mire Dwight Yoakam merely for having the guts to ask SharonrnStone out.rnEarle is a working-class Americanist, and thus an outlaw.rn(He did a killer live version of Springsteen’s “State Trooper”rnthat ranks among the highlights of my leaning-against-the-wallholding-rna-beer-and-dripping-ennui nightclub days.) He callsrnhimself “somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun,” and he hatedrnReagan for firing his brother, an air traffic controller. Thenrnagain, the outlaw changed a word in his signature song, “GuitarrnTown,” for reasons that cannot have been good. “Everybodyrntold me you can’t get far, with 37 dollars and a Jap guitar.” Inrnthe radio version “Jap” became “cheap.” Welcome to thernNew World Order, Steve.rnThe new traditionalism petered out, and as country has becomernthe official music of white America it has againrnexsanguinated itself. Yoakam still has a Top 10 hit now andrnthen, and Steve Earle kicks around the club circuit, but BossrnCash Register crowns Garth Brooks, the pudgy geek from suburbanrnOklahoma who admits to cutting his eyeteeth on Journey,rnDan Fogelberg, James Taylor, Billy Joel, and Kiss—thernworst schlock of the 1970’s. He’s more Bobby Brady thanrnOkie from Muskogee. His Oklahoma is not Merle Haggard’srnor Woody Guthrie’s, and that’s okay, but Brooks’s Soonerismrnmelts into Michael Jackson’s “We Are the Worid” universalismrnso that it’s indistinguishable from Jackson’s Gary, Indiana.rn”We shall be free,” Garth croons in his Godawful anthem ofrnpolitical correctness, but it is the “free . . . free-fallin'” thatrnFlorida panhandler Tom Petty understands to be the fate of allrnthose poor lost Southern California kids growin’ up in an affluencernmore heartbreakingly impoverished than 50 Pensacolarntrailer parks.rn”Maybe it ain’t exactly heaven but it’s certainly part of myrndreams,” the Long Ryders sang of Alabama. There have beenrnplenty of good cocky regional bands appealing to local pride:rnLynyrd Skynyrd praise “Sweet Home Alabama—where thernguvnah’s true,” and yes, that’s George Wallace these longhairedrndope-smokers were feting; Missouri’s the Rainmakers,rnwhose chief influences were Hank Williams and Stephen Foster,rnimagine rafting down the Mississippi with favorite sonsrnMark Twain, Chuck Berry, and Harry Truman; Steve Forbertrndreams of going home to Laurel, Mississippi, where at least “Irnknow exactly what I’m going to find.”rnBut for every kid out there pumping his fist at invocations ofrnhis own sweet home there are 20 longing to “put ‘er on that interstaternand never look back,” as Steve Earle sings. The familiarrnis boring and narrow and uninspiring, while under the palmrntrees skins tan from the sun that never sets. As the coquettishrnL.A. punkette Belinda Cariisle of the Go-Go’s sneered at a nationrnof pimply-faced girls in Parma tract-houses:rnThis town is our townrnIt is so glamorousrnBet you’d live here if you couldrnAnd be one of usrnThis is what Angclcnos really believe, and it’s probably true.rnThe record conglomerates tolerate parochialism, as long asrnit can be used as a marketing strategy. Mellencamp—a perpetuallyrnticked-off white-trash autodidact—was advertised as arnMorning in America songster, which is why Reagan’s trollsrntried to buy him off. Springsteen, an admirer of Sergio Leone’srnspaghetti Westerns who wanted to paint his own America on arnbroad canvas with the inspired laboriousness of John Dos Passes,rnwas hyped as a feel-good bombaster of “USA! USA!” stadiumrnrock. They sold a lot of records, but now they are agingrnand bitter and reclusive. They were Americanists of the oldrnsort, patriots of solidity and flesh and dirt, marketed as and byrnpatriots of the new sort—of abstraction and America as an idea,rnnot a real place.rnAcross the sea we also find dissenters from the New WoridrnOrder. Morrisscy, the celibate Oscar Wilde of postpunk England,rnhas lately been crucified for his haunting “We’ll Let YournKnow”:rnWe may seem coldrnOr we may even bernThe most depressed people you’ve ever knownrnAt heart, what’s left, we sadly knowrnThat we are the last truly British people you’ll everrnknowrnWe are the last truly British people you will ever know.rnWith the pony-tailed execs and MTV directors and Gaprnposers as the face rock and roll presents to our trading partnersrnin the New World Order, is it any wonder that Russian nationalistsrnhate our guts and want to immunize the motherrncountry against our poison? But Americanists understand thatrnthe images on a television screen are not America. John Fogerty,rnleader of the great (if precipitation-obsessed) CrccdcnccrnClearwater Revival, explained how he remained a patriot evenrnthrough Vietnam: “First thing I thought was the Grand Canyonrnand my friends and neighbors—and the people all across therncountry. The people in power aren’t my country any more thanrna bunch of gangsters are my country.” LBJ and Nixon and Fordrnand Carter and Reagan and Bush and Clinton won’t stop thernrain. Ten thousand Fogertys might.rnBut I am getting too old to ken it anyway. Bob Seger mayrnsing “come back baby, rock and roll never forgets” to all thosern”sweet sixteens turned 31,” but the pride of townie Ann Arborrnis a relic whose fine unpretentious strummings are heard inrnmore elevators than nightclubs these days.rnFor a high-school graduation present last year I took a youngrnfriend to a concert by the punk band Social Distortion. (Okay,rnso I’m not the world’s best role model.) The band consists ofrnaging punks whose faces and smells are redolent of 47-year-oldrnmen in undershirts living on seventh floors of fetid high-rises onrndecaying Baltimore blocks. I wanted to hear ancient chestnutsrnlike “Mommy’s Little Monster,” which, when they got aroundrnto it, singer Mike Ness introduced with a grudging “here’s onernfor the old school.” It was like a rock band at a wedding reluctantlyrnplaying “Moon River” so the wrinkled coots can dancerntheir one dance. 1 got a beer and counted the rings in my trunk.rnRock and roll belongs to the young. Americanists—ghettornblacks, turnip-truck whites—will keep sprouting, and the recordrnconglomerates will keep swallowing and spitting them out.rn”So you wanna be a rock-and-roll star?” the Byrds asked. Fine:rn”sell your soul to the company” and in return “the girls will tearrnyou apart.” But not everyone signs on the dotted line. Wc canrnonly hope that the coming generations are, as Emerson hailedrnhis successors, “stiff, heady, and rebellious.” With the Springsteensrnlocked in the storm cellar, hatches battened, youthrnmust be served. Kick it over, kids. You have nothing to gain butrnyour American birthright. crn34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn