Conservative Rock Songs?

National Review’s John Miller is crazy to think that there are any conservative rock songs, an oxymoron if ever there was one.  Nevertheless here is his list of the top fifty with commentary.  Below is the top ten.  I would have put Rush’s Trees and Red Barchetta  closer to the top of the list.  2112 was my first introduction to Ayn Rand.  Rock on.

  1. "Won’t Get Fooled Again," by The Who.
  2. "Taxman," by The Beatles.
  3. "Sympathy for the Devil," by The Rolling Stones.
  4. "Sweet Home Alabama," by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
  5. "Wouldn’t It Be Nice," by The Beach Boys.
  6. "Gloria," by U2.
  7. "Revolution," by The Beatles.
  8. "Bodies," by The Sex Pistols.
  9. "Don’t Tread on Me," by Metallica.
  10. "20th Century Man," by The Kinks.

Hat tip: J-Walk Blog.


Many of these can be equally plausibly be claimed as liberal rock songs. For example, the first on the list, "Won't Get Fooled Again," seems an apt title for the Bush administration.

Ironically a professor at my college suggested starting a freemarket version of Rage against the Machine .... or at least the music style opf them. Instead of being pissed off communists, we could be pissed off capitalists ... I'm not sure it's gona fly.

This list seems to prove only that John Miller either doesn't read or doesn't understand song lyrics.

Should I mention that Red Barchetta is actually about ritual use of
hallucinogens? I can see the association with Rush Limbaugh, but not
so much with the other conservatives.

"Sympathy for the Devil"???

I guess he just liked the part about killing Kennedys?

Is John Miller the same guy who plays the "PC" guy in the Apple commercials?

hehehe - Anyway

Its a pretty tough sell, really, having any rock songs from prior to 1980 or so be classified as conservative. After then it really became much more corporate and conservative as a business, but prior to that, the essential part of rock was that it stood up to conservatism and flipped it off. From Elvis on Ed Sullivan to the Beatles records being burned to the Stones complete and utter dionysion behavior, these people were strongly against conservatives and utterly opposed by conservatives at every step.

Its a little weird to claim 'Wont get fooled again' as a conservative anthem, when the final stanza of the song is:

There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the party on the left
Is now the party on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

two things strike me about this passage. One, the person in the song wanted change and it didn't happen. Conservatism is about resisting change. Two, the left after the revolution has morphed into the right, and he is not happy about this.

I don't know of anyone that can really defend the verse in 'Sweet home alabama' thats explicitly about supporting segregation and the worst parts of Nixon:

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

It pretty offensive in any reading, and I don't think I would want to claim it up at #4 in the list, esp. as the song appears to be a direct response to Neil Youngs haunting:

I heard screamin'
and bullwhips crackin'
How long? How long?

SHA is pretty bad lyrically, but about as catchy musically as a song can be. 'Turn it up' - I do.

"My Wave" by Soundgarden. More Libertarian than anything else, but it's equal opportunity in dissing any number of other peoples' feelings. My kind of music!

"Take, if you want a slice
If you want a piece
If it feels alright

Break, if you like the sound
If it gets you up
If it brings you down

Share, if it makes you sleep
If it sets you free
If it helps you breathe

Dont come over here
And piss on my gate
Save it just keep it
Off my wave"

You kind of have to balance ideological content against quality in choosing songs for the list... I mean 'Something for Nothing' is great content-wise but frankly sucks qualitywise (and I speak as someone who likes Rush). 'Trees' is hardly better. Both too didactic. 'Free Will' and 'Red Barchetta' are better choices, though as noted really more libertarian than conservative.

John Miller does indeed seem to be unaware that SHA was written in part as a response to Neil Young's 'Southern Man'. And he interprets lyrics selectively to justify inclusion in the 'conservative' category... unavoidable though, as someone already said the list is kind of oxymoronic.

Kevin: Red Barchetta about hallucinogens? Am I missing a joke? I think it is a pretty straight-forward adaptation of a story about a future where cars are outlawed.

This post has been in the back of my mind all day.

David Bowies "Heroes" might be my favorite song of all time, and I can't believe its a conservative song. I can't believe its making any real type of policital statement. I'll have to go over the lyrics real close and listen to it a few hundred more times to make sure.

Rush! Yeah a pretty strong Libertarian ethic, and I don't think I ever knew it, as I stopped listening to them when I started to think. Not that the two were related, just my musical tastes changed. Or maybe they were.

Not sure exactly why 'Rock the Casbah' is considered conservative, unless you think that cussing is somehow inherently conservative.

Political philosophy aside, I find it impossible to trust the aesthetic sensibilities of anyone who prefers Skynyrd to Neil Young.

Upon further review - Neil Young's Keep on Rockin in the Free World is NOT conservative. At all.

My bad. Save your venom for later.

A conservative rocksong titled "revolution". Can't make this up.

"I always thought of Pink Floyd's "We Don't Need No Education" as a libertarian anthem, though perhaps you academics would be a little sensitive on the subject."

"Another Brick In The Wall, part 2" being the actual name of said song.

