Love The Candidate? Buy the Soundtrack!
“I’m your top prime cut of meat
I’m your choice
I wanna be Elected”
–Alice Cooper “Elected”
It’s time to talk about music and it’s use in the U.S. Election cycle this season.
Let me start out by saying that I’m a Canadian living in California so while I have no dog in this fight, per se, Obama’s policies and outlooks most resemble my own. So he’s my dog, if you will. In coming weeks I may have something to say about the Canadian elections, but this current post is about music and the U.S. election.
The other night, the Obama campaign raised 9 million dollars at a Hollywood fundraiser starring Barbra Streisand. To put that in everyday numbers, that’s roughly 9 million times what you or I have in our wallets but about a quarter of the cost of the average Hollywood blockbuster.
It’s said that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, and Leonard Cohen once sang (allegedly to Janis Joplin) “We are ugly, but we have the music”. Music of course is the soundtrack to all of our lives and the Democrats who assembled in L.A. for Barbra and Barack are Hoping (with a capital H) that Obama can take us back to “The Way We Were” during the financially secure Clinton years, with the “Evergreen” Belief that 8 years of Republican rule will come to a “Stoney End” in November. Meanwhile, the GOP has been running into all sorts of trouble finding musicians to even ALLOW their music to be appropriated by Team McCain. That’s because, in popular songs, meaning has currency. And deregulating that meaning, i.e subverting an artist’s intent to a diametrically opposite political party, devalues that currency.
Musicians, Don Was once told me, are different than actors.
Actors get known for playing people often unlike themselves, in fact the more different they are in real life, the more acclaim we give them.
“Films,” the be-dreadlocked producer told me, during an interview for the Barenaked Ladies book, “are an escape. Pop music articulates personal feelings that transcend conversational language. And people use it because it actually expresses your feelings in a more eloquent way.”
Thus, we have Obama getting blanket authorization to walk out to Ben Harper songs, U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” and Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” while, on the other hand, Jackson Browne sues John McCain for unauthorized use of “Running on Empty”, Van Halen jumps to stop McCain from using “Right Now” (even though Sarah and Todd Palin gave Trig Palin the middle name Van, to make him Trig Van Palin in honor of their love of Van Halen) while John Mellencamp lashed out at McCain for his use of “Pink Houses” and “Our Country” and Ann and Nancy Wilson are furious that Palin might have implied their endorsement of her by using Heart’s “Barracuda” to intro the self-styled Sarah Barracuda.
Here’s the thing though, these songs don’t actually help the GOP when you check the lyrics.
One of the best lines in “Barracuda” for example, goes “And if the real thing don’t do the trick / You better make up something quick” – too honest, perhaps?
And why would someone who is running on empty promises want to draw attention to it by literally using “Running On Empty”? It’s the most tone-deaf equation since Reagan unsuccessfully attempted to co-opt Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” despite the fact that the song questioned everything that Reagan’s GOP stood for. Springsteen, of course, demanded they stop, as did Tom Petty when GW Bush cued up “I Won’t Back Down” for his 2000 campaign. Presumably, Fleetwood Mac were sympatico with Bill Clinton and blessed his ubiquitous use of “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow).” But hey, the GOP have their supporters, too you know? Like country star John Rich, of Big and Rich, who actually wrote a new song for the GOP candidate, entitled “Raising McCain” (get it?). And I’m sure Kid Rock must be with McCain, although I admit it’s his ads for the National Guard that may be confusing me, it’s just that I’m so used to the GOP co-opting military and NASCAR thing – you assume he’s Republican. Anyone out there know where the Kid stands? Let me know. Strangely, even Toby Keith says he supports Obama! So it’s a fair question.
But, while there are plenty of Republicans in the music industry, it seems that every time the McCain team grab a hold of a popular song, they are told they are, to use a phrase, not worthy.
Here’s A Few Song That I Don’t Think Are Being Used By Either Party.
“Living In Hope” – The Rutles for Obama
“Let’s Impeach The President” Neil Young for Biden
“John, I’m Only Dancing” David Bowie for McCain
“Do The Dinosaur” Was (Not Was) – for Palin
And forgive me, but how about “Sweet Home Obama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd?
As you can see, I’d suck at that job, but I’ll bet YOU can think of many more, probably much better ideas for campaign songs.
So send them to me, via the COMMENTS slot….
And now to play us out, (PLAY US OUT? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?)
here’s Randy Newman with “Political Science”…