It should perhaps not come as too much of a surprise to realise how inextricably the gun is embedded in US culture, in a way that it just isn’t here in the UK. We – that is, the general populace – neither have them nor want them. One of the things which divides us.
Let’s begin with Lou Reed, sardonic, deadpan, telling us about the man with The Gun, an archetypal figure perhaps, a villain certainly. How sweetly and seductively the intro begins, how very quickly the menace grows.
Next, here are Aerosmith, and here’s another villain, an abusive father. Janie’s Got A Gun – and she’s used it.
Another lady with a gun, Susanne Sundfør. Does it have a Silencer? It’s certainly silenced her unfaithful partner. He’s at the bottom of the swimming pool.
If you already have a gun, Tom Waits has Just The Right Bullets for you. He’s very persuasive, but the forest where you want to go hunting has broken glass and rusty nails. Don’t listen to him.
Here are Richard and Linda Thompson, and here’s young man with a gun. He hides in the darkness, keeps his finger on the trigger, and wishes that he could Shoot Out The Lights.
In the next song, another young man, Louis Collins, has met his perhaps inevitable fate, leaving his poor mother to grieve. Mississippi John Hurt tells the story.
Next, a song still shockingly relevant 55 years after it was written. I’m sure people will see parallels and resonances both in the US and here in the UK, but let’s not be too specific. It’s about a poor white man who commits a racist murder. But, as Bob Dylan tells us, he’s not to blame – well he is, actually, Bob, but you’re right – he’s Only A Pawn In Their Game, ‘they’ being politicians and others who stand to profit from racial conflict.
Gang Starr’s Tonz of Gunz is a cry of rage and despair at the prevalence and competitiveness of gun ownership in the US, and the feeling that you have to have one because everyone else does.
Black Uhuru’s song reports that the situation is much the same amongst The Youth of Eglington – and Kingston, and Brixton. They’re not about to relinquish their guns either.
Neneh Cherry’s protagonist lives in a Shotgun Shack, a scene of domestic violence. “Pick up a gun you know you gonna use it,” she sings. That’s the problem, it’s all too easy.
In contrast, the boy in Ben Watt’s song, The Gun, lives in a gated community, well protected by patrol cars and razor wire. It doesn’t save him from a stray bullet. A pertinent question:
Who decides who holds and who doesn't hold the gun
And who's going to solve it with another one?
A personification of war and gun violence stalks through the next song. His name is John the Gun, and he has a warning for all those who cross his path. Written and sung by Sandy Denny.
Fatima Al Qadiri, as a child, was living in Kuwait at the time of Operation Desert Storm. Only a year later, a video game, Desert Strike, came out, which was based on these events. She and her sister played it, an experience which she found very disturbing. Twenty years later, she composed this piece of the same name.
Full Ammunition A-List Playlist:
Lou Reed - The Gun
Aerosmith - Janie’s Got A Gun
Susanne Sundfør - Silencer
Tom Waits - Just The Right Bullets
Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights
Mississippi John Hurt - Louis Collins
Bob Dylan - Only A Pawn In Their Game
Gang Starr - Tonz of Gunz
Black Uhuru - The Youth Of Eglington
Neneh Cherry - Shotgun Shack
Ben Watt - The Gun
Sandy Denny - John The Gun
Fatima Al Qadiri - Desert Strike
Blast ‘n’ Bang B-list Playlist:
Lotte Lenya, Wolfgang Neuss – Kannonensong
Spectrum feat. Captain Memphis - The Lonesome Death of Johnny Ace
Carole King – Smackwater Jack
The Felice Brothers - Frankie’s Gun
Charged GBH - Gunned Down
The Oyster Band - Molly Bond
Memphis Minnie - Me and My Chauffeur Blues
Ted Nugent - Motor City Madhouse
Peter Gabriel - Family Snapshot
Bob Marley - I Shot the Sheriff
Mr Benn feat. Tenor Fly - No More Guns
The Cranberries - Zombie
10,000 Maniacs - Gun Shy
Guru’s Wildcard Pick:
It seems especially appropriate now, a century after the First World War ended. The is about a Devon gamekeeper who fought in that war. Guns feature.
Show of Hands – The Keeper
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Bang! Trigger your ideas for: songs about shooting. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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