Terror Exploitation Relics: The Royal Guardsmen

I remain ambivalent about the news that you-know-who has been turned into chum. Not that I’m sorry he’s dead, but the mere fact that he’s in the news dredges up 9/11 all over again. And not just that date, but everything that happened thereafter, an entire decade of shit. Amazing things happened in the last ten years–to me and the world–but when taken in aggregate, weighing all the pluses and minuses, I think you have to say that overall, Shit won the 2000s.

If you’re in New York right now, you’ve no doubt noticed that “celebrations” over this news have been sparing and almost universally subdued. We hate being reminded of it. We’d finally entered a time where you didn’t see footage of the towers collapsing every time you turned on the TV. Well, that’s over. I saw the burning World Trade Center on the boob tube again several times last night–on SportsCenter. Didn’t need that, ESPN. Nor did I need the takes of Derek Jeter or Charlie Manuel on what this means for America, or endless loops of that douche in the Utley USA jersey tugging at his shirt like we just beat Bin Laden in Olympic basketball. Stick to what you do well, ESPN–whatever that is.

In a much more trivial sense, this event also reminds me of the people who tried to exploit 9/11 for everything it was worth to make a quick buck. People who, almost universally, did not live in New York or Washington DC or have any real, personal connection to what happened. People who saw one of the greatest tragedies in American history and immediately thought, “How can I use this to my advantage?”

Here’s a prime example, one that I don’t recall from when it came out. I’d guess few of you out there do, either. It came to my attention via the tweeting of @irabrooker, and it’s a song by The Royal Guardsmen. This band first catapulted into fame with their tune “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron,” which used the Peanuts cartoon strip as a springboard for a novelty tune. It was given the blessing of Charles Schulz, who was not a big fan of rock music but also had trouble saying no to people. (His biography paints him almost as a victim of the enormous marketing of his creations, which is probably a stretch, but it seems like he genuinely did not know how to turn something like this down.)

When I was a kid, I spotted a “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” album at my local library. It had a drawing of Snoopy on the cover, and there was no indication (to a kids’ eyes, anyway) that this was anything but a purely Peanuts-related endeavor. Being hugely into Peanuts at the time, I took it home and was monstrously disappointed. I still remember how angry I was, how deceived I felt. So I’ve had a beef with these guys for quite some time.

The Royal Guardsmen recorded many variations on this theme over the years (most notably a Christmas-y one), desperately trying to ride Snoopy’s coattails, before sinking back into obscurity by decade’s end. Then, they reformed in the mid-2000s to record a brand new “Snoopy as fighter pilot” tune. Maybe you can guess where this is going.

Yup, it’s “Snoopy vs. Osama,” which according to Wikipedia “became a hit on the Dr. Demento Show” in 2006. (So he’ll just play any garbage that’s labeled “funny,” huh?) I guess when you’ve already made a career of sorts riding the coattails of a beloved cartoon character, it’s not that far a leap to jump on the Benefiting from Tragedy Bandwagon.

This song was released six years after the death of Charles Schulz, a pacifist and quietly, reasonably religious man who probably would have had a problem with this jingoistic, violent tune. Doing the math, 2006 was also a full five years after 9/11, when even the most hawkish of Tom Clancy types were saying, “Alright, enough with the ‘courtesy of the red, white, and blue’ nonsense.” I can’t decide if I’m more offended by its naked exploitation or for being so late to the party. Or for the song itself, which makes the curious decision to emulate the sound of Reckoning-era REM.

Here’s hoping we can take all the crass, lowest common denominator, 9/11 exploitation crap like this and give it its own burial at sea.