Born to Run

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As you know, the tawdry world of political campaigning has long since taken up with the tawdry world of mass culture. Aspirant leaders of the West court whichever pimp (or, indeed, ho) befits their ailing demographic. You’ll recall a young and glossy Tony Blair poncing about with, of all persons, Oasis for much of 1997. Clearly, New Labour focus groups indicated that speed-addled, cruelly patriotic Yoof who enjoyed watching porn from chip-buttie stained bean bags were those in most desperate need of representation. Maybe Noel’s Gonna be the One to Save Me, reasoned Blair.

Our own K-Rudd was more judicious in naming his popular loyalties. His Facebook page mentioned a few pop preferences. I recall that he liked John Denver. And that his favourite film was The Shawshank Redemption. I could be wrong. I could be mistaking these proclivities for those of my most understanding and liberal uncle. But this, of course, was possibly Rudd’s point.

Of course, no song has been more resonant in Australian campaign history than ‘It’s Time‘. This song was tinged with honky hope, sideburns AND Bert and Patti Newton. Nothing says optimism like Bert and Patti. The wholesome outreach to the exurbs worked, and we all enjoyed a funky three years until "Sir" John Kerr lifted his head from the Armagnac balloon long enough to block supply.

Governor Generals, of course, don’t require a soundtrack. If they did, however, Kerr’s would have been by Wagner or similar sloshing bombast. Or maybe Mantovani. At this point, I see Quentin Bryce, AC as more of a perky Rodgers & Hammerstein type. Think Julie Andrews as the naughty novitiate nun. Or, for a more modern twist, possibly a bit of P!nk.

John F Kennedy surrounded himself (and, indeed, his penis) with celebrity. The rakish Rat Pack provided services to his campaign and inaugural ball. It’s nice to imagine Frank Sinatra taking pause from the business of eating ham and eggs from a Vegas hooker’s chest to help a fellow Catholic win.

William Jefferson Clinton, meanwhile, fleshed out the hopes of chubby Baby Boomers with a little Mac Attack. ‘Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)’ was his anthem of choice. Fleetwood Mac, reputedly rock’s most poorly behaved and Lucifer-lovin’ band, provided Bubba with the soundtrack to victory. Yesterday’s gone. Yesterday’s gone. Or, at least, is almost gone. Yesterday’s legacy will abide if Mrs Clinton has anything to do with it.

As Hilary’s chances dwindle so too, apparently, does her taste in music. Long wedded to the web as a campaign tool, HRC took her quest for a campaign ditty online. Actually, I’m very fond of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing‘ as used in the afore-linked Sopranos pastiche. But, I guess not even the most generous assessment would allow Clinton to pass for A Small Town Girl Living In A Small Town World. Her official choice is Celine Dion, with some song I’m, mercifully, yet to hear. This is an odd selection. It will almost certainly spell doom in Pennsylvania. First, Dion is Canadian. Second, she is Satan, as every sane and faintly discerning person knows.

Actually, one of my favourite bad writers, AA Gill puts the matter of Dion’s evil to rest. Upon resiling from the torture of a Dion Vegas show, he observed, "she doesn’t so much project songs as implore them to leave her body." This is exactly how Dion sounds: like a venomous mother giving birth to unwanted evil. Hilary, are you certain that’s the kind of mood for which you’re aiming?

Hilary’s other contender was ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2. Probably not advisable. Not only would Bono’s Christian trill alienate her atheist fan base, she’d probably not be helped at all by stanzas like, "You’re on the road. But you’ve got no destination. You’re in the mud. In the maze of her imagination."

Nonetheless, U2 continues to work very well in the campaign to make people purchase chocolate. You can hear it in the aisles. This is because, apparently, the science of aural marketing is becoming more exact. Perhaps you’ve noticed how often you might hear (ugh) Coldplay in the supermarket? It seems Chris Martin’s endless yakking re misery, frustration and regret causes people to buy low-nutrient snacks.

John Edwards – who I am reliably informed was not, by any means, a low-nutrient snack – obviously misfired at the jukebox. He tried a little John Mellencamp. Didn’t work for the earnest Democrat. But, as ye who have too much time on your hands may recall, it did work for Reagan in the 1984 campaign. When rank cynic Ron tried to employ ‘Little Pink Houses‘, Mellencamp said HALT. But the damage was already done. More recently, when the cryogenic McCain requested a loan, the balladeer told him to bugger off. It’s almost enough to make me forgive John "Cougar" Mellencamp for the codpiece he wore in ‘Hurts So Good‘. (Which, as it happens, might have been an apposite ditty for Paul Keating’s turn as federal treasurer. Sometimes recessions don’t feel like they should. C’mon PJ. Make it hurt so good.)

If you’re young and thereby inured to the charms of all but (ugh) John Mayer (NB ‘Waiting On the World to Change’ used to disastrous effect by Wesley Clark in 2004) you’ll probably regard Mellencamp as a bit of a plonker. And, based solely on the evidence of ‘Hurts So Good’, you’d be forgiven. However, ‘Little Pink Houses’ is quite decent and moving. To wit: "There’s a black man with a black cat. Living in a black neighbourhood. He’s got an interstate runnin’ through his front yard." Why the GOP would find this appropriate to their campaign interests is beyond me.

But, of course, the Boss of bleak is Bruce. If you don’t believe me, immediately purchase Nebraska. This morose, four-track yelp is a jeremiad of exurban frailty and one of the few artefacts that sustained me through the early 1980s. The Boss is a god. A nod from The Boss is a signal to success.

Barack Obama tried to telegraph his own musical message to the people. He chose (ugh) Ben Harper. He needn’t have bothered. The Boss, it seems, has afforded the young hopeful endorsement.

This gun is, so rarely, for hire. Nonetheless, he says on his website: "a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken. I believe that Senator Obama is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans."

Oooh. An invitation to E Street, surely, provides a guaranteed ride to Pennsylvania Avenue. You can’t start a fire without a spark. And, this year, you can’t win an election without the benediction of The Boss. This, so far, is my favourite soundtrack to Campaign 08.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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