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DJ: Happy Memorial Day Weekend, FMF fans! War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’. We’ll hear that lyric a bit later, as I’m sure you may have expected. Today’s episode reflects Memorial Day’s subject matter. War. Memorial Day is when we as Americans remember all of the fallen veterans that have served our armed forces throughout history. Whether or not you agree with the military, there absolutely have been veterans who have fought for certain aspects of your freedom. Whether it be regarding slavery during the American Civil War, the battle of superpowers during World War 1, the genocidal Nazi movement of World War 2, the anti-Communist farce of the Vietnam war, or any of the Middle Eastern conflicts that have been ongoing since the 80s, war has been around this country for far too long. Most of the war songs we hear today will be anti-war, as they should be. As Hawkeye from MASH told us, “War is war and hell is hell, and of the two war is a lot worse.”. Let’s jump right into things with a song about the Northern Ireland conflict. Stiff Little Fingers have written a plethora of poignant tunes about The Troubles as it’s known in Ireland. “Wasted Life” is one of many tracks on the band’s debut 1979 LP Inflammable Material that deals with The Troubles, and more specifically gives a middle finger to fighting in an unjust conflict. Here’s Jake Burns leading the ‘Fingers in our first war cut of the day.
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DJ: P.F. Sloan, an L.A.-based songwriter and member of The Wrecking Crew, wrote “Eve of Destruction” as an anti-war song in mid-1964. The song flew up the charts to #1 one month after its release in August 1965. It also spurred some answer records by conservative musicians like SSgt. Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets” and The Spokesmen doing “Dawn of Corruption”. Kinda makes you wonder. Is anyone really pro-war? Or are they just so patriotic that they’ll go along with whatever their country’s leaders ask of them? Nevertheless, there are two sides to every conflict. Barry McGuire recorded the most popular version of “Eve”, the one we played today and the one that hit #1 54 years ago this summer.
Bob Seger played us his anti-Vietnam anthem “2+2=?” just before Mr. McGuire. The cut comes from The Bob Seger System’s debut 1969 LP Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man. “2+2=?” was released in January of 1968 and marked a shift in Bob’s political attitude. It made a minor splash in the Detroit area, but it wasn’t until the LP came out and the title track shot him into the national spotlight. In Denise Sullivan’s White Stripes biography book Sweethearts of The Blues, she mentions that Jack White was a fan of the early Seger stuff, being from the Detroit area himself. There’s even speculation that the White Stripes’ song “Seven Nation Army”’s bassline was inspired by “2+2=?”.
We weren’t going to make it through today’s show without one of the more well-known anti-war songs from CCR. “Fortunate Son” not only criticized the ongoing Vietnam War, but also showed solidarity with the soldiers drafted to fight in it. It spoke to the age-old quip about rich men starting wars and poor men fighting them. This time, John Fogerty wanted to call out Senator’s sons. The track was covered by Boston Celtic-punk band Dropkick Murphys on a split EP they did with Face To Face in 2002. Face To Face also covered Stiff Little Fingers’ “Wasted Life” on that EP.
In Paul Trynka’s Iggy Pop biography Open Up And Bleed, Iggy states that the title for “Search And Destroy” was derived from a column heading in a Time article about the Vietnam War. The lyrics of the song also reference quite a bit of war terms, like his “heart full of napalm”. Raw Power was The Stooges’ third LP and for over 30 years thought to be their last. That is, until 2007 when they reunited to record The Weirdness. The remix of Raw Power drew plenty of flak from music fans, criticizing its loudness and overall bad sound. Even though the original mix was lacking a nice drum sound, David Bowie actually did a decent job with it. We played that original mix, but feel free to check out the remix yourself. Kurt Cobain mentioned Raw Power in his journal many times and its thought to have been his favorite album ever.
Up next, we have a band that was surely influenced by The Stooges. Bad Religion has written a grip of anti-war songs, not to mention their vast selection of anti-religion songs. One of the longest running punk outfits ever, the band formed in 1980. Save for a minor split in the mid-80s, they’ve been putting out music consistently ever since then – nearly 40 years! Singer Greg Graffin is the only consistent member, though founders Jay Bentley and Brett Gurewitz have quit and rejoined several times, with Jay accumulating 35 years and Brett 28 years. After the success of The Process of Belief in 2002, the band headed back into the studio to follow it up with The Empire Strikes First. The LP featured a few guest appearances, including Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers playing guitar on “Los Angeles Is Burning”. Apparently the other three guitarists in the band needed help, haha. Sage Francis also stepped in to rap a few bars for “Let Them Eat War”. Let’s check it out.
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DJ: You probably heard that Temptations song and thought to yourself, “Hey, this sounds different from the version I know”. The most popular version was done by Edwin Starr, whom we just heard finish the set. Edwin’s version of “War” was so popular that it was put on two of his albums. First on 1970’s War & Peace and then again on 1971’s Involved. Involved features another anti-war single, too, with “Stop The War Now”. “Stop The War Now” catches Edwin souting “Good God” again, just like on “War”.
The Temptations and the Motown label were both hesitant to release “War” as a single due to its political subject matter. The group and label didn’t want to risk their image. Psh. How wrong were they? The public embraced the anti-war anthem. The song was included on the Temptations’ 1970 album Psychedelic Shack, the album that took the group in a new direction after their successful formula of the 60s became overdone. As you may have guessed, the LP also featured some rather psychedelic nuances and subjects, too.
Black Sabbath’s epic 8-minute jam “War Pigs” was the zenith of our second set. Bassist Geezer Butler has stated that the song was about Vietnam and the rich men sending the poor men to fight for them. Ozzy, on the other hand, said they knew nothing about Vietnam and that it was just a general anti-war song. Regardless, it stands as a pioneer in heavy metal/punk anti-war anthems and one of the most hard-hitting jams of its time. The track leads off the group’s second album Paranoid with an assault and North American releases title it “War Pigs / Luke’s Wall” to officially name the last half instrumental part. Paranoid also features the title track as a single and the song that every single rock band first learns how to play when they form – “Iron Man”.
Alkaline Trio chipped in an Iraq War-era tune with “Warbrain”. The song originally appeared on the 2004 Rock Against Bush Vol. 1 compilation, a collection of politically charged songs both released and unreleased to support Fat Mike of NOFX/Fat Wreck Chords’ political PunkVoter movement. While some may say he was a sell out for supporting a candidate like John Kerry during that time, I can understand Mike’s point of view wanting to rid America of Dubya. The post-911 wars still linger on and the Middle East is still torn up. Something had to be done, though the efforts didn’t amount to what he had hoped. A second Rock Against Bush album was released in August of 2004, closer to election season. That compilation featured Bad Religion’s “Let Them Eat War”.
Our next set focuses on the tragedy that was the Vietnam War. Not that all wars aren’t tragedies, but I suppose some have more merit to them than others. Like defeating Nazis seems a bit more important than routing someone’s oil fields for profit, but to each their own I suppose. We’ll hear some garage rock followed by a couple of great 80s bands that fit into the punk scene well without sounding like your cliche punk rock band, then we’ll cap it off with a classic punk jam followed by one of that band’s biggest fans. Detroit’s Oblivians are no strangers to the show. Here’s Greg Oblivian and the gang doing “Viet Nam War Blues” off of the 1995 LP Soul Food.
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DJ: The Bastards really drove home the point with that chant, wrapping up Lars Frederiksen & their tune “Vietnam”. The track comes from the debut solo effort from the Rancid singer-songwriter. Much like many of the Vietnam-centric songs out there, it focuses on the treatment of veterans after the war. The Vietnam War veterans were some of the worst cared for and worst treated soldiers in American history, up until the more recent conflict’s survivors. We’ll deal a bit more with war losses and casualties in our last set.
