Original Format: mp3
Today my country celebrates its birthday, and the way things have been going, my inclination is to throw its cake out in the rain and give it a swift kick in the posterior followed by a big two-finger salute. I mean, for fuck’s sake, America — get your head out of your ass.
When I made this mix back around Thanksgiving 2017, I wrote:
American dimness has reached its apotheosis this year. Is it possible that the wave will soon break and roll back?
Hilarious! Since then, things have just kept getting worse, of course. In the last few weeks we’ve tumbled several levels down the slippery slope to theocracy, and there’s not a whole lot of reason for optimism about the future.
But hope doesn’t require reason, so I hold out hope nonetheless, because what choice is there really? Better to make a playlist than to curse the darkness, isn’t that what they say?
This one could just as easily be called “Thanks for Nothing America” or “Fuck You America.” It’s a little cathartic, a little sarcastic, a little bittersweet. For whatever reason it seems to help.
A Thanksgiving Prayer (Part 1) William S. Burroughs
Weird as he was, Uncle Bill was as American as apple pie. You can still go visit his little house in Lawrence, Kansas if you like.
Thank You America Cabaret Voltaire
For a while there in the mid-80s, the Cabs decided to make relatively accessible electro-dance music rather than the seizure-inducing industrial onslaughts that had been their trademark up to then. I quite like this stuff, as does the author of the review of the album Code on Allmusic — who, I realized halfway through reading it, was me.
America Is Waiting Brian Eno & David Byrne
Just found a nifty little fan video for this:
Christianity Is Stupid Negativland
In this song, Wikipedia tells us, Negativland “sampled phrases from a sermon by Rev. Estus Pirkle (from his 1968 LP, If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, itself later adapted into a film of the same name). Pirkle’s narrative included an imagined visit to the U.S. under Communism where public loudspeakers constantly proclaim ‘Christianity is stupid! Communism is good! Give up!’” I haven’t had the patience to find exactly where it occurs here, but please be my guest:
The movie is on YouTube too, but it’s way too early in the day for the kind of drinking I would need to do to tackle this:
It’s American De La Soul
“I get high… but I never thought I’d get hurt.”
A Report to the Shareholders (excerpt) Run the Jewels
Apparently this contains a sample from the theme to Mr. Ed., which is pretty… if you’ll excuse me… on the nose.
I’m Afraid of Americans (AMD combo mix) David Bowie
This combines the original album version with the coda of Trent Reznor’s remix, a very tasty mixture if you ask me.
Miss America David Byrne
Again I wonder, where exactly were we supposed to see this video that David made in 1997, post-MTV and pre-YouTube? I’m glad he did, though.
Richard Nixon Rod & the MSR Singers
Back in the day you could pay to have your words set to music and put on a record; song-poems, they’re called. Whoever sprang for this one sure had a hard-on for Nixon. Maybe it was Bebe Rebozo? Or possibly the man himself.
America Eats Its Young Funkadelic
Released in May 1972 — 50 years and two months ago, as of this writing — America Eats Its Young was the first Funkadelic album to feature Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish, freshly liberated from James Brown’s funk military school. But this song, according to an appreciation by Jesse Ducker, “is a showcase for multiple players in the band and the group’s genius arrangements. The haunting track starts off with a lengthy guitar solo, most likely by Harold Beane,” who had recently taken over for the incarcerated Eddie Hazel.
A Thanksgiving Prayer (Part 2) William S. Burroughs
Ouch, Bill… you gotta speak the truth like that?
American Dream & Future Madlib
That reminds me of this, which I never get tired of (though the R. Kelly reference hasn’t aged well).
The Gun & the Bible Negativland
Again, turns out there’s video I’ve never seen before.
Watching “Bob” on TV Rev. Buck Naked
This is a different Buck Naked from the one who used to play around San Francisco wearing naught but a plunger. This one is from Texas and associated with the Church of the SubGenius. I wonder if they ever met?
Far Away Eyes Rolling Stones
Supposedly there’s a version of this with Keith on vocals instead of Mick, but I can’t find it, goddamit.
The American Fate Joanna Newsom
Words by Thomas Pynchon via PTA’s movie adaptation of Inherent Vice.
An American Dream Love and Rockets
After 36 years, the part where they harmonize on “feeling so high and low/it’s the American dream” still gives me chills.
The Star Spangled Banner (studio version) The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Not the famous version that everyone knows, this is a somewhat more coherent — if less pyrotechnic — rendition recorded a few months before Woodstock.
God Bless America Charles Bradley
“‘God Bless America’ is an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin during World War I in 1918 and revised by him in the run up to World War II in 1938. The later version was notably recorded by Kate Smith, becoming her signature song.” —Wikipedia
I Am a Real American Rodd Keith
For more on Rodd Keith, a.k.a. Rodney Eskelin — king of the song-poem industry — I recommend this appreciation by his son Ellery.
Our National Anthem Negativland
“‘Our National Anthem’ is a satirical song alleging to show the ‘truth’ behind the National Anthem of the United States, that is that it is ‘ripped-off’ of a British drinking song ‘Anacreon in Heaven.’ It lampoons Americans’ obsession with rockets, explosions, and The Fourth of July holiday.” —Genius.com
A Thanksgiving Prayer (Part 3) William S. Burroughs
“I showed this to my family one year during thanksgiving… haven’t been invited since…. worked like a charm.” —YouTube commenter J. Ingalls