Despite what your mom and dad may say, there’s no such thing as the “good old days.” Life’s never been perfect. That being said, things in 2017 have definitely been crazier than usual.
When you flip on the news and see the daily doom and gloom report of potential nuclear war with North Korea, Nazis marching in the streets of American cities, President Trump’s bizarre behavior and climate change related destruction in the Caribbean and south American coast, even the most rational person would come to the conclusion that we were living in the end times.
With that being said, here are some songs that would make for a good EP as Rome burns to the ground…
1. “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire (Dunhill, 1965)
For a protest song from 1965, this track seems to be shockingly relevant to the world of today. Combining elements of Dylan-esque folk and the wall of sound from Phil Spector’s renowned “Wrecking Crew”, Barry McGuire’s heartfelt singing about Asia, the Middle East and racism in the USA sounds like he could be talking about ISIS or Kim Jong Un.
It also does a good job of chastising those who would rather ignore the world’s problems rather than work to solve them. The only noticeably dated lyric in “Eve of Destruction” would be the line “You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’,” since it was written before the passing of the 26th amendment.
Before then, under-21-year-olds who didn’t even have any political say where being drafted and sent to die in the jungles of Vietnam. Thank god that doesn’t happen anymore!
2. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. (I.R.S., 1987)
Along with “Finest Worksong” and “The One I Love,” “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” was one of the lead singles on R.E.M.’s fifth studio album Document. Musically, the song is partially inspired by Bob Dylan’s 1965 track, “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” In the same vain of that song, it’s a stream of consciousness rant about the modern world and was inspired by a dream that lead singer, Michael Stipe, had about a party in which he met a bunch of famous people that all had the initials, “LB” (Lenny Bruce, Leonard Bernstein, Lester Bangs and Leonid Brezhnev).
In 2001, the song was part of the infamous list of tracks banned from airplay on radio stations owned by Clear Channel in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. 11 years later, sales of the song shot up on anticipation of the supposedly oncoming Mayan Apocalypse. For a song about the end of the world, the melody is surprisingly optimistic. If you need a calm-down tune once the missiles start flying, this would be it.
3. “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)” by The Temptations (Gordy, 1970)
For most of the 1960’s, Berry Gordy’ creative control over Motown artists kept them from writing more socially conscious songs. After the Detroit Riots in 1967, followed by the continued decay of the motor city, that all changed and Motown started putting out more tracks that were hip to what was happening politically in the United States and the world at large, like Edwin Starr’s “War” and this song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and sung by the Temptations.
As the Funk Brothers lay down a hard groove, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams sing about segregation, gun control, suicide, taxes and the urban struggle as the band plays on. The song has been covered by the likes of Tina Turner and Duran Duran, and it has been sampled by J-Dilla, Easy-E and Ice Cube.
4. “The Motor City is Burning” by John Lee Hooker (ABC Bluesway, 1967)
John Lee Hooker may have been functionally illiterate for most of his life, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know what was going on. That’s why he penned this dark, talkin’ blues song about the Detroit Riots and raps about the National Guard throwing tear gas at protesters and occupying the city like a war zone as the Motor City’s neighborhoods burned to the ground. This track was most famously covered on the live debut of fellow famous Michigan artists MC5 when it appeared on their album Kick Out the Jams in 1968.
5. “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin (Atlantic, 1971)
Closing out this hypothetical world ending EP is this Zeppelin track that appeared on their untitled fourth album in 1971. This track was originally written and released by Kansas Joe McCoy & Memphis Minnie on a 78 RPM shellac back in 1929 and was written about a great flood that took place in Mississippi two years earlier.
Although they didn't orginally write the song, Led Zeppelin make it their own with the dynamite rhythm section of John Paul Jones’ Bass and John Bonham’s drums, Jimmy Page’s eerie bottleneck electric slide guitar and Robert Plant’s punching harmonica and a screeching Blues-Rock vocal.