Wonk Jams

A St. Louis rocker is laying down the Democratic soundtrack. Is that a good idea?

Aug 4, 2004 at 4:00 am
What's on John Kerry's iPod?

While John Kerry may have a higher body count than 50 Cent or Snoop Dogg, there's no way he's hip enough to have an iPod. How you could kill a few people and still be a nerd is beyond me. Killers usually have a little élan, but Kerry somehow pulls off being a nebbish badass. So it's pretty hard to imagine him slipping in his earbuds and pulling up his favorite playlist, much less what would be on it. (I'm thinking Sting.)

Not that George W. Bush is any more likely to carry around a 'Pod. The thought of a Dubya playlist is very frightening indeed -- the Dynasty theme song segueing into "Oops, I Did it Again"? And Nader would probably be all Peter, Paul and Mary.

But if you were watching a live feed of the Democratic National Convention last week, you got to find out what's on the Democratic National Committee's playlist, and it's really not half bad.

You can tell Missouri is a swing state from some of the Democrats' choices. As Chad Garrison noted in B-Sides a few weeks ago, Kerry and Edwards chose St. Louis demigods Van Halen's "Right Now" as one of their campaign theme songs. (Sammy Hagar himself gave a shout-out to the RFT at the end of last Thursday's Savvis Center show -- presumably for Paul Friswold and Mike Seely's Great Van Halen Debate and not because Hagar is aware of the RFT staff's notoriously massive level of tequila consumption.)

And, even better for Missouri, look at what's becoming the main campaign song of the Kerry-Edwards campaign: St. Louis legend Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." John Kerry, John Edwards...Johnny B. Goode! So far, so...good. Go, Johnny, go, and whatnot.

But is it really such a good idea to associate the two possible leaders of the free world with the line, "Who never ever learned to read or write so well"? I guess it never hurt Bush. (Rim shot.) But seriously, folks, I've got a suggestion for Cheney's tribute to Bush: Berry's ode to "my ding-a-ling." (Double rim shot.) I'll be here all week.

At the convention "Johnny" went along with flashing signs urging the conventioneers to sing along with the chorus. While I know all the Democrats mean well, this can only come off as geeky -- a bunch of folks in suits waving placards and singing oldies isn't the best way to garner the youth vote. (Neither is Patti LaBelle, but I digress.) With the massive amounts of young punk kids getting involved this year, it would have been nice to hear at least one song that people under 30 would get behind. How about something from NOFX's War on Errorism?

Al Sharpton finished his fire-and-brimstone speech Wednesday night with a very elegant metaphor about Ray Charles' blindness, "America the Beautiful" and faith before walking away to Charles' awesome rendition. Quite a bit of Bruce Springsteen follows Kerry around, which of course is an easy choice: working-class rah-rah, just the kind of music Kerry's "Band of Brothers" would have been listening to if Vietnam had taken place in the '80s. And the songs, like "Thunder Road," are vastly more appropriate than when Ronald Reagan used "Born in the U.S.A.," a tale of a beaten-down Vietnam vet. Of course, appropriateness doesn't figure into marketing equations -- witness the recent Wrangler jeans campaign that features a snippet of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," making the song sound like a patriotic ditty, or the Busch Stadium McDonald's ad featuring James Brown's "Sex Machine," edited so seamlessly that it sounds like a song about getting up, not getting it on.

It's hard to get a reading on Chuck Berry's political beliefs, as he spends his time between Duck Room shows in a suspended-animation chamber deep underneath Delmar Boulevard. But if you want to find out the political affiliation of Puffy Combs, Kenny G, Joan Jett and other celebrities, check out the addictive newsmeat.com, or the more meat-and-potatoes tray.com. The Democrats apparently failed to do this, or they might have noticed that Hagar gave Bush $2,000 last year. So they're paying royalties to the Red Rocker, and he's sending the cash over to the Republicans. Oops. Well, at least they didn't choose "Cat Scratch Fever."

But Hagar may be having a change of heart. According to the Post-Dispatch review of Wednesday night's show, during "Right Now," the video screen projected a photo of Bush above the words "Nothing is more expensive than regret." Yeah, regret is pretty pricey, Sammy. Looks like it costs about 2,000 clams. But until he writes another check to the Dems, actions speak louder than words.

But the Donkeys should have given Puffy a chance: He gives to Democrats, and he produced the Notorious B.I.G. 's "Mo Money Mo Problems" -- a Democratic theme song if ever there's been one.

As for Bush, during the last election cycle he used Billy Ray Cyrus' "We the People" as his campaign song (shudder). Toby Keith is probably polishing his mustache right now in preparation for the Republican Convention, but he shouldn't be so hasty. Sure, he could follow my lead to Puffy's "It's All About the Benjamins," but New York isn't a swing state. Please, please, Mr. President: pick Nelly's "Pimp Juice" as your new campaign song. It just makes sense.