Careful What you Wish for, Sheryl

Sheryl Crow should be careful what she wishes for. Iain’s post on her green evangelist mission with Laurie David reminds me of a similar proposal that the late Frank Zappa made back in 1979, at the height of the Iran oil crisis: outlaw music.

Remember, that was before CDs, so the way to buy music was on vinyl records, but LPs weren’t the only thing in the music business consuming oil — there’s also the gas-guzzling buses and trucks that performers use to move themselves, and their equipment, around on tour; and don’t forget about all the energy expended during an average concert to power amps, lights, etc.

As Frank put it in the opening track to his pseudo-dystopian rock opera Joe’s Garage:


It is my responsibility to enforce all the laws that haven’t been passed yet. It is also my responsibility to alert each and every one of you to the potential consequences of various ordinary everyday activities you might be performing which could eventually lead to The Death Penalty (or affect your parents’ credit rating). Our criminal institutions are filled with little creeps like you who do wrong things . . . and many of them were driven to these crimes by a horrible force called MUSIC!

Our studies have shown that this horrible force is so dangerous to society at large that laws are being drawn up at this very moment to stop it forever! Cruel and inhuman punishments are being carefully described in tiny paragraphs so they won’t conflict with the Constitution (which itself is being modified in order to accommodate THE FUTURE).

I bring you now a special presentation to show what can happen to you if you choose a career in music…

What follows is a tale of a series of letdowns and heartbreaks by the protagonist, Joe, leading to the ultimate application of the precautionary principle:

Eventually it was discovered that God did not want us to be all the same. This was bad news for the Governments of the World… Mankind must be made more uniformly if THE FUTURE was going to work out… It was about this time that someone came up with the idea of TOTAL CRIMINALIZATION, based on the principle that if we were ALL crooks we could at least be uniform to some degree in the eyes of the law. Shrewdly our legislators calculated that most people were too lazy to perform a REAL CRIME. So new laws were manufactured making it possible for anyone to violate them at any time of the day or night… which is one of the reasons why music was eventually made ILLEGAL.–Frank Zappa, liner notes from Joe’s Garage, Acts 2

This is absurd, of course, just like Sheryl Crow’s suggestions for rationing toilet paper or showering only once a week, but with two major differences: Frank Zappa wasn’t pushing a trendy agenda, and he was genuinely funny.