Music Geek-Out #5

Sorry for the hiatus–the end-of-term hustle gobbled up my life for the past few weeks. So, back to the philoSOPHIA/WOXY dinner playlist:

Next is another Ohio band, Cleveland’s Pere Ubu. Keeping with the post-industrial theme, I chose their “Final Solution.” I also chose this because there’s something going on in this song about masculinity (“The girls won’t touch me ’cause I’ve got a missed erection”), which gets taken up in Peter Murphy’s cover–which, actually, I think is better than the original.

So, Pere Ubu’s “Final Solution”:

If the heart of rock ‘n’ roll is in Cleveland, this song gouges it out and drops an H-bomb on it. This track was released in 1976, the same year that punk broke in London. Not only does it sound like it would fit in quite well on a Sex Pistols/Throbbing Gristle bill, but there’s also the resonance with Nazi imagery (“Final Solution”) that was common in UK punk (Nazi imagery functioned in the UK in ways similar to the way blackness functions in the US. For the generation of late 70s British punks, their parents fought in WWII and lived through the Blitz. What is the one thing that would make these parents more angry, shocked, and outraged than anything else? Nazis. In the US, white parents were more incensed by blackness than by Nazis, so white kids tended to appropriate African American culture instead of Nazi chic.) Pere Ubu didn’t intend the resonance, but it’s there nonetheless.

But, for as great as Pere Ubu’s original is, IMHO Peter Murphy’s cover is that much better–both musically, and in the allusions to AIDS. (He didn’t really change anything to make the allusions, in the early/mid 80s the song’s lyrics resonate differently, given the different political context.) Murphy’s training as a dancer is also evident in this video.

And, for those of you who know me personally, just watch this video. It’s seriously uncanny. You’ll know why.