Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Charlie Don't Surf"/From Apocalypse Now to Sandinista Back Then, and Now to Iraq

In the process of uncovering anti-war or dissenting songs that get co-opted (and yes, I have yet to post on Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" or Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.", though at least the former is mentioned in the book, Behind the Lines), I found an instance where a vaguely pro-war statement & representation comes to be made into a song against war: The Clash's "Charlie Don't Surf," from the endless three-album Sandinista (1981). In Apocalypse Now, one of those movies that first looks pro-war, then looks anti-war, then looks pro-war again, the following interchange occurs:

Kilgore: You either surf or you fight.
Willard: Are you crazy God damnit? Don't you think its a little risky for some R&R?
Kilgore: If I say its safe to surf this beach Captain, then its safe to surf this beach. I mean I'm not afraid to surf this place, I'll surf this whole fucking place!
Kilgore: Charlie don't surf!

You can watch The Ride of the Valkyries scene in case you missed the movie.

The Clash then recorded their song, a version of which they play here:

Charlie don't surf and we think he should
Charlie don't surf and you know that it ain't no good
Charlie don't surf for his hamburger Momma
Charlie's gonna be a napalm star

Everybody wants to rule the world
Must be something we get from birth
One truth is we never learn
Satellites will make space burn

We've been told to keep the strangers out
We don't like them starting to hang around
We don't like them all over town
Across the world we are going to blow them down


The reign of the super powers must be over
So many armies can't free the earth
Soon the rock will roll over
Africa is choking on their Coca Cola

It's a one a way street in a one horse town
One way people starting to brag around
You can laugh, put them down
These one way people gonna blow us down


Charlie don't surf he'll never learn
Charlie don't surf though he's got a gun
Charlie don't surf think that he should
Charlie don't surf we really think he should
Charlie don't surf

Charlie don't surf and we think he should
Charlie don't surf and you know that it ain't no good
Charlie don't surf for his hamburger Momma
Charlie don't surf

But, as is the rule, "Charlie Don't Surf" also has become something of a gaming title as well. In the following youtubed clip, you too can become a soldier, defined by the weapons that you hold in front of you, like a pair of ideological goggles into which you squint, trying to make out who to kill and who not to.


Christopher Kempf said...
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Christopher Kempf said...

If I'm not mistaken that's the warfare game the US Army put out last year. What's scary is that you can actually take about ten hits in that game before you die. Just like in life.

Philip Metres said...

Terrifying. Though I usually take twelve before I go down....