Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Bumper Sticker Politics or the Band That Scared Your Mom has Sold Out

This one is dated, too, but because of the ads I mention. I'll also mention that at least one blogger out there plagiarized my column, lifting my lines about Iggy Pop word for word. It was pointed out to Planet Weekly by half a dozen different readers, who found two sites that had done it. One had written-and-displayed two weeks after me, and the other was done five weeks later. We don't know if the second guy plagiarized me or the other guy, which is why I said there was "at least" one blogger who ripped me off. I don't care. It's nice to have written something good enough to have been stolen.

There is a certain segment of the population whose – how shall we say it? – stupidity prevents them from being able to separate who a person is from what they do, and who a person is from what they believe. They’re unable to see someone as a whole, instead defining them by a particular belief, or by something they do. What could be a good neighbor is instead dismissed as a “dirty liberal.” What could be a good friend is shouldered aside because he supports capital punishment.

(I am put in mind of a particular mouthbreather who visited our Web site and insisted that he would refuse roadside assistance from anyone with a Kerry/Edwards sticker on his or her car, which made me wonder what he does to everyone in the service industry. “Hey, you in the Che shirt! I’ll pump my own gas, punk!” “Excuse me, miss, before you bring the menu, do you believe in a faith-based nation or should I change tables?”)

Every year, I go to a friend’s Oscar-night party, which frankly kicks. The party is an odd combination of artsy folks and serious churchgoers. Two TVs are turned on in two different rooms, and the party tends to separate into camps: the libs and the thumpers. Every year, every time the camera pans across Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, you will hear boos coming from only one room. It doesn’t matter how skilled an actor or actress is. It only matters if they agree.

This is not just a one-sided thing. Many liberals boo and hiss every time Patricia Heaton of Everybody Loves Raymond comes on, since she is vehemently pro-life. I even had a conversation with one lefty who spent a full hour bitching and moaning about conservatives who slammed liberal celebrities. When I brought up Ms. Heaton, she said, “I hate her. I hate everything she stands for.” All of which goes to prove that sheer stupidity sees no political borders.

Oddly enough, there does appear to be one blind spot that almost no one sees, and that, quite surprisingly, is in pop music. Or rather, perhaps not so surprisingly, it is in pop music advertising. There are times when my jaw sags open at the music being used to sell cars, computers, and vacations. Beatles’ music has been used a while and The Who has whored out about forty ‘leven different songs to sell everything from Hummers (“Happy Jack”) to headlights (“I Can See For Miles”). Time has neutered the impact these bands have made, so they’re now thought of as Great Old Ones instead of as the drug-chewing, instrument-smashing madmen they used to be. It’s kind of sad, and they’re not the best examples.

Led Zeppelin sells Cadillacs. The band that your mother told you would send you to Hell just by listening to it is triggering Pavlovian responses in her head to buy an Escalade. Aerosmith just started doing the same for Buick. (And by the way, admen who say the car should be the sexiest thing in the ad have just been proven wrong by that woman in the LaCrosse commercial – damn.) Thin Lizzy, the original enigmatic Irish band, and one that generated an indefinable, low-level terror among parents, shills for Capitol One. And Elton John* is now giving it up for one of those satellite radio groups.

It gets better. Hewlett Packard is using The Cure in their ads. When I was but a wee lad, even being caught with a Cure cassette was enough to trigger a frantic series of questions by a horrified ‘rent: “What’s wrong with you?” “Do you need a psychiatrist?” “Are you gay?” Now Mummy and Daddy say, “What a lovely song,” and feel an urge to buy a printer.

The Boston metal band Godsmack provides music for the U.S. Navy ads. This amuses the hell out of me, because Godsmack’s front man is an actual honest-to-Goddess Wiccan priest. That’s right, folks: Wicca is being used to recruit swabbies. Let us share a chuckle at the adman who slipped that one past the U.S. Government.

Queen has been used twice in recent months. “I Want to Break Free” was used to shill one of those new low-carb sodas. (The video showed the band cross-dressing; just thought I’d share that.) And “I’m in Love with My Car” has been used to sell another kind of car. That one fools people because it’s not Freddie Mercury singing; it’s drummer Roger Taylor. Time has been kind to these men, too, turning them into a band whose shelf life began with Wayne’s World, instead of being remembered as the freaky foursome whose over-the-top gay front man is reported to have visited a Thai boy brothel and yelled to the management: “I think I’ve broken this one! Fetch me another!”

My favorite is Iggy Pop. His “Lust for Life” has been selling cruises for over a year now. Cruises! This is the psycho punk pioneer who shot heroin into his eyeball, who slashed himself with broken bottles for audience amusement and his own boredom, who used to beat up his fans, and who may very well have played a game of Hide the Grammy with David Bowie. This guy did enough drugs that some of his veins actually exploded. I don’t think his Lust for Life is quite the same as those on the cruise set.

I admit that I enjoy shattering illusions**, but I don’t think that knowing these things will affect what car you buy. If it does, then I suggest you get the extended warranty on whichever one you do purchase, because you never know who is going to have a Kerry/Edwards sticker on theirs.

*Elton is a very strange case. The man who defined homosexuality for years and who has only become more flamboyant has suddenly become one of ‘them gay folks’ that people think it’s okay to like, along with Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O’Donnell.

**Next time: Santa Claus’ political affiliations.

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