Tuesday was tough. I woke up early, voted without having to wait in line (my polling place has always been quiet) and spent the bulk of the day thereafter feeling like I had been physically rendered into ragged shreds of mixed emotions that mainly resembled a patchwork of grief. Being confined to the registers at work, restless, while polls across the country closed at their designated times, the ague that wracked my body and mind increased as the day sank heavily into night. On my dinner break things started looking up; I spent the hour with a politically like-minded coworker (and dear friend) at a local sports bar so decorated with festive balloons, streamers and flat-screen televisions that the effort needed to focus on what might really constitute "news" distracted my mind away from any results I didn't want to see, but nevertheless felt somewhat prepared to receive. When it was projected that my home state of Virginia was going to "go red," as red as a Virginia cardinal, my nerves slackened into an uncomfortable numbness.
Given the option to leave work early, I fled and hopped a bus to meet up with some friends at a bar I'd never been to or heard of. Trying to find a place unknown on such a night was absolutely frustrating and just when I was knitting my brow in consternation, bent over my cellphone feverishly texting queries to inebriated friends, a girl at the front of the bus began to squeal like a steam leak. Suddenly strangers were hugging, kissing and high-fiving me, dancing and falling all over each other on a crowded, careening Haight street bus with a horn-happy driver at the wheel. Images alike to those photos taken during the block parties that erupted at the end of World War II flashed to life in front of me and, maybe for the first time in my life, I felt the news. Everyone here would remember this night, the night the streets of San Francisco went wild for Barack Obama's victory and the end of eight years of George W. Bush.
Later at the bar I learned from some fellow Virginians that my home state had, in the end, gone blue (!) and that, duh, Illinois senator Barack Obama had indeed won the presidential race. I sipped at my freshly drawn pint, feeling like a crumpled ball of unraveling strain while tears welled and fell freely over smiling cheeks on so many faces in the place. More hugs, kisses and high-fives were exchanged by all. After the silence that settled the rowdy throng of patrons during Obama's speech had lifted, the first thing my friends and I discussed, naturally, was music, or more specifically, the absence of it. We had noticed that the celebration for Obama in Chicago did not include any specific song, as in a campaign song or a victory song. Though plenty of chants were taken up by the exuberant crowd, no song nor soundtrack enhanced the event save for a sort of generic theme composed of sweeping yet soothing symphonic, vaguely patriotic sounding string-scapes that served to bookend the commercial breaks. Lame. Granted, no song need follow such a punctuating speech, a speech so signifying the end of weeks of high tension and sleeplessness for many Americans regardless of their respective preferred candidates. Nevertheless, for me and my friends, the absence of a song, any song, the song was sorely felt.
This musical missing piece turned our discussion from the recent used (some would say abused) campaign songs (like Obama's "Better Way" by Ben Harper and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder and John McCain's choice of "Take A Chance On Me" by ABBA after John Mellencamp asked the McCain camp to stop using his song "Our Country") to our infinite possible suggestions for songs that for whatever reason were not used by the candidates. My immediate go-to song choice for Obama would have been David Bowie's "Changes," but then a mental run down of the lyrics the comprise the meat of the song had me searching for something more appropriate. Maybe the Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can Can" would be a better fit, as it goes right along with the repetitive phrasing of Obama's landmark speech, but maybe a little too down tempo to inspire fist pumping, or bumping...you know, victory daps. For McCain, who is just about the same age as my Dad, I gravitate towards songs I tend to associate with my Dad's taste in music. For example, my Dad really likes Kenny Rogers so why not play "The Gambler" at McCain rallies? It carries almost the same message as Abba's "Take A Chance On Me" besides the fact that it sounds a helluva lot better and strikes a chord with card players across America -- and that's basically everyone. A friend of mine in Michigan suggested that maybe "Money" by Pink Floyd might've been a good one to throw in the mix given our current economic conundrum as well as Li'l Kim's "Can't F*ck With Queen Bee" for Sarah "Barracuda" Palin. I know it's too late for such suggestions, but it's fun to play.And speaking of Sarah Barracuda, anyone catch that song played at the close of the Republican National Convention a while back? Heart's 1977 hit "Barracuda" pounded over the loud speakers and into a mess of trouble, causing Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson to issue a statement condemning the use of their song along with the addition of a cease-and-desist notice sent from Universal Music Publishing and sony BMG. The ladies' statement read:
"Sarah Palin's views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image. The song 'Barracuda' was written in the late 70's as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The 'barracuda' represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there's irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."
And I always thought the song was about burning witches or something like the Salem witch trials -- a somewhat fitting theme for Palin depending on your political point of view. Though the song was meant to refer to Palin's nickname earned during her high school years for being skilled at basketball, really, could there be any better song than one that states, "if the real thing don't do the trick/better make up something quick?" I think not, especially now that everything's said and done and Palin critics have grown increasingly pointed in their harsh remarks and egregious commentary.
One friend of mine mentioned at Tuesday night's election party that if any musical genre stand to lose from Obama's victory it has to be punk rock. Of course punk thrives on political gaffs, governmental abuse of power, and war, war, war but, let's face it, it also thrives on bad fashion, general malaise, apathetic grimaces and beer, beer, beer. I agree that American punkers might have a more difficult time gnashing their teeth at Obama than they've had with Bush, but there is enough decay, injustice and tyranny in the world yet to provide for at least a dozen other punk bands as good as, say, The Subhumans, who once asked their liberty-hawked bretheren, "are you prepared to die for your beliefs or just to dye your hair?" Punk's not going anywhere, but maybe reggae is, thanks to Obama supporter Papa Michigan:
Has the problematic playlist for the historic McCain/Palin campaign been pushed aside to make way for a new wave of upbeat, Obama-centric dance mixes? Part of me hopes not because I personally like to keep my politics and my kinetics separate. That song sure is catchy though and other Obama inspired tracks are soon to follow in the footsteps of artists like Papa Michigan and Will.I.Am, who is ready to release his third song about Obama which sounds like it'll be titled "It's A New Day." One can only hope that the political changes that occur within next four years will have minimal effect on the music industry not to mention the overall quality of music made during the impending Obama administration (read Brad Schelden's Amoeblog for his take on this issue). I, for one, am hopeful and look forward to seeing what form the next four years will take musically and politically. Like Bowie says, "Turn and face the strain/Ch-ch-changes/don't wanna be a richer man...I'm gonna have to be a different man," nice words from a man who once penned a song called "I'm Afraid of Americans." It would seem that many Americans are afraid of Americans these days despite what any English musician like Bowie or Morrissey might say. No matter, our differences, however vast, are united through the music we make as we are, all of us, beings who express themselves via sound, song and music-making. That's a simple fact that puts us right out there in the wild we came from with the howling wolves, the singing whales and the sonic mimicry of the Australian Lyre bird (the ultimate rip-off artist). That said, given all this talk of politics and music, no misappropriation of song use is worse than the absence of joyful music at an event that clearly called for it. And thanks to that oversight I've got "Changes" in my head again.