I gagged on my granola this morning when I turned to page C7 of today’s New York TimesArts section and saw this: A photo of the band
Survivor taken sometime around those transitional fashion years of the late 1970s.
Transitions can be many things and sometimes they appear silly.
Silliness, of course, is more than a fashion issue although it is hard to look at this picture and see anything other than fashion issues.
Look at this picture. Only glance at it. You get it. But let’s flesh out what this might mean a bit beyond its strange fashion sense.
America was on the eve of the so-called Conservative Revolution of the 1980s, and that kind of silly isn’t the fun stuff kids enjoy. Change circa 1980 was bad, a bad turn that haunts us yet today. Bringing in conservatives, silliness, and a sort of cultural semiotics is how we’ll unpack it all.
The edgy intent of rock band publicity photos sometimes gets lost in kitsch, and here is your proof. How is one supposed to feel the power of Dave Bickler‘s menacing stare when you must first get beyond that jamble of slouching reds, blacks, and turquoise.
I can understand Bickler’s leather pants — this is an essential rock band accessory, as is some hair — but running shorts? Kind of makes you want to cover your eyes and say “tee-hee”. But it doesn’t end there, does it, and sadly the best-dressed member of the band, Frankie Sullivan, is stuck in the back, apparently unconcerned that his good sense pulls no weight.
You might argue that poster art metaphorically reflects the mood an era, which is where I might be at the moment. In the late 1970s, change was at hand. And you can see it in this poster if you know were to look.
Consider that perhaps the real “iconic” figure in this poster is Frankie Sullivan, with his apparent ambivalence, conceding the stage to more confusing looks. Perhaps you can see the changes that were stirring socially and politically in the conflicting fashions of the era. It might explain why emerging college prep and continental styles pushed up against post-punk/proto-grunge and the rise of Casual Friday ambivalence.
Or should I ask a good friend of mine if Survivor’s “style” is intended to be ironic, as certainly the GOP embracing the color red as a fashion standard is clearly ironic. (They are being ironic, right?)
And here is that ah-hah moment…this is why I care about today’s story about bands, their music, and politicians.
Today’s NY Times story G.O.P. Candidates Are Told, Don’t Use the Verses, It’s Not Your Song dances around the obvious point. Let me spell it out.
Talented Musicians are Artists.
Artists tend to be Intelligent Beings.
Intelligent Beings — at least enlightened ones — do not support regressive, unjust, and dangerous ideas.
Republicans represent regressive, unjust, and dangerous ideas.
Therefore Talented Musicians tend not to support Republicans.
Someone can correct my syllogism, but I think on the whole you get my point and my reasoning is sound. Ed Rollins can whine about equal time and parity, but why not ask for a little equal time and parity from Republicans when it comes to common sense and intelligence? Perhaps we could get a Republican to vote for health care security, for example, or support tax policy appropriate to fund our government. Not likely to happen. So why would a Republican expect a politically aware band to support politically backward brand of politics?
- Newt Gingrich Sued For Using Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ at Rallies (rollingstone.com)
- G.O.P. Candidates Are Told, Don’t Use the Verses, It’s Not Your Song (nytimes.com)
- Newt Gingrich vs. Survivor (littlegreenfootballs.com)