Long-haired musicians singing about their radical left-wing agendas is nothing new–everyone from Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie right up to Rage Against the Machine and Rise Against has been trying to Stick It to the Man through music. But it’s probably fair to say that no other band in the history of rock and roll ever got quite so pedantic about their politics as Red Shadow, a self-described “Economics Rock & Roll Band” who released two albums back in the Seventies called Live at the Panacea Hilton and Better Red before fading into obscurity.
Started by three dudes with PhDs in Economics, Red Shadow kind of sounds like what would happen to Schoolhouse Rock if the commies ever got ahold of it. There are catchy little ditties about stagflation and Karl Marx. They change the lyrics to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” into a satirecal attack on the conservative economists at the University of Chicago and MIT…and that’s one of the least pin-headed songs they ever recorded. They also wrote a song called “Commodity Fetishism.” I haven’t actually bothered to listen to it, but I’m assuming it’s about how commodities are bad.
Tragically (and if you detect a note of sarcasm here…congratulations!) Red Shadow broke up after their second album, but their legacy lives on. As of 2005, a new album compiling all of their collected works is available on CD Baby, and one of the alumns, Ev Ehrlich, has built a very succcessful carere for himself as a blogger, NPR commentater (wow, didn’t see that one coming) and an economic advisor to everyone from the Pew Center for Global Climate Change to the Major League Baseball Players Association (okay, actually, all kidding aside…I did not see that last one coming).
Fun side note: Red Shadow also used to be the name of a pre-pubescent, all girl rock band from Los Angeles. Apparently realizing at some point the vaguely Maoist associations that name conjured, they changed their name to the altogether far more appropriate Cherri Bomb. Here is a video of Cherri Bomb performing a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box.” They’re actually pretty good, but watching a bunch of 11-year-old girls called Cherri Bomb might, and indeed probably should, make you feel slightly icky inside.
Meanwhile, here’s a lecture…sorry, song…from the original Red Shadow, called “Understanding Marx.” Prepare to be indoctrinated!