The Lines Rally Against the Draft
The Syllabus, Northwestern's yearbook got it wrong, labelling the event as the "Draft Rally." In fact, it was a rally against a peacetime draft that had been proposed by California Republican Representative Paul McCloskey. Actually, it was part of H.R. 2206, entitled "A bill to establish a National Service System under which the young people of the United States shall have the choice of either entering voluntary military or civilian service or being subject to induction into military service by random selection." The bill was supported by Illinois' own Paul Simon (in the House of Representatives at the time) and liberal Patricia Schroeder of Colorado. Frank Zappa wrote a song mocking those against the draft. The chorus was "I don't wanna get drafted/Waaah, waah, waah, waah." There is a case to be made that a draft is a more democratic method of staffing the armed forces. It might be more equitable than an all-volunteer army, but I think the "chicken hawks" who got out of Vietnam service showed it wouldn't be too equitable for the powerful. On the other hand, a peacetime draft implies a war footing. But mainly, it wakes up the young people who might get drafted, and gives them something to rebel against. By the way, the bill never went anywhere.
While we were setting up our equipment, we noticed that the set list of the band playing before us included the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," which we intended to play as well. We tried to get the band, led by Randy, to drop the song, but they felt it was one of their best songs. We said we didn't have enough other songs to drop it, so we would both play it. They were a Dead-head type loose jam band with congas and such, while we were basically trying to be The Clash. Of course I thought our version went over better, though we were clearly not better musicians. It was like a manifestation of a transition in music styles, from the hippy turn-of-the-70s music to the punk/new wave turn-of-the-80s music. Not that we looked or acted like the "punks" of the time. We just played some of the music. Or maybe the contrast was mellow versus aggressive. Anyway, I think we only knew eight songs, maybe including these: Star-Spangled Banner, Purple Haze, Shattered, I Ain't Got You, Sympathy for the Devil, Hey Joe, Sinner's Song, Mystery Dance.
[see song list]
The highlight of our set (if I do say so myself) was the Star-Spangled Banner. It was only a decade after the Hendrix version, and it seemed the perfect choice for the event. But it was not the perfect performance by any means. I didn't even have a tremolo (whammy) bar - I was playing a Telecaster, and hadn't purchased the Strat yet. I learned the melody and did my best with the bombs and sound effects, but I wasn't that impressed myself. But the crowd was into it because of its appropriateness. Plus the concert was free, outdoors on a beautiful May Saturday, and there were hundreds of people there.
The Lines at the Rally Against the Draft, Northwestern University, May 12, 1979. The crowd reacting to The Star-Spangled Banner.
The Lines at the Rally Against the Draft, Northwestern University, May 12, 1979. Note the anti-McCloskey sign. (I think Neil may have taken both these photos.)