the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

We Built Ankara with Rock and Roll!

Sometimes the God of Rock and Roll works in mysterious ways.   Consider Sunday afternoon —

It was hot in Los Angeles, and I was sitting around in my underwear, looking at different music videos on YouTube.  By chance, I hit upon Starship’s “We Built This City on Rock and Roll.”  I’ve always liked this song as a guilty pleasure.  At the same time, it was sad to see that the former members of the great Jefferson Airplane falling so low.  This 80’s music video had a self-importance to it, but I couldn’t figure out what was the “message,” if any.   What City were they talking about?   Was this a cry against corporate radio?  Who were all these teenagers running from the huge rolling dice in Las Vegas?  What was the symbolism behind the Lincoln of the Lincoln Memorial coming alive and singing the chorus, “We Built This City on Rock and Roll.”  Was this song about Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, who created the plans for Washington D.C.?  Abraham Lincoln was one of our finest presidents, but I doubt he would ever be about “rock and roll.”  I decided to write a post about this video.  I ran a contest.

The winner of this contest is the one who writes the best description of what the artists are trying to communicate in this music video.

As I expected, I received humorous comments from my readers.  After all, many of you were the “class clowns”  and “misfits” during high school.  But the most intriguing comment came from someone who didn’t even watch the video.  It was from Natalie, who writes the blog Tell Me About It.  She lives in Turkey.  The Turkey Turkey.  Isn’t that interesting?  I’m not exactly sure how this New Orleans girl ended up in Turkey, but I bet you that after drinking that Turkish coffee, she ain’t ever coming back to Starbucks.

Here was her comment concerning the music video:

— and once again i miss out because youtube is still banned in turkey. dadgum. i so wanted that prize!

“YouTube is banned in Turkey?!”  I asked.

Fascinated, I Googled the subject to learn more.  Apparently, this is not the first time Turkey banned YouTube.

According to the Huffington Post:

A Turkish court has again blocked access to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube because of clips allegedly insulting the country’s founding father, according to reports Sunday.

It was the second time Turkey banned the site because of clips deemed disrespectful to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is illegal in Turkey to insult the revered figure, whose portrait still hangs in nearly all government offices nearly 70 years after his death.

Some of the most offensive videos came from Greece, where the Turkish founding father was called “gay.”  This was considered an insult to “Turkishness.”

Turkey is not alone in blocking YouTube. Last year, the Thai government banned the site for about four months because of clips seen as offensive to Thailand’s revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

And in May, Moroccans were unable to access YouTube after users posted videos critical of Morocco’s treatment of the people of Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco took control of in 1975. An official blamed a technical glitch, but could not explain its nature or why it affected only the YouTube site.

Suddenly, the music video made complete sense to me.  It wasn’t the “worst song ever recorded.”  It was a political anthem about freedom.   I even understood why Abraham Lincoln was singing along.  No country — Turkey — included should be allowed to prevent her citizens from rocking and rolling, even if it is to really crappy 80’s songs!  We as Americans must change the world and give everyone the chance to have big hair and giant dice… and make fun of their esteemed leaders.  And we shouldn’t be doing it through WAR and BOMBINGS!

We should be doing it through the POWER OF ROCK AND ROLL.

Free the bad 80’s videos on YouTube!

Natalie — here are some ways to work around your government’s censorship (via boingboing)

C’mon, Americans — it’s time to take our message of free speech to Ankara, to Bangkok, to Rabat —

We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll
Built this city, we built this city on rock and roll

C’mon, Mt. Zion High School Swingsations — let’s show the world what America is all about!


  1. Jane

    (Um, are you really done, Neil? Did Sophia tap you on the shoulder for a goodnight session of passionate lovemaking? I understand that a man has needs, but cutting your blog post off at the knees won’t help).

  2. Neil

    Jane… I don’t know what happened before. It was cut off. Maybe it was Turkish intelligence. Or Archie comics.

  3. natalie

    wow! thanks! i feel so special. like i really did win! wait…is there supposed to be a video there? it is blank. is it supposed to tell me how to get around this unfortunate youtube ban? where are the suggestions? arghhhhh!

  4. natalie

    i see that it is a clickable link. i was so distracted by the blank white space i didn’t notice. my bad.

  5. Neil

    Natalie, I also downloaded the video. If you want I can also email to you. But only if you promise to blast it out your window so everyone in Turkey can hear. It’s what Abe Lincoln would do.

