Radio Noriega, or the Many Moods of Manny

Down in Panama, outside the Vatican embassy, the U.S. Southern Command -- armed to the teeth and encircling the whole compound -- is licking its chops. Manuel Noriega is inside. United States forces have heard that he is superstitious, that he wears red underpants to ward off evil demons. And so, to irritate and intimidate him (and to enjoy themselves in the process), the Americans set up their "ghetto blasters" or some Latin American equivalent, and blast the Vatican embassy with some good ol' kickass American rock 'n' roll -- Guns 'n' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" is the first song to come roaring through the speakers.

But soon a strange disagreement arises between Tipper Gore's Parents Music Recording Center (PMRC) and the U.S. Southern Command concerning which rock'n'roll songs are "appropriate" for such a military operation, especially one being watched on TV by millions of impressionable American teenagers. The army wants the most devilish music available, of course, and is ready to follow "Welcome to the Jungle" with songs by The Birthday Party, Pussy Galore, Sonic Youth and the Rolling Stones (an extremely scratched copy of Beggar's Banquet). But the PMRC is afraid that America's youth will "get the wrong idea" if more suitable songs are not blasted at Manny Noriega and relayed to the rest of the world.

Compromises are made: the very best of the pop music world -- U2, the Alarm, Motley Crue, Winger, the B52s, INXS, John Cougar Mellencamp, ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones, Love and Rockets, the Cure, the Replacements, the Dead Milkmen and Madonna -- come forward to offer their services, and are deemed acceptable by both the PMRC and the U.S. Southern Command. (It is furthermore agreed that the Beatles' "Revolution" will be played at this and all future military operations of a similar nature.)

Suddenly someone smart gets the idea that in the future -- say, when the U.S. army invades Colombia in search of someone high up in the evil Medeillen drug cartel -- patriotic bands such as these should play, "live and in person," right in the middle of the theater of operations. Why waste time and energy with records, tapes and CDs? Wouldn't it be much better to have the bands themselves to put their asses on the line for Democracy and a zero-tolerance, drug-free world? It would be an even bigger spectacle than Live Aid!! Look, the Pentagon says to the pop musicians, American journalists and cameramen put their asses on the line all over the world -- in Korea, in Vietnam, in Nicaragua, in El Salvador, and in Panama -- so we don't see any reason why you lot can't start doing the same.

For the Colombian operation, there is a huge outpouring of support from the rock'n'roll world, especially those parts of it that have publicly announced their problems with cocaine. An all-star lineup is assembled. The first day of Operation Jericho is New Year's Day, 1990. The fighting is heavy in the areas surrounding the stage. Anti-American militants -- falsely labeled pro-drug devil worshipers -- are being rounded up and executed by firing squads as the bands are doing their soundchecks. The mood is positively electric! Ex-Mossad member and security consultant to Manuel Noriega Michael Harari is at the soundboard. Current reports claim that the body count is acceptable, with enemy losses far exceeding our own.

Insisting that they need not be protected by American anti-aircraft guns ("We're not afraid of anyone!"), the members of U2 take the stage. Bono and his band are not more than a few bars into "New Year's Day," their opening song, when a volley is fired in the direction of the stage. Bono is blown to bits on international television. The stage is collapsing under the feet of the surviving members of the band; there is smoke and screaming and utter chaos. Then the picture goes blank. All channels hastily go to a commercial for Pepsi Cola. The rest of the concert is canceled, but no one can say anything about it because of national security concerns. That night, videoclips of U2 performing "New Year's Day" and getting blown to bloody bits is shown over and over again on nightly news broadcasts all over the world. Expressions of grief are deeply heart-felt, and quick to be made.

A recording -- a rap record called "Bono Go Boom" -- is subsequently issued by a label in Washington, D.C. Though the song, which is full of samples of Bono's last words, is intended as a tribute, it is widely perceived as a cynical attempt to make money. In response to "Bono Go Boom," the surviving members of U2 organize and produce an official tribute to Bono called An Official Tribute to Bono. Featured on the tribute are New Kids on the Block ("In the Name of Love"), Patti Smith ("Gloria"), Frank Sinatra ("Where the streets have no name"), Debbie Gibson ("I Will Follow"), Poison ("Angel of Harlem"), Willie Nelson ("With or Without You"), Love and Rockets ("Desire"), and Michael Jackson himself ("Sunday Bloody Sunday"). The record wins a Grammy. The videocassette of the recording of the tribute album sells two million copies. Paramount Pictures readies itself to film The Bono Vox Story, with Lee Atwater in the starring role.

(Published in NOT BORED! #16, December 1989.)

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