Politics and popular music go together about as well as an ice cream in the desert. But that hasn’t ever stopped politicians from trying to connect with the masses through the majesty of song, particularly when election campaigns roll around.
The Whitlam Government famously employed ‘It’s Time’ – a jingle written specifically for the campaign — to help topple a Liberal Party that had been in power for 23 years. Bill Clinton’s affinity for Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop’ was a consistent feature throughout his presidency. And when George W. Bush used the Foo Fighters’ ‘Times Like These’ without the band’s permission, it compelled Dave Grohl to get vocal about his support for Bush’s opponent, John Kerry, and look how well that turned out.
The point is, music has the potential to speak the words that a campaign sometimes can’t find. With the looming federal election staring us all down, here are seven songs that could well be perfect fits for our current class of campaigning.
Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs – ‘Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy)’
Palmer United Party
Clive Palmer. Mining magnate. Pie enthusiast. Mental gymnast. After launching the Australia United Party, Clive found himself in a tough spot. That name simply wasn’t projecting the message he was after. It didn’t grab the public by the scruff of the shirt and yell his platform right into their gobs. It needed a change. Now known as the Palmer United Party, Clive is setting about showing Australia his vision for the country. And that vision is Clive Palmer.
Sure, the nation at large might think he’s a complete loony, but Clive’s spinning that around: he’s owning that label! And what better song to do that with than Billy Thorpe’s classic hit? What better way to project the ‘us against them’ vibe that Clive so desperately wants to cultivate? And, most importantly, what better song to unite Palmer’s voting base? You know, both of them.
Split Enz – ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat’
Desperate to ram home his fervent ‘Stop the boats’ message, Tony Abbott entrusts his campaign team to find him a song — ANY SONG — with the word ‘boats’ in the title. He’s well aware of the media’s propensity to latch on to keywords, and he wants to put that word in front of as many people’s eyes as possible.
It’s a solid strategy, except that, without realising it, he’s subtly highlighted the plight of asylum seekers travelling for weeks and months across raging seas in less-than-adequate transportation. When the media points this out to him, Abbott initially responds with restrained silence — he’s a man of peaceful aggression, after all. Then his spin team goes into overdrive. He didn’t actually mean the boats! He meant the Labor Party! THAT’S the real leaky boat.
Divinyls – ‘Boys In Town’
Used as Gillard’s final middle finger to the party that built her up only to tear her down, Julia rides out of Canberra and into political retirement with the cries of the late, great, Chrissie Amphlett — another iconic Australian redhead — poignantly summing up the treatment Gillard herself received during her Prime Ministership.
Tired of being “just a red brassiere to all the boys in town”, Gillard, like Amphlett, screams “Get me out of here!” And away she goes, off to enjoy her life with partner Tim Matheson, a bloke who, despite all media speculation to the contrary, secretly harbours the ability to split wood with his bare hands.
The Replacements – ‘Unsatisfied’
Prior to last week’s spill, this was K-Rudd’s private anthem for three years running. Through countless media interviews, he’d deny that he wanted the job of Labor leader back. But when you looked deeper, right into those pale, wispy eyes, you could tell that the mere sound of those words was tearing him up inside.
When the cameras switched off and Kevin went home for the day, he’d trudge solemnly up to his reading room, close the door, swing the needle onto Side B of Let It Be and let Paul Westerberg scream the words he wished he could in public. “I’m so! I’m so! Unsatisfied!” We all knew you were, Kev. There was never any shame in hiding it.
War – ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’
Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, Andrew Wilkie
With the end of a long and at times trying partnership, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor publicly extend one last olive branch of friendship to their fellow sitting independent, Andrew Wilkie. With all the poise and grace of your 78-year-old grandad hitting the dance floor at a wedding after three sherries, Rob and Tony call a press conference to ask Andrew to finally join their ‘Best Friends Forever’ club. They promise Andrew barbeques and camping trips and days spent gazing up at the clouds talking about their hopes, dreams and fears. It’s kind of sweet and endearing in the dorkiest way possible. Wilkie, for his part, merely rolls his eyes in exasperation, before turning back to his computer where he’s in the middle of the eighty-seventh draft of his pokie reform legislation.
Kylie Minogue – ‘Better The Devil You Know’
The Labor Party’s campaign is in tatters even before it’s begun. Leadership instability, factional infighting, sitting members resigning at the speed of light. So it’s important for the party to focus on what their real message needs to be: they’re far, far better than the alternative.
Just like Kylie Minogue’s 1990 hit, they told the Australian public that they wouldn’t leave us no more, and we took them back again. And now we don’t want no more excuses, because we have indeed heard them all before, at least a hundred times, maybe more. So, this campaign, the Labor Party will tell us that if we forgive and forget, then they’ll say they’ll never go. After all, it is true what they say: it’s better the devil you know.
Lily Allen – ‘Fuck You’
Through all this bickering and pissing and moaning and backstabbing, the Green Party has been, somewhat uncharacteristically, rather silent. Maybe they’re just biding their time, waiting for the right moment to launch an almighty campaign that could