Every once in a while, there’s a harmonic convergence of talent in which the right players show up at the right time and unquestionable magic occurs. One of those moments has arrived with Michael Des Barres’ new single, “Anarchy In The UK,” b/w “Where Did All The Lovers Go” (featuring Genya Ravan). The single is produced by Steven Van Zandt, and the individuality of all three artists shines through equally and brilliantly.
“Anarchy In The U.K.” was, of course, one of the signature songs from The Sex Pistols, and something of an anthem for the entire punk movement. Its sentiment, its mojo, its spiritual core goes straight back to Marlon Brando in 1953’s “The Wild One,” asked “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?,” and replying “Whadda you got?”
The Punk movement wasn’t about hitting a specific target, it was a loud and arrogant carpet bombing of everything society represented, the segment born with silver spoons in their mouths and the larger segment, destined for a bleak future (“no…future…for you”) simply because of their birthright. It was a raised middle finger to authority, to the class wars, to…well, to everything. It was unshackled rage and venom in search of redemption, and its massive following offered proof that the masses weren’t content to “settle” for what society handed them.
In the hands of Michael Des Barres and Steven Van Zandt, the song loses none of its defiance, but it is delivered via the lens of a big, bold, after-hours soul revue. As Michael sings “I wanna destroy passers by” with cool, detached weary smoothness and is joined by the angelic choir on “I…wanna be…anarchy,” we are visited by the ghost of Lou Reed via Dion And The Belmonts, the seemingly inexplicable gossamer thread that connects soul, doo-wop, and punk. The same gift for nuance and irony that led Michael to turn Bob Dylan’s largely genteel low-key shuffle “Serve Somebody” into a Marshall Stack rave up and The Supremes’ “Stop In The Name Of Love” into a 2019 Grand Funk Railroad / Vanilla Fudge house party is at play here, but in reverse. In exchange for volume and bombast, he explores the street poetry of the lyrics, setting up a protagonist who knows the odds are most likely against him, but is going to be a rebel nonetheless.
The master stroke of Steven Van Zandt’s production is that at times, the song also sounds like it could have come from a peak-years Roy Orbison…and the genius of Michael Des Barres is that in the whole whirlwind of it all, he’s never lost for a single second, it’s unmistakably MDB from start to finish.
“Where Did All The Lovers Go” is full Spectorian grandeur, with Genya sounding like a later-period Ronnie Spector and offering a wonderful counterpoint to Michael’s vocals. “I’m black and blue and I needed you so, please tell me, I gotta know…” It’s Soul 101, cut from classic big ballads like “What’s Become Of The Broken Hearted,” with full Disciples Of Soul / Southside Johnny / Springsteen flourishes.
Both sides of the single are a triumph on every level. It can’t be called a “departure” from an artist who is a vocal opponent to categorization and labels in music. It’s an exercise in exploring realms that are equally familiar and unexpected. Michael hit the music scene in 1972 with Silverhead, and in 2020, he is still the proverbial force to be reckoned with. This one belongs in your collection. Visit the link above and make that happen.