The Annihilation Playlist: Part 1

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate, some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men…” Cool Hand Lukes Captain offering some hard core Truth, by way of Guns and Roses. We managed to avert a treacherous civil war, only to find ourselves embroiled in an embryonic world war 3. I am not one of these people who like to poke fun as Asshole Rose and the ‘Roses…well not often anyway, but it can’t be denied that our rock boys pinned the subject matter down, and chewed on it until they spat out the heart of the matter: that every war is a civil war, because every war is between human and human. We are all one country, one species. “It feeds the rich while it buries the poor”, Rose screams into the microphone and for once his dramatics don’t seem like hubris or posturing in front of a mirror trying to look like Robert Plant. For once he sounds like a man possessed with the need to tell it how it is.

Welcome to my Annihilation Playlist. There is plenty of blood on these tracks, a whole lot of swagger, a little tongue in cheek “aint war funny..not really folks…”, and a dash of sticking the finger up to the rich old white men who make money and power plays using the young poor men’s blood as currency. It ‘ain’t that fresh..” and “what’s so civil about war anyway…”….This Axle critter is growing on me, maybe he ain’t so bad after all.

John Kay was born in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany (now Sovetsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia). A reminder of Russian expansionism and violence. Kay’s father was killed in 1945, a month before he was born. In 1945, his mother fled with him from the advancing Soviet troops during the evacuation of East Prussia, in the dead of winter. Their train got stuck in Arnstadt, which was first occupied by the Americans, but then became part of the East German Soviet Occupation Zone. The song Renegade recounts their desperate escape in 1949 when they crossed the heavily guarded border to resettle in Hanover, Germany. John Kay brings to life the fear and the terror wrought by invading Russian forces, and the long term damage on his psyche caused by the trauma of Russian aggression. “Hey you, keep your head down…if they should find you now, the man will shoot you down”, sings Kay, bringing the plight of the Ukrainian mothers and children into sharp relief. It is always the woman and children who suffer the most. War sucks…but especially for the vulnerable with no means of revenge or self defence. The photographs of dead women and children, shot by Russian soldiers as they flee the incessant bombing in the Ukraine have been haunting my dreams. How many kids who just wanted to grow up, to be cool, to have a life have been killed by a monster crazed on power? How many more? Rock and roll history lessons are important, after all, how many of us will wade through textbooks?

Society is an animal farm, and Roger Waters, despite his current silence on the Ukrainian war, having lost his father in WW2, has spent much of his career exploring what makes mankind tick. Some of us are sheep…some pigs…and then we have the dogs of war. It takes a certain kind of man and environment to make a Putin. I don’t think any modern poet has pulled off such a masterful exploration of the psychology of warring leaders, as well as Waters manages it in Dogs:

Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending
That everyone's expendable and no-one has a real friend
And it seems to you the thing to do would be to isolate the winner
And everything's done under the sun
And you believe at heart, everyone's a killer
Who was born in a house full of pain
Who was trained not to spit in the fan
Who was told what to do by the man
Who was broken by trained personnel
Who was fitted with collar and chain
Who was given a pat on the back
Who was breaking away from the pack
Who was only a stranger at home
Who was ground down in the end
Who was found dead on the phone
Who was dragged down by the stone

The lies the powerful tell themselves – like ‘no one has a real friend’, and ‘at heart everyone’s a killer’! Although we might understand their motivations and the fact they have been ‘broken by trained personnel”, and given the carrot as well as the stick, and the fact their predictable programming has led to the creation of the perfect monster, there is no need to forgive these men for the violent acts of war and suffering they commit. There is no need to forgive ourselves for allowing it to continue without stopping them, out of fear, out of being sheep, out of the carrots and sticks we have applied to us by the powerful ‘dogs’. At this point, all we are left with is the hope that these canines get ‘dragged down by the stone’ before we end up making Einstein’s prediction come true, that “World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.”…….

I am very fond of The The’s 1989 album, Mind Bomb with it’s soviet-sounding choruses and supernatural edge. Despite being an inveterate pagan, Armageddon Days (Are Here Again), with it’s pithy one liners about the final war, the end times, judeo-christian in-jokes, and Truth bombs, saying things like “If the real Jesus Christ was to stand up today, he would be gunned down cold by the CIA,” appeals to my more Book of Revelations meanderings. I am not sure about fighting them ‘on the beaches, in our underclothes’, but Matt Johnson is worth listening to. Perhaps he is a time traveller, maybe he just saw which way the wind was blowing…he could just be a biblical scholar with a penchant for the more esoteric, I suppose. Whichever, whatever, he gets a spot on my Annihilation Playlist…

Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, or so they say. Time to go back with Lou Reed for some Wehrmacht burlesque, Nazi era smoky bar room nostalgia. We clearly have forgotten about the hell that was…or at least some of us have. Maybe they have not forgotten at all, and fancied some skulls, leather duster coats, and playing at bad guy massacres. This time around won’t be as drawn out. Lou pointing out the ‘paradise’ that exists in the small moments even within the bounds of hell. As the bombs fall, I can imagine pouring myself a brandy, “lighting a cigarette on a parking meter”, and after I listen to Dylan’s Walking WW3 Blues, pretending I was in a much more stylish war than the one we are going to end up fighting. Dylan reckons we all think we are going to be the only ones to survive WW3, and that is just human nature – we are all primed for survival. No one wants to think the worst, despite the fact that at best it is an annihilation crap shoot….

