Make us your home page

Some of history's most notorious take-that albums aimed at specific bad guys

Just as every good guy needs a bad guy, a jukebox hero needs a dastardly villain now and then to feel alive, to feel relevant. • Case in point: Green Day, which snarls into the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa on Monday. Billie Joe Armstrong & Co. have spent a career railing against boredom, old people, etc. But it wasn't until 2004's Grammy-gobbling American Idiot when the Berkeley punk trio became one of the biggest, most vital bands on the planet. • That's no coincidence, either. Idiot has sold more than 14 million copies worldwide, mainly because it rails against a singular tangible, well-defined villain: George W. Bush. (Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and R.E.M. would also take musical shots at the 43rd POTUS. Rock stars loved him.) Maybe you agreed with this, maybe you didn't, but GD responded to what they saw as a threat, and the record-buying masses rallied in force to the album. • Green Day's newest release, 21st Century Breakdown, is even better artistically than Idiot, and yet it has failed to wow buyers. It's a love story, and while there's still political diatribes in its blood, the villain is amorphous, undefined. Hmm, maybe there's something to that adage: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. • With that in mind, here are some of history's most notorious take-that albums aimed at specific bad guys. • Do you know your enemy? • These acts sure did. — Sean Daly, Times pop music critic

Public Enemy

Do the Right Thing soundtrack (1989)


Elvis Presley John Wayne Ronald Reagan

Battleground: On the caustic cut Fight the Power, black rapper Chuck D rails against a clueless upper-crust majority (represented by the King, the Duke and the Gipper) that has little respect or compassion for life on the streets. This call to arms (plus the rest of the controversial album) remains flammable today.

Sample seething lyric: "Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant s--- to me you see / Straight up racist that sucker was / Simple and plain / [Expletive] him and John Wayne."

Marvin Gaye

Here, My Dear (1978)


Anna Gordy, sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy — and Gaye's soon-to-be-ex-wife.

Battleground: By this time in his career, Gaye's resources were dwindling — expensive clothes and cars, an even pricier cocaine addiction — so in divorce proceedings with Anna Gordy, he agreed to split half the royalties from his next project with her. Hence, the acidic Here, My Dear, a double album of nasty.

Sample seething lyric: "Memories haunt you all the time / I will never leave your mind / Got judgment on your side / You've said bad things and you've lied."

Sex Pistols

Never Mind the Bollocks . . . (1977)


The Queen

Battleground: With expectorated vitriol such as God Save the Queen and Anarchy in the U.K., ultimate one-and-done punks Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones and the London scags took violent aim at Buckingham Palace. It remains the purest blast of invective in the punk canon.

Sample seething lyric: "God save the queen / She ain't no human being / There is no future / In England's dreaming."

Bob Dylan

Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Enemy: Sara Dylan (aka Sara Lownds), his first wife

Battleground: For all the political arrows Dylan has zipped at warmongers, politicos and the like, his most pointed dissection of another soul came on this, the greatest breakup album of all time. From Tangled Up in Blue to Idiot Wind, the withering album focuses on the painful fissures of a crumbling marriage.

Sample seething lyric: "You're an idiot, babe / It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe."

Bruce Springsteen

Born in the U.S.A. (1984)


Ronald Reagan

Battleground: Like Dylan, the Boss has had myriad favorite targets over the years (two Bush presidents, ex-wife Julianne Phillips and so on). But we're going with this album. From the misunderstood title track to Cover Me to I'm on Fire, the iconic statement focused on what Springsteen perceived as apathy and alienation in the Reagan years.

Sample seething lyric: "The times are tough now, just getting tougher / This old world is rough, it's just getting rougher ."

Fleetwood Mac

Rumours (1977)

Enemies: Each other!

Battleground: Drugs, bed-hopping and broken hearts led this SoCal quintet of warring paramours — John McVie vs. Christine McVie! Lindsey Buckingham vs. Stevie Nicks! Googly-eyed Mick Fleetwood stirring the pot! — to explore their pain through such bittersweetly tasty cuts as Go Your Own Way and The Chain. It's the catchiest paean to romantic discord and wanting to claw someone's eyes out in history (and the sixth bestselling album of all time).

Sample seething lyric: "And if you don't love me now / You will never love me again / I can still hear you saying / You would never break the chain."

Sean Daly can be reached at or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at

Green Day

Singer/guitar player Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool will perform at 8 p.m. Monday at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Indie rock sensation the Kaiser Chiefs will open.

$22.25-$46.75. (813) 301-2500.

Some of history's most notorious take-that albums aimed at specific bad guys 07/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 30, 2009 7:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours