45 Revolutions

I opened my eyes on the Eve of Destruction
Fear made clear by magnetic induction
It was a revolution
A global manifesto with local distribution

By Eric Michael Jones

I wrote my song '45 Revolutions' as an ode to the subversive power of the 45 RPM record, with the first verse paying homage to Barry McGuire.

The word 'revolution' usually stirs imagery of angry mobs and armed soldiers. But the biggest revolutions in my lifetime have been dramatic changes in attitudes about war and peace, love and sexuality, gender and race, individual freedom and lifestyle.

In the 1960's 'the revolution' happened in the collective mind-space created by popular music. Teens like me would retreat into the privacy of our bedrooms alone or in small groups to play 45s full of brave new ideas. Millions of small revolutions were occurring across the world with every spin.

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For me it started with 'Eve of Destruction' by Barry McGuire (wrtten by P. F. Sloan). Holy shit, I thought, you can really say that stuff in a song? I'd heard ban the bomb protest songs before but this was musical shock and awe. 

I was 10 and the anger, emotion and truth of 'Eve' was light-years beyond the platitutes I heard from my parents' generation about war, racism, and even terrorism. They were stuck listening to The Rat Pack and Broadway musicals, and though 'Finian's Rainbow' and 'West Side Story' played their part in advancing social change too, they were calibrated and not quite revolutionary.

Some went to Vietnam some went to Ontario
The nasty old world kept coming through my stereo
'Til millions of students said enough is enough
After four in Ohio fell dead in a puff

The second verse recalls the Kent State killings. In 1970 there was already a large anti-Vietnam war protest movement, but the murder of four students by the National Guard galvanized the cause and drove more than 4 million people into the streets. It hastened the end of the war, yet there is no national day of remembrance to those martyrs.

What we do have is Neil Young's song 'Ohio' which continues to be played thousands of times every day across the world. The record has done some heavy lifting over the years, single-handedly keeping Kent State in our consciousness long after the headlines faded. 

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They started dancing a revolution
Where the boys and girls could make their own solutions
And everyday people started to win it
At 45 revolutions every minute

The village people

'Lola', by The Kinks, was a hugely popular and subversive song. She danced her way into the soul of every cool kid before they figured out the subject was cross-dressing and homosexuality. Teens everywhere accepted 'Lola' as their favorite song despite any homophobic tendencies they may have had.

The gay community will regale you with stories about Cher, Madonna, and Lady Gaga, all well-deserved champions of the LGBTQ movement. But, sadly, you won't find many words written about Ray Davies' enormous impact.

Lola opened the doors for Queen and many openly gay artists. Verse three of '45 Revolutions' recognizes the Kinks' artful influence on society's acceptance of alternative lifestyles. There's also a sly nod to Sly and the Family Stone, the first fully integrated rock band, for their song 'Everyday People' which was about the futility of hatred.

Imagine a peace chant from a bed in Montreal
That touched Solidarity and Václav Havel
I'm pretty sure John Lennon undermined the Berlin Wall
Long before the cowboy took credit for the fall

The last verse gives credit where credit is due; to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 'Give Peace a Chance' and 'Imagine' had a huge and lasting impact on the world's psyche. Leaders from Pope John Paul II, to Lech Wałęsa, and Václav Havel have cited these songs as major influences. "Imagine there's no countries / I wonder if you can / Nothing to kill or die for / A brotherhood of man".

And the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

There were "45 revolutions every minute" as people all over the world internalized new ideas promoted in popular music.

Berlin wall

It was a revolution
A dollar at the record shop was my contribution
Fuzz-box… needle drop… you could spin it
At 45 revolutions every minute

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