Ball of Wax 38 Songs of Protest: Virgin of the Birds – “In 1970, Across Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo Broke the Black Panther Party”

Jon Rooney of Virgin of the Birds (and also, it must be said, of this here blog) strips down to his one-man low-fi roots for this tune, with a languid bed of guitar, bass, keys, and tambourine backing up a historical tour of protest and conflict told in Rooney’s signature “nasal baritone” (to use a phrase from one of his other songs). We begin, as the title suggests, in Philadelphia in 1970 with Frank Rizzo and the Black Panthers and end, somewhat surprisingly, in 417 with the beef between Augustine of Hippo and Pelagius on free will vs. predestination (yes, I had to look it up). The second verse, still in Philadelphia, provides one of the more poignant moments I can remember from a Virgin of the Birds song: young Jon Rooney in his school uniform witnessing the aftermath of the 1985 conflict between MOVE and the Philadelphia police (yes, I had to look that one up too). I always love to get a little slice of how Jon sees the world, and this tune provides a heaping helping of his unique brand of perception and juxtaposition.

Get yourself a heaping helping of the live, full-band Virgin of the Birds experience at the Ball of Wax 38 release show this Friday at Conor Byrne.

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