Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan has caused a bit of a stir by revealing that he is a fan of revolutionary leftist rap-rockers Rage Against The Machine.
Cue a devastating op-ed from Rage guitarist Tom Morello in Rolling Stone. It's a brief but incredibly scathing attack on how Ryan is the embodiment of everything that Rage, erm, rages against. Every word is gold, but perhaps the most scathing passage is this:
I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta "rage" in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he's not raging against is the privileged elite he's grovelling in front of for campaign contributions.
Clearly, the lyrics and actions of a band of left-wing activists - who once famously stormed the New York Stock Exchange with 300 fans, forcing it to close - jar heavily with Paul Ryan's healthcare-hatin', gun-totin', poor-beatin', Wall Street-lovin' philosophies. He has rekindled one of my pet hates - that large, thoughtless mass of people who listen to radical songs, but don't listen to nor understand the radical lyrics.
In a blending of my two favourite things - music and politics - here is a quick rundown for your pleasure of some of the most bizarre incidences of when music memorably meets politics:
UKIP and Chumbawamba: Perhaps best known for their catchy 90s hit Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down) and less well-known outside of their fanbase as a band of anarchists, Chumbawamba were "horrified" to discover that UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage used the song as his accompaniment when he arrived on-stage at a party conference.
Chumbawamba's reaction was to immediately condemn, in the strongest possible terms, both party and person. The Guardian reported former lead singer, the wonderfully named Alice Nutter, stating that:
"If ever there was gross misuse of a band's music this is it. As a former member of Chumbawamba, I would like it to go on record that we do not support either Nigel Farage or UKIP. In fact we would go further and say that Nigel Farage is an arse, his party is mainly made up of bigots and its policies are racist."
UKIP was forced to issue a meek statement saying that if the band were unhappy with the song choice, UKIP would not use it again. Endearingly, Chumbawamba's Danbert Nobacon also threw a bucket of iced water over John Prescott at the 1998 Brit Awards after claiming that the Labour Party had sold out.
US Republicans and liberal musicians: In a country where mindless 'patriotism' rules politics, it's important to portray your particular values as being 'American' values - whatever they are. So you'll need some American sound to go along with all your hot air about Americanism. This is where the Republicans consistently fall foul of musicians.
Bruce Springsteen, a well-known supporter of American liberal causes, probably felt completely bemused when Ronald Reagan repeatedly used the song Born in the USA during campaign rallies in the 1984 US Presidential Election, completely ignoring all the song's lyrics about poverty, hardship and the failings of the United States. In what was perhaps one of the best lines of an abysmal campaign by the Democrats that year, Walter Mondale responded to unconvincing Republican statements that 73-year-old Reagan was a Springsteen fan by saying, "Bruce Springsteen may have been born to run, but he wasn't born yesterday."
Tom Petty had to take 2011 Republican primary challenger Michele Bachman to task over her use of his song American Girl. His lawyers also had to contact George W. Bush over the use of his song I Won't Back Down in the 2000 Presidential Election campaign. Bush was forced to, er, back down..
Phil Collins and the UK Labour Party: The former Genesis frontman asserted that if the Labour Party won the 1997 UK General Election, he would leave the country. Phil was a man of his word and left, presumably for tax purposes (Christian Aid named him in 2008 on a list of wealthy tax-dodging celebrities), though he later claimed it was because he'd met a woman in Switzerland. In 2005, Noel Gallagher from Oasis was quoted by MTV as saying 'Vote Labour - or Phil will come back. And let's face it, none of us want that...'
The Dead Kennedys vs. San Francisco: Legendary American punk band Dead Kennedys were already known for their political pranksterism when lead singer Jello Biafra ran for Mayor of San Francisco in 1979.
His campaign stunts included mocking the Democratic Party frontrunner, Dianne Feinstein, by trailing a vacuum cleaner around her neighbourhood, hoovering the pavements, making fun of her publicity stunt of sweeping streets in downtown San Francisco. His platform included forcing businessmen to wear clown suits, and hiring the unemployed to become pan-handlers in wealthy areas. He famously stated, "For those who see my candidacy as a joke, they should keep in mind that it is no more of a joke, and no less of a joke, than anyone else they care to name."
Supporters carried signs saying "If he doesn't win, I'll kill myself" and "What if he DOES win?" In the end, Biafra garnered a very respectable 6,591 votes, coming fourth.
Political differences - The Ramones: The iconic standard bearers of American punk rock are more known for songs like Blitzkreig Bop and I Wanna Be Sedated than for their 1985 single Bonzo Goes To Bitburg, which mocked US President Ronald Reagan. The lyrics, written by liberal activist singer Joey Ramone, angered guitarist Johnny Ramone, a staunch Republican, who nevertheless was forced to perform the song anyway.
Joey and Johnny Ramone began a feud that lasted for the rest of their lives, and Johnny became known as one of the few openly right-wing punk rockers in the US. In 2002, when the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he made an unusual acceptance speech when he said "God bless President Bush and god bless America." He was later quoted as saying "I think Ronald Reagan was the best President of my lifetime."
Even after the two had passed away, Johnny's wife - also a Republican - campaigned for John McCain in the 2008 Presidential election... while using the Ramones name, which sparked yet another row. Joey Ramone's brother was quoted as saying "The only Ramones song (Joey) would sing at a Republican campaign event would be Glad To See You Go!
N.W.A and Triple J - Express Yourself: Back in an era where hip-hop was more about railing against poverty and racism than "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'," N.W.A's Fuck Tha Police was hugely controversial for its lyrics referencing the murder of police officers. The track was prophetic in that it referenced tensions between police and black youth that would eventually spill over into the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. When the Australian Broadcasting Corporation banned radio station Triple J from playing the song, the staff reacted by going on strike and putting the band's track Express Yourself on the air on a constant loop. The song was played back-to-back for over 24 hours, being played roughly 360 times in a row.
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