There's Gonna Be a Judgment, That's a Fact (Revolution Rock)

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Like many others, I've been keenly watching (and supporting via social media) the Occupy Wall St. protests going on in New York City. They're only the latest instance of protests that are erupting all across the globe. Something's in the air to be sure. Maybe it's dragons and the return of Tiamat. Some have called it "a movement of movements". Whatever it is I thought it provided a good opportunity for a meditation on revolutionary music, music that's calling for, or commenting on, or actively driving societal transformation. I think we can too easily get caught in thinking of revolutionary music as necessarily angry or aggressive music, when in fact it can take on many forms. I've spent a few nights on Youtube listening for candidates for this edition of the Jukebox,occupy-wall-street and have now finished the very difficult task of whittling it down to a group of six. So I invite the reader to sit back, maybe grab a favorite cocktail, and join me in sitting with and contemplating this particular form of musical expression.

The first one- Revolution by the Beatles- is in many ways an obvious choice, but this only makes the contemplative exercise more challenging. It's hard to come fresh to a song we've heard so many times, but I think it's worth making this song strange again for a moment, to approach it as a brand new artifact for investigation. The context of the song is the social upheavals and revolutions that were happening in the 1960s, and you have John Lennon speaking to, and often critiquing, elements of what he was seeing in these movements around him. On top of that it's a pretty rippin track, one that marries the ever skilled pop melodies of the Beatles with a little fuzz box fire. The chorus- "You know it's going to be, alright"- has always moved me. There's something spiritual in it, mystical. I can't tell if John is sensing the gilded future, awash in timeless Being, or something else entirely. But it's a great contrast to the commentary of the stanzas. There's also another interesting thing about this song. Not in this version, but in some recorded versions, when Lennon sings, "But when you talk about destruction/ Don't you know that you can count me out", he tacks on an "in" to the end of the out. So it goes, "You can me out, in". This move speaks to the ambivalence that can arise when one feels passionate about (r)evolution and contemplates the methods by which it might come about.

 

                            

The next song, A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke, is a good example of a revolutionary song that takes on a different form, this one almost a prayer or a spiritual yearning. It's said that Cooke was inspired to write it after hearing Bob Dylan's Blowin in the Wind. It's a powerful track, and the images here only deepen the experience of its call.

                    

 The next cut moves toward the more energized and aggresive side of the street. Which Side Are You On by Rebel Diaz utilizes the power of the beats and poetic flow of hip hop to lay down a bangin protest song. The original song was written in 1931 by Florence Reece, an artist and activist and wife of a union organizer. I love the weaving in of an early recording of the song in this track, it gives it an extra power I can't quite put my finger on. When I was listening to this song the other night, getting into it, a phrase kept popping into my head- Total Mobilization. What would this world look like if we had total mobilization of all the Earth's peoples towards a new and just civilization? I don't know what that would look like, or even what that means really, but the song kept on coughing that image forth in me, a testament to the power of great music.

              

My next choice is How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live by Bruce Springsteen. Bruce has been a very political and socially conscious artist over the years, and there's many choices I could've made, but the context for this performance really brings this one home. Bruce is playing with the Seeger Sessions band at the first Jazz Fest in New Orleans after Hurricaine Katrina. Bruce brought his band there to give support to keeping Jazz Fest afloat as a cultural event for the city, and he took an old song and added three new verses for the occasion, one of which includes the line "Gonna be a judgment that's a fact, a righteous train rollin' down this track", from which comes the title of this Jukebox.

 

My next choice is another one that we likely have to work with to see again for the first time, Bob Marley's Get Up, Stand Up. What at this point could be more cliched and tired than revolutionary activity and images/invocations of Bob Marley, with years of Bob Marley flags and shirts at protests in danger of making his message and music passe and tiresome. Well if that's the case, then we must go back to Marely himself, particularly live Bob Marely. He's quite a powerful presence on stage, and it's worth watching him and asking- "Where did this dude show up from?!". This is a man on a mission. "A mighty God is a living man". Copy that Bob, and thanks for leading by example.

 

My last choice is Biko by Peter Gabriel. This peformance came at a time when apartheid was still in place in South Africa, making this a brave performance in the face of those times. The song is about Stephen Biko, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa that was murdered by the authorities. Gabriel goes to some kind of deep place in this performance, shamanesque and committed. Be sure to watch it to the very end, the collective sing a long at the end is beautiful.

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5 comments

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Sunday, 02 October 2011 13:43 posted by Philip Corkill

    Love it Trevor!

    Intrigingly, the Beatles video doesn't match the audio. So you don't hear Lennon adding the "in" but you do see him singing it. You also see a "Shoobidoo-op bop shoobidoo-op" from Mcartney and Harrison that you can't hear but that probably doesn't have quite the sting of revolutionary implication.

