It’s Day One of my official “Staycation”. All I want to do for the next seven days is ride my bike, swim, and lay around pantsless in the air conditioning with Tina the Cat listening to my records. Glorious. Oh, and I might indulge a little of my OCD-ness by finally getting around to cataloguing my record collection. What? That shit is exciting to me. I’m getting a contact high just thinking about it.
Anyway, this afternoon’s first vinyl indulgence is something a little off the wall, the ‘Wake Up, America!‘ album by Abbie Hoffman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Hey, what’s a little left-wing anarchism for breakfast?
I found this at The Bop Shop a few weeks ago while visiting Uncle Lance and Auntie Amy. Okay, actually, I didn’t find it…HRH did. Of course, her interest was immediately piqued thanks to the awesome 60’s era album cover…and who could blame her? As far as counter culture is concerned, it’s Simply the Tits.
Unfortunately, the subject matter isn’t really suitable for 11-year old girls, but I still couldn’t deny it’s historical imprint so I commended her eagle eye for great albums and purchased it. She might be at school right now but, someday, when she’s old enough, she might pick it up and better appreciate it for what it is…a time capsule for popular 60’s counter culture.
The album was originally conceived as a means to raise money for his defense in the Chicago 8 (or 7, or 10, take your pick) trial that followed the antiwar demonstrations at the Democratic Convention held in the Windy City in 1968. The anarchic energy of the record is remarkable and exhilarating, as is its message of freedom and direct democracy…albeit a little misguided in hindsight.
Well, that’s my opinion anyway.
Left-wing public intellectuals like Hoffman seem to have long disappeared from modern (or should I say postmodern) society, much to its detriment. Hoffman’s generous spirit and willingness to allow others to openly criticize him were a refreshing and distinguishing characteristic of the New Left, which laughed at the rigid, humorless orthodoxy of the Old Left. Indeed, Hoffman avoids preaching on this record, and it is remarkable how entertaining it is, coming from a man who was not an entertainer. While some might scoff and say that the fact that this record does not propound a political program is a sign of the New Left’s fatal weakness, Hoffman and his ilk were to be commended for not shoving a program down the people’s collective throat but, rather, for inviting them to join in a collective determination of the political, economic, and cultural route that they wished to take. This overarching democratic impulse was the essence of the New Left and what made them such a threat to both the capitalist and bolshevik establishments.
The album is hilarious. Abby insults religion, politics, and big business. It starts out with Abby and his group singing the national anthem with kazoos and other carnival like instruments over the sound of bombs exploding and someone screaming “Kill the Gooks!” If you ever felt the need to “stick it to the man”, this is as good a starting point as any.
The best part is early on when Abbie (who must have been on a radio show) takes calls from folks who clearly DON’T like him, to put it mildly. “You said before they beat you?…Well they should have killed you, I swear!” Fascinating stuff, but goofy as all out. Man, it’s evident that guy really scared the living shit out of a lot of folks.