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“but you’re still fuckin’ peasants as far as I can see…”

with 2 comments

Just came across another candidate for my collection of incredibly strange American politico-cultural amalgamations, hybrids, and halfrights: Green Day’s recent cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.”

Did they actually listen to the song before they decided on this Darfur x-over thing? High-Period Lennon Political Ambivalence (see also: “When you talk about destruction, doncha know that you can count me out… in…) meets Teary Liberal Piety about those Poor, Poor People Elsewhere at the crossroads of unmetabolized reflexivity. How about this part, as the noble faces of the Darfurians bubble across the screen, and Billie Joe Armstrong sings:

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free,
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

Yeouch. Just to make it worse, here’s a bit from wikipedia that quotes the band’s press release about the song:

When asked why they chose the song, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said, “We wanted to do ‘Working Class Hero’ because its themes of alienation, class, and social status really resonated with us. It’s such a raw, aggressive song — just that line: ‘you’re still fucking
peasants as far as I can see’ — we felt we could really sink our teeth into it. I hope we’ve done him justice.”

You could write a dissertation, not an acceptable one, but whatever, on the topic: “Who does Billie Joe think the ‘you’ of that toothsome line refers to?”

Secondary mystification, or simply vapid distraction, “what the fuck, yeah, the Africans, cool…”? Benettonism gone libidinal? Inadvertent self-disclosure, a profoundly unconscious honesty that leaves Lennon’s navel-gazing in the dust?

(UPDATE: If you’re confused about what I’m saying here – my fault not yours – you can watch me circle back and explain myself over in the comments at Long Sunday, where I x-posted this…)

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 9, 2007 at 11:10 am

Posted in distraction

2 Responses

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  1. I don’t know, I always rather liked ‘Working Class Hero’s combination of bilious rage directed outwards and bilious rage directed inwards, in the classic proletarian self-hatred mould: it’s a much less vainglorious song than its usually assumed to be…preferable sung by Marianne Faithfull though, for extra layer of queasy ambiguity. But yes, this is a really very horrible image/somg combination…

    Owen

    August 9, 2007 at 1:14 pm

  2. no, no, owen – we totally agree about Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.” It’s brilliant. If I threw you off with this poorly written line –

    Inadvertent self-disclosure, a profoundly unconscious honesty that leaves Lennon’s navel-gazing in the dust?

    – I simply meant in the GD version, their unconsciousness of the ambiguities of the original might be said to be inadvertently revelatory in a way that Lennon’s self-awareness couldn’t possibly be. That quoting the song without understanding it redoubles Lennon’s point about “working class heroism” of a certain stripe.

    Ugh. I’m confusing myself. Just be assured we agree about Lennon’s song.

    CR

    August 9, 2007 at 1:24 pm


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