The Five Greatest Fuck You’s In Rock And Roll History

The Second Essential Scary Truth

Rock and roll, despite the best/worst efforts of Lou Reed, Pete Townsend, Lester Bangs, Patti Smith and Leonard Cohen, remains a wonderfully adolescent American art form.  What other medium can celebrate nonsense (Wholly Bully), lost romantic love on a middle school scale (Idiot Wind) or ‘edgy’ political stances straight out of our senior year of high school (the Clash and Public Enemy) yet do so with style and a back beat all the while pissing off Mom and Dad?

At worst, rock and roll and it’s various sub genres wallow in the pretention found in various Freshman Comp 101 courses on college campuses everywhere.  At best, the rock and roll artiste releases enough records to almost live the ‘lifestyle:’ live fast, die young, leave clean underwear.  After this period of looking into the abyss, these artistes release the requisite ruminating on death disc and then fall prey to the Three False Recoveries of Rock and Roll Existentialism:  they fall back to religion (Van Morrison), political stances they cynically exploit to make more cash (Bruce Springsteen) or even worse pretention than before (Lou Reed).

When confronted by the sheer sophomoric-ness of their actions, said rock and roller will offer up a hearty fuck you which has all true fans of the genre breathing easier because the true essence of rock and roll is the hearty fuck you.  After all what is more 12-25 than screaming fuck you to every living thing?

So without further delay, I’d like to offer my five favorite Rock and Roll Fuck You’s of all time.

Number Five: 1965 – Bob Dylan goes electric.

As hard as it may seem, this was quite the cause of consternation in the summer of 1965.  People would actually come to Dylan’s concerts to boo the Bard.  It got so bad drummer Levon Helm quit in mid tour.  Dylan’s response: he told his back-up band the Hawks – soon to be the Band – to ‘play fucking loud.’

Number Four – 1994 – Pat Boone releases his record of Heavy Metal covers: In A Metal Mood: No More Mister Nice Guy.

Let’s face it, by 1994 metal and punk had both lost their edge.  Metallica had College Rock haircuts and Green Day was considered a punk rock band.  Green Day, however, was a joke and older punks got it.  Older metal heads on the other hand were still dressing in skinny jeans with long greasy black hair trying to act tough.  And come on was anyone really afraid of Deicide except for a few Bible thumpers in Alabama?

Out of the blue comes Pat Boone’s heavy metal album with Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore (among other metal icons).  And they are backing the man who almost made Little Richard unhip.  Pat Boone in leather on the cover is the cherry on top.

Number Three: 1979 – Bonnie Bramlett Floors Elvis Costello with one punch after he calls Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant ni*****.”

Costello claims he was drunk and trying to end a conversation he and Bramlett were having by being as obnoxious as possible.  Bonnie rightly saw through the ruse and dropped the racist (and now we find out anti-Semite) with a singular punch.

The best part of the fuck you came not from Bonnie Bramlett but from Ray Charles himself.  When informed of said remarks he said Elvis Costello could call him whatever he wants ‘as long as he buys my record.’

Number Two: 1985 – Frank Zappa, Dee Snider and Bob Denver address the Congressional PMRC hearings.

Back in the mid 1980’s a group of senator’s wives led by Tipper Gore formed the Parent Music Resource Center (PMRC) and convinced their husband’s to hold hearings on the vulgarity found in then rock lyrics.  Rumor had it they wanted to legislate what could and couldn’t be said by a rock artiste.

So the odd trio of the uber pretentious shock rocker Zappa, Heavy Metal icon Dee Snider and whip folk rocker extraordinaire Bob Denver got together and addressed the committee to remind them of the First Amendment.  And through the beauty of YouTube, we can still see Denver lecture US senators.  Brilliant!

Number One: 1975 – Lou Reed releases Metal Machine Music.

By 1975, Reed had gotten sick of his death head image, people screaming out for ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ at his concerts and his record label.  So he goes into the studio, leans his guitar against his amp, starts a feedback loop, hits record on the tape player and leaves the room, locking the door behind him.

He then masters the tapes and releases them as a new form of classical composition entitled Metal Machine Music.  He claims there are classical passages in the noise and gets everyone believing there might just be something musical to this torture music: (Note to the CIA – this collection of music to drool to might be more effective interrogation tool on al-Qaeda/Hamas/Hezbollah types than waterboarding.)

Reed’s ploy works.  He loses his audience, his contact and nearly his career.  All these years later people are still trying to figure out what Lou was up to and his contrarian statements over the years have made sure no one but Reed will ever know what his true intentions are.  I, however, have helped break a lease or three by leaving the LP/CD/MP3 on in a locked apartment.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know!

(Hat Tip: Liz Georges)




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