    Good to see Malcom X smiling in the second clip:-)

    Your thoughts on Total Mobilisation linked to something in my mind put there by Adi Da. The idea of everbody-all-at-onceness: "Only everybody-all-at-once can change the curent chaos" - Ado Da, Not-Two Is Peace. I haven't even read that book yet so I can't tell you much about this vision but the phrase has already become one word in my mind (powerful utterance!). Just sprung to mind.

    Did you catch the Rebel Diaz line "from Myspace to Beams and Struts they got us stuck on Computers"? (which side are you on?;-)

    Now (with goosebumps) I hear Bob Marley, in Dortmund, not far from here, singing: "you can fool some people sometimes but you can't fool all the people all the time". There's definitely more to this everybody-all-at-once theme. And, yeah, what a totality of being in the man! Total absorption. Total inspiration.

    "You can blow out a candle but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flame begins to catch the wind will blow it higher" Biko, Peter Gabriel

    Revolutionary, or social change, metaphor of fire. Is there a common flame here to, for example, where "Jesus in the New Testament describes how he came to set the world on fire" from Chris' Article?

    First Beams Jukebox that plays first time here in Germany. Well done Trevor:-)

  • Comment Link Lynda Pickrell Monday, 03 October 2011 16:37 posted by Lynda Pickrell

    Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come is a powerful song of hope. Brings tears even over a morning coffee.

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Wednesday, 05 October 2011 18:29 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    @Phil, thanks, this is great. I thought I'd seen Lennon say the "in" too, but wasn't sure given the audio. Nice eye.

    Thanks for the addition of the Adi Da and the "everybody-all-at-once". That amplified my intuition (the beauty of the collective mind), and it's a context/possibility I'll hold open as we go forward. The notion feels more like an intuition at this point, but it also feels pregnant, so something to stay receptive to for sure.

    In terms of "which side am I on" :), that's a fine question. My view on "being stuck on computers" is that it depends on how you use them. I think it (social media et al.) has great (r)evolutionary potential, as has been shown already in many contexts over the past two years. I see what we do online as one dimension of an ecology of change. The virtual has the capability of spreading information and emergent memes, outrunning the mainstream media, and allowing for communication/discussion/solidarity building. And then we must act on the ground too, whether it's what's we buy (for instance, putting money into the post-industrial food supply), how we treat others (building a new We), or putting our bodies in harms way in acts of civil disobedience if called for. On that note, I rallied my younger theology classmates yesterday to organize with me for the upcoming OccupyVancouver on Oct. 15th. Looks like we'll have a good little crowd. "Let justice roll down like a river"- Amos 5:24. Maybe I'll be spending part of my semester in jail. :)

    Just one small example of the power of computers. During the Wisconsin Protests and now the OccupyWallSt., I watched (and took part) in real time as the mainstream media ignored the action completely, and then as information spread like wild fire through social media, and large numbers began to be aware of what was happening, the mainstream media had to follow suit and give some air time to it or they'd either look stupid, or obviously a pawn of private interests. That's a powerful fact. As Clay Shirky said, "Here comes everybody".

    http://beamsandstruts.com/bits-a-pieces/item/505-here-comes-everybody-clay-shirky-on-the-internet-and-collective-action

    As far as your connection between revolution/social change and the metaphor of fire in Chris' piece, I think you are right on the money. I'd like to say a lot about that, but I feel like things are still forming in a certain way, and if i wrote now it would be an amorphous barf. Let me sit with that formally, get some thoughts on paper, and then I'll post something soon hopefully. In the meantime, here's one of my favorite fire songs, 'The Fire Inside' by Bog Seger.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5XsDMXFPAI

    "The fire inside, it's burning you up".

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Wednesday, 05 October 2011 18:32 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    @Lynda, thanks for sharing, the song does the same thing to me almost every time.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Wednesday, 05 October 2011 22:25 posted by Philip Corkill

    Hey Trevor,

    Yes, yes and yes.

    I appreciate your attention to where we/you are at in a process. Pregnancy takes nine months and every phase, every moment is to be cherished. We needn't force things. Timing is an fine art.

    I believe Da called that book the "seed-utterance" Ah yes here it is:

    "The old moral, social, and political “order” of humankind is now dead. A new and true and right Way of order of humankind is, now, and forever hereafter, necessary. This Free Declaration is the Seed-Utterance of that new and necessary Way of true and right (and truly globally, totally, and universally cooperative) order. – Adi Da, World Friend"

    Powerful word craft. Perhaps that seed still needs time in darkness under the earth. Or needs utter care and protection like a fresh sprout.

    "There is a time for being ahead,
    a time for being behind;
    a time for being in motion,
    a time for being at rest;
    a time for being vigorous,
    a time for being exhausted;
    a time for being safe,
    a time for being in danger.

    The Master sees things as they are,
    without trying to control them.
    She/He lets them go their own way,
    and resides at the centre of the circle."

    Lao Tzu

    Good luck and many blessings for the OccupyVancouver!

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