I Dig Rock And Roll Music – Peter, Paul & Mary

Unlike the previous songs on this list, the lack of understanding regarding Peter, Paul & Mary’s 1967 smash “I Dig Rock And Roll Music” is less a result of cryptic lyrics than us music lovers’ lazy listening habits, only listening to half of a song’s lyrics, combining them with the song’s title, and drawing conclusions about the tune from that alone. That’s not to say that “I Dig…” doesn’t have stylish lyrics, because it does; in fact, the style of the lyrics, along with the instrumental arrangements, do a lot to get the song’s point across. However, the lyrics are still somewhat straightforward, and, although the music is great and it’s easy to get swept up in the beat, not listening to the lyrics may indict us, listeners, including myself, of being just what the songwriters claim that rock lovers are like. “I Dig…” was written by Paul Stookey (the “Paul” of the group’s name), Jim Mason, and Dave Dixon in response to the quickly-rising rock music “fad” of the time. Stookey, Mason, and Dixon felt that rock music was inferior to folk music; while they felt that folk tunes were deep and thoughtful, they thought that rock n’ roll was shallow and only appealed to the lowest denominator of record buyers. To express this opinion, the three composed this song, which lampooned three of the most popular rock artists of the time while also skewering their fans. The song’s first verse mocks rock lovers, heavily using the slang terms of the time (like “dig” and “happenin”), while also stating that rock lovers don’t like “smart” music but prefer vapid bubble-gum songs. The second verse mocks then-popular group The Mamas And The Papas, using the musical style of The Mamas & Papas’ recent hit “Monday, Monday” to ridicule the group for writing lyrics that make no sense. The second verse teases the psychedelic guru Donovan, particularly his song “Sunshine Superman,” taking him to task for also writing incomprehensible lyrics (this is actually a valid argument in Donovan’s case; while his music is good, his lyrics are rather strange). The third verse takes on the Beatles, accusing them of being sell-outs, caring less about what their music says that the amount of money it brings in. The fourth and final verse takes up an interesting tack; it states that, while important messages could conceivably be conveyed through rock music, they would have to be so heavily concealed that it would render the message indecipherable. I know that, when I was a kid, I thought that this tune was merely a loving homage to my favorite genre of music, and, as I read others’ writings about the song and as I’ve talked about it with others, I’m relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. It feels good to know that you’re not the only lazy listener out there. I can’t help but wonder what Stookey, Mason & Dixon thought as they watched their anti-rock song climb steadily up the Billboard charts, become a platinum rock record, and, in what must have been the ultimate insult, be covered by one of the song’s targets, The Mamas And The Papas. I guess that just goes to show you that, in the words of Stephen King, sarcasm will get you nowhere in this world unless you want to write for Mad magazine



Trump needs a dose of ‘manly virtues’

The only modern president who rivaled Donald Trump in his lack of preparation for global leadership was Harry Truman. Both men took office with little knowledge of the international problems they were about to face, and with worries at home and abroad that they weren’t up to the job. Continue reading

The Brain on Trial

Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order.

ON THE STEAMY first day of August 1966, Charles Whitman took an elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower in Austin. The 25-year-old climbed the stairs to the observation deck, lugging with him a footlocker full of guns and ammunition. At the top, he killed a receptionist with the butt of his rifle. Two families of tourists came up the stairwell; he shot at them at point-blank range. Then he began to fire indiscriminately from the deck at people below. The first woman he shot was pregnant. As her boyfriend knelt to help her, Whitman shot him as well. He shot pedestrians in the street and an ambulance driver who came to rescue them.


‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and Slavery

The article cited by journalist Radley Balko in the above tweet quotes the rarely sung third stanza of the anthem (see below), noting that the phrase “hireling and slave” refers to black slaves hired to fight on the side of the British during the War of 1812:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.