Monday, 10 November 2008

News, Views and Music Issue 11 (Top Five): Political Songs

And finally, the latest in this week’s top fives: songs about Presidents and/ or politics.

5) ‘I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician’ (The Byrds/ Byrdmaniax, 1970). Roger McGuinn thinks he’s written a comedy song here, if the tooting horns and tongue-in-cheek delivery are anything to go by. But actually the words to this song could be used equally well for a serious song on the subject, of how the narrator is determined that if he is given the power to rule over people, he would never be ‘scary’ like so many of the world leader’s he’s known so far in his life and the feeling that, unlike most of them it seems, he would respect ‘the old red, white and blue’. Something tells me George Bush junior never actually heard the song during his time in office, because he broke every single rule mentioned in the song.

4) The whole 2 hours of ‘Preservation’ (The Kinks/ Preservation Acts 1 and 2, 1972-73). ‘I visiualise a day when people will be free and we’ll be living in a new society, no class distinction slums or poverty, so people of the nation unite…’ How we wanted to believe, but that nice if rather emotionless Mr Black isn’t all he seems. Yes here it is again making its third or fourth appearance on this list; Ray Davies’ concept about the emotionless Mr Black getting ousted by conman Mr Flash really is so similar to our present age that it makes me wonder whether the elder brother had a time machine at his disposal. As far as I know, however, Obama was never a second-hand car spiv and McCain never intended to introduce a 14-hour-a-day curfew. Don’t believe everything you see on CNN.

3) ‘Campaigner’ (Neil Young/ Decade, 1977). ‘I am a lonely visitor, I came to late to cause a stir, though I campaigned all my life towards that goal’. Some seven years after he wrote ‘Ohio’ about tin soldiers and Nixon coming and 30 years before he started singing ‘let’s impeach the president for lying’, Neil returned to his apolitical stance with this subdued song inspired a photograph of Richard Nixon looking battered and harassed after the Watergate trial, standing at the entrance to a hospital where one of his relations (we’re not sure which) was dying. Looking at the nearlies and also-rans of the political world, this forgotten Young song is a place where ‘even Richard Nixon has got soul’. So moving is the song that – even after hearing the burning cauldron of anger that’s Ohio – you want to sympathise. Blimey.

2) ‘Americana Panorama’ (10cc/ Windows In The Jungle, 1983). OK, so ‘americana panorama, Reagan was a right banana’ isn’t the best lyric that Eric Stewart ever wrote, but it still makes us laugh. Juxtaposing Reagan’s infamous stint as a Hollywood actor with all the very real and scary things relating to the end of the cold war that were happening in the 1980s, this is nightmare played as comedy and all the more chilling for it, appearing as it does on 10cc’s most frivolous-sounding but actually hardest-hitting LP.

1) ‘Let’s Impeach The President’ (Neil Young/ Living With War, 2006 and CSNY/ Déjà vu Live, 2008). Funny how this one keeps cropping up this site but hopefully this will be the last appearance of this song for a while (unless Obama goes the same way as his predecessor, but then he’d have to lose a lot of promising talent very quickly). Anyway, here is a quick reminder of how not to win people’s hearts and minds, with Bush’s contradictory statements about 9/11, the Iraq War and his foreign policy in general heard over a chorus of ‘flip…..flop’ while a solo horn tries in vain to drown out the song with a passage from ‘america the beautiful’. Half the audience walked out on the CSNY ‘freedom of speech’ tour of 2006 when they played this song and – despite the AAA’s best efforts to stay neutral – something about this song seems to have clicked for most CSNY fans too. Time for the world is running out…roll on January (to paraphrase another Neil Young song).  

That’s all for now, see you next week!

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