I love this John Lennon story, though I wish he’d had the courage to come out of the closet. His assassin may have robbed us of more than a great musician. But am I crazy — I’ve always seen two major Beatles songs as very strong conservative statements, and counter-counter-cultural ones at that. “Taxman” is an obvious rip on the grasping leviathan state. “Declare the pennies on your eyes” hits estate taxes, while “You’re working for no one but me” speaks for itself. The entire song could describe the Club for Growth’s reason to exist. It’s even bipartisan, so the Tea Party could use it as a platform. And “Revolution,” arguably the gutsiest rock song of the 1960s, slams hippies for being wild-eyed dopes who don’t really understand what they’re demanding. The song even slams idolization of Mao — 12 years before the Chinese Communist Party officially blamed Mao for the brutalities of the Cultural Revolution, and when the left was enamored with him.
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
That’s a brilliant takedown, Lincolnesque its brevity and a million times more informed than anything political rockers like Green Day are capable of now. Yeah, the quartet has had their sillier moments too, like, well, Yoko, and “Imagine” is the most overrated song of the pop era in my opinion. But the Beatles have never been one dimensional on politics. It’s part of their mass appeal. And their most obvious successors, U2, have followed in the Beatles’ footsteps on this. Bono can be insufferable, but he can also reach across the aisle, and The Edge and drummer Larry Mullen tend to be pretty mainstream on the rare times they say anything political. Also like the Beatles, U2 aren’t really the best musicians in the world. They’re just incredibly creative with the skills they do have and the words they do put together.
Join the conversation as a VIP Member