JFK Assassination Song: “Catholic Day” by Adam and the Antz

Before discussing “Catholic Day” by Adam and the Antz, I want to mention one of the songs included on the Turn Me On, Dead Man compilation Conspiracy A-Go-Go, available as a free download on Bandcamp, “Five Bullets” by Eye Ocean, from the 2010 release The Smoke in Your Eyes. The song is called “Five Bullets” because, according to songwriter Pascal Cormier, “John F. Kennedy was shot in the throat, twice in the back and then twice in the head simultaneously.” Cormier sees a broad conspiracy at work in the JFK assassination, “I believe that JFK was assassinated by people he knew, I believe the CIA, Cardinal Spellman and the Vatican were definitely involved, using the Roman Catholic Mafia and some U.S. Military. I believe one of the shots he got to the head was done by the driver.”

Pascal’s conspiracy theory is not obvious in “Five Bullets”. Instead, the focus here is on Kennedy’s views on the relationship between religion and the state. JFK was the first Catholic elected President despite considerable prejudice among the electorate. A Gallup poll taken in 1959 showed that a quarter of Americans would not vote for a Catholic president. Kennedy confronted this issue at a key point in the 1960 presidential campaign. In an address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960, JFK made clear that he believed the separation of church and state “is absolute”. The effect of JFK’s speech was to reassure many voters, as the percentage of those opposed to a Catholic president had dropped to 13 percent by the time JFK had taken office. “Five Bullets” uses passages from that speech:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote…. I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

This speech became an issue in the 2012 presidential primaries, as Republican candidate Rick Santorum was quoted as saying that Kennedy’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up“. Santorum deservedly received considerable criticism for the remark and admitted, “I wish I had that particular line back.”

Which brings me to “Catholic Day” by Adam and the Antz, included on the 1979 album Dirk Wears White Sox. “Catholic Day” also samples a Kennedy speech, JFK’s final State of the Union address, which he delivered on January 14, 1963. “For you and I are privileged to serve the great Republic in what could be the most decisive decade in its long history. The choices we make, for good or ill, may well shape the state of the Union for generations yet to come.” Here, Adam Ant presents a more cynical view of JFK, suggesting (if I’m interpreting the lyrics correctly) that JFK’s words would come back to haunt him—that the choices he made resulted in his assassination. Adam Ant suggests that JFK’s image was style (His “sporty young hairstyle” and Levi’s Sta-Prest jeans) over substance. Repeated over and over is the line “I see the chickens have come home to roost”, but the listener is left wondering what it is exactly that Adam Ant thinks sealed JFK’s fate. Perhaps it was JFK’s affairs, notably Marilyn Monroe (“No more messing round, playing with Monroe”), or maybe it was his use of “soft drugs” or “playing the space race” that resulted in his assassination, but none of these things provide a satisfactory explanation. Perhaps the most pointless thing about “Catholic Day” is that the events described in this song have nothing to do with JFK’s Catholic faith. Ironic that a song with the conspiracy-theory title “Five Bullets” would be all about JFK’s faith and a song called “Catholic Day” would have so little to say about it.

Catholic Day
by Adam Ant
performed by Adam and the Antz

Kennedy died in ’63
Poor John F.
Kennedy died in ’63
Poor John F.
Kennedy died in ’63
Poor John F.
Kennedy
Poor John F.
Kennedy

No more messing round, playing with Monroe
(Oh-oh-oh playing with Monroe)
No more turning on the middle aged ladies
(Oh-oh-oh the middle aged ladies)
All I remember was your sporty young hairstyle
(Oh-oh-oh your sporty young hairstyle)
All I remember was the Catholic day

Kennedy died in ’63
Poor John F.
Kennedy’s wife with his brain on her knee
Poor Jackie
Kennedy’s wife with his brain on her knee
Poor Jackie
Kennedy
Poor Jackie
Kennedy

No more rocking chairs, sitting on the front porch
(Oh-oh-oh sitting on the front porch)
No more soft drugs, playing the space race
(Oh-oh-oh playing in the space race)
All I remember was your Levi’s Sta-Prest
(Oh-oh-oh your Levi’s Sta-Prest)
All I remember was the Catholic day

For you and I are privileged to serve the great Republic in what could be the most decisive decade in its long history. The choices we make, for good or ill, will affect the welfare of generations yet unborn.

I see the chickens have come home to roost

In the world beyond our borders, steady progress has been made in building a world of order. The people of West Berlin remain free and secure. A settlement, though still precarious, has been reached in Laos.

[gunshot]

No more messing round, playing with Monroe
(Oh-oh-oh playing with Monroe)
No more turning on the middle aged ladies
(Oh-oh-oh the middle aged ladies)
All I remember was your sporty young hairstyle
(Oh-oh-oh your sporty young hairstyle)
All I remember was the Catholic day

2 thoughts on “JFK Assassination Song: “Catholic Day” by Adam and the Antz

  1. Just listening to this song right now made me think that it actually has something to do less with JFK than with being BRITISH! I think he’s saying – probably for shock value – It’s the chickens that have come to roost for Catholics; in the UK the divisions between Protestant and Catholic resulted in people being burned at the stake, it’s deep-rooted. Adam Ant was in his early 20s when he wrote this song and had never been the USA, and this song – like many of his songs/punk songs – from this period should not be taken as anything other than being provocative. What could be more provocative and “punk” than to attack an American icon, and a Catholic one as well.

    I might add that Adam and the Ants were acutely aware of the Protestant/Catholic tensions and did not tour Ireland for that reason. I might also add that when this album was released in the United States, “Catholic Day” was left off.

    Lastly: you should look at this from the perspective of 1978 (when the song was written and first performed), not from the perspective of now. Less concrete things were known. You “heard” that Kennedy and Monroe were a thing; not being a JFK buff myself, i still don’t know the particulars, and yet I take it as fact.

    Personally I always liked the track just so I could hear some JFK speech.

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