Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Song Stuck in My Head When I Woke Up This Morning

Bloody television commercials. I'm still struggling spiritually with those Cadillac ads using "Start" by The Jam. Though why it would surprise me at this point is a good question.

I've finally accepted that all of the "we're rock and roll rebels!" of the Sixties have sold out, starting with Eric Clapton's Michelob ad back in 1986. But to hear The Clash and The Jam used to sell things on TV . . . My frail punk-era heart can hardly stand it.

And so, one effect of being subjected to Kapitalism's insidious psychological warfare is to start the day with "Start" stuck in my head.

The song comes from The Jam's great 1980 album, Sound Affects, which - as you can tell - showed the influence of the Beatles (the bassline is straight out of George Harrison's "Taxman") and, according to All Music Guide, reflected singer-songwriter Paul Weller's "recent readings of Blake and Shelley (who was quoted on the sleeve), but more specifically Geoffrey Ash, whose Camelot and the Vision of Albion made a strong impression."

Did I miss the Blake and Shelley connection when I was 16? I don't remember that part.

Here's The Jam. . . .

It's not important for you to know my name -
Nor I to know yours
If we communicate for two minutes only
It will be enough

For knowing that someone in this world
Feels as desperate as me -
And what you give is what you get.

It doesn't matter if we never meet again,
What we have said will always remain.
If we get through for two minutes only,
It will be a start!

For knowing that someone in this life,
Loves with a passion called hate
And what you give is what you get.

If I never ever see you -
If I never ever see you -
If I never ever see you - again.

And what you give is what you get!


John Schertzer said...

Hey I saw The Jam in a very small club in Albany circa '80 and talked to the bass player! They were awesome.

Don't worry about these guys selling out now. They're old and probably without much $$. Who can blame them?

Clapton's another story.

cowboyangel said...


That;'s totally cool you got to see them - especially in a small club. In Albany!

I think they came to Austin on that same tour, but I missed the show for some reason. Or maybe I just wanted them to come to Austin. It's all pretty blurry now.

Why would I care at this point about anyone "selling out"? I don't know.

I was a True Believer, I guess. Which caused an infinite number of problems in my life, and from which I'm only now slowly recovering.

I had been a True Believer in the Sixties guys, until 20 years of commercials took their toll, ending with Bob Dylan's amazingly bizarre ad for Victoria's Secret, which at least was amusing and seriously ironic, not to mention surreal.

But the punk guys. . . . that was my generation. The Clash. The Only Band That Matters. Sandinista! (Never mind that they were recording for a major multinational corporation.) I believed in the revolution. We weren't going to be like those smarmy sell-outs like Clapton. No way.

Or, perhaps, it has nothing to do with socio-politcal ideals or "ethics." Maybe it's just me being slapped in the face with the fact that I'm getting old. My God, they're using The Jam to sell CADILLACS! Not even Trojans or Ipods. They've spent their millions of dollars on focus groups and demographics, and they've discovered that 40-something white guys who used to listen to The Jam and dream of burning cars in the street should now be buying Cadillacs.

Jesus, that's depressing.

I don't even remember now what The Clash is selling. That was simply too much for me.

But yeah, I'm happy for Bruce Foxworth, the bassist. He didn't get the solo career like Weller. I'm sure he can use the bucks. And it's not his fault I'm getting old. :-)

cowboyangel said...

I just looked up Foxworth on Wikpedia - I didn't realize he played in Stiff Little Fingers after The Jam. And get this - he was the manager, along with Paul Weller's father, of The Vapors! Who knew?!

"Truning Japanese!"

I guess they'll be using that for Viagra ads soon.

Liam said...

Trying hard to see the Blake, Shelly, and Geoffrey Ashe in that song. It's a great song, though.

Wait until Pepsi starts using Nick Cave's version of Stagger Lee.

John Schertzer said...

You can look at it that way, but also look at these commodities as opportunities to get great songs heard again (and possibly promote the subtext).

In other words, you have to turn the ads on their heads, reverse the whole idea that capital commodifies the revolution, and consider how these ads may carry a virus in them, one that can spread and spread, little by little. Look who just got elected!

Besides, Dylan's VS ads were so weird it was worth it.

Wouldn't it be funny to think of Cadillac promoting progressive ideas through the choice of their music? Heh heh.

cowboyangel said...


I'm seeing Stagger Lee as the next Viagra tune.

cowboyangel said...

In other words, you have to turn the ads on their heads, reverse the whole idea that capital commodifies the revolution, and consider how these ads may carry a virus in them, one that can spread and spread, little by little.

Of course, that works both ways. The music carries a virus in it, so you think you're being rebellious, when in reality, you're just being programmed to be a consumer. The music was always a product. The songs were ads themselves. And we bought them, thinking we were being radical.

