John Lennon – Liberal? Or Conservative?

beatlesI’m a Beatle baby.  I grew up with the Beatles.  In my pre-pube years I watched their movies, listened to their hit songs on the radio, saw them on Ed Sullivan, and tried to figure out why all the girls were screaming.  Like every other music-aware and girl-aware boy, I wanted to be a Beatle.   I just couldn’t decide which one.

At first I thought being a British Invasion drummer would be the pinnacle of success. Here’s my story, a song I wrote and recorded a couple of years ago:

To this day I revere the Beatles (living and dead) – their magical songwriting skills, their charisma, their larger-than-life grip on pop culture, and their legendary worldview that grew beyond anything that could have been scripted.   John, Paul, George and Ringo set the tempo of the universe, both musically and socially.  They had the world by the ass.

Many of you who Rock with me On The Right Side might think that the long-haired, dope-smoking, guru-worshipping Beatles of the sixties were on the wrong side of political history.  How on Earth could conservative Tom still get such a big buzz when he hears “Baby, You Can Drive My Car”, or “Lady Madonna” ?

Well, to tell you the truth, I never really tried to extract any deep message.  Nor did you.  Much of their lyrical message was nonsense.

I am the Egg Man! They are the Egg Men! I am the Walrus! Goo Goo, Goo Joob!

Lennon and McCartney occasionally tried to convey an overtly political message.   Usually it was something basic, like “Give Peace A Chance.”  But let’s face it: they weren’t world leaders, they were relatively uneducated twenty-something kids who were getting a lot of attention. They had no clue what message would have positive results for their world and that of the future.

But they did have the world by the ass, and still do.  I still love to play and sing Beatle songs.  I plead guilty to the crime of passionately singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” to audiences of all persuasions, including Montana cowboys:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Could there be a more liberal, “one world order” message than that?  I kind of hope that nobody really pays attention to those lyrics when I sing them.  Just enjoy the beautiful song.

But then I revel in Lennon’s totally conservative anthem “Revolution”, in which he proclaims:

You say you’ll change the constitution, well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution, well, you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?

Was John Lennon a liberal, or a conservative?  I don’t think he really cared.  He was just searching for reality.  For truth.  Hell, maybe he was so stoned most of the time he couldn’t tell the difference.  I suppose he stumbled onto wisdom and dreams from both sides, like many of us who try to make sense of the news today.

Anyway, thinking about Lennon, and the Beatles, and the huge philosophical and political differences between the left and the right today, it reminds me to . . . just keep an open mind.  Listen.  Think.  Teach.  Stay level.  And do your best to help make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?

RIP John Lennon

Even Liberal Musicians Rock On the Right Side Sometimes

mcartneySometimes it’s hard to reconcile my conservative viewpoints with my claim to be a classic rock guitar-slinger. Yes, I must sheepishly admit that I have sung John Lennon’s “Imagine” in public – to Montana cowboys, no less. And yes, my fellow rock songwriters came up with such mindless liberal claptrap as “Love the One You’re With” and “We Are the World, We Are the Children”.

Still, it’s surprising how often musicians and songwriters, who normally lurch leftward in lockstep, are caught “Rockin’ On the Right Side”.

Here are a few golden nuggets of conservative logic unexpectedly gleaned from the bottom of the old prospector’s pan:

• “I’m in trouble deep, but I’ve made up my mind – I’m keeping my baby!” – Madonna, ‘Papa Don’t Preach’
• “Tax the rich, feed the poor – until there ain’t no rich no more.” – Alvin Lee, ‘I’d Love to Save the World’
• “Let me tell you how it will be, there’s one for you, nineteen for me. ‘Cause I’m the taxman.” – George Harrison, ‘Taxman’
• “You say you’ll change the constitution. Well, you know – we all want to change your head.” – John Lennon, ‘Revolution’.
• “If ya can’t feed the baby, then don’t have a baby!” – Michael Jackson, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’
• “I pay my money to the welfare line – I see you standing in it every time!” – War, ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends’
• “You can’t always get what you want.” – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’
• “All the things that made us great got left so far behind.” – John Fogerty, ‘Gunslinger”

I love my rock and roll, in spite of the preponderance of underinformed knuckleheads in our fraternity. They mean well, they just don’t know any better.  When one of them slips up and starts “Rockin’ On the Right Side”, I have to give a little cheer!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side