Saturday 21 March 2015

"Damn the Dam" - John Hanlon (1973)


WHILE WE’RE DEBATING the economic competence, or otherwise, of the four candidates vying to become the male co-leader of the Greens, here’s a blast from the past from John Hanlon.
Damn the Dam was released in 1973, and tunefully encapsulates just about all of the sentiments that propelled the Values Party into the forefront of progressive New Zealand’s imagination during the General Election campaign of 1972.
The Values Party can lay a pretty solid claim to being the world’s first “green” party. (Which is why I found it so odd that only Gareth Hughes was willing to cite one of its earliest members, Jeanette Fitzsimons, as his personal political hero!) But, as Hanlon’s song clearly illustrates, it carried within it, almost from the moment of its birth, the inherent contradiction between the needs of the natural and the human worlds.
As my wife puts it (rather brutally I’m afraid): “I’d rather have cheap power than the bloody fantail!”
Even within the ranks of the late (and, by some, lamented) NewLabour Party, the comrades rapidly sorted themselves into the “Red-Green” and “Smokestack” factions.
In the end, just about all political struggles boil down to a set of arguments based upon giving “power” – however narrowly or widely defined, to “the people” – however narrowly or widely defined. “Tiny animals, little birds as well” don’t get much of a look-in. Which is why Russel Norman was so emphatic in his insistence that the Greens must learn to speak the language of human priorities, aka “Economics”.
Still, it’s a lovely song.
Video courtesy of YouTube.
This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.


Anonymous said...

I guess all you lefties were too out of it on hallucinogenic drugs to note the details of where this miraculous talking fantail came from and what became of it.

Maybe a cat ate it?

CarolynS said...

Just to add to the political complexity. The Damn the Dam song was originally written as a commercial for NZ Fibreglass, which was lobbying the government about home insulation.

And that is about environmentally friendly technological progress - but could also be seen as a co-option of environmental politics for commercial benefits.

Chris Trotter said...

That's a splendid expansion of the moot, Carolyn! Thank you.

Brewerstroupe said...

Damn the Dam hit my ear as one of the first fully rounded home-grown hit songs in New Zealand. It had a truly international feel and none of the cringe factor common to most previous efforts. Still holds up.
If I remember rightly, Hanlon worked for MacHarman Advertising, a Bob Harvey creation at the time and I see he is still in that industry in Australia where he re-located not long after his success with that album.

Anonymous said...

Blast from the past. In 1975 John Hanlon approached the Values Party (I was the organiser for the election that year)and offered a song he had written for us, for the election campaign. As he was under contract he couldn't sing it but that wasn't a problem. "Its a question of Values" also got a reasonable amount of play time on radio, the word Party was not used in the song, which was pretty good.

B'art Homme said...

And just because anonymous actually founded the first green party here on earth... here is a little sympathetic along the same lines in c.1988 The Beating of the HeartlaNZ...