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Monday, May 04, 2009

Student Demonstration Time

When I first started this blog four yeas ago, someone asked me, some point after May 4, 2005, to write about Kent State. I'd written a paragraph about it, but I didn't have more to say. But now I do, and it's all about that maligned (by me, and others) Beach Boys song, Student Demonstration Time.

For it reminds me that ten days after that headline-grabbing Kent State, there was Jackson State, though it appears earlier in the Mike Love narrative.

The violence spread down South to where Jackson State brothers
Learned not to say nasty things about Southern policemen's mothers
Nothing much was said about it and really next to nothing done
The pen is mightier than the sword, but no match for a gun.

I always hated the glib tone of the second line, but now that I think on it, the third line was profound in its accuracy. How many of you who remember Kent State also remember Jackson State? I'm guessing not many, but it's not your fault.

America was stunned on May 4, 1970
When rally turned to riot up at Kent State University
They said the students scared the Guard
Though the troops were battle dressed
Four martyrs earned a new degree
The Bachelor of Bullets
I know we're all fed up with useless wars and racial strife
But next time there's a riot, well, you best stay out of sight

Well there's a riot going on
There's a riot going on
Well there's a riot going on
Student demonstration time

I was in high school at the time, but both Kent State and Jackson State had a profound effect on me. Fear, yes, but also a sense of resolve to keep up the struggle against "useless wars and racial strife". Yet this song, coming out a year after the events chronicled, totally undercuts it. Meh.

BTW, I found on the Internets lyrics to the song, but one source had replaced "The Bachelor of Bullets" with "badge of eternal rest". Was that just misheard lyrics or something else?


1 comment:

Johnny B said...

Re: the "Bachelor of Bullets" line, I think that's a case of a misheard line. Internet lyrics sites are full of mistakes like that. Most reputable sources (here's one) have it listed the way you initially heard it. It doesn't make much sense the other way, does it?

I've always been kinda ambivalent about this track; it seems like a desperate attempt by the image-conscious (esp. in 1971) Boys to cash in on the "socially relevant" phase that was all the rage in the wake of Marvin's "What's Goin' On". Mike Love's lyrics were mostly kinda clumsy and obvious, although there are a couple of pretty good lines like the one you mentioned- and the "Bachelor" line is a decent pun, although it does sound glib, always a problem with Mike. Still, it is catchy, just like the original track it was nicked from, and for someone that was 11 when it was released, doesn't quite have the same negative association as it would for some.