Monster/Suicide/America

Album: Monster (1969)
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Songfacts®:

  • This biting and often overlooked protest song tackles then-current issues such as the Vietnam War, draft resisters, and the decay of justice in America. In a Songfacts interview with Steppenwolf frontman John Kay, he explained: "Our first cross-country tour in 1968, that was a year when America was on fire. King had been assassinated that spring, Robert Kennedy was murdered that summer, and very late in that summer, during the Chicago Democratic Convention, there were thousands of people demonstrating in the streets chanting, 'The whole world is watching.'"
  • Running 9:15, this is the opening track to Steppenwolf's socio-politically minded fourth album, Monster. The song is divided into three sections - Monster, Suicide, and America - and recounts the inconvenient history of America, how it was built on slavery and on claiming lands from Native Americans. A look back at the American history of violence and greed makes it clear how the country got mired in the Vietnam War, which was on everyone's mind in 1969.
  • "Monster/Suicide/America" got a lot of airplay on college radio stations, as campuses were hotbeds of protest. It also got a lot of airplay on freeform FM stations. Steppenwolf is best known for their hits "Born To Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride," but they earned a lot of fans with album cuts like this one.

Comments: 15

  • Mike Darucki from Cave Creek AzOne of my all time favorites forever it will always be on my play list.
  • Dav from North CarolinaVery appropriate for our time, post-Trump. I listened to it in 1971 when I was in the Air Force. I just woke up early 12:00 am this morning with this song on my mind- especially, the last part: America, where are you now? Don't you care for your sons and daughters?.....A powerful song.
  • Zebu from White Bayou Louisiana I was in the 82nd, 2nd bn325th white falcons. Played this every morning and "I'd love to change the world " next. Imagine the people would be running for cover if it was on FM today.
  • Bill Pennock from Scottsdale There is NO song that captures the reason we are in the environment today as this. To get it you have to be flexible enough to picture several different times while listening. But if you can you 2ill get it.
  • Saint Cyr from Michigan It's the story of the usa in 9 minutes and change. The last verse, where females join in the vocals, seem to say to me that there is still hope for us.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm {08-04-2017}
    Goldy McJohn, original keyboardist with Steppenwolf*, died Tuesday (August 1st, 2017) of a sudden heart attack at the age of 72. He played on the group's first seven albums until his termination in 1974, including all their hit singles. He later played with Manbeast as well as on solo recordings.
    May he R.I.P.
    * Between 1968 and 1974 Steppenwolf had thirteen records on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; three made the Top 10 with their biggest hit being "Born To Be Wild", it peaked at #2 {for 3 weeks} on Augst 18th, 1968, the three weeks that it was at #2, the #1 record for those three weeks was"People Got To Be Free" by the Rascals...
    The group's two other Top 10 records were "Magic Carpet Ride" {#3 in 1968} and "Rock Me" {#10 in 1969}.
  • David from Ct.I had the 3:17 edit on a 45, I first heard this song in 1977 and while collecting albums picked up Steppenwolf live, heard the live version and was blown away. What a great song. Well crafted and very fitting with the times.
  • Alphonse from MexicoI heard this song for the first time while I was in China, so it really touched my nerve.
  • Randy from Fayettevile, ArI see that a few of us here love this song on the famous "Steppenwolf - Live" album too. I think it's because the album has a bigger, fuller sound in-concert. Back in 1969, I was in grad school & in my last year so I read a lot in rock magazines about this Steppenwolf album. It was controversial, indeed, and lots of young fan bought it. I heard that the album "Monster" reached either #10 or #15 on the charts in 1969. I think Billboard had it at #17, but the other big charts had it ranked higher. Quite a song from quite a talented musician as John Kay. Here in 2014, I am still a Steppenwolf fan & still love their past hits and current material. I just heard on their Facebook site that the band is prepping for their 2014 tour. Great!
  • Raunchy from Tulsa, OkWhat a song!! I became a Steppenwolf fan with their huge hit "Born To Be Wild" in 1968 & became amazed at their albums and such outstanding creative songwriting. By the time "Monster/Suicide/America" came out on the "Monster" album, I had been drafted into the Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. in the 82nd Airborne. I bought the "Monster" album at a PX store at Fort Bragg & played the heck out of it on my stereo. Then I was sent to Vietnam at the Bien Hoa Army Base & I heard "Monster" played over the AFVN radio station there. Wow! Such a biting social commentary song being played by a military radio station??!! Anyway AFVN played it several times in the year I was in 'Nam. Let me say this: there are a lot of Vietnam vets who became fans of Steppenwolf for various reasons. Over the years, I've bought all their albums and was saddened when they disbanded. But then they reunited into several separate incarnations. Eventually, the band headed by John Kay won out. I consider Kay a musical genius for his songwriting, musicianship, and creativity.

