1971 | Rock
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“I'll tip my hat to the new constitution. -- Take a bow for the new revolution. -- Smile and grin at the change all around. -- Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday. -- Then I'll get on my knees and pray we don't get fooled again.”
- Pete Townshend wrote the song as a closing number of the Lifehouse project, which was a rock-opera intended to follow Tommy. It was ultimately cannibalized for other standard albums.
- This was the last song Keith Moon performed with the band.
- Townshend's study of Universal Sufism founder Inayat Khan's The Mysticism of Sound and Music, brought on a realization that synthesizers (a new thing) would allow him to communicate these ideas to a mass audience.
- The song hit #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was #84 on the Hot 100 for the year. In 1993 a live version by Van Halen hit #1 on the Billboard Rock Album Tracks chart.
THE HOT TAKES
The changelessness of politics. This song seems to say that there's something great about the American "revolution," but it has been lost because the public falls in line and gets fooled by the political class, no how nicely the words on the governing documents might be arranged. Both the Left and the Right are called out here. Condensing the whole down, it could simply say "Politicians always lie. Don't get fooled again!" But there's also a recognition here that even though some people are wise to this, there are enough in the dark that the cycle continues forever. Particularly striking is the reference to war: "We were liberated from the fold that's all; But the world looks just the same; And history ain't changed; 'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war." After all, how can you claim to be the land of the free when you are happy to enslave people to fight and die?
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Can you get more descriptive of the political theater that is the duopoly system than that? Makes me think of what has jovially been termed Wood's Law, “No matter who you vote for, you always get John McCain.” It's so true, and so sad. Many people are still so convinced that they can vote the country out of the mess it's in. Unfortunately, the two sides that have any relevance are exactly the same in their desire to rule over you. Neither side is concerned about freedom only about the next war and retaining power. The prevailing myth is that if the right person could just get elected then all could be made right and freedom could reign. Only that is a fantasy. There is no right person and you can never vote yourself free. The system is set up to perpetuate itself and grow its power. Educating people and thereby changing the culture is what is needed. It's not as easy to point to and say here and here we “won” like you can in party politics, but the change is real and lasting. We won't get fooled again when we rise above the desire to rule others by threat of violence.
Lunacy is defined by doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. At least that’s what common wisdom tells us. This song points out that very point in as simple a way as is possible. It lays out how we’re pitted against each other by the political class as a means of keeping us from organizing. They divide us by whatever narrative they can construct. I might add that they really outdid themselves with the intersectional politics movement. The granular way they can use our every attribute to create infinite subsets is truly remarkable. Where libertarians would argue the infinitesimal nature of those groups is the most important thing we have in common, the statists would try and convince us that groups are the most important definition, playing on our monkey brain‘s desire for teams. The worst thing is that if you pay attention it can can be seen over and over throughout history. People look to the next system as the one that’s gonna be perfect and save humanity. I’d argue there is no system that doesn’t use as its basis the very key to its undoing: power. Until that carrot is removed it’s gonna be the same story.