Rancid reflects on Berkley protests, while remembering their roots in new song, “Telegraph Avenue”
Punk rock’s flame has always been ignited by collective activism, and striving to wake people up about the social injustices that surround their everyday lives. Rancid’s new song ‘Telegraph Avenue’ shows that the band respects and honors political rights predecessors, while still acknowledging where they came from.
Telegraph Avenue is located in the downtown district of Oakland, California, and extends all the way to the southern edge of the University of California campus in Berkley, California. This 4.5 miles of concrete are somewhere members of the band Rancid call home. In their newest song named after the stretch of road, singer/songwriter, Tim Armstrong, reflects on his former youth, and how he was “there in the rain, man, even if the skies were blue, you can find me on the corner of Durant and Telegraph Avenue.” These opening lines briefly show the connection of the artists to their hometown, saying that despite the beautiful weather, some personal emotional turbulence has been witnessed at this location.
The song then takes a rewind to the sixties in the next verse, and goes back to the sixties where historical emotional outcries where being made on that very street. “Mario Savio gave a speech, it was him against the machine. For that he spent 3 months in jail, but he said he’d do it again.” Mario Savio is most credited for his influential speeches, particularly during the Vietnam War. His most famous speech is referenced in the song, where Savio said “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” Although Savio was not a punk rocker, his ideals and courage are right along the lines of what many people consider to be the cornerstones of punk rock.
The song then carries the listener through the next part of that story were Prudent Regan sent in his troops, and the entire area was tear gassed. “Governor Regan had a enough, so the National Guard pushed on through. Tear gas and riot police on Telegraph Avenue.”
The song’s structure is by no means complex or groundbreaking, but it shows us that the histories biggest movements are still felt in the area where they occurred. Armstrong at the end of the song, then sings, The ones who stand for freedom of speech, well this one goes out to you. Well, I can still hear your voice on Telegraph Avenue.
In companion with releasing the new single off their upcoming album ‘Trouble Maker,’ the band also released a music video for the song. The video shows the musicians, a bit older, and a bit different looking than many fans may remember them from even a few years ago, but the video showed that their spirit remains young and prevalent. The video shows the band in a garage, and the scene never leaves the garage. Many would think, “well, maybe the band should have shown some clips of the stretch of road the whole song is about,” or “why wouldn’t they show photos from the time period,” but the message in the video is more expressive to the band themselves, then the time period they are talking about.
Rancid has been around the block more than a few times, and are considered one of the biggest acts in punk history. Singer, Tim Armstrong, has been in the scene for countless years, and was one of the members of the cult punk band Operation Ivy, who are seen as innovators to the 80’s and 90’s punk scene. The band could have easily over produced and saturated their video, but instead wanted to focus on themselves, and where they came from. they were just kids playing in a band, no fame, no fortune, nothing but each other, and the music, and it mostly all started in a garage.
The band wanted to show their roots, and they did so in such a great way, and that is showing who they were when they were kids. Singing about standing on the corner with heartaches and turmoil in the opening lines of the song, and showing that they can still get together and jam out in a garage-like space. The album cover itself shows a punk in the distance looking onto the city with his guitar, most likely reflecting on his home town. The song shows that punk has a lot to say, and how it should be taken as a form of political protesting rhetoric.