This is an age-old debate.

I suppose now it's no longer an either/or proposition. Consumerism is a form of spirituality. I see the sermon/ads for it every night. It's not just a car - it's a life style, a world view. With a soundtrack by The Jam.

British Petroleum and Exxon are helping the environment. Archer-Daniels just wants to grow our food for us.

I never trusted Andy Warhol.

John Schertzer said...

Well, maybe because I have kids and expensive rent in downtown Brooklyn (so my kids can both go to a nice school and still see their daddy after work before they go to bed), I can't really afford to be a consumer, not in the way you mean, and really don't think people can be programmed into doing anything. Perhaps some Chinese experiments during the early cold war were an exception to this rule, but in general, especially after studying hypnosis and Neuro-linquistic Programming for several years, I am convinced that 'programming' is problematic, at best.

We are responsible for our choices, even though our minds can be changed without our realizing it. Even paramecium are too smart to respond completely to classical conditioning. The key is to pay attention.

I think this recent election has shown us signs that people are developing new levels of message impermiability. This means the message doesn't quite just go right in and take effect. It needs to be consciously digested first. If you look at both campaigns, and the type messages that dominated both, the one that one operated on higher cognitive processing, rather than the standard GOP shock to the amygdala that have been somewhat more effective for years.

It makes me proud of my people. It means they're ready to digest and reconfabulate what they are given, rather than simply react.

cowboyangel said...

Who can afford to be a consumer the way television world portrays it? I offer wonder that. My television watching is basically limited to Olbermann, Maddow, Stewart, Colbert and football games. Cars and drugs seem to be the major industries of our country. We noticed that from the first moment we returned from Spain. Cars and drugs. Cadillac and Viagra. (I'm continually amused, evidently in an adolescent way, by how many men who can't get it up must watch Rachel Maddow, an observation my wife doesn't seem to appreciate.)

We're both adjuncts. I have an almost full-time job and a part-time job. We rent. We have a 1995 Ford Taurus we paid $1,000 for in cash. Yet, we earn more than about 80% of the households in the U.S. We can't afford much of what's being advertised. So who can?

I think, more and more, that a lot of advertising must be aimed at the upper class. The whole fairyland that TV promotes is for the rich.

Je ne sais pas.

I'm surprised, from reading your own blog posts and comments you've made, that you don't think people can be influenced by others through television, etc. You have more expertise in that area, so I'll try and absorb that view - though, not letting you influence me in the process.

I'm skeptical, though. The confluence between Madison Avenue and the OSS and CIA psy-ops groups has long been known. Granted, I probably give groups like that too much credit, but the relationship doesn't escape me.

Dude, I thought the Matrix was realistic. That tells you where I'm coming from. :-)

As far as the election... You're the second friend who's said something like this. Again, I'm skeptical. (My fall-back position on most things.) It's nice to think that the GOP tactics didn't work this time because people are getting smarter. But I think it was something more elemental - people hate George W. Bush. 91% think the country was headed in the wrong direction. The Obama people were smart in that they stayed glued to the fundamental message for the time: Change.

I don't attribute the victory to much more than that. If the American people could re-elect Bush in 2004, they're capable of almost anything. This time we were lucky. Next time, they might be ready to skin all the poets or Mexicans alive.

cowboyangel said...

Hey, nice to see The Jam sparking so much conversation.

Sometimes I have long posts when I think I have "something to say" and no one responds. Might be telling me something.

Thanks for the discussion!

John Schertzer said...

I can't even afford cable TV to see the ads you're talking about (nor a car). So maybe I'm out of touch.

But I do get stuff on the Internet...

But I have always thought that people pretty much make their choices (conscious or not) by what information is available to them.

If you're bombarded by one kind of message, and little of the opposite message, it might seem like the choice is being made for you. But if that is so, and we had no choice but to make choices based on what we are presented with, then why have you not done so, meaning why have you not partaken in the expected behavior (besides the fact that you cannot afford a Cadillac)? What makes your experience different?

I imagine whatever answer you come up with glozes closely to what I'm trying to address in my blog.

BTW, relevant here, in a tangential kind of way, there was recently an article in the Times about a hospital that includes "literature" as part of their resident training because they found that it makes the resident doctors better diagnosticians. What that means is that immersian into complex blocks of fictional narrative helps one to better understand what is actually happening out in the world, in other complex systems. This probably has more to do with the ability to pay attention and process information on a subcortical level than it does the ability to reason.

The Matrix is realistic only in the sense that people have decided to cooperate with the messages. And following that analogy, "waking up" is something that plays into this as well. In a sense, I think of "paying attention" as the opposite of sleep. The Buddhists therefore had this understanding of cognitive behavior a long time ago, with their so-called *mindfulness* pracitices. Whatever works.