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Judas Priest on the Surveillance State

Listening the other day to one of my favorite rock bands from the 80s, Judas Priest, I was struck by the prescience of the lyrics to their great song Electric Eye, from their 1982 Album Screaming for Vengeance. Released almost 30 years ago, it eerily describes the Bush-Obama PATRIOT-act surveillance state:

Up here in space
I’m looking down on you
My lasers trace
Everything you do

You think youve private lives
Think nothing of the kind
There is no true escape
I’m watching all the time

I’m made of metal
My circuits gleam
I am perpetual
I keep the country clean

I’m elected electric spy
I’m protected electric eye

Always in focus
You cant feel my stare
I zoom into you
You dont know Im there

I take a pride in probing all your secret moves
My tearless retina takes pictures that can prove

I’m made of metal
My circuits gleam
I am perpetual
I keep the country clean

I’m elected electric spy
I’m protected electric eye

Electric eye, in the sky
Feel my stare, always there
Theres nothing you can do about it
Develop and expose
I feed upon your every thought
And so my power grows

I’m made of metal
My circuits gleam
I am perpetual
I keep the country clean

I’m elected electric spy
Im protected electric eye

Protected. detective. electric eye

According to Wikipedia, “&#147Electric Eye” is an allusion to the book Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, in the use of the name of the pseudo-omniscient satellite that watches over the community at all times. In this dystopia, the form of government, Ingsoc (Newspeak for English Socialism), is utterly totalitarian, and if citizens are caught rebelling in any manner, they “disappear.”&#148 So Judas Priest’s prescience is due to Orwell’s own prescience.

Here’s the song from YouTube:

I was also listening recently to another of my favorite groups, the under-appreciated Riot. Their 1982 song CIA (lyrics) provides a realistically cynical description of the murderous state and its agents, including lines like:

You won’t believe what I’m after
I play this game for keeps
Amidst of blood and disaster
I’ll drop you down on your knees

… I got a licence to murder
the perpetrators must die
.. I don’t have much to regret baby
you see me on the tv
The politicians I protect
they’re filled with hate and disease

I’m in the C.I.A.
I stand around like a stallion
you know I think I’m too cool
… My venom sprays from my magnum
try to escape and you’re shot
I signed a contract with satan
so I don’t worry at all
… I fight my way out of trouble
in god we trust is my clout

… I’m in the C.I.A.
And I’ll blow your face away …

Not that it’s Riot’s best song. Its best songs include Outlaw, Altar of the King, and 49er—and the absolutely wild and crazy Hot for Love (and explicit—their first great singer, the late Guy Speranza, reportedly quit the band because of his Christian beliefs).

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10:29 am on January 15, 2011