“Cease and desist” letters must be a drag to get. But the McCain campaign seems to actively enjoy them. Especially the ones from disgruntled pop stars whose songs have been used to provide a soundtrack to the Republican bid for the White House.
The McCain people have already annoyed Heart, Jackson Browne, The Foo Fighters and Bon Jovi among others. Darn those contradictory lyrics that no one bothers to listen to before blasting them out of speakers at a Sarah Palin rally.
The election is only a couple of weeks away now. The McCain folks are probably scratching their heads as to which songs they can still safely use without getting into hot water with the artists. (Actually, that’s probably not true. I imagine they simply don’t care, which is kind of punk rock of them, you have to admit.)
There are some easy “gets” though. Kid Rock’s “American Badass,” or Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue” are probably fair game without consequence. And I’m guessing Reba McEntire, Switchfoot, Daddy Yankee and Trace Adkins are open to having their music co-opted.
But that’s just, like, six people. Out of over something like one million pop stars that exist on this planet. And that’s not counting lots of hip-hop and dancehall reggae artists the Republicans would never even think to use, even though that’s where all the best pro-gun, anti-woman and anti-gay stuff comes from. Seriously, have you heard DMX or Beanie Man? Those guys are highly skilled at fusing all those disparate strands of horror into a spicy mélange. Just like Rachael Ray.
So hey there, conservatives. I made you a party mix. A grand old party mix. Here’s what you should crank at your next NObama bash:
1. “Taxman” – The Beatles. Written by insanely rich Brits. Those guys know all about taxes and how much they hate them — and the free health care taxes provides an entire nation of children and elderly moochers. It doesn’t matter that back in the late ’60s The Beatles were the bane of every conservative’s existence. The song’s writer is long gone now. They could probably get away with using it for about 24 hours, too, before George Harrison's estate raised hell. Even longer if Michael Jackson happens to own it.
2. “Cult of Personality” – Living Colour. For when they attack Obama for being “a celebrity.” More points for being sung by an African-American. Would the band complain? Principle says yes. Need for career-resurrection says no.
3. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – The Who. This song has every buzzword you could want: fighting, morals, worship, judgment, shotgun, revolution, pray, liberated. Even better? The expression “new constitution,” which Sarah Palin just mentioned this week when she said she’d enjoy amending it to suit her religious beliefs.
So what’s not to like about this song besides the fact that it’s not really “pro” any of those things from a right-wing angle? It’s like a dictionary of loaded words attached to a party jam you can get super-wasted to. Everyone loves that. And The Who will let a cop show use one of their songs as a theme so you know they don’t care who else takes one of their hits out for a spin as long as the check don’t bounce.
4. “When the Levee Breaks” – Led Zeppelin. They know that when one of those things crumbles next time they’ll be right on the case. Just you wait and see! But don’t ask for infrastructure money before then. That stuff is for fake Americans.
5. “Janie’s Got a Gun” – Aerosmith. And she should have one. Every kid should. And again, much like The Who, Aerosmith has been worn down by years of people recontextualizing “Dude Looks Like a Lady” in commercials and stuff like “Mrs. Doubtfire.” They just don’t bother asking why anymore.
6. “Who Let The Dogs Out” – Baha Men. Has no political meaning or relevance at all. But big crowds of people still love to get crazy to this song. And if you think The Who and Aerosmith are royalty-mad, the Baha Men wrote the playbook. And they’re still smarting from being left off the “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” soundtrack. So they’re angry. Which makes them the John McCain of novelty songwriters.
7. “Smalltown Boy” – Bronski Beat. It’s from the ’80s. Total ’80s synthpop. People love that stuff. Like have you seen the new “literal” video version of that A-ha song “Take on Me?” Hilarious. Anyway this ’80s jam is a heartwarming, traditional values-based song about a smalltown boy who… oh wait. He leaves the small town? Because he’s being gay-bashed? OK, forget it.
8. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” – Starship. After that sourpuss Bruce Springsteen refused to let Ronald Reagan use the lyrically downbeat and musically upbeat “Born in The USA” during his 1984 re-election bid, all we had left as a nation to make us feel good about ourselves (after the “Top Gun” theme and “She Bop” had been run into the ground) was this song about a guy who can’t sustain a real relationship with an actual woman so he goes and dates a department store mannequin. And we can all still agree that that’s an awesome way to live. Meanwhile, Starship, those old hippies, didn’t even write it. So it’s time to party. Someone get Hollywood Montrose on the phone, see if he’ll show up in those crazy sunglasses and pose for pics with Cindy McCain.
9. “Lubbock or Leave It” – Dixie Chicks. Just because it’d be fun to get them riled up again.
10. “Convoy” – CW McCall & Cheeta. No lie, apparently they’re re-releasing this trucker/citizen’s band radio hit from the ’70s and it’s going to include random howling and “ooh-ooh-ooh” vocals from 76-year-old Cheeta, the chimp that starred in all those old Tarzan movies. Who’ll be the first hick to latch onto it? Let’s watch…
Dave White is the author of “Exile in Guyville.”