6 Songs About The Iran Hostage Crisis

by Jason Toon

Thirty years ago, America was gripped by the humiliating agony of the Iran Hostage Crisis. There was nothing most of us could do about those 52 Americans held captive in the U.S. embassy in Tehran. But a small force of musicians did what musicians always do in moments of crisis: write topical songs about it that would be forgotten as soon as the whole mess was resolved. Here's our Iran Hostage Crisis Top 6:

"Storm the Embassy" - Stray Cats (some NSFW lyrics)
Brian Setzer's a guitar legend and all that, but on the list of public figures I'd turn to for geopolitical analysis he ranks somewhere between Joyce DeWitt and Vinny Testaverde. After this unconvincing litany of swipes at the Iranians, the Russians, and the New York Times, he mercifully limited his future screeds to complaints about disco records on the jukebox. (Interesting note: while this cut appeared on the Cat's U.K. debut album, it's one of a handful of songs from their career that have never been officially released in the U.S.)

"Free Flight" - The Exploited (some NSFW lyrics)
I have no idea what position the Exploited are taking on this metal-punk grinder, and not just because of the wizened poodle-punks' impenetrable Scottish accents. They call on the Ayatollah to let the hostages go. But then it ends with a sarcastic yob-chorus of "The Star-Spangled Banner" punctuated by puking noises. And their next album featured a tune with the gleeful refrain "F*** the USA". So who knows? Maintaining a towering red mohawk doesn't leave you much time for working out a coherent ideology.

"A Message to Khomeini" - Roger Hallmark
Complete with phony Arabic chanting, this cornpone novelty number combines the humorous songwriting of a Ray Stevens with the keen political insight of a Ray Stevens. Gags like "Khomeini, you old meanie" and "see how you like walking a mile for a camel-burger" were rancid enough to KO the entire regime. Sadly, there's no evidence the Ayatollah ever heard it.
Hear it at WFMU's Beware of the Blog.

"Bomb Iran" - Vince Vance and the Valiants
The pop-song parody is the lowest form of humor - and I should know, I've written dozens of them for this very site. At least they get the harmonies right. This same obvious pun would get John McCain into some trouble on the '08 campaign trail. It's one thing to chuckle along with "Vince Vance & the Valiants", whoever they were. It's another thing entirely to give them access to the button.

"I Ran From Iran" - Cliche
A catchy power-pop number by an otherwise-unknown L.A. band, "I Ran From Iran" keeps a sense of humor about the grim subject matter: "They built their prosperity by borrowing our technology / And all we asked was a couple barrels of crude / Now they're kicking our butts out / Say they can do without us / And I think that's just downright rude." Some predictable chest-thumping in the last chorus doesn't detract from the Dr. Demento-baiting frivolity. Alas, as the crisis wore on, Americans were less in the mood to laugh about it.
YouTube embedding has been disabled but you can hear the song here.

"Blow Up The Embassy" - Fearless Iranians from Hell (some NSFW lyrics)
By 1986, the Reagan White House was shipping missiles to the Iranians and Texas punks Fearless Iranians From Hell became the first rock band to weigh in on the other side of the controversy. There was only one actual Iranian in the band, so the plural in the band name is overstated, but lyrics about hijacking planes and killing Marines at least confirm the "Fearless" part. While I have no idea how serious they were, the snarling, spitting, blood-splattered hardcore sound is no joke.

Have I missed anything? Share your favorite rockin' tunes about this national trauma in the comments section.