By Malcolm X Abram
CD remembers May 4,
Neil Young's `Ohio' starkly
missing on Kent State project. What's with Ramones
Akron Beacon Journal
The recent May 4 memorial services and events have come and gone
and many folks won't think about that shocking day in the spring of
1970 for another year.
Many young people, even those who grew up in this area, still
know little about the day beyond the basic facts that emissaries of
the United States government murdered four Kent State students --
Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder
-- and wounded nine more, and Neil Young wrote a song about it.
The May 4 Task Force, with the help of Sean Carlin, former Dink
member and current beatmaker for House of Sectionals, has produced a
double-disc compilation simply called The Kent State May 4 CD
Project. The collection features 36 tracks, mixing music from
area and national artists past and present, as well as interviews
with people who were there.
The first disc, titled ``Witnesses and Tributes,'' features
several songs in a variety of styles that directly address that day
and the people affected by it, such as the folk tunes Hey Sandy
by Harvey Andrews, and Kent by Kent duo Magpie, whose
Terry Leonino witnessed the shootings.
Former Kent State students Chrissie Hynde and Joe Walsh
contributed the Pretenders' Every Mother's Son and the
eight-minute Decades respectively. Singer/songwriter Holly
Near, The Numbers Band and the last Dink song ever recorded,
Down, described by Carlin as ``the song that got us kicked
off Capitol,'' are also included, as well as some instrumentals.
Disc two, dubbed ``Fellow Travelers,'' features more interviews
and mostly recent songs by area artists, including indie rockers
Full Wave Rectifier, ragtime blues guitarist Patrick Sweany and the
Pennsylvania rock rap group the Impossebulls, with Public Enemy
leader Chuck D. There's also a remix of Yoko Ono's Give Peace a
Chance and an audio collage from local music archivist supreme
One song that surprisingly doesn't appear is the most famous song
about May 4, Young's Ohio. ``We tried to get any version --
Neil Young's, Devo's, Dink's -- but we had to pull it because of
Young's publishing (company),'' Carlin said. ``It's weird, you know,
for a guy who once said if he'd written that today he'd give the
proceeds to the families. We just couldn't get it.'' He surmises
that the request never made it to Young himself.
Even without the signature song, The Kent State May 4 CD
Project is a worthy collection for a worthy cause. Since
Cleveland record label Telarc underwrote the entire project and Sony
pressed the CDs for free, 100 percent of the compilation's sales
will go to The Kent State May 4 Commemorative Student Activism
Scholarship Fund. It's available for $20 at http://dept.kent.edu./may4/
and in some Kent record stores.
Hey! Ho! Let's go shop!
The Ramones were certainly a successful band. No, none of them
got rich directly from being a Ramone, though Joey knew to how
wrangle a stock portfolio. They never had a hit album or even a real
hit song to boost their profile, and heroin isn't free, but their
influence on the thousands of bands that followed in their 22-year
wake is staggering.
Here's the thing: They no longer exist, but the Ramones brand and
the music lives on. Where?
Well, a few weeks ago my wife showed me a photo in a Kaufmann's
catalog of a young, clean-shaven young man in a Ramones T-shirt with
the classic eagle/names-in-a-circle logo. I'm not naive about
marketing, but it still managed to creep me out a little. The guy
had the vacant model smile, some goofy model pose and absolutely
none of the attitude that people who wear that shirt used to have.
It's just another logo, a visual shortcut for ``hip'' and/or
A few days later I found myself in Target, and there, at a
strategically important intersection, was a display featuring
reproductions of vintage T-shirts from the Rolling Stones, Led
Zeppelin and other ``heritage'' rock bands, along with, sure enough,
Shortly after that, whilst shopping in my local Walgreens, I
heard over the PA, nestled snugly between (I kid you not) Pat
Benatar's We Belong and Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire, the
Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop, already a jingle for a product I've tried
not to remember.
There was an older woman next to me in the lotion/soap aisle who
gently tapped her hand on the shelf to the beat until they got to
the ``Hey! Ho! Let's Go!'' battle cry, which caused her to glance
disapprovingly upward toward the speakers.
For a band who always thought they were writing good radio tunes,
I wonder if this would have been the kind of success they wanted.
Its songs featured in television commercials, and sporting events;
its logo stripped of any meaning in prominent retail outlets; and an
old woman and a black dude from East Oakland both doing their own
version of the Blitzkrieg Bop in a drugstore chain. If this
had all happened in 1983 (you remember '83, disco dead and buried,
synth pop on the rise, hair metal soon to be king) would it still be
It took 30 years, but perhaps this the ultimate crossover, the
zenith in mainstream acceptance. Chart success is fleeting (unless
you're Pink Floyd, Bob Marley or Tupac) but TV jingles, sporting
event soundtracks and customized business music services (seemingly)