How “Woke” is the Boston Pops?

 

I grew up near Boston, saw the Boston Pops a number of times as a kid (I especially remember thrilling to their live performance of the fabulous Peter Gunn Theme . . . correction made by author).

Boston had a remarkable role in our revolutionary times, home to Samuel and John Adams, the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s ride, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and other amazing histories. For years it has been an Independence Day tradition for the Boston Pops to perform a long outdoor concert from the Esplanade on the Charles River, ahead of the spectacular fireworks, and when they start, to provide incredible music to accompany the show above.

This year, after watching the Salute to America, a stirring and powerful display of gratitude to the armed forces and others who serve, and ahead of any local fireworks out here on the Left Coast, still hours away from darkness sufficient for fireworks, I thought I’d take in a bit of the Pops on TV.

What did I see? Arlo Guthrie, days away from his 72nd birthday, with long stringy gray hair which made him resemble Brent Spiner’s Dr Okun in the ’96 Independence Day film. OK, but what was he singing?

“Comin’ in to Los Angeleees | bringin’ in a couple of keys| Don’t touch my bags if you please | Mr. Customs man”

Hm. For the uninitiated, “keys” refers to kilos, and in the time of that song, 1969, it most assuredly referred to marijuana.

So the song is about a dope smuggler on a plane “coming in from over the border” with 4.4 lbs of illegal drugs and hoping not to get caught.

In the midst of daily news about illegal border smuggling of drugs, not to mention meth, the opioid crisis and deaths, and the attacks on the border and customs people who try to keep us safe, I ask:

Who thought that song a proper choice for the 4th?

Thank you for listening. Here ends the rant.

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There are 31 comments.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor

    You have a point, but by now it’s kind of like, why does country music make light of Southern drivers doing moonshine runs? It’s lost the context in which it was a real bad thing. 

    • #1
    • July 6, 2019, at 4:45 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  2. EJHill Podcaster

    Arlo isn’t any more appropriate than Daddy Communist. He wants an authoritarian mother state. The country boys want the guvmint revnooers off the people’s backs and out of their flasks. And that’s always appropriate.

    • #2
    • July 6, 2019, at 5:13 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  3. Fritz Member
    Fritz Post author

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    You have a point, but by now it’s kind of like, why does country music make light of Southern drivers doing moonshine runs? It’s lost the context in which it was a real bad thing.

    @garymcvey:

    I agree competely. We are inured to the banality of this kind of bad stuff. Heck, I even owned Arlo’s album, back in the day, which contained this song.

    So, in this particular instance, it was just such a jarring cognitive dissonance between the fabulous shared love for America I’d just watched on the Salute to America, and then immediately upon switching channels, hearing Arlo sing the particular lyrics I quoted.

    It just stuck in my craw for all the intervening hours since (also it is a catchy tune), till I just had to express it, and Ricochet is my “safe place.”

    Cheers!

    • #3
    • July 6, 2019, at 6:47 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  4. Gary McVey Contributor

    You came to the right place, Fritz! I understand the spirit of your post. I look forward to the next one, too. 

    • #4
    • July 6, 2019, at 7:31 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. DonG Coolidge

    Boston must atone for enabling AOC to enter our public space. 7 plus 7 years of Guthrie.

    • #5
    • July 6, 2019, at 9:20 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. dnewlander Member

    Who the hell thought that song a proper choice for the 4th?

    The same people who used John’ Lennon’s Imagine as the finale for the Lake Union fireworks show on Lake Union back in 1995, I’m guessing.

    • #6
    • July 6, 2019, at 11:26 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. dnewlander Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    Who the hell thought that song a proper choice for the 4th?

    The same people who used John’ Lennon’s Imagine as the finale for the Lake Union fireworks show on Lake Union back in 1995, I’m guessing.

    Or at least the ones who chose a Chad Kroger song (a Canadian!) for the finale in Boston about a dozen years ago?

    • #7
    • July 6, 2019, at 11:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Randy Webster Member

    If I recall correctly, Arlo is a Republican.

    • #8
    • July 6, 2019, at 11:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. dnewlander Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    If I recall correctly, Arlo is a Republican.

    In the way Gary Johnson used to be?

    • #9
    • July 7, 2019, at 12:01 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Randy Webster Member

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    If I recall correctly, Arlo is a Republican.

    In the way Gary Johnson used to be?

    I read his justification once, but can’t remember it.

    • #10
    • July 7, 2019, at 12:03 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. MarciN Member

    We’re totally nuts here–extreme left, extreme right, and everything in between–but no one throws a better birthday party for the country than we do. And no one does Sousa better than John Williams. This will make you feel better. I love the way Williams conducts the audience here:

    • #11
    • July 7, 2019, at 11:24 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  12. Vance Richards Member

    I caught that the other night and commented to the family, “Probably not the best song selection for this venue . . .” He did do City Of New Orleans as well and do like that one.

