I’ve always loved this song. “Ruby” breaks my heart every time. It’s amazing how topical popular music could be. What top ten hit today deals with shattered soldiers returning from an unpopular war in such a frankly disturbing manner?
The First Edition (later known as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition) was a country music/rock band stalwart members being Kenny Rogers (vocals & bass guitar), Mickey Jones (drums & percussion) and Terry Williams (guitar & vocals). The band formed in 1967, with noted folk musician Mike Settle (guitar and vocals) and the operatically trained Thelma Camacho completing the lineup.
The First Edition signed with Reprise Records in the summer of 1967 and first hit big in early 1968 with the pop-psychedelic single “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” (US #5). After several hits and misses the group (now billed as “Kenny Rogers and the First Edition”) once again hit the top ten in the summer of 1969 with the topical Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (US #6, UK#2).
For the next six years, the First Edition bounced between country, pop and mild psychedelia, enjoying worldwide success.
Steppenwolf’s “Monster_Suicide_America” is 40 years old, but sounds like it was written today.
Except the reality expressed in the song is worse now, making it more like prophecy come true.
Music was an important part of the culture. What has been lost saddens me. Fortunately, the industry as we know it, is dying
a not-so-slow death, so maybe something good will come of the demise.
Meanwhile enjoy the topical tunes. This stuff used to get played on the radio.
Monster is an album by the band Steppenwolf, released in 1969 (see 1969 in music) and was their first LP with new lead guitarist, Larry Byrom instead of Michael Monarch. The album was Steppenwolf’s most political one, making references to important issues at the time, such as the Vietnam War.
The title refers to the contemporary politics and state of the U.S., as in the lyrics to the title song:
“The cities have turned into jungles,
and corruption is stranglin’ the land.
The police force is watching the people,
and the people just can’t understand.
We don’t know how to mind our own business,
’cause the whole world’s got to be just like us.
Now we are fighting a war over there.
No matter who’s the winner, we can’t pay the cost.
‘Cause there’s a monster on the loose,
it’s got our heads into the noose.
And it just sits there… watching.”
The album was the first Steppenwolf album not to feature a US top ten hit, and can thus be seen as the beginning of their slow fall from fame. Even though this album, “Live”, “Steppenwolf 7” and “For Ladies Only” are today seen as making up the latter half of their ultimate prime, their days of “Born to Be Wild”-like fame were over. Still two singles from the album cracked the top 40, and Steppenwolf would continue landing albums in the US top 20 for a while yet, a factor that became more and more important during this time.
As seen above, the title track is a call for pacifism and a more ethical society. The tone, which can be seen as very provocative towards the political decisions of the US at the time, continues with “Draft Resister”, which glorifies draft resisters as heroes.