Saturday, February 16, 2008

As if 'More Than a Feeling' and 'Amanda' weren't enough reasons to like the band Boston

Mike Huckabee has rocker feeling 'ripped off, dude'

In a letter to the Republican presidential hopeful, Tom Scholz complains that Huckabee is using his 1970s smash hit song "More Than a Feeling" without his permission. A former member of the band, Barry Goudreau, has appeared with Huckabee at campaign events, and they have played the song with Huckabee's band, Capitol Offense. [...]

"Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for," wrote Scholz, adding that he is supporting Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. "By using my song, and my band's name Boston, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I've been ripped off, dude!"
[Emphasis mine.]

Ha ha, that's awesome! But not quite as awesome as the Huckabee camp's response:

Fred Bramante, who was chairman of Huckabee's New Hampshire campaign, called the allegations ridiculous. He said he attended dozens of Huckabee rallies in New Hampshire and other states and never heard Huckabee play "More Than a Feeling," other than when Goudreau campaigned with him in Iowa in October.

"Governor Huckabee plays 'Sweet Home Alabama.' Does that mean Lynyrd Skynyrd is endorsing him? He plays 'Louie Louie.' Does that mean The Kingsmen are endorsing him? To me, it's ridiculous," he said. "Never once has he said, 'The band Boston endorses me.'"

In response, the Kingsmen released the following statement: "Oh oh got go oh yeah yeah yeah oh oh oh dang ol dang ol Hucky Hucky."

Sarcastically awesome as Bramante's response is, it nevertheless raises a good point. After all, Ross Perot used Patsy Cline's "Crazy" as his theme song in 1992, without so much as a peep from her. And even if she was spinning in her grave - appropriate though the song was for the situation - does it matter? On one hand, there's the whole freedom-of-speech thing. But on the other side of that hand, candidates run the risk of pissing on everything the song - and its artist - stand for.

Quick! Can you spot these lyrics?

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill a yellow man

Came back home to the refinery
Hiring man said, "Son, if it were up to me."
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said, 'Son, don't you understand now..."

Why, it's everyone's favorite Reagan-era jingo anthem, "Born in the U.S.A.," a Bruce Springsteen classic that has come to forever represent the GOP's complete inability to dig deeper than the shallow end of the chorus pool.

A scene from the movie Canadian Bacon lampoons this to magnificent effect. While driving to Canada with the intent of invasion, John Candy, Steven Wright and Bill Nunn sing pro-American songs. Eventually they get to "Born in the U.S.A.," only to realize that they don't know any of the words: "Born in the U.S.A., I was, Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A.!" [Awkward silence] "Uh, Born in the U.S.A., I was, Born in the U.S.A.!" [Awkward silence.] "Uh, Born in the U.S.A., I was, Born in the U.S.A.!"

Don't feel bad, guys. I hear Reagan was terrible at karaoke too.

But back to Boston; Scholz isn't the only one to to get his strings out of tune in 2008. John Mellencamp recently objected to John McCain's use of "Our Country," given that the rocker was a tireless supporter of John Edwards. And who can blame Mellencamp? "Our Country" is an instant classic that shouldn't be spoiled by a Republican warmonger taking its chorus at face value, or by the imagery of gas-guzzling pickup trucks...wait, what?

Using music for political advertising can be a risky bet, especially for Republicans. The ability for songs to get stuck in the public's head is a double-edged sword; sure, they might inexorably link the song to you, but they also might hate you forever for it.

I once read that a fan likened "More Than a Feeling" as "the sound of your big brother washing his car in the driveway on a weekend afternoon." If that pastoral image ever gets replaced in my mind by the image of Mike Huckabee jamming on bass, not even Chuck Norris could contain that fury.



Un saluto dall'ITALIA!

Leigh C. said...

Uhh, that's a bass, Ian.

GumboFilé said...

I don't like the candidate either but that's the risk you take when you make music professionally. They've made plenty of money on their music and they're making even more money due to this campaign. They need to be more grateful and get over themselves.

Ian McGibboney said...

My bad, Leigh.

Gumbo, I agree to a degree. My point is that politicians look like idiots when they co-opt songs based strictly on their choruses, and then get called on it.

Brian said...


well its kind of easy to co-opt pop/rock songs based on their choruses because the songs are usually just personal emotions but general enough that everyone can empathize with.

why wouldn't a republican be able to co-opt born in the USA? republicans tend to sympathize a lot with soldiers and their hardships, and didn't like their treatment when they came back.

times change, republicans in the 80s were no longer republicans in the 60s, and were no longer deaf to the trauma of soldiers in Vietnam. most soldiers in the 80s and 90s were republicans. i think its still that way.

ask, who would like or dislike the song today? even though the lyrics are 'to go and kill the yellow man', a conservative might brush that off as the solders personal angst, while a liberal might think the song, even while critical, was not critical enough of the USA, and wouldn't approve of the flag waving at concerts.

in Huckabee's case he's just a fan of rock music, and has played in his own band.

