How Tito Sotto tried to ban the Eraserheads

- Dodo Dayao - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - McCartney eventually came clean. Sort of. About Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, that is. That was the song that had pundits rabidly claiming it was a Valentine to the drug its initials formed an acronym (of LSD, duh), an allegation corroborated in no small measure by the way its surreal imagery parsed as hallucinatory dispatch because what else can newspaper taxis appearing on the shore and waiting to take you in be?

Lennon did admit to nicking its enigmatic title from a drawing by then preteen son Julian and that the girl with kaleidoscope eyes was one of many thinly-veiled Lewis Carroll references. For the most part, though, John and Paul flatly denied it. But McCartney took it all back in a 2004 interview, going so far as to confirm, too, that Got to Get You Into My Life was about pot and Daytripper was about acid.

Given that the man does have a gift for flippancy, and tough as it is to tell if he was having a go or giving full disclosure, it really doesn’t take a genius to come to the same conclusion as the pundits. The trick, though, to quote Lawrence of Arabia, is in not minding. And frankly, nobody seemed to. Denials aside, and far as I know, nobody so much as lifted a finger to yank it off the radio. And now that the secret’s out, after a fashion, nobody really cares one way or the other.

Songs About Drugs

Chances are, Senator Tito Sotto is a Beatles fan. He was in a few rock and roll bands before he struck comedy gold, wrote political anthems, crossed over into lawmaking. It’s safe to assume that he must know the lay of the land, so to speak. That he understands how rock and roll, at its core, is founded on railing against the conservative mores of its time and that it was this rebel streak that has always been the endorphin surge for those of us who became its devotees, himself included.

He must be familiar with the surfeit of drug songs in rock and roll, some of which he may have dug — perhaps not the Velvet Underground’s Heroin but possibly Eric Clapton’s Cocaine or better yet, Phil Collins’ Tonight Tonight Tonight and definitely Juan De La Cruz Bands’ Project. And much as you can never, ever underestimate the gullibility of children, he must also know that you can’t pin blame on any of them and there’s little empirical evidence to back up the theory that rock and roll songs about drugs coerce people into taking them. He must also remember how nobody took these bands to task for it.

Junior Drug Watchers

Eraserheads Photo by Voltaire Domingo, NPPA Images

At least not in the way he almost did, in 1995, when he swooped in on the Eraserheads’ song Alapaap, spoiling to yank it off the air after the Junior Drug Watchers, whoever the hell they were, decoded its lyrics as rhapsodizing about a meth high, and brought them to his attention. Fangs were bared, not only to the Eraserheads but to Teeth and Parokya Ni Edgar, among others, including, inexplicably, Slayer. Pro-youth-slash-anti-drug was the flag he flew under back then. And rock and roll has always been the go-to scapegoat of any anti-drug campaign.

How terribly convenient, then, that, after years of harmless to the point of flaccid pop, there was this sudden resurgence of domestic rock and roll, of which the Eraserheads were the ubiquitous de facto point men, already something of a red flag for prudes after putting “p*tang ina” in the chorus of their most famous song. Sixty years after its insurgence into the popular consciousness, rock and roll remains this singular, dangerous thing that creeps parents out, as maybe it should — even a parent like Sotto, who has enough of a rock and roll bone in him to either know better or know too well.

The band got off the hook, sure. They wrote the Senator a letter explaining how the lyrics were misconstrued, declaring it a song not about drugs but about freedom, and he was gracious enough to back off. Of course, like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Alapaap could well be a drug song, except that it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter. Substance abuse is no joke of course. And substance abuse among the very young is practically at crisis point. But this persistent wholesale blaming of its profusion and incidence on popular culture not only drinks from the same teat as the hysteria that branded rock and roll as lies of the devil but is an outrage that’s not so much run out of targets but can’t figure out what they are and constantly pick on the wrong ones instead.

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Tweet me @dododayao.










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