“California Über Alles” is a helluva song and a hardcore landmark, but as satire, it felt a bit off. Like there was any chance of Jerry Brown becoming President in 1980 (or 1992) (or any year, really), as the ill post-malaise winds were already beginning to blow.
Which I why I’ve always preferred the sequel/update, 1981’s “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now.” It was all very well and good (and funny) to attack Jerry Brown from the Left for being a fascist hippie, but when the Gipper was elected, it was all hands on deck.
Of course, it made no damn sense to do a straight remake, so “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now” starts as a faux-jazz lounge song with Biafra playing a demented host: “Last call for alcohol” he croons, “Last call for freedom of speech.”
It goes like that all the way through the first chorus, and just when you think that’s how it’s going to go for the rest of the, they rip into the hardcore part, and every bit of fear and anger comes through. This isn’t satire, it’s a fucking signal flare.
Welcome to 1984
Are you ready for the third world war?!?
You too will meet the secret police
They’ll draft you and they’ll jail your niece
You’ll go quietly to boot camp
They’ll shoot you dead, make you a man
Don’t you worry, it’s for a cause
Feeding global corporations’ claws
So yeah, maybe a bit strident, but in the early 1980s, the odds of World War III had gone up significantly, and while I never even remotely believe in Communism — I didn’t want any part of any system where I couldn’t get a burger a McDonalds any time I wanted — I also didn’t believe that have a zillion fucking nukes pointed at them made any damn sense either.
And I can only imagine what the alternate-universe 2001 re-remake of this would have sounded like.
“We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now” performed live in studio in 1981