Cop Shoot Cop has a lot of songs whose lyrics are totally anarcho-capitalist, although they'd claim to be anti-capitalist. It's funny. When you take away the state, you have a natural system of trade emerge. It's called "Emergent order", and it's voluntary: Capitalism is voluntary. Only when it's mixed with the State/force is there the ugly corporate/fascist aspect to all of it. Yet time and time again, a rebellion against Capitalism hands the reins of power to socialist/fascist/protectionist/nationalist/communist/statist tyrants. There are many words for the same thing. Unfortunately, most of the people defending conservatism above are actually mislabeling libertarianism as "conservatism". They are totally not the same thing! Conservatism is a mixed ideology, libertarianism is a consistent ideology. Conservatism aims to conserve what once was, so it is a political philosophy that is defined by the near past, which is always in transition, and always based on social conformity. Read Hayek's "Why I am not a Consercative". Conservatives are typically religious.

...Not at all like the abolitionists and libertarians described in Thoreau's or Spooner's writings, or Frederick Douglass's writings! Not at all like Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" or Ayn Rand's FICTION. (Unfortunately, Rand largely discredited herself by advocating conservatism as a lesser of 2 evils. Towards the end she had been burned so many times --for instance by Reagan-- that she largely disavowed voting for politician slime bags as a means of constructive change.)

Cop Shoot Cop would probably want to kill me if they knew that I was defining their lyrics as libertarian or anarcho-capitalist. But that's what they would translate into, in any reality where the individual is respected as inviolate. "System test" and so many of their great works are too anti-establishment to favor any kind of bullshit state.

Perhaps they are closer to FDRA (Free Domain Radio Anarchism) or Harry Browne's true anti-state / libertarian ideas. Perhaps they'd say they were closer to Kropotkin, or Bakunin. Who knows? Traitor/Martyr is a great song... Listen to the lyrics... They are anti-state, and anti-tyrant. THere is no adequate interview of them online, to my knowledge.

Perhaps they are or were dumb enough to call themselves marxists.

Moving on, Soundgarden has a few anti-empire songs. But they'd probably have called themselves leftists when they wrote them.

The Punk Band FEAR has some great libertarian songs, as does Bad Religion, as does NOFX, as does Black Flag, and Body Count.

Sadly, the omnipresence of Jello Biafra largely has fucked the punk movement in one ear. His songs sound pro-liberty, but he is a libertine at best, and favors ZERO economic freedom. He buys into all the stupid BS about how the government is actually going to be all-powerful and really look out and care for the poor. What a moron.

He singlehandedly made it unlikely for there to ever really be a lot of pro-freedom sentiment amongst punk rockers... The DKs sounded great, and made fun of the worst excesses of the police state ...and then tied it to liberal agenda and thereby drowned all of the legitimacy of their political voice.

I saw Jello speak before Ralph Nader in Chicago before the 2000 general election. He made a clueless ass of himself.

So there you have it. Music will continue to be made. Gradually punk bands will figure out that you can't oppose tyranny while supporting an all-powerful state. And that the state that can tell a giant oil company how to mine oil, and can stop a farmer from spraying his crops with small amounts of pesticides can also drag their sorry asses off to jail for no reason, and can also "instruct the jury" to find defendents guilty of "obscenity".

Biafra is a simple fool for not favoring economic freedom as well as social freedom. Who knows though? Maybe he'll eventually figure it out.

I remember listening to "This could be anywhere" in college and having it literally send shivers up my spine. Biafra was great at describing the ugliness of social conformity and religious stupidity and intolerance. Unfortunately, he can't seem to "put it all together"...

And neither can most rock bands.

The Reverend Horton Heat strikes me as a possible exception to this. They seem like they actually have brains. Also, I talked to Jimbo in Chicago a while ago, before I had read several hundred of the books I read that led me to understand the idea of freedom very well... He seemed like a very smart, very down-to-earth guy. Plus, the Rev is friends with Drew Carey, who is a solid libertarian.

There's hope for Rock yet!

I'd add "Bales of Cocaine" to the libertarian / anti-state rock and roll list. And maybe "bullet" :) But in the Reverend's own words:

Kludge Magazine: But is a lot of the political message that used to be with it so closely with the Sex Pistols and Ramones, is a lot of the actual message being sacrificed?

Rev: You know, that’s one thing about me, man. My lyrics aren’t very political. I avoid that thing altogether. Sometimes the politicizing, that’s just a turn-off to me. I’d rather just hear fun-rockin’ songs.

What could be cooler than that answer? Basically: FUCK POLITICS.

Libertarians, Anarcho-capitalists, and just plain "real people" can agree with that!

I'll be voting for Wayne Root this fall, because he's a guy who wants to legalize gambling, prostitution, and drugs, as well as old cars that can't pass an emissions test. As far as Wayne is concerned, politics is a downer, a line to stand in. I totally agree.

If the Reverend doesn't want to be involved in the whole muddy mess, he's a better man than some socialist prick like Jello Biafra.

The reverend just says "be true to yourself". As a guy who play with guns instead of guitars, I can appreciate that.

Punk Rock doesn't need a political message, becuase the "fuck you" individualism is in the music. Sonic youth might be socialist fools for all I've heard, but Mote is individualist.

I'll listen to it when I'm returning fire, and they can decry the "senseless preservation of individual life" later if they like.


Rock'n roll isn't about politics. But I guess the libershits "own" that one too just as they claim ownership to anything else that is considered good and/or popular. This guy found conservative meanings in rock'n roll lyrics, and that pisses you off. Too bad, assholes. BTW, have fun with Obamessiah and the new taxes.

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