wilson in its development. This pastiche has the surfer boys harmonizing about American Indians losing their land and identity. A “ribbon of concrete” eroded a culture and history of an entire people.

Sort of that’s what this is about. Who knows! The reach could be broader than native Americans, because the song, sometimes or formerly known as Do You Like Worms, also puts into melody a Hawaiian thanksgiving prayer.

Lou Reed – Good Evening Mr. Waldheim

Kurt Waldheim was a Nazi oficer that later came to be the head of the United Nations. Lou Reed sings about putting controversial people in ironic positions of power, when you consider that the United Nations champions equal treatment of all.

He sings about the “common ground.” This usually means finding what ideas people share to unite them. Reed seems to mean this as giving other groups their fair shake, respect and acknowledging their past sacrifices and hardships.

Examples in the bouncy rocker are double standards for Reed: that some seek common ground with other groups in society, but not Jews? It is to him a reflexive anti-Semitism that is given a free pass. Reed feels this is hypocrisy from some people, like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Champions of racial equality in America can better appreciate what Jewish people have endured.

Elton John – Just Like Belgium

This is a 1981 song from Sir Elton, from a mediocre album, The Fox. You probably haven’t heard the song or even know about this record. That’s okay.

Belgium is a small country, about 30,000 square kilometres. Yet it has a federal structure, meaning multiple levels of government.

A typical rationale for federalism is that more than one level of government in a single state works for large countries: it’s more effective to govern with a national level taking care of issues and matters that impact all citizens… and subregional (provinces, states, landers and other names) taking care of more regional matters.

But why federalism for tiny Belgium, then?

Belgium is federal for another reason: ethnic and linguistic diversity. Their setup has regional and linguistic governmental divisions as part of federalism. Belgium has a Dutch-speaking Flemish population, and a French-speaking Walloon population. Plus, German speaking folks.

Another rationale for federalism beyond territorial size is that having more than one level of government in a single country can facilitate ethnic, linguistic and other diversities to be respected, maintained and enhanced.

Elton wasn’t singing about all this, but how many would?

Bob Dylan – Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues

November 2014 marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall (1961-89), which separated Germany into, roughly, capitalist and communist, the West and the Eastern Blocs. A divided Germany was a Cold War epicentre.

This 1964 bootleg Bob Dylan song parodies some of the paranoia about finding and ferreting out “Reds” (communist sympathizers in America). Bob looks everywhere, and starts investigating himself!

That may have been not such a joke, since Dylan played in East Germany in 1987, invited by communist officials. The German secret police made a report on Dylan, “Robert Zimmerman, No. HA XX 17578.” The report described him as “an old master of rock,” not likely to cause much trouble because he did not resonate much with the youth at the time.

I guess Bob needs to keep searching for commies!

(The John Birch Society was an advocacy group going back to 1958 that was anti-communist. It’s still around: http://www.jbs.org/).

Kris Kristofferson – Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down

A 1990 (dud) concept album from a country singer! Third World Warrior included this song, with Kris stating that his country kills babies, children and farmers, in the fight against communism.

It is not easy to make light of innocent civilians getting killed in wars. It certainly happens. There is often more concern for killed US soldiers, than their victims, innocent or not. The Korean and Vietnam wars apparently had enormous civilian death tolls. Today, targeted killings, such as that of Osama bin Laden, and using more precise weapons, are strategies hoped to reduce this carnage.

Lil Wayne – God Bless Amerika

Lil Wayne, in 2013, critiques his country for a foreign policy that lives and dies by the sword. The same point is made for domestic policy in terms of police and jail. The rapper then seems to get off track, describing performing a sex act on his girlfriend. Maybe it’s all somehow related? It could be about the country having no soul, being even aimless, putting disparate things together. Regardless, the image of seeing a butterfly in hell is vivid.