Trump was a bad leader, and a good comedian. Who can forget him calling Lil’ Pump, “Lil Pimp” by accident, in the funniest rap diss of the year? Calling Kim Jong Ill “Little Rocket Man” was equal parts horrific, and hilarious, if you happen to find poking tyrants, as funny as I do.

Pop Will Eat Itself, an English Alt Rock/electronica band of the late 80s were fun, if slightly ridiculous themselves. I owe it to someone, not sure who, to make sure their song, Def Con One, with it’s military cadence of ‘gimmie Big Mac Fries to go…gimmiebigmacgimmiefriestogo’ makes the list. It might be the most American thing to have ever come out of an English mouth. Hup! Hup!

Warren Zevon loved a good 4/4 beat, and deserves out first double feature of the list. Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner was written about Hunter S Thompson, disguised as a song about a war hero. Hunter only ever fought in a thousand psychic wars, even though he did love a gun and a good explosion, but taken on face value, every war forms folk law and heroes. I would rather we all loved each other (right now), but in lieu of that, and since it looks like that is gonna be request denied, captain, I sure hope we have a whole battalion of Thompson Gunners, fighting for freedom, rocking in the ‘free world’ and defending those who don’t stand a fucking chance without their willingness to fight those who refuse peace. Fighting for peace is like fucking for chastity, but what other option do we have when the bully keeps on smacking us in the face?

Next up from Zevon is an inspired mash up of Trouble and Lawyers Guns and Money. “You looking for trouble…you came to the right place…I was born standing up and talking back…my daddy was a daddy was a green eyed man, Jack..I am EVIL, my middle name is misery” sings Zevon, before dropping his Elvis act and melding into his own song. I couldn’t resist this one with the opening line…”I went home with the waitress, the way I always do/ How was I to know, she was with the Russians, too?” Are there ever any innocent bystanders in a war? It would seem so, but I am not sure that Zevon’s character is an innocent man! “The shit has the fan!” Yes, yes it has Warren….I do wish these men were trained in humanity a little better….

Bill Frederick with Hey Hey LBJ, and Country Joe and the Fish with their Fish Cheer, and Feel Like I am Fixin To Die, brings a little bit of the anti war fighting spirit from the Vietnam War era, a proxy war against our Soviet antagonists. “Whoopie! We all gonna die!” sing the massed hippies, embroiled in their own personal armageddon. None of these young people and none of us want to fight. No one wants babies to be killed. No one except the men who insist on it. I wonder what would happen if we simply overthrow them and let the mothers rule the world?

Before I let the 60s peaceniks take over the playlist, I must insist that we give my gen x’er slackers their due and put Spokesman Thom Yorke center stage for some powder fuelled endtimes war nightmare action. “Who’s in the bunker…women and children first..women and children first”, Thom sounds desperate as he sings about an ‘ice age coming’ nuclear winter horrorshow. In this blistering performance, the refrain “this is really happening”, the high speed beat, the strobe lighting, the screaming fans and Thom’s claustrophobic accelerated jerky movements combine to give us a little foretaste of what we will go through if we don’t put the brakes on this insanity.

Of course, if we don’t manage to avert nuclear destruction I, for one, ‘wanna be sedated’. Whether it is 24 hours to the show, 24 hours to nuclear winter, or 24 hours until a more personal disaster, what is so wrong about a little pharmaceutical comfort? How many of us would be pouring a stiff few drinks in the 30 minutes it takes for a Russian nuke to get there from here? I don’t think even the most hardened moralist would expect any adult to see in armageddon stone cold sober…

Now, I have tested this one out. When the earthquake hit, I didn’t lose power, and since I was on a major highway in Tokyo, my net didn’t go out either. What song did I go to for a bit of a smile and some dark humor sardonic energy? Yes, REM’s, End of the World as We Know It…(And I Feel Fine). I was screaming this as loudly as I could, upsetting the wa, trying to psych myself up, so I could go out and buy water before it had all gone. If you ever need psyching up to do a water run when nuclear fallout is threatening the supply, I thoroughly recommend REM. These boys had the verve and edge to get me through it. “I feel fine!” …well not really…but if you tell yourself you do…sometimes that is enough to keep on putting one foot in front of the other…

Ending part one, we have Billy Joel with We Didn’t Start The Fire. Joel takes us on a tour of modern pop culture history, and political strife. As a species we have done so much good, so much spectacular, so much entertaining, so much creating, so much SURVIVING, and so much bad. We might not have ‘started the fire’, it might have ‘always been burning, since the world’s been turning’, and our own personal histories have woven in-between the warp and weft of these bigger events and people, inextricably tied up in the fabric of our history and our own destruction. I know, I for one have not had the freedom, the time or the space to be able to fight the indignities and the horror and the injustice as it unfolded. Perhaps I should have been a politician instead of a waste of space, I dunno, the jury is out on that one. I think perhaps I am a little cruel when provoked, a little harsh, a little reactive to ever have been in charge of anything. I don’t suffer fools. No mercy has been shown to me, and heaven knows every time I have offered quarter I have been taken advantage of. I fear I would have been one of those Maggie Thatcher-like women who say ‘fuck all of it’ let’s blow up the fucking lot of the warring motherfuckers. I didn’t start the fire…don’t blame me….

See you same time, same space tomorrow for part 2, if the dudes haven’t blown us all up by then. Stay safe, stay hopeful, but stay vigilant.

Detroit over and out. Goo’night sweet ladies…good ladies…goo’night…

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