Regular visitors to thebadrash.com (yes, both of you) may have noticed the image I have in my sidebar. The words (and the intention) are fairly clear: “This machine kills fascists”. What may not be immediately obvious is the source of the image. It’s a cropped version of a great photo of Woody Guthrie, the slogan sellotaped to his guitar.
I’ve long had a great respect for Guthrie. His songs about the country, the working class and especially the Spanish Civil War are simple, sweet and genuinely life affirming. Sadly, many of my favourite songs (like the one about the battle for the valley of Jarama) were recorded either on a tight budget or live, with bad equipment. Guthrie, of course, was one of Bob Dylan’s greatest influences – and while I adore numerous Dylan songs, Guthrie came from a simpler time when the fight for workers’ rights still felt like it could be won.
The concept of a guitar killing fascists came so far before the popular rock bands of the 1960’s. Its representation of the idea of expression destroying repression is still valid today. I wonder if you can buy his records in China.
I’ve always thought that musicians like Ted Nugent who openly eschew the rock’n’roll philosophy are cheating themselves as much as they cheat the people who buy their records. Whether they like or not, they owe their careers to the work of people like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. They remind me of the fascists who sometimes demonstrate in Madrid: there’s something weird about right wingers adopting the discourse of the left to promote their ideas. I’m not trying to claim ownership of a means of protest. I just think it’s kind of perverse when arseholes use methods they’d happily ban if they had the chance.
Nugent, incidentally, is a fairly odd individual. His music is terrible, he’s involved in ‘hunting’ trips which consist of killing creatures whose meat isn’t eaten, and he obtained custody of a 17 year-old girl so he could continue fucking her. Like I say, odd chap.