    • #12
    • July 7, 2019, at 12:18 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Did you know that PBS did NOT broadcast the Washington DC Independence Day celebration like they usually do? We checked, and there was something from BBC World News on PBS on Thursday.

    Hey, Vance, here’s a rendition of City of New Orleans, by the original author, Steve Goodman. That’s how it’s really supposed to be done.

     

    • #13
    • July 7, 2019, at 12:40 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Barfly Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Did you know that PBS did NOT broadcast the Washington DC Independence Day celebration like they usually do? We checked, and there was something from BBC World News on PBS on Thursday.

    Not surprising, just a simple indication of who they see as their fellows. A lot of lefties are shedding the old pretenses nowadays. PBS left America ages ago.

    Predict what people and agencies of the left will do in any situation with this one principle: They will maximize their betrayal-to-cost ratio.

    • #14
    • July 7, 2019, at 3:22 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Front Seat Cat Member

    I always play my Pops CD on the 4th of July and tune in. I was so disappointed with last year’s show. It was very political, of course since the election. Still, tuning in for the 1812 Overture – who does it better?! Boston is a beautiful city with an amazing history – people should see it. I loved living there. Even when my political views changed and I changed parties in 2000, voting for Bush, I just became a political outsider, but still loved the place and still do!

    • #15
    • July 8, 2019, at 7:00 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  16. Front Seat Cat Member

    Barfly (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Did you know that PBS did NOT broadcast the Washington DC Independence Day celebration like they usually do? We checked, and there was something from BBC World News on PBS on Thursday.

    Not surprising, just a simple indication of who they see as their fellows. A lot of lefties are shedding the old pretenses nowadays. PBS left America ages ago.

    Predict what people and agencies of the left will do in any situation with this one principle: They will maximize their betrayal-to-cost ratio.

    I wanted to see the DC parade too and could not find it aired!

    • #16
    • July 8, 2019, at 7:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor

    MarciN (View Comment):
    We’re totally nuts here–extreme left, extreme right, and everything in between–but no one throws a better birthday party for the country than we do. And no one does Sousa better than John Williams. This will make you feel better. I love the way Williams conducts the audience here:

    What fun!! I don’t know whether I love Sousa or Williams more! And I was clapping along, too! Thanks @marcin!

    • #17
    • July 8, 2019, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. E. Kent Golding Member

    Alice’s Restaurant and City of New Orleans are both great songs by Arlo Guthrie. I try not to look at Art or Music through a political lense.

    • #18
    • July 8, 2019, at 5:26 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Arlo was a supporter of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2008.

    • #19
    • July 9, 2019, at 12:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Vance Richards Member

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Alice’s Restaurant and City of New Orleans are both great songs by Arlo Guthrie. I try not to look at Art or Music through a political lense.

    The Coming Into Los Angeles song is a fun song too, but for the 4th of July?

    • #20
    • July 9, 2019, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. She Thatcher
    She

    K, I’m a geezer, so humor me, please. John Williams was totally OK, but for real Boston Pops, there was, IMHO, only one conductor who really got the job done. The one my brother (who loved the orchestra, and was somewhere between the ages of five and ten through those years) used to hail, when he saw him on the TV on Evening at Pops, every Sunday night, with:

    Look! It’s Boston Pop!

    Not great video, or even audio, (and how hard it is to find for some reason), but with much heart:

    • #21
    • July 9, 2019, at 1:15 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Western Chauvinist Member

    She (View Comment):

    K, I’m a geezer, so humor me, please. John Williams was totally OK, but for real Boston Pops, there was, IMHO, only one conductor who really got the job done. The one my brother (who loved the orchestra, and was somewhere between the ages of five and ten through those years) used to hail, when he saw him on the TV on Evening at Pops, every Sunday night, with:

    Look! It’s Boston Pop!

    Not great video, or even audio, (and how hard it is to find for some reason), but with much heart:

    Sorry, She. It’s John Williams all the way. Also the best (movie) music composer of the 20th century up until Hans Zimmer claimed the mantel. 

    • #22
    • July 9, 2019, at 2:01 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. She Thatcher
    She

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    K, I’m a geezer, so humor me, please. John Williams was totally OK, but for real Boston Pops, there was, IMHO, only one conductor who really got the job done. The one my brother (who loved the orchestra, and was somewhere between the ages of five and ten through those years) used to hail, when he saw him on the TV on Evening at Pops, every Sunday night, with:

    Look! It’s Boston Pop!

    Not great video, or even audio, (and how hard it is to find for some reason), but with much heart:

    Sorry, She. It’s John Williams all the way. Also the best (movie) music composer of the 20th century up until Hans Zimmer claimed the mantel.

