David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 102: Red Rider (Lunatic Fringe)

August 6, 2020

Coming off of Tori Amos' "'97 Bonnie And Clyde," I'm tempted to leave this one out there. "Lunatic Fringe" by Red Rider. It is a mostly unknown song except to some of us who listened to deeper cuts in the early 1980's.

For those of us who got it, we were tempted to leave you out there. The song was released during Ronald Reagan's America and was damning to a fringe element that we would be hard to label "fringe" anymore. Out of an eerie beginning, like the opening credits to some sci-fi movie, Red Rider, led by Tom Cochrane, who 10 years later would find pop chart success with "Life Is A Highway," plows into the dark underbelly of the early 1980's. "Lunatic fringe, I know you're out there," Cochrane announces immediately, as if Scully or Mulder are investigating what few believe actually exists.  However, this lunatic fringe is way too real:

"Lunatic fringe/

In the twilight's last gleaming/

This is open season/

But you won't get too far/

Cause you got to blame someone/

For your own confusion/

We're on guard this time/

Against your final solution."

I'mma just gonna leave that out there. It is already out there on your FaceBook page and your Twitter feed. The fringe has now become the main pattern, aided by all the puckerers gathered around the point of entry.

Musically the song stands out during the bridge, a series of jolting keyboard chords punctuated by slashing guitar until the guitar solo takes over. It's a call for arms, when arms are needed desperately, against the evils of darkness. We may come with musical axes, but the enemy comes with real axes.

Cochrane claims they were recording the song the night John Lennon died, which might be a nice legend. While probably true, that coincidence simply reminds us about the song's truth, about a lunatic fringe for whom "we can hear the footsteps/out along the walkway." Just remember, some people are willing to shoot you after asking for your autograph. Their hypocrisy gets lost in their hysteria.

As the song winds down from its last verse and the confident boast of the defiant: "lunatic fringe/we are all know you're out there/can you feel the resistance/can you feel the thunder," musically Red Rider plugs away again with that keyboard pounding from the bridge, sirens added to reinforce that a moment has come. The song has built up its defenses against the lunatic fringe. It's time to take them down.

However Red Rider has long ago stopped making music, and general remembrance of this song fades. That's the problem with art battling fascism, or anti-semitism, or racism, or any oppression. Evil lives off of blood; art lives off of dreams. It's an unfair battle between the real and the ideal.

Life is a highway, Tom Cochrane, and we just keep increasing the speed limit without really examining our society's safety.

"Lunatic Fringe." Red Rider. As Far As Siam. Capitol. 1981. Link here.

Day 101: Tori Amos "'97 Bonnie And Clyde."

Day 103: The Eagles "Already Gone."->

See complete list here.