The campaign song for a disgraced President, performed by the man who scored The Wild Angels.
Watching the BBC’s Watergate documentary series recently made me think again about the bouncing campaign song for Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election – a time when, of course, he was already ball-deep in criminality. Political rally songs are nothing new, of course, even if candidates these days prefer to use popular hit songs (usually without asking the musicians), but given all we know about Richard Nixon, this jaunty number seems especially ludicrous.
As tunes go, this is very much what you might expect as the theme tune of a politician who always looked a tad awkward with youth and celebrity. It kicks off with a thumping bit of drum-heavy intro, but once the vocals start, it’s all downhill. Much the sort of thing you might expect to be performed by a vocal dance group doing a routine on a painfully unhip variety show, it perhaps speaks volumes over just how out of touch politicians of all stripes generally are.
Mike Curb – the MGM Records head responsible for this through his group The Mike Curb Corporation – had a somewhat curious career. In the mid to late Sixties, he scored movies like The Wild Angels, Devil’s Angels, Born Losers, Maryjane and The Savage Seven, but by 1970 he seemed to have put his counter-culture credentials behind him. He led a campaign against bands that he saw as promoting drug use through their music, and supposedly dropped eighteen acts from MGM when he took over. Foremost in his sights were The Velvet Underground and the famously anti-drug Frank Zappa, suggesting a rather scattershot approach to his campaign.
In 1972, Curb was chairman of the first – and only – Youth Concert for President Nixon, which is where this song emerged. Other performers included Jimmy Osmond, Ray Stevens and Solomon Burke. He would later abandon music entirely, becoming the Republican Lieutenant Governor of California in 1978, proving a pain in the ass for Governor Jerry Brown. He has maintained his anti-drug stance, though unexpectedly has also been a leading conservative supporter of gay rights. His thoughts on motorcycle gangs being free to do what they wanna do have not been recorded.
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