Tom Scholz of Boston said in his letter that Huckabee is 'the opposite of most everything Boston stands for'.

well, when Rock as a genre became popular, it was also, in some terms, against everything we think Huckabee stands for, right, it was a kind of youth rebellion, against what a lot of people think of as stuffy institutional society, like family and church and school.

so that means Huckabee is playing music that is against what he stands for doesn't it?

no, actually, I think Huckabee sees himself as a kind of a rebel, and we live in a culture where Rock is in some ways translated more clearly in Christian Rock, than in modern indie rock.

Obama supporters are more likely hip kids who listen to the Shins inobtrusively on their iPod, driving in their VW in clothes they bought from Urban Outfitters, than actually attend a real concert.

If I were Huckabee, I would write a letter back to Scholz saying, in typical Huckabee fashion, that I was sorry that he saw me as against everything he stood for, but that I did believe in what he stood for.

rhonda said...

i can't help myself, i just love it when cheerful-sounding songs with sinister lyrics are used inappropriately when people fail to simply listen. like when idiots play the world's catchiest stalking anthem "i'll be watching you" at their weddings. and IF i am not mistaken, campaignin' fools have used the cheerfully morbid timbuk 3 song "the future's so bright i gotta wear shades."

Ian McGibboney said...

Brian, I'm not arguing that politicians have to choose songs only by artists who agree with them. But when they pick songs that subvert their political agenda altogether, they only make themselves look bad.

"Born in the U.S.A." is a song about how America has failed its veterans, but how they nevertheless press on and hope for their country. It's a great song but absurd for almost any politician to link to their campaign. "Nowhere to run / Ain't got nowhere to go." Come to think of it, maybe McCain could blare that line after his classic "another 100 years of war" line.

Huckabee may be a rock fan, but if is rebellious as you say, then it's misdirected. He wants to buck the Founding Fathers and insert God into the Constitution. That's revisionism, not rebellion.

As for your other point: If soldiers are more Republican today, it's because the military is all-volunteer. The question is, how do they feel about their current commander? I'd say the support is ebbing by the day, which is less a partisan thing than disillusionment over how the war's going. I don't know what his beliefs are, but my cousin just got shipped off for his FOURTH tour of Iraq. That's gotta do something to you.

Rhonda, I was just listening to "I'll Be Watching You" last night and thinking the same thing! It's on par with "I Will Always Love You" (about breaking up for good) for sheer maudlin at weddings. "The Future's So Bright" is up there with "Don't Worry, Be Happy," Bobby McFerrin's F-you to the Reagan era.

oyster said...

"Everything Boston stands for"...

what exactly is that?

Ian McGibboney said...

Apparently not what Mike Huckabee stands for.

That would be Creed.

Nick said...

I remember reading a quote from Johnny Van Zant, current lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was during the '04 Election, and the band had just finished playing at the Republican National Convention.

Van Zant said something to the effect, "Not everyone in Lynyrd Skynyrd votes Republican."

And Icon...get this. About 20 years ago, Charlie Daniels contributed to Al Gore's Senatorial campaign!!

Ian McGibboney said...

I knew that about Lynyrd Skynyrd, but the Charlie Daniels thing is a shock! Weird...

Nick said...

I remember reading somewhere that Gore used to be pro-life, or at least he ran as pro-life during his Senatorial campaign in the 80's. Therefore, if he was running against a pro-choice person, then that would be why CD donated to his campaign. Charlie's hasn't been exactly kind to Gore in his editorials over the past few years.

But...the point of my previous comment was to tie into your post, especially in my reference to Skynyrd. You can't pin a particular band's ideology. Also, why shouldn't Huckabee be free to play a song from Boston when campaigning with a former member?

If anything, with all the boring q-tip heads in Congress right now, I like seeing someone who can mix it up with music that's to my preference.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick: when George W. Bush originally ran for office in Texas in 1978, he was actually perceived as too much of an elitist Ivy League intellectual. Interesting how things change for politicians over the years.

As for Huckabee, his musical tastes are one of the few things I like about him. Even Matt Taibbi admitted that Huckabee can charm music-minded political reporters...and Taibbi seems to hate everyone. He should be allowed to play whatever he wants. No argument there.

But again, when he (or anyone else) chooses songs that their own creators say defy everything that candidate stands for, they tend to come off as idiotic.

Nick said...

Maybe they come off idiotic...if they claim those songs as "themes" for their campaigns.

But Huckabee is simply playing music, I think.

I'm a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, long before I became political and knew of his socialistic leanings. And today, I'm still a fan of his. He's one of maybe 3-5 artists I'd pay $100 to see perform.

I'm also enjoy Kenny Loggins, who is a big Al Gore guy. For most people, and down to earth politicians like Huckabee, love for music is/should be separate from political leanings.

jeffrey said...

Mellencamp had a similar dust-up with the Reagan people who wanted to use the song "Pink Houses" But I think, in that case, the campaign actually asked his permission first.