The Washington Post today reported that a handful of musicians including R.E.M., Pearl Jam and Roseanne Cash have filed a Freedom of Information Act request that the military release the names of the songs that were played in the torture of terror suspects in Guantanamo. Coming on the heels of Hollywood's support for confessed child-molester Roman Polanski, it is comforting to know that entertainers are now worried about the melodies that those sensitive al Qaeda petunias in Cuba might have endured.
A thorough investigation into the correlation between contemporary music and false confessions is long overdue. Call me a socialist, but I have believed for decades that the Department of Justice should actively monitor Top 40 Hits because certain songs could lead upstanding citizens to confess to crimes that they did not commit.
This crisis in jurisprudence is a "teachable moment" demanding that decent Americans identify the offending music that imperils the very freedoms on which this country was founded.
What follows are 10 popular songs -- many from the 1970s when, as an adolescent, I first became aware of my own felonious impulses -- and the specific crimes that I would confess to if played to me by overzealous authorities:
1. "Feelings," by Morris Albert -- The Manson murders were always a mystery to me. I never bought the whole Helter Skelter/race war thing. The moment I heard Albert whining "whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings," I would have confessed, there at Jordan Miller's Bar Mitzvah, that at the age of seven, I flew from New Jersey to Los Angeles, and wiped out everybody. Manson was framed.
2. "I'm Not in Love," by 10cc -- It wasn't until the Internet, more than 20 years after I first heard this song, that I was able to Google the lyrics and get what they were whispering ("Big boys don't cry"). These days, when the song comes on the radio, I can actually smell the pot, and I'm not a drug guy. I'd admit to being on the grassy (heh) knoll in Dallas after two rounds of this bad boy.
3. "We Built This City," by Starship -- Really? You built a whole city on rock and roll? How, actually? I don't get it. Grace Slick (and Bernie Taupin, who wrote it) should know better. At least with "White Rabbit," I got that it was about hallucinogens so it didn't have to make sense. This puppy makes me want to hold a press conference and admit to erasing the 18 and a half minutes on Nixon's Dictaphone.
4. "Coward of the County," by Kenny Rogers -- No, Kenneth, if I wanted a good, commercial ass-whuppin' song, I'd go with Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around with Jim." It's fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. If the law played me "Coward," I'd confess to staging the Lindbergh kidnapping, the baby being alive, well, and playing Carpenters' songs at the Borgata in Atlantic City.
5. "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill -- You can actually develop diabetes listening to this warlock so you might slip into an altered state before the cops can extract a confession. How, exactly, can "the honesty" be "too much" (is there an empirical limit?), and how would touching cause it? Is that anything like "too much" corn syrup? Fine, so I engineered the Bubble Boy hoax.
6. "One Night in Bangkok," by Murray Head -- Just plain disturbing. Makes me feel guilty, like I did something awful, but I don't know what. Perhaps... masterminding Bernie Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme. That's right, Bernie's been wrongly imprisoned, officer. It was me.
7. "Anything" by Air Supply -- It is a proven fact that a person can actually lose brain cells listening to these guys, perhaps due to running out of air. Speaking of air, D.B. Cooper survived his airplane jump. I know this because he is me, and I've got the cash to prove it.
8. "Some Gave All," by Billy Rae Cyrus -- I have a thing about celebrities who mistake having thoughts with "giving" something. As a rule, famous people are "getters" not "givers," and the incessant self-regard gives me sinus trouble. To make it stop, I'd admit to provoking the Cambridge, Massachusetts police into wrongly busting the docile Henry Louis Gates, when it was I who threw the fit.
9. "Seasons in the Sun," by Terry Jacks -- Gratuitously depressing. There's enough suffering in this world to warrant a ban on songs that drop this kind of payload on you. When I hear "Seasons" on my favorite 70s station, it makes we want to commit espionage. So here you have it: I've been selling nuclear secrets to Iran. Sorry.
10. William Shatner's cover of "Rocket Man," by Elton John -- This is a tricky one because I think Shatner is a genius. I admit that I have called up this ditty on YouTube on more than one occasion. In fact, I may have even downloaded it -- illegally. You know all that piracy the entertainment industry is worried about? There's one guy who's got it all on his hard drive: This guy.
To my fellow pop music civil libertarians, all I can say is don't allow one of Casey Kasem's black bag operations use Barry Manilow against you. We all know that down deep, there is something inside that secretly likes "Mandy." And to my celebrity friends, when you're accused of something, just do what David Letterman (who I extorted after the Feds played me "Moonlight Feels Right") did and admit to being creepy.
After all, sometimes the honesty's too much.