Segarini: Strange Bedfellows Redux

Bob Throws the Horns

The column due today, “Stopping the Stupid”, will be here next Friday. In the meantime, here’s a rerun from 2011 about politics, rock stars and the silliness that is part of the political landscape despite its incredibly loopy connection. With the exception of President Obama, there don’t seem to be any politicians worthy of a decent song for their campaign or party or office. The Republicans, however, are looking pretty good for “Get Out of Compton…and Everywhere Else”. Stephen Harper could go with “I’m a Loser”, but I don’t think the Beatles know who he is. I just wish WE didn’t….

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I’m not much of a political animal. Never learned the game or played it well, which is why I’m not a household name or King of All Media. Further, as much as all pursuits in life have a political bent to them, (marriage, your job, getting a decent deal on a used car), the Arts have a very checkered past with actual politics, the ones that feature elected leaders and CEOs and the like, who are supposed to lead us, the Great Unwashed, around by our noses. It seems an odd footnote to me, seeing popular musical artists taking a photo op with the leader of a Nation, Religion, Donald Trump, or vise versa.

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Odd as it may be, it happens all the time. When I saw this picture of Chad Kroeger and Stephen Harper (I like to think of them as The Burger King and Ken Doll) together, I wondered who was zoomin’ who. Is Chad working to convince Harper that his government should increase funding to the Arts, or that he is cool with the Harper Government’s existing laissez faire attitude towards artists because, hey, he doesn’t need any funding, or has Harper seized the moment because Chad is just so darn popular with the younger voters…and he isn’t.

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Surely you have heard the expression, “Politics makes strange bedfellows”. This expression means that Political interests can bring people together who otherwise have little in common. This saying is adapted from a line in the play The Tempest, by William Shakespeare: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” It is spoken by a man who has been shipwrecked and finds himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster. Kind of like our relationships with some of our bosses, middle management, and our Presidents (or Prime Ministers). So if we see a picture of one of our musical heroes with a Political Figure, does that mean they have common goals? If so, we may not know our leaders or musical heroes as well as we think we do. Or maybe…we don’t know them at all.

This time-tested and hard to decipher practice has resulted in a lot of bizarre pairings over the years. Sometimes I wonder if there is a picture of Hitler shaking hands with Glenn Miller lying around somewhere. Even without that one, there have been some doozys.

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Everybody’s favourite of course, is this photo of Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley. I can’t think of a more disparate coupling this side of Roger and Jessica Rabbit. Elvis took a cross-country trip, higher than the planes he rode, to seek a meeting with Nixon. The King of Rock and Roll wanted to help the President’s war on drugs, perhaps thinking that if everyone were doing them, there wouldn’t be enough for him. Nixon, a man who probably didn’t even know he had a pelvis, let alone how to wiggle it obliged Presley, the man who brought black music to the mainstream white audience, and not only welcomed him aboard, gave him a Special Agent FBI/DEA badge, even though Elvis was carrying a gun and had more drugs in his system than the entire White House secretarial pool had in their purses. You can see Nixon counting the votes. You can see Presley wondering if he was out of Dexedrine.

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There have been even stranger photographs taken of musical icons and powerful leaders since then. After Nixon dodged the bullet of impeachment (Jailhouse Rock, anyone?) but instead resigned his office, Gerald Ford, who was more awkward than a Prom dance with your sister, stumbled into the White House and proceeded to hook up with a musical icon who at the time was even bigger than Elvis. I cannot imagine what either one of them were thinking, but judging by Ford’s laughing at George Harrison’s antics (and that jacket) I’ll bet he had to ask an aide who George was.

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The most famous photos of a sitting President and a popular music star were the ones taken during the friendship of John Kennedy and Frank Sinatra. Unlike most of these kinds of pictures, these two were actually good friends at the time. They shared politics, musical taste, and women, not necessarily in that order. The popular (and very powerful) Sinatra helped Kennedy get elected, but fell afoul of the Kennedy family when he inadvertently got Jack connected to gangster Sam Giancana. So angry was Sam when Sinatra couldn’t deliver on a campaign promise he made to him that Kennedy would keep the FBI off his tail if Sam delivered the union vote in Chicago during the 1960 presidential election, Sam actually considered having Sinatra’s throat cut and Kennedy killed. Some still think he may have delivered on one of those threats.

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The United States wasn’t the only country where political leaders ingratiated themselves with voters by being seen with celebrities. Music, always the succor of a nation, its poets and conscience, and its most telling barometer, could be a very powerful way to connect with the populace. Bear witness to present day politicians adopting a ‘theme song’ for their campaigns. Some, like Clinton’s hijacking of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, (a song I personally waited patiently through when it was a hit on the radio, hoping something better would follow it), became hits all over again and were forever associated with the politician. Some politicians would take a song from an artist without their permission, and be thoroughly chastised in public by the artist for doing so. Like I said before…music is a verypowerful medium. It is that powerful all over the world. British Prime Ministers fell over themselves to be snapped with the Beatles, Australia’s Midnight Oil became a force to be reckoned with in the Aussie Parliament, and it’s not just the free world who   mine this particular field.  Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev had his picture taken with heavy metal group, The Scorpions. Whether they ever hooked Gorby up with women, drugs, or a mob boss remains unknown.

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If we are to judge our politicians by the musical company they keep, we should be proud of Canada’s Pierre Trudeau. He and one of his musical heroes were both unique individuals with a coarse side and a humanitarian core, who, flaws and all, captured the hearts and minds of their generation’s youth. Free spirits often meet  regardless of their paths. Some inner-radar seems to put them in the same room at one time or another, and when that happens, there is a certain synchronicity that cannot be planned or created out of whole cloth. The connection is either there…or it isn’t. Pierre Trudeau and John Lennon had such a meeting (Man, is Yoko ever short). Missing is Margaret Trudeau, Pierre’s wife. She would turn up later with the Stones and in a very revealing photograph taken at the Stones show at the El Mocambo in Toronto.

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If there is something to the power of politics being attracted to the power of music, it would be useful to know if the artists and politicians are on the same page, or if one is using the other for personal gain. We really don’t have any way of knowing.  Here are pictures of both Bono and Dylan with Popes. I cannot figure out what’s what in either case. Bono’s Messiah complex might explain his presence in the Vatican, but Dylan’s leaves me baffled. Could it be that the Pope’s PR people thought they needed a boost with music fans, or did the artists just want to meet somebody famous? Your guess is as good as mine. Regardless, music and the people who make it can make a difference. Whether they write or sing about change, or use their platform to try and involve their audiences in the world around them, it’s all good. Of course it depends on the message when you get right down to it, and all great music contains a message of one kind or another… doesn’t it? Well…doesn’t it?

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There are some great pictures of Obama with some truly wonderful recording artists. If the U.S (and the rest of us) is saddled with Mitt Romney on Tuesday, what will we have to look forward to? Mitt and Ted Nugent? Mitt and Pitbull? Mitt and Kid Rock? Mitt and Meatloaf? Come to think of it, does Mitt even listen to music? And does he have an iPod, or dozens of them to choose from to suit his wildly shifting stands on the issues? Hopefully, we’ll never have to find out.

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Friday…occasionally.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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