  6. Loralee

    Looking at youtube in your underwear is one of the little joys of life.

    It’s totally awesome of you to look out for Natalie like that. Honest Abe would be proud indeed. (I also firmly believe that he would second me on the whole underwear youtube viewing thing as well.)

  7. Erin Cooper

    *sits silently reflecting on the Mt. Zion video*

    That was horrible and wonderful at the same time.

  8. natalie

    of course…send me the video! i will blast it from the balcony!

  9. Noelle

    I see Jefferson Starship as the gateway for Turkey entering the European Union.

    Also, I learned how to play that song on the flute in 8th grade. It’s even more powerful with that sort of Jethro Tull take.

  10. Winter

    I still find it hard to view that song as anything other than complete trash. And for some reason I never realized that countries ban things like YouTube. To me, that’s like calling Jay Leno’s monologue a political speech.

  11. churlita

    I remember when that song first came out. As I recall, they wrote it as a way to get the rock and roll hall of fame placed in San Francisco. Too bad the song sucked so bad that they put it in Cleveland instead.

  12. Five Husbands

    Cleveland’s not so bad Churlita – and both cheers and jeers to you Neil. Cheers for spreading the glory of democracy and jeers for using your superhuman blogging powers so that I now know every years theme and well as the history of the Mt. Zion “Swingstations.”

    How am I supposed to remember anything important?

  13. Marilyn

    It scares me that that Mt. Zion video is only 2 years old. Those tacky reversible jackets! Good god, I couldn’t look away. That’s one of the cheesiest things I’ve seen lately. Thanks…I think.

  14. Neil

    I might forever lose my status as the coolest person on Earth, but I thought the Mt. Zion High School Swingsations were pretty nifty. I would pay to see them perform.

  15. mp

    All I know is that I couldn’t even watch the end of that video..Did those kids change costume? I would be So embarrased if that was my kid…Oh my

  16. Leslie

    See what happens when Up With People mates with a Solid Gold Dancer? You get the Mt. Zion Swingsations!

  17. HeyJoe

    And here I thought that song was about San Francisco, as the J.S. was one of those 60’s, Haight Ashbury bands. Political anthem? Who knew?

    And Natalie: when you blast that song out of your window you need to be in your underwear. That’s what Neil AND Abe Lincoln would do.

  18. Jenn

    …. doesn’t Turkey want to be part of the EU? censorship doesn’t seem very… european….

  19. Think Jacob Blinded by YouTube

    Tell her she’s not missing much. I saw a video of Amy Winehouse playing with some baby rats with her dirty fingernails. In this case, censorship is keeping crap from her, so thumbs up, Turkey!

  20. plain jane

    I’m with you Neil, I love the Swingsations (what a name!).

  21. SwanShadow

    Why did Constantinople get the works?

    That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.

  22. stepping over the junk

    you must be a transplant. Californians don’t sit around in their underwear in hot weather.

  23. cruisin-mom

    that video was just plain AWESOME!

  24. V-Grrrl

    The Swingsations? Gayest video EVER.

    I’m going to forward it to Peter. : )

  25. Jenny, Bloggess

    1. We built this city on Rock and Roll is my most despised song in the history of ever.

    2. In spite of that I kept reading.

    3. I’m glad I did.

    4. But I still hate that song.

  26. Jane

    Leslie, you made me snort coffee on my keyboard. Too funny!

  27. greg mills

    This is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. That is a goddamn cop-out. You like the song. I’d be a total butthole to tell you, “Why, your soul is a brown trout for liking that song!” I don’t know your circumstance. Maybe you associate it with the first time you successfully “shot the duck” at the Golden Skate, which is such a lovely memory, anyone who diss you for that would be plain churlish. Me, I like cheap Svenhard cinnamon horns from Safeway. Am I defensive about it? No. Because that’s me, pal. That’s me all the way. Like me, like my Svenhard’s.

    Buck up, love the song openly, and be a person again.

    Even though that song is a tumor.


  28. better safe than sorry

    about a year ago i tried to view the official website for weeds and it was blocked, i sent an e-mail to ask why and was informed it had to do with a licencing agreement between the usa and my country (canada, not turkey). someone who read my blog sent me an e-mail with a link getting around the blockage, you know what i was missing, details and photos on the female leads clothing and purse. not a fan of this song or censorship.

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