Monday, January 26, 2009
Bill Joel -- White Rap Pioneer
William "Guillaume" Joel gives the White Rap Power salute.
DaveNoon at Lawyers, Guns and Money reminds us of the deep contusions and psychic scars we all still suffer from even thinking for a millisecond about Bill Joel's White Rap Opus: We Didn't Start the Fire:
"When I teach historiography and methods every other year, I typically devote about ten minutes on the first day to this particular crime against history. By now, most students are young enough to have no memories of the song; I, by contrast, had to share a dorm suite with a guy who thought it was the greatest thing he'd ever heard until he got hooked on that unendurable Skid Row album.
"Leaving aside the inscrutable chorus, the topical stupidity of the song is boundless (e.g., Why mention Malekov and not Khrushchev? Are the "rock and roller cola wars" really the final straw, provoking Joel to shake his fist and declare that "I can't take it anymore?") But I think the song's essential malignance is summed up by one line: "JFK, blown away -- what else do I have to say?" Because, of course, nothing is quite as historically self-explanatory as the fucking Kennedy assassination.
"God I want to punch someone right now."
Some wonder why REM get off the hook for their White Rap fave, "It's the End of the World As We Know It."
REM gets away with this because they do not take their silly ditty as something Deadly Serious, unlike Bill of Joel, who believes he is "rapping" for the History Channel with a vocal that evokes the spiritual depth Tom Cruise brings to "Cocktail."
[Here's a clue: when REM says, "Leonard Bernstein," they don't mean it as a teaching moment.]
Another person asks Mr. DaveNoon why he spares the Eagles' "Hotel California" from the scorn he heaps upon the Long Island Railroad Rappereth of White.
This is easily answered. The lyrical and thematic compass of "Hotel California" did not compel the Eagles to deploy Secret Weapon: White Rapper. This stylistic decision alone grants them several quatloos of post-career life points.
Second, and more important, the lyrical and thematic content of the album "Hotel California" is about the decay and rotting and death of the Hippy 1960s. "Hotel California" is an appropriately sardonic and mawkish Mongolian Lament of the 1960s as they putrified into the 1970s, with all of the requisite drug overdoses, bad breath, glancing bullet wounds, suspended prison sentences and car keys lost forever. And Providence, the one in Rhode Island. And "Victim of Love."
In contrast, Joel of Bill's "We Didn't Start the Fire" sounds like a DeMolay inductee clipping headlines from a stack of black and white Life magazines in their Scoutmaster's attic and trying to make the words rhyme the way those "hip spades" do. But listen to the "sung" chorus:
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it.
This says we (presumably Americans) have never done anything wrong, because everything that has ever been done wrong has always been done wrong since the "world's been turnin."
Which means archaeobacteria did it.
But not us.
So fuck them.
Or as Joel of Bill says in Line 4,769: