Friday, April 15, 2005

TERRELL'S TUNEUP: THE PRESIDENTIAL iPOD

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 15, 2005


The New York Time's Elisabeth Bumiller scored a journalistic coup recently when she got hold of a major White House document.

President Bush’s iPod.

Granted, it’s not quite on the same level as 35 years ago when The Times and The Washington Post published The Pentagon Papers, but at least no right-wing bloggers have accused the playlist of being fabricated.

In Monday’s edition, Bumiller reported that the First iPod “is heavy on traditional country singers like George Jones, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney. He has selections by Van Morrison, whose "Brown Eyed Girl" is a Bush favorite, and by John Fogerty, most predictably `Centerfield,’ which was played at Texas Rangers games when Mr. Bush was an owner and is still played at ballparks all over America.”

Interesting facts: Bush received his iPod in July as a birthday gift from his daughters. He has about 250 songs on it, (“a paltry number compared to the 10,000 selections it can hold.”) Bush, doesn’t download the music himself. His aide Blake Gottesman does it for him. Apparently Mark McKinnon, a Bush biking buddy and chief media strategist for the 2004 campaign, also has done some downloading for the leader of the free world. Bush mainly listens to it during bicycle workouts.

In evaluating the president’s playlist, Bumiller quotes Joe Levy music editor at Rolling Stone.
“This is basically boomer rock 'n' roll and more recent music out of Nashville made for boomers,” Levy said. “It's safe, it's reliable, it's loving. What I mean to say is, it's feel-good music. The Sex Pistols it's not."

Anyone surprised?

The article notes that despite Bush’s fondness for Fogerty, his iPod doesn’t contain “Fortunate Son,” the Creedence Clearwater Revival song that sounds as if it were written for Bush even though it was a hit more than 30 years before his presidency.


You can also bet he doesn’t have anything from last year’s two volume Rock Against Bush punk compilations that includes selections by Jello Biafra, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, Green Day, The Offspring, Ministry, Rancid and others. And I seriously doubt if he has Mary Gauthier’s “Karla Faye,” a sad ballad about a woman executed when Bush was governor of Texas (discussed a few weeks ago in my column on death-penalty songs.)

Here’s some other songs that would get Blake Gottesman fired if they showed up on Bush’s personal music player:

* “Far Away” By Sleater-Kinney. This song, from the punk-girls’ 2002 album One Beat is about a young mother watching the news on Sept. 11, 2001. The last verse probably would cause Bush to wreck his bike: “And the president hides/while working men rush in/To give their lives …”

* “Bu$hleaguer” by Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder caused some controversy in Denver last year when he destroyed a Bush mask on stage. (Did I hear calls for a constitutional amendment?) Pearl Jam’s 2002 album Riot Act contained this weird little mainly spoken-word track that had lyrics like “A confidence man, but why so beleaguered?/He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer/Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike/Drilling for fear, makes the job simple/Born on third, thinks he got a triple.”

* “The Lie” by The Waco Brothers. You might think a president from Crawford, Texas would want to hear something by a band called The Waco Brothers, (led by Jon Langford of The Mekons). If Bush does get curious he probably shouldn’t start with the 2002 album New Deal, which ends with this song: “to the manor born/a silver spoon in your nose/trade up and trade faith/like a new set of clothes/follow suits in new boots/sounds vague, listen close/the lie between the lines.” Of course the Wacos were fairly hard on Bush’s predecessor too. Back in the mid ‘90s they sang a song that began, “The last president of the United States/that’s Dollar Bill the cowboy …”

* “The FCC Song” by Eric Idle. This free internet download from the Monty Python regular apparently was inspired by the Federal Communication Commission’s heavy fines on shock jock Howard Stern. But, sung in a lilting, cheerful English Music Hall style, Idle soon turns it into a hilariously obscene screed against the entire Bush administration: “So fuck you very much dear Mr. Bush/ for heroically sitting on your tush … ” That’s one of the milder parts.

* “President’s Day” by Loudon Wainwright III. This is another internet-only free download released last year. However this song became instantly dated on Nov. 3. “George was the first one -- Abe was the best/Libraries and airports named after the rest/But this year I'm queasy about Presidents' Day/For there's been more than one George I'm sorry to say … And next year at this time I sure hope I can say/I feel a lot better about Presidents' Day/(with no George in the White House -- Oh Happy Day!)”

* “That’s the News” by Merle Haggard. Back in the late ‘60s President Nixon, delighted with anti-hippie songs like “Okie From Muskogee” had Hag play the White House. But Merle, staying true to his populism, has grown more cynical about politicians in this 2003 song. There’s no flag-waving here. “Suddenly the cost of war is somethin' out of sight/Lost a lotta heroes in the fight/Politicians do all the talkin': soldiers pay the dues …”

* “Déjà Vu All Over Again” by John Fogerty. Bumiller points out that Fogerty was part of the anti-Bush "Vote for Change" concert tour during last fall‘s presidential campaign. And the title song of his latest album, inspired by the war in Iraq, proved he had some of the “Fortunate Son” spirit in him. “Day by day, I hear the voices risin'/ Startin' with a whisper like it did before/Day by day, we count the dead and dying/Ship the bodies home while the networks all keep score …”

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