Jackie Shane – Any Other Way

U.S. born Jackie Shane lived in Canada and some like to think he is a relative of Little Richard. This song, a cover, became popular in Canada in 1962.

What’s political is Shane is seen to be using the word ‘gay’ in the lyrics for its sexual orientation connotation, and not simply as a synonym of ‘happy.’ This double meaning was not mainstream back then.

“Tell her that I’m happy/tell her that I’m gay”

The singer was a gay performer who often dressed in drag, and to many today, is seen as an early LGBT artist. Rumours are he is no longer alive, in hiding, or incognito, living her life today, as a transgender woman.


Ruth Brandin Und Die Sputniks – Mich Hat Noch Keiner Beim Twist

In the dark days of the Cold War, long before Germany was reunited, the government of East Germany feared foreign cultural influences undermining its legitimacy. A response was to create homegrown pop music to fend off Chubby Checker, the Beatles and others. A new dance, the Lipsi, was made up, and Ruth Brandon and the Sputniks sang and played in 1964, to fight off Western influences.

If that sounds daft and difficult, or yet another naive, though maybe well-intentioned communist policy, cultural protectionism remains a government response in many freer countries, even today. Canada limits foreign content on the radio in peak hours. Internationally, free trade agreement negotiations invariably debate ways to encourage cultural diversity within a country’s borders. This is discussed as a means to fend off foreign influences, typically meaning, American.

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.

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/).

Janet Greene – Commie Lies

Stuff it, Joan Baez?

There were some ideological rebukes to the left-leaning folk music of the 1960s, even if obscure.

Greene was the music director for an organization called the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. This is one of her eight recorded songs from the 1960s. It appears to be based on the melody from the folk song, Blue Tail Fly (Jimmie Crack Corn).

Greene warns of communist propaganda that when accepted will lead to a loss of freedom.

Officially, communism has a different conception of freedom, that in a classless society with full equality, all would be free. This is in the sense of none would be scraping by and all would have decent lives, free from exploitation in employment. Greene sang this is deceitful, underlining a criticism of this utopian dream: communism is impossible to achieve in practice.

Contemporary Vera Vanderlaan is another pretty much forgotten “red-baiting” artist: Freedom Is A Hammer. Greene’s Poor Left Winger is reviewed here, too.

Bob Dylan – Let Me Die In My Footsteps

Bob Dylan sang about the Cold War back in 1963. Not totally accepting that the world would end from nuclear destruction, he nonetheless poetically sang about preferring to sleep (and die) in a meadow rather than hide in a fallout shelter.

In the 1950s, fallout shelters, often underground, were built to avoid coming into contact with and to provide protection from “fallout.” This is the radioactive material that would be produced from nuclear explosions.

The Beatles – Nowhere Man

This 1965 song is considered significant in the Lennon/McCartney canon, for representing a shift in song subjects from love to politics and philosophy. It was wholly a Lennon composition, looking at one’s place in the world.

In political science we typically consider ourselves in relation to society (the other people we live with and around), and the government (the decision-making institution). Debate concerns the proper size and scope for each of these three elements: should there be a pronounced role for the individual, should government be large, should society help us take care of collective business? You can appreciate that expanding the scope for one part can reduce the responsibilities of the others.

This nowhere man has no opinions and views, perhaps making society and government important?