Elvis swiveling his hips to shrieking fans. The Sex Pistols cursing on live TV. Public Enemy calling for people to “fight the power.”
Remember rock and roll rebellion? Our rock stars pushed cultural boundaries and aggravated the squares. They demanded absolutely free expression and hung out with scandalous characters like Lester Bangs and William S. Burroughs.
Last week, Mumford & Sons’ banjoist Winston Marshall wrote a tweet in support of journalist Andy Ngo, the author of “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.”
“Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man,” Marshall wrote.
The blowback was immediate, as social justice warriors torched Marshall on social media. The original tweet was then deleted.
Marshall finally released a statement on Twitter, saying he would be taking time off from the band.
“Over the past few days I have come to better understand the pain caused by the book I endorsed. I have offended not only a lot of people I don’t know, but also those closest to me, including my bandmates and for that I am truly sorry,” he wrote.
“As a result of my actions I am taking time away from the band to examine my blindspots. For now, please know that I realize how my endorsements have the potential to be viewed as approvals of hateful, divisive behavior. I apologize, as this was not at all my intention.”
Not exactly Pete Townshend smashing his guitar.
While rock’s history has been a long series of challenging bourgeois social norms, there have also been occasions when musicians have pushed back against the left.
In 2011, superstar singer Adele expressed anger at the high taxes she was forced to play: “Trains are always late, most state schools are [garbage] and I’ve gotta give you, like, 4 million quid—are you having a laugh?” she told Q Magazine, jokingly adding, “When I got my tax bill in from [album] ‘19,’ I was ready to go and buy a gun and randomly open fire.”
Tony Hadley, the singer in ’80s British band Spandau Ballet, has openly declared himself a supporter of Margaret Thatcher.
The most famous rock rebellion against the left was the “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia. In 1968, a band called the Plastic People of the Universe (named after a song by Frank Zappa) had several members imprisoned by the communist regime. They were defended by playwright Vaclav Havel, who would become post-communist Czechoslovakia’s first president.
“We were not political,” Josef Janicek, who played keyboard and synthesizer for the Plastics, told Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian. “But we insisted on playing a certain kind of music, dressing and performing in a certain way.” Vulliamy observed that “in Prague in 1968 and 1969, if you wanted to tell your own story, and play your own music, you became political, whether you intended it or not, because the authorities deemed you a threat to their ‘official’ culture.”
Is there a more accurate summation of 2021’s woke culture? Recall the exact words that Mumford & Sons’ banjoist Marshall wrote that got him in trouble: “Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man.”
This doesn’t even seem particularly political. It sounds like a guy just expressing an opinion about a book. Even offering a mild opinion is enough to get a person hounded and blacklisted.
One wished that Marshall had pushed back, told the left to get lost, and then wrote a song about what losers they are.
Viewing the timorous or silent reaction of Rolling Stone and the other rock press—i.e., the same people who have defended everything from Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat, to Nirvana’s right to sing what they wanted on “Saturday Night Live,” to the most violent, scabrous rap—one longs for the anarchic defiance of an Elvis, an Adele, an Iggy Pop.
Mark Judge is a journalist in Washington, D.C. He is the author of “Damn Senators,” “A Tremor of Bliss,” and “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.