Hey Ronnie! Here are the top 10 anti-Reagan punk songs
Thirty years ago today, at 12:27 p.m. mountain time, John Hinckley, Jr., shot then-president Ronald Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Reagan, of course, survived the shooting, went on to easily win a second term against Minnesota Democrat Walter Mondale (after pwning Mondale in the debate) and had dozens of punk bands reference him in their vitriolic, riotous songs.
In that spirit -- and because Reagan is arguably the biggest punk icon of the '80s -- here are the ten best songs about Reagan, which would have never been written had one-time Evergreen, Colorado resident Hinckley Jr. succeeded in his psycho mission.
10. D.O.A. - "Fucked Up Ronnie"
Vancouver's D.O.A. got its start during the Carter years, and the band, as Kill From the Heart points out, was just as political as it was party-heavy, a combination that is all too rare these days (looking at you, Bono). Don't miss the excellent live version of this song, recorded just before the 1984 general election.
9. "Fistfight In The Parking Lot" - Crisis of Conformity/ SNL band
This SNL sketch aired in February 2010, and surprisingly, no enterprising young punk has made a bootleg single of it. This video is hilarious (thanks to Fred Armisen) and on-point musically (thanks to Armisen's punk history). Also, main Foo Fighter Dave Grohl (former drummer of D.C. hardcore band Scream) is on drums. Crisis of Conformity has an uncanny '80s hardcore schtick. It also gets bonus points for mentioning that other classic symbol of the Right: Alexander Haig, a reference so delightfully dated and now obscure that it's funny.
8. D.R.I. - "Reaganomics"
One of the best thrash bands Texas ever produced, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles also toured on the "Rock Against Reagan" tour (you thought we forgot?) along with another member of this list, the Dead Kennedys. This track is off the 1985 classic Dealing With It LP.
7. Direct Control - "Ronnie's Dead"
Off the 2006 You're Controlled LP, Richmond's Direct Control put this song second, making sure few would miss it. Side note: This is one of the best 12-inch punk records of the decade, you should buy it.
6. Wasted Youth - "Reagan's In"
The now-iconic cover of this 1981 EP drawn by Pushead (not sure if it was released before or after Reagan was shot, but we're guessing after), was originally that of Charles Manson, but changed to Reagan. This title track is also the first on the record, and while it's not as popular as others like "Fuck Authority" or "Teenage Nark," it's a great example of early '80s hardcore out West in L.A.
5. Suicidal Tendencies - "I Shot the Devil"
Arguably Suicidal's best song after the legendary "Institutionalized," this track's opening line actually goes, "I shot Reagan!" before launching into a lurching guitar and subsequent thrash. Venice vocalist Cyco Mike actually claims to have shot Anwar Sadat, John Lennon and the Pope in this jam, as well.
4. Government Issue - "Hey Ronnie"
This song was likely most heard in the '80s on the Flex Your Head compilation Dischord Records released and is high on the list for the catchiest chorus involving Ronald Reagan. Once you've heard it, you'll always remember it.
3. Dead Kennedys - "Bleed for Me"
"When cowboy Ronnie comes to town/Forks out his tongue at human rights/Sit down enjoy our ethnic meal/Dine on some charbroiled nuns," sneers Boulder, Colorado, native Jello Biafra in "Bleed for Me," the 1982 single by this legendary Bay Area band. One of the most political punk bands and certainly the most famous, the Dead Kennedys explicitly mention the president by name only once in a song, in this one.
2. Reagan Youth - "Reagan Youth"
The eponymous jam by this New York hardcore band and the late Dave Rubinstein is just as much Ramones as it is hardcore. While there was a reunion back in January 2009 (read this excellent write-up about it), this is Reagan-era punk at its simplest: "We are the sons of Reagan ...Heil!/Gonna kill us some pagans ...Heil!/The right's your sacred mission/Start an inquisition/Gonna purge the heathen minds!"
1. The Ramones - "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg"
This 12-inch import single, released in the fall of 1985, focuses on Reagan's visit to a German cemetery where members of the Nazi SS were buried. Sure this song is angry, but after cycling through the rest of the tracks on this list, it has a refreshing lack of blind rage and really feels like a protest song, written around a single specific action. This song gets under your fingernails while the rest only kick up dust. "By visiting the cemetery, Reagan sort of shit on everybody," Ramone told Mother Jones back then.
Next page: Honorable Mentions!
Bruce Springsteen - "Born in the U.S.A."
It's widely known that the Reagan re-election campaign in 1984 mistakenly used the Springsteen song as campaign jam, unaware that Springsteen was far from a Ronnie Republican.
The Minutemen - "If Reagan Played Disco"
This 1982 song by the SoCal band could easily fit on our list, but the song is more of a musician's number, and the lyrics feel like an afterthought: "If Reagan played disco, he'd shoot it to sh!t./You can't disco in Jack boots/Born, born on a white horse, he'd sing lame lyrics/And try to reach the working man."
Insurrection - "Reagan's Crusade"
This song is a solid hardcore number by Arizona's Insurrection, and the singer wears one of those novelty latex Reagan masks on stage. Love it.
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