ANTI-BAEZ: THE JANET GREENE SONGBOOK
Janet Greene's recorded musical output was limited to just eight songs during her anti-Communist heyday working for Dr. Fred Schwarz as Music Director at the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC). These "golden period" tunes were produced by Del Katcher and released as singles in 1966 on Chantico, the CACC house label. The tracks were also issued collectively, as an album side (Janet Greene Sings), on the Schwarz box set "What Is Communism?," a collection of his lectures on the Red Menace (Chantico UB2160; 1966). Ironically, it is Greene's musical contribution to Schwarz's spoken word miasma that makes the set a collector's item today, not the paranoid ruminations of the good doctor. The blatantly confrontational titles that Greene cut during this era (Commie Lies, Comrade's Lament, etc.) were packaged with covers featuring the sunny and optimistic visage of the artist. It is a delightfully subversive contrast that makes the music all that more enjoyable.
In 1980, after a very long absence from the studio, Greene recorded two original songs for her self-released LP, "Country and Spanish Flavors." Greene rounded out this record with eight of her favorite standards including Crazy (written by Willie Nelson and made famous by Patsy Cline).
The following is a brief assessment of Ms. Greene's ten original recordings:
COMMIE LIESOne of her earliest compositions for the "cause," this was the song that Greene performed at her official coming out party at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on October 13, 1964. The Los Angeles Times reported that Dr. Fred Schwarz introduced his musical discovery by saying "You'd be amazed at how much doctrine can be taught in one song." The cheerfully paranoid ditty is sung to the tune of Blue Tail Fly (Jimmy Crack Corn) and contains such lyrics as "Be careful of the Commie lies, swallow them and freedom dies: The USA must realize that she's the biggest prize." Greene's well-trained, operatic voice soars on this track.
Listen to COMMIE LIES in streaming MP3 audio. [2:00]
COMRADE'S LAMENTGreene employs a wavering falsetto to sing this lilting folk number about the drudgery of being a Communist. The strange opening lines about Joe Stalin being "the son of all our glory…" are offset by the gentility of the music and the following lyrical rejoinder "…but now they tell us he was vile and gory, vile and gory." Del Katcher, Janet's producer, can be heard here providing the ridiculously earnest back-up vocals ("vile and gory"!).
Listen to COMRADE'S LAMENT in streaming MP3 audio. [2:59]
FASCIST THREATThis is Greene's attempt at Calypso, and when CONELRAD asked the artist if Harry Belafonte inspired the beat of the song, she surprised us by stating that her muse was a tad more lowbrow. "I think I got that idea from the Chiquita Banana girl," she explained referring to the famous advertising campaign. The lyrics, which have nothing to do with bananas, concern the song's protagonist's quest for knowledge about fascism. One of the standout lines from the tune is: "Destroy the government with lies, seize control and centralize, very shortly you will see a fascist state monopoly."
Listen to FASCIST THREAT in streaming MP3 audio. [2:09]
THE HUNTER AND THE BEARWith its bouncy, playful full band arrangement (all overdubbed by producer Del Katcher), it is easy to understand why Bear is Greene's favorite song from her anti-Communist period. Indeed, in certain spots on this number she sounds as if she is having almost too much fun. It is amusing to consider that with this single Dr. Schwarz may have worried that his star had been corrupted by the teen pop stylings of Leslie Gore or Annette Funicello. Schwarz no doubt took comfort in the childishly allegorical lyrics about an untrustworthy (and homicidal) "bear" and a hunter who foolishly tries to "co-exist" with the animal:
Now they both got what they wanted, please take note—
The bear a full stomach
And the man a fur coat.
It's the truth, can't be denied,
For the hunter ended up on the bear's inside.
The hunter didn't know,
Tho' he'd often heard
That bears hardly ever keep their word.
He's on the missing persons list
Since he tried to co-exist...
Listen to THE HUNTER AND THE BEAR in streaming MP3 audio. [2:33]
INCH BY INCHWere it not for the political lyrics about the moral imperative to combat the "cancerous cell" of Communism in Vietnam, this very traditional folk song could have been among the covers on the "Joan Baez Ballad Book" LP. As written, however, it is a tune for anyone who ever yearned for a musical interpretation of the Domino Theory.
Listen to INCH BY INCH in streaming MP3 audio. [3:27]
TERMITESWhatever questions the listener may have about the metaphoric mission of this song are quickly resolved when the opening lyrics shoot off like a flare in the night: "The Communists as Termites work in darkness underground…" Of all her songs, this composition is Greene's most uncompromising assault on the Red Menace. Unlike most of her other works from this period, her message here is not leavened with broad humor or irony. No, it is strictly business with passages like this one:
"They hide their devilish purpose with trickery and wiles, they mask their murderous malice with innocence and smiles, disregard this hidden danger, neglect this plague today and some tomorrow morning your world will melt away."
Listen to TERMITES in streaming MP3 audio. [3:35]
POOR LEFT WINGERIf Tammy Wynette had ever had an anti-Communist phase, this is what it might have sounded like. The song, with its bassy country guitar and the lyrics about a girl being duped by an unkempt beatnik folksinger, sounds like it belongs on rural AM radio. In fact, this is CONELRAD's favorite Greene song of all time and that is why we chose it for inclusion on the Atomic Platters box set.
Listen to POOR LEFT WINGER in streaming MP3 audio. [3:27]
RUNNeedless to say, one of the hot topics in the anti-Communist movement was— and still is— Castro's Cuba. This heartfelt song is about Cuban refugee families braving the sea to reach the promised land of America. Greene's tremulous voice is used to good effect on such fateful lyrics as these: "The land of freedom beckons bright, as a radiant star on the darkest night, we'll reach the home of the free and the brave, or sleep in an ocean grave, oh..."
Listen to RUN in streaming MP3 audio. [2:50]
I AM ONLY ONEAfter a 14-year break from recording, Greene returned with this gospel-tinged song inspired by that post-Goldwater savior of the right, Ronald Reagan. The hymn-like lyrics celebrate "the power of one" and seem to equate Reagan with Christ. And after the spectacular state funeral our 40th president received in 2005, Janet may have been on to something. This track is one of the two original compositions that appear on Greene's self-released LP "Country and Spanish Flavors." The song was written and performed during the 1960s (probably around the time Reagan ran for governor of California in 1966), but never recorded for the CACC label, Chantico.
Listen to I AM ONLY ONE in streaming MP3 audio. [3:35]
JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILECountryish and Spanish! This is the other original tune that graces Greene's 1980 LP "Country and Spanish Flavors." Close your eyes and you'll think you're in a truck stop diner as you hear the Patsy Clinesian melody of heartbreak. Greene begins the song in English, but closes it in Spanish, which neatly sums up the theme of the LP. This is the kind of song that makes one hope that Ms. Greene will one day pick up her guitar again and produce another album or two. For now, however, this is the end of the songbook.
Listen to JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILE in streaming MP3 audio. [3:32]
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