Today in Music History:
In 1970, The Kinks Ray Davies was forced to make a 6,000 round trip from New York to London to record one word in a song. Davies had to change the word 'Coca- Cola' to 'Cherry Cola' on the bands forthcoming single 'Lola' due to an advertising ban.
The world of rock 'n' roll needs rabble-rousers, especially these days. In the year following September 11, 2001, we were subjected to a small handful of memorable songs inspired by the tragedy, a lovely televised tribute to the victims and heroes, a massively-hyped concept album that fell short of expectations, and most embarrassingly, tons and tons of poorly written, jingoistic songs that pander to the mass audience. Back in 1989, Neil Young's brilliant "Rockin' in the Free World" served as his own State of the World Address; Jerusalem is Steve Earle's, which came out in 2002. Some folks might be led to believe that Earle's album is entirely devoted to the New York terrorist attacks, but in reality, that's only a small portion of the subject matter. Earle talks about the world he sees when he looks out his window: that horrifying day in the fall of 2001, disillusioned young people, man's inhumanity to man in the prison system, Mexican illegal immigrants, and the Middle East. This album featured "John Walker's Blues", which was about the captured American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh. The song provoked widespread outrage; many accused Earle of sympathizing with terrorists since the song was written from Lindh's perspective. Earle responded that he was simply empathizing with Lindh and in no way set out to glorify terrorism. The controversy raised Earle's profile in the media, but did not seem to damage his record sales.
Steve Earle has always been a guy who is never afraid to shoot his mouth off, and with Jerusalem, his timing was perfect, as his own razor-sharp words slice through the shallow slop of almost all 9-11-inspired music that has come out to date. As cantankerous as he can be, though, Earle is refreshingly optimistic while still retaining a sense of dignity, and the feeling of hope that ends the album is kind of surprising.