Marching to Utopia

by Brad Nelson   11/22/13

I have been tasked by my musically-talented older brother to write lyrics for a song for him to put music to. Although we are not that far apart in age, in terms of generations, he’s truly a product of Dylan and I’m more a product of Fleetwood Mac. I’m afraid that I would do what Lennon accused McCartney of doing and that is writing “granny songs.”

I’m ambivalent regarding this task. I come from the perspective that most of the “high ideal” stuff from the 60’s was indulgent BS, a way, if anything, of extending adolescence (as has been done) by writing about utopia (“Imagine all the people…”) as well as turning reality itself into a great big paranoid fantasy in which those who opposed Communism (or just supported traditional values) are tought to be stodgy, unenlightened, Nixonian squares.

Maybe Don McLean had it right that when sex and drugs (and even a latent satanism) became infused in music, it was the day the music died. Or as Frank Sinatra said of rock ‘n’ roll: “The most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear.”

Frank and Don overstate things. But what I don’t think is overstated is just how many unhealthy conceits and delusions are wrapped up in the “protest” music of the 60’s. Yes, Bob Dylan was extraordinarily talented. But has that 60’s vision made the world better? I don’t think so.

To quote another sixties writer, “We’re on the eve of destruction.” Indeed, we probably are, and in large part thank to the 60’s mentality. Mark Steyn with his prescient book, “America Alone,” thus might be our generation’s Barry McQuire as he gives warning to where our debt, socialism, and the loss of belief in our own culture is leading us. And this is in the context of the “socially enlightened” Stings, Bonos, and Madonnas of the world who are, in contrast, merely faddish posers, feeding the conceits of low-information voters while doing nothing truly enlightening or constructive.

So this is a somewhat difficult task for me because I don’t think I share the same vision as my older brother. Plus, it’s been quite a while since I did any serious poetry. The music died in me some time back. Now, don’t take that as serious as it sounds. To have the Muses working inside you is a joy and a privilege. But they don’t stay forever. They come and go as they please. And right now, I think they are mostly dormant.

Still, perhaps through sheer will and cleverness, one can still take up the task. And much of writing isn’t as glamorous as having the Muses buzzing around in your head. It’s about slogging through it. Writing is indeed an exercise and by doing it muscles are indeed strengthened. And thus the task may not always be any more pleasant than getting down on the floor and doing forty pushups, but it is still worthwhile.

So, anyway, this is my first effort at being Bernie Taupin to Ron’s Elton John. The chorus is pilfered from this old standard and the song is meant to retain that string of music. But only for the chorus. The rest will be up to my brother.

We were Marching to Utopia

We were marching to Utopia
We were marching to Utopia
Utopia, hoorah!

We wanted to change the world
But we forgot to change our own head
We wanted peace and love
And flew to Hanoi instead

Enlightenment was our dream
Our hearts filled with rising hope
But when it came time for a higher plan
We simply rolled out the dope

We were marching to Utopia
We were marching to Utopia
Utopia, hoorah!

We had our dreamy Camelot
The myth of Kennedy and Kent
Our high ideals were opposed
By people considered less than men

We threw the bottles and the rocks
Re-imagined as star-spangled streamers
But in this tune were Lenin and Marx
Despite the conceits of the dreamers
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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4 Responses to Marching to Utopia

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I’m afraid I don’t know “Marching to Pretoria” well enough to fully appreciate this, bit nice. I notice a little hint of the Beatles’ “Revolution”, which is certainly apt. Note that Barry McGuire later went into religious music and started doing a different version of “Eve of Destruction”. (I have an updated parody based on it in the upcoming issue of FOSFAX, which has been delayed by an arthritic flare-up in my right wrist).

    You might also find it interesting to see if you can locate a copy of Elvis Shrugged by Pat McCray, a strongly libertarian-conservative look at modern music.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Timothy, there’s a link to that song above but I’ll include it again: Marching to Pretoria. I remember first singing this in junior high, I think. But it’s a vague memory.

      And I’ll definitely take a look at “Elvis Shrugged.” That sounds interesting. Thanks.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        I’m with you and you’re with me and
        so we are are all together,
        so we are all together,
        so we are all together,

        Sing with me, I’ll sing with you and
        so we will sing together,
        as we march along,

        We are marching to Pretoria

        You really brought back memories of grade school music class.

        The song was written about or during the Boer War, if I recall correctly. Very easy to sing.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Okay, in the spirit of the subject, I re-imagined a John Lennon song:


    Imagine there’s no profit
    It’s easy in a daze
    No income gap above us
    Twenty dollar minimum wage
    Imagine all the workers
    Living on EBT…

    Imagine there’s no corporations
    And no McDonald’s too
    Nothing to grill or fry for
    A vegan wonderland zoo
    Imagine all the workers
    Occupying all Wall Street…

    You may say I’m a Marxist
    But I’m progressively quite nice
    I hope someday you’ll vote Left
    And join the worker’s paradise

    Imagine no testosterone
    And only girly-man
    No need for spine or struggle
    A sisterhood Peter Pan
    Imagine all the workers
    Sitting down when peeing….

    You may say I’m a Marxist
    But I’m progressively quite nice
    I hope someday you’ll vote Left
    And join the worker’s paradise

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