Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Greatest Anti-Revolution, Anti-Political Song

A thought for election day and the haters on both sides.

I consider that The Beatles song "Revolution" to be (to date) the greatest anti-street revolution, anti-political song ever written.

The real battle is a high-level intellectual revolution, the masses will follow along. And in almost all cases, a street revolution is not needed and often just dangerous. That is what this song, written by John Lennon, seems to convey. 

It is clearly anti-street violence right at the top:
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Then there is suspicion about revolutionary plans:
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan 
There is a major blowoff of monetary contributions:
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can
 But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
And here is where the sense that Lennon understood it is really an intellectual revolution and about individuals freeing themselves:
You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
And the close with its great diss of communism:
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow


  1. I think the line about Moa is an observation not a diss. See 'Imagine' for his views on communism.

  2. From the preface of “Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy”, by
    Walter Kaufman and dedicated to Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

    “To those whose minds are not liberated, wars, revolutions, and radical movements will never bring freedom but only an exchange of one kind of slavery for another. That is one of the most tragic lessons of the twentieth century.

    “Liberation of the mind is no panacea, but without it angry rhetoric and cruel bloodbaths are of no avail, and tyranny endures.”

  3. From a 1980 Playboy Magazine interview John Lennon said:
    “You look at the song and see my feelings about politics, radicalism and everything. I want to see the plan. Waving Chairman Mao badges or being a Marxist or a thisist or a thatist is going to get you shot, locked up. If that's what you want, you subconsciously want to be a martyr. You see, I want to know what you are going to do after you have knocked it all down. Can't we use some of it? If you want to change the system, change the system. Don't go shooting people.”

    There are multiple versions of the song. I think three different ones were released. Lyrically the big difference is the change from “in too” to “out” at the end of:

    But when you talk about destruction
    Don't you know that you can count me out

    Lennon explained this change:
    “The original version, which ended up on the LP, said 'Count me in,' too. I put in both because I wasn't sure. On the version released as a single, I said, 'When you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.' I didn't want to get killed. I didn't really know much about the Maoists, but I just knew that they seemed to be so few and yet they painted themselves green and stood in front of the police waiting to get picked off. I just thought it was unsubtle. I thought the original Communist revolutionaries coordinated themselves a bit better and didn't go around shouting about it.”

    Paul McCartney wrote about the song in his book “Many Years From Now,” “I think he wanted to say you can count me in for a revolution, but if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao 'you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.' By saying that I think he meant we all want to change the world Maharishi-style, because 'Across The Universe' also had the change-the-world theme.”