Rancid heroes The Ramones played us “Commando” from their sophomore LP Leave Home. The album followed their debut by just under 8 months and was followed by Rocket To Russia in the fall of ’77. While “Commando” isn’t exclusively about Vietnam, it sure does mention in a lot. It also deals with Dee Dee Ramones’ German upbringing and Nazi propaganda.
When The Stooges reformed in 2007 for The Weirdness, they added legendary punk bassist Mike Watt of Minutemen fame. Mike and D. Boon led the punk trio in the 80s along with George Hurley keeping time. The group’s magnum opus Double Nickels On The Dime served up the track “Viet Nam” along with 43 other short-ish punk tracks. Not particularly known for their speed or distortion, the band almost sounds like punk jazz.
Another 80s punk band that didn’t really fall into the fast and loud aesthetic that punk encapsulates was The Dead Milkmen. Their single “Punk Rock Girl” featured clean guitars with lyrics about living in the punk scene. The 1986 LP Eat Your Paisley! yielded one single; “The Thing That Only Eats Hippies”/”Beach Party Vietnam”. Two years later the band would hit it big with “Punk Rock Girl” off of Beelzebubba.
Our next set starts off with this episode’s Set 4 Score. Auckland, New Zealand’s P.H.F. (Perfect Hair Forever) put out I Hate Myself in July of 2018. The next track features Dylan Thinnes from Danger Collective Records. Here’s P.H.F. with “Not Ur War”.
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DJ: It’s pretty difficult to fight a war without a military. Although, these days you could be at war via Facebook. Former Hollies singer Graham Nash would team up with Byrds guitarist David Crosby and Buffalo Springfield members Stephen Stills and Neil Young to form Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young in the early 70s. After CSNY’s incredibly successful album Déjà Vu in 1970, each of the members would put out solo albums that were on point. Neil Young had released After The Gold Rush in September of 1970, Stephen Stills released his self-titled solo debut in November, David Crosby released If I Could Only Remember My Name in February of 1971, and finally Graham Nash would follow in May 1971 with Songs For Beginners. The album’s lead track “Military Madness” capped our 4th set.
Who doesn’t love that King Crimson jam? We played the single edit of “21st Century Schizoid Man”, mainly because the album version isn’t available on streaming services at this time. The song made waves with the Millennial generation in the 21st century after Kanye West sampled it for his largely successful single “Power”. The original tune does reference the political climate of the late 60s, though, and also the napalm used during Vietnam.
Dutch rock band Cobra put out four 7″ singles between 1971-1972 but never cut an album. The band was based in The Hague and played a sort of Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath type heavy rock. Their second single, “The War Will Soon Be Over (My Love) was produced by Fred Haayen, the manager of Golden Earring. You know, “Radar Love“?
Before Cobra was Seattle garage rockers Night Beats doing a tune from their self-titled debut album. The track “War Games” is one of two war-titled songs along with “Little War In The Midwest” closing out the LP. We featured Night Beats’ “Sunday Mourning” on our FMF Episode – The Month. A show that plays songs titled after the days of the week, 31 of them, in order.
Coming up in our 5th set we get back to the aforementioned Byrds. After kicking David Crosby out in 1967 due to some disagreements and his actions of the Monterey Pop Festeival, The Byrds would release The Notorious Byrd Brothers in 1968. The LP featured the single “Goin’ Back” a Goffin-King tune made famous by Dusty Springfield. The album also featured “Draft Morning”, a song about the juxtaposition of a beautiful morning crossed with killing someone in the name of a politician’s war. Tragic. Here’s that song.
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DJ: Every single person killed in war is “Too Young To Die”. That last song was a one-two punch of war themes, with the title being focused on dying before your time and also the band’s name. Agent Orange was named after the herbicidal warfare defoliant used by the US government during the Vietnam War. Imagine being sent to war for a bullshit reason and while fighting for that reason your own leaders spray toxic chemicals all over the jungle you’re fighting in. I’d be a little pissed, too. The US faced massive legal consequences for the use of the chemical that left millions of Vietnamese and American people in extremely rough shape, if not killed.