    I agree with "Ray of Brooklyn, NY" about the "Steppenwolf Live" album concerning "Monster" because the live performance of it is really thrilling & amazing to hear, as is the entire album. It's their album with the awesome wolf's head on the cover. Besides the "Monster" cut, other outstanding cuts were "Move Over," "Power Play," "Don't Step On The Grass, Sam!" and of course "Born To Be Wild." For anyone interested in knowing more about Steppenwolf (and John Kay) just check them out on their website Steppenwolf.com or on their Facebook site. I hear that they're on another tour in 2014.
  • Ray from Bonneville Salt Flats, UtAs George wrote, this song, Power Play and many others are almost more relevant in 2011 than they were in the 60s and 70s. The irony is that it was the radical left that was "hollering" then; it's the far right, moderate right and some of the centrists today. John Kay (ironically a Canadian born in what's now Russia and raised in Germany) would write (in collaboration) such prophetic words about the USA. I find their music to be much MORE meaningful to me, personally now than when I first heard it when it was new. Additionally, I'm overwhelmed by the piano virtuosity of Goldy McJohn and the bass work of Rushton Moreve.
  • Ray from Brooklyn, NyCheck out Steppenwolf's live version on Steppenwolf Live. An absolutely amazing song.
  • John from Durango, CoThis song was my Anthem at the time of it's release. Always it would ring in my head as I watched our nation deteriorate in to the state it is now in, Yes, never a truer song there was or is, it's as though it was written yesterday. A timeless piece from a band tha will reamin in the history of rock. "America where are you now, don't you care about your sons and daughters. Don't you know we need you now, we can't fight alone agains t the monster."
  • George from Ottawa, CanadaI am amazed at how such an intelligent concise U.S.-history-relating song that has so many topical political and social references that one could easily make the mistake of thinking that it had been written yesterday, has been by-passed by every major film soundtrack in the last 30-some years - especially those that touch upon war and its injustices and sometimes ill-conceived rationale for happening. Don't get me wrong - sometimes we simply have to go to war - unfortunately.

    Perhaps the song's major problem is that it clocks in at 9 minutes or so; and so it has been ignored. However, it could have been edited down (as it was when it was released as a single in 1970 and as is done with many long songs in movies) to fit into the movie and the haunting guitar solo and the cry for help (American: Where are you now? Don't you care about your sons and daughters, Don't you know we need you now? We can't fight alone against the Monster)could be repeated at various times in a movie to re-generate or highlight the idea. Naturally, the entire cut could appear on the soundtrack CD.

    This song is perhaps John Kay and Company's best song on what is a great album that is full of relevant social commentary. A far superior political song band than the much over-hyped Jefferson Airplane.

    In addition, check out Steppenwolf's "For Ladies Only" album which was released (in 1971 or 1972, I believe) years ahead of the big social gains that the Women's Liberation Movement made in the late 70's and 80's. Each song on the album is a short insight-providing vignette or story about one or another of the aspects of women's "places" in society. At that time, the fight for Women's Rights was almost subversive and very controversial and few bands - if any others - touched upon the issue - let alone release an entire album about the topic.

    And they continued their political statements on their 1974 come-back album "Slow Flux" with the song "Justice Don't Be Slow" regarding Richard Nixon and Watergate. Clearly, in spite of their obvious hatred for Mr. Nixon, and based upon their songs on Monster and For Ladies Only, they are neither radical Democrats or Republicans or Liberals or Conservatives (in Canada). Rather, they chose topics to criticize: such as the Roman Catholic church (From Here to There Eventually*), the draft (Draft Resister*), the selfishness or greed of some members of society (What Would You Do*), the fears of retiring people (Move Over*), the abuse of Financial and Political Power (Power Play), the undervaluing of women (For Ladies Only**, Tenderness**), the exploitation of women for sex (Jaded Strumpet**) etc, and put forward their own views - which now are predominantly, the mainstream views - even though at that time of the release of the Monster and Ladies albums, these views were considerd radical, almost treasoness, certainly blasphemous and left-wing.

    Sorry to ramble - but I feel that Steppenwolf has long been under-rated and incompletely studied, respected and regarded. I have often felt that John Kay should try to write another social commentary song about the unfortunate ills that continue to exist in western and eastern society - but he already has done that on at east two albums. As I said at the outset of this little essay, the topics that Monster delved into are some of the same problems that persist today.
  • Sara Mackenzie from Middle Of Nowhere, Flvery sad song about the twisting, hypocritical history of a "free" nation.
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