Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Phil Ochs - I Ain't Marching Anymore

Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore
Carthage, 1965
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $2

I owned Phil Ochs’ All The News That’s Fit to Sing years ago and I’m fairly certain it ended up in a stack that got hawked. Recently I got obsessed with the band Kind of Like Spitting. Eventually, after working my way through their discography and came to an Ochs tribute album they recorded called Learn: The Songs of Phil Ochs. I found it remarkable how fitting it was for a guy who has made a career writing some of the best sad bastard songs I’ve ever heard to tackle some of the best protest music America ever offered up. I say that now, having reacquired a few of Ochs records and digging in. On a personal level, I’m an emotional sad bastard and I also have a million opinions about politics, morality, and social justice. It’s like all this stuff just stews and threatens to destroy me and I listen to a Kind of Like Spitting or a Phil Ochs or a Billy Bragg and it keeps the pot from boiling over. Bragg—who’s albums are typically half songs about getting dumped and half songs about miners or picket lines or whatever—is particularly fitting to my sensibilities, but Ochs is straight up taking on every injustice he can get his hands on and doing it with wit and outrage. He makes Bob Dylan seem like a pretty boy pretender on the protest song front and gets closer to the spirit of Woody Guthrie than Bobby D ever did (No offense to Bobby D, I love him, but Phil Ochs has more grit). That said, I kind of love this album. Ochs hates rips into everything. The draft, the death penalty, unions, Marxism, patriotism, the civil rights movement (“In Birmingham, tourist city of the South, you can bomb the church of your own choice with the apparent blessing of governor George Wallace,” read the notes for “Talking Birmingham Jam”), the State Department, and the American Politician (the “gutless master of procrastination with a maximum of non-committal statements and the barest minimum of action”). Some of it is dated to the sixties, but thematically almost everything can neatly be tied bow-like around modern American politics, foreign policy, and capitalist ventures. So it’s nice that Kind of Like Spitting did that Ochs tribute, because this shit is still as potent as it ever was and I regret not buying all of his albums when they came in this great big record buy at HPB a few months back. But I’m glad I got this one.

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