Peoria Journal-Star columnist Phil Luciano recently started a campaign for an official state rock song. Only Ohio (“Hang On Sloopy,” by The McCoys) and Oklahoma (“Do You Realize,” by the Flaming Lips) have their own official rock song. It’s hard to be less hip than Oklahoma, so Luciano has the right idea. Luciano had to push the idea himself, because Gov. Pat Quinn is a country music fan. Luciano's nominee? “Surrender,” by Rockford’s own Cheap Trick.
"Frantic drums intro and then support whamming guitar chords. And the melody urgently bangs away, start to finish.
You can analyze the teen-angst references that wrestle throughout: mommy, daddy, Kiss, sex, drugs. But two lines resonate: "Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away" - as in (sort of, at any age), bend but don't break; and "We're all all right," a delightful chant, especially in concert.
The song is as playful as it is powerful, just as much now as in 1978. It stands the test of time: I mean, do you turn this off when it comes on the radio?"
Not a bad choice. Here are some other rock songs worthy of representing our great state.
“Tonight,” by The Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan’s melodramatic ode to “my city by the lake.” If Oklahoma can have an alt-rock song, so can we!
“Fritz’s Corner,” by Local H. This song is named for an actual piece of Illinois geography -- a tavern in Zion. In this performance, guitarist Scott Lucas starts a fight with an audience member. How rock and roll is that?
“Roll With The Changes,” by REO Speedwagon. Late ’70s/Early ’80s arena rock was a genre dominated by bands from the Great Lakes region -- REO, Styx, Rush, Triumph -- and this is the definitive stadium song. I don’t care how much you say you like Pere Ubu, when Gary Richrath shreds, you’re gonna start dancing. As the Rolling Stone Record Guide put it, REO’s songbook is “a guilty pleasure feast.” Look for the Beach Boys and Paul Shaffer singing backup in this Live Aid clip.
“Casino Queen,” by Wilco. Yes, Belleville’s Jeff Tweedy used to rock, before he started cranking pop/country/folk/art noise for people who moved to Oak Park after having kids. “Casino Queen” sounds like a lost track from Exile In Main Street. And it’s appropriate for a state trying to solve its financial problems with gambling.
“The Illinois Enema Bandit,” by Frank Zappa. I dare the General Assembly to pass this.