Lee Ving and FEAR dropped by with their proclamation that there’s too many of us and how we need a war to thin out the numbers. The tongue-in-cheek statement takes a sarcastic stance of the rich politicians’ view of the proletariat. “There’s too many poor people that might cause an uprising, let’s thin the numbers a bit…”. “Let’s Have A War” comes from the infamous 1982 debut album by Fear and was covered by A Perfect Circle on their anti-war primarily covers album eMOTIVe. That album also featured the original cut “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums”, a tune that deserves a spot on this show.
Another New York punk/New Wave group chimed in with their post-apocalyptic single “Life During Wartime”. Talking Heads played CBGB before Fear made their way onto the stage, but not much earlier. The late 70s in New York was a punk-ripe haven that spawned countless new acts and Talking Heads were perhaps the artsiest of them all. Well, they’re probably the most successful art punks out of the that era. It’s hard to classify them as a punk group due to the sound, but the DIY ethic and groups they played with should get them a bit of street cred. “Life During Wartime” comes from 1979’s Fear of Music.
The Doors’ first single from 1968’s Waiting For The Sun was an anti-Vietnam War track titled “The Unknown Soldier”. In the middle of the song, a marching cadence plays before you hear loading guns ready to fire. During live shows, the band was act this out with Robby Krieger pointing his guitar like a gun at Jim Morrison. Drummer John Densmore would slap the drum sounding like a gunshot and Jim would fall to the ground like he was shot. Theatrical and intense, just like Jim Morrison’s lyrics.
Our last set of the day focuses on the heartbreak of war aftermath. More specifically, the losses of loved ones either due to being killed in action or extremely traumatized a la Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of the soldiers who return from war suffer from dibilitating disorders and will use drugs as a coping mechanism. Regardless of how these soldiers end up, we’re told that we should be proud of them. As Martha Reeves & The Vandellas are about to remind us, when that telegram comes carrying bad news, pride just won’t due. Losing someone to an unjust war is still losing someone. Here’s Martha doing “I Should Be Proud” from 1970’s Natural Resources.
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DJ: “Rooster” was the nickname of Jerry Cantrell Sr., the father of famed Alice In Chains songwriter and guitarist Jerry Cantrell. Jerry wanted to write a song from his father’s perspective after seeing how he turned out after the Vietnam War. Apparently, when Alice In Chains performed that song in front of Jerry Sr., he raised his cowboy hat in the air while weeping.
New Order played us “Love Vigilantes from their 1985 LP Low-life. The lead track focuses on a Vietnam War soldier returning home to find his wife thinking he had died. She had taken her own life with the telegram of his fate in her hand. War is brutal. Not only for those involved, but for the loved ones of those involved.
The Kinks referenced World War 1 with the tragedy track “Some Mother’s Son”. The song comes from Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), the Kinks’ concept album. Perhaps one of the most real and heartbreaking songs we play today, the song is a clear glimpse into what war really accomplishes. Death. These soldiers are sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, mothers, sisters, aunts, you name it. They are real people and should never be looked at as expendable.
Swamp Dogg covered another heartbreaker of a song with John Prine’s “Sam Stone”. The Prine tune focuses on a man who returns home from war with sever PTSD and turns to drugs to ease his suffering. It tells us how Sam’s family suffers through his pain as well, and ultimately finds him overdosed and dead in his living room. “Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose”.
Take this Memorial Day and think about all of those lost to countless wars fought over trivial issues. Yes, there were evils that needed to be stopped in some wars; Nazis, Confederates, etc. But regardless of the reason, the outcomes all remain the same. Some mother’s son or daughter was killed and will never come home. Rest in piece all you soldiers. Next time on Feel Me Flow we dig into the opposite of war; Peace. Until then, spread the love!