Friday, May 11, 2007

One-Offs: Ruling Classes

Brute Force, The King of Fuh.
Tyrannosaurus Rex, King of the Rumbling Spires.
Richard Thompson, King Henry V's Conquest of France.
Pet Shop Boys, Dreaming of the Queen.
The Beatles, Revolution (demo).
Willie Eason, Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Poor Man's Friend.
Gene Marshall, President Richard Nixon.
The Clash, The Leader.
The Psychedelic Furs, President Gas.
Tom T. Hall, The Monkey That Became President.
Nina Simone, Revolution.
Derrick Morgan, I'm The Ruler.
The Minutemen, Fascist.
The Golden Gate Quartet, Stalin Wasn't Stallin'.
Pocket Fishrmen, The Leader Is Burning.

Nor do the people flourish in a monarchy because one man has the right to rule them, but because they obey him. Take away in any kind of state the obedience, and consequently the concord of the people, and they shall not only not flourish, but in short time be dissolved.

Hobbes, Leviathan.

Brute Force's "The King of Fuh," an elaborate dirty joke that sadly still cracks me up, was a favorite of George Harrison's and was released in 1969 as Apple Records' eighth single, though immediately withdrawn. A privately-pressed LP featuring "Fuh", Extemporaneus, now sells for $2000 or more. "Fuh" can sometimes be found tucked away on Beatles bootlegs (like Road Runner), usually about as murky and hissy as this version is. Brute Force is still keeping on; merchandise here (including in utero clothing: "Clothing For The Unborn prevents nudity becoming a habit by helping the unborn adjust to clothing.")

The King of the Rumbling Spires was a much more respectable monarch, or so the chronicles say. "Spires" was one of the last collaborations between Marc Bolan and Steve "Peregrin" Took (yes, having a Tolkien-inspired nickname was hip once--well, maybe not), and one of the first full-bore rock records Bolan recorded, released as a single in the summer of '69. On 20th Century Boy.

"King Henry V's Conquest of France," also known as "Tennis Balls," "Fency King and the English King" and "Henry's Tribute," has its origins in the French Dauphin's insulting tribute of a barrel of tennis balls to the young Henry V, which in turn led to the battle of Agincourt at which, as the song says, the English "killed ten thousand of the French/the rest of them, they all ran away." Listed as Child Ballad 164. Years after the song essentially had died out in England, it was still being played in corners of Appalachia--a 1928 version from Cades Cove, Tennessee, was the inspiration for Richard Thompson's recent rendition. On 1,000 Years of Popular Music.

And while the Pet Shop Boys' "Dreaming of the Queen" was released when Princess Diana was still alive, the track feels like a requiem for her, if not for the monarchy itself. On Very , their best record (out of print?).

To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and an imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.

One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense.

Willie Eason mourns the death of Franklin Roosevelt by painstakingly rendering Roosevelt's last hours on earth, with details like Elizabeth Shoumatoff being unable to finish painting FDR's picture. The lines when the country learns at once about Roosevelt's death, and the way Eason suddenly wails "And I cried about Roosevelt," have an eerie, apocalyptic feel--you could believe the earth cracked open when FDR passed. On Sacred Steel Guitar.

Nixon bandwagon roll along
over this great nation!
Especially teenagers
support him with a volunteer army!
Where have all the patriots gone?
Show more appreciation!
There's much he can do to save our

"President Richard Nixon," written by Nixon devotee John Montague and performed by Preview Records' house singer Gene Marshall, conjures up a blissful Bizarro version of 1972, in which teenagers, beaming Vietnam veterans and assorted patriots tromp around the country to celebrate the reelection of Richard Nixon, God's apparent choice for that year. Released as Preview 2139, the b-side of "The Story of William Calley." Find more Nixon hymns here.

The Clash's "The Leader" takes its cues from the Profumo Scandal, which began like a Harold Robbins novel, with the Tory Minister of War John Profumo coming upon Christine Keeler swimming nude at the estate of Lord Astor; "The Leader," however, has even more extreme tastes--showing up to a state dinner wearing only a leather mask, striking his lovers with "a whip from the Boer War." On Sandinista!

on everything but roller skates

The Psychedelic Furs' "President Gas" was released in 1982, and sadly seems applicable for every presidential election held since. On All This and Nothing.

And Tom T. Hall's ready to give up the franchise to the simians. "The Monkey That Became President" is from 1972. On Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher.

Italians! Here is the program of a genuinely Italian movement. It is revolutionary because it is anti-dogmatic, strongly innovative and against prejudice...

For the military problem: We demand:

a) The institution of a national militia with a short period of service for training and exclusively defensive responsibilities.

b) The nationalization of all the arms and explosives factories.

c) A national policy intended to peacefully further the Italian national culture in the world.

The Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle,
published in The People of Italy on June 6, 1919.

Can tyranny be happy? Derrick Morgan's dictator just wants you to dance. But only doing it his way, mind. From 1967; on Red Bumb Ball (also eMusic).

The Minutemen's "Fascist," from 1980, sums up a life spent under the thumb of the ruling class, in under a minute. On Paranoid Time.

And "Stalin Wasn't Stallin'" is one of the more bizarre WWII propaganda songs ever made--a black gospel quartet singing the praises of Stalin's war against Hitler, the latter backed by Satan. Who will win? From 1943; on Hitler and Hell.

It is doubtful that the net contribution of the Constitution to our national well-being has been positive. The ultimate source of authority is simply force, physical force.

Prof. Lino Graglia, Ronald Reagan's proposed appointee to the Federal Court of Appeals (rejected), 1984.

Finally, let's end with a bit of hope, with the Leader in flames. From 1989, perhaps the last politically optimistic year in memory. More on Austin, Texas' Pocket Fishrmen (along with a few remaining copies of the "Leader" 45).

On vacation for a bit, so take care. Enjoy the Top 100 Drinking Songs; Destination Out!, the Rev., the Memphis-bound Boogie Woogie Flu and Shake Your Fist are always worth checking out; Tofu Hut talks to kids, musicians, gets interviewed himself; and don't miss the fantastic girl group rarities on Office Naps (the Bittersweets! the Heart Beats!).

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