    Agree on the movie composer business. We’ll have to agree to differ (hopefully, or is it pistols behind the cathedral at dawn?) on the other business. I loved Arthur Fiedler myself. If nothing else, for this album (in the days when there were albums), which was one of my mother’s all-time favorites:

    • #23
    • July 9, 2019, at 2:06 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. Samuel Block Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Arlo isn’t any more appropriate than Daddy Communist. He wants an authoritarian mother state. The country boys want the guvmint revnooers off the people’s backs and out of their flasks. And that’s always appropriate.

    Arlo’s politics might actually surprise you. I’d say he’s got more in common with P.J. O’Rourke or Andy Ferguson than a Chomsky, etc.

    But, I agree, bad choice of song. He should’ve gone with “City of New Orleans” or “I want to be around” or even the Introduction song from his Washington County Album.

    • #24
    • July 9, 2019, at 2:14 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. I. M. Fine Inactive

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    We’re totally nuts here–extreme left, extreme right, and everything in between–but no one throws a better birthday party for the country than we do. And no one does Sousa better than John Williams. This will make you feel better. I love the way Williams conducts the audience here:

    What fun!! I don’t know whether I love Sousa or Williams more! And I was clapping along, too! Thanks @marcin!

    I agree; this is quintessential America. I actually had the crazy idea a few years ago to try and write lyrics to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” (Parts of the piece have been lyricized before – in fact, Sousa took a stab at it himself. But I decided to set every single note to music – including the piccolo part. Now that’s crazy.) My friend and colleague David Clydesdale agreed to orchestrate it and arrange it for chorus. Here’s a link to the recording we made (at a slightly reduced tempo from the original, of course) if anyone would like to have a grin and relive the Fourth. (And, of course, clap along.)

    https://www.jwpepper.com/sheet-music/media-player.jsp?&type=audio&productID=10015563

     

     

    • #25
    • July 9, 2019, at 2:57 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  26. MarciN Member

    I. M. Fine (View Comment):
    My friend and colleague David Clydesdale agreed to orchestrate it and arrange it for chorus. Here’s a link to the recording we made (at a slightly reduced tempo from the original, of course) if anyone would like to have a grin and relive the Fourth. (And, of course, clap along.)

    That was wonderful! Thank you. 

    • #26
    • July 9, 2019, at 4:27 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. MarciN Member

    She (View Comment):
    Not great video, or even audio, (and how hard it is to find for some reason), but with much heart

    Oh, my goodness. Thank you. That was wonderful.

    I wrote a post two years ago about the guys who do the cannons. It’s really something the way the city gets the bells of the Old North Church to ring at the right moment and the cannons and fireworks. It’s really awesome. 

    • #27
    • July 9, 2019, at 4:39 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. JoelB Member

    @imfine The choral version of “Stars and Stripes Forever” is magnificent. I hope that it will be sung in many choral program in the future. It is a potent antidote to the grim “take a knee” spirit of the perpetually offended.

    • #28
    • July 9, 2019, at 5:22 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  29. I. M. Fine Inactive

    JoelB (View Comment):

    @imfine The choral version of “Stars and Stripes Forever” is magnificent. I hope that it will be sung in many choral program in the future. It is a potent antidote to the grim “take a knee” spirit of the perpetually offended.

    Thank you so much, @joelb. Kind words. But I give the lion’s share of credit to the musical gifts of my collaborator. David and I also did a similar choral remake of Sousa’s “Liberty Bell,” which proved even more challenging than “Stars and Stripes.” (Lesson: Don’t try singing pieces that were written for orchestra.)

    • #29
    • July 9, 2019, at 6:46 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  30. Fritz Member
    Fritz Post author

    She (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    K, I’m a geezer, so humor me, please. John Williams was totally OK, but for real Boston Pops, there was, IMHO, only one conductor who really got the job done. The one my brother (who loved the orchestra, and was somewhere between the ages of five and ten through those years) used to hail, when he saw him on the TV on Evening at Pops, every Sunday night, with:

    Look! It’s Boston Pop!

    Not great video, or even audio, (and how hard it is to find for some reason), but with much heart:

    Sorry, She. It’s John Williams all the way. Also the best (movie) music composer of the 20th century up until Hans Zimmer claimed the mantel.

    Agree on the movie composer business. We’ll have to agree to differ (hopefully, or is it pistols behind the cathedral at dawn?) on the other business. I loved Arthur Fiedler myself. If nothing else, for this album (in the days when there were albums), which was one of my mother’s all-time favorites:

    This was the very album my parents used to introduce me to classical music. Seeing it after all these years brings a smile to my face.

    • #30
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:14 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
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