Friday, July 9, 2010

Rockers Against Tobacco: Not Just Blowing Smoke (2006)

(As published in the Times of Acadiana ... )

Rockers Against Tobacco (R.A.T.), an impressively diverse collective of well-known rock and pop musicians, is about to do health-conscious music fans an enormous favor.

You Can't Buy Our Albums If You're Dead Vol. One, the first album on the R.A.T.-affiliatted Kiss My Ash Records, will hit stores this April and will be the first in a series aimed at (to quote the liner notes) "promoting death-free living among the music-buying public."

The collection features songs that allude favorably to cigarettes or smoking but with a twist: The newly re-recorded versions either demonize or expurgate the tobacco-friendly references altogether.

Most impressive of all, each song is performed by the act that made it famous--or at least as many members of that act who haven't yet succumbed to first or second-hand smoke.

"I believe I speak for all of us when I say that people who have to spend their life savings on chemotherapy or tracheotomies aren't going to have our latest boxed set of reissued recordings high on their list of purchasing priorities," says R.A.T. spokesman Lou Reed, a recovering smoker who contributed to You Can't Buy Our Albums a re-written version of his song 1984 song "Turn to Me."

"It used to go, 'When it's all too much, / you turn the TV set on and light a cigarette. / Then a public-service announcement comes creeping on. / And you see a lung corroding or a fatal heart attack. / Turn to me," says Reed.

"Now that verse ends 'Don't you dare turn to me, you [expletive deleted] scumbag."

Reed isn't the only big-name rocker to participate in R.A.T.'s maiden voyage. In "America," Simon & Garfunkel now ask "Kathy" to "toss [them] a Nicoderm." And the long-time clean-living Beach Boy Mike Love has redone Brian Wilson's "Johnny Carson" to include a line about a "cancer stick" (rhymes with "bound to make you sick") in reference to the beloved late-night comedian's carcinogen-related demise.

Likewise, Steve Miller's "The Croaker" ("I'm a smoker, / I'm a croaker ..."), Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Emphysema" ("I hate small butts and I cannot lie!"), and Ozzy Osbourne's "Iron Lung" (a new version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man") will almost certainly have listeners thinking twice before lighting up.

But not everyone who was invited to participate accepted.

Willie Nelson, for example, was slated to contribute a song called "Marlboro Men Are Frequently Secretly." Then he realized that many social services are funded by cigarette-sales taxes--and that therefore less smoking actually means less revenue for the underprivileged.

The country legend is now assembling an "answer" collection tentatively titled You Can't Keep 'Em on the Plantation Unless Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Volume One.

"By smoking more," writes Nelson at the Puffington Post, "Americans will be demonstrating the patriotic principal of taking one for the team."

Not surprisingly, Reed disagrees.

"Maybe he should just call his album With Friends like You, Who Needs Enemas," he says.

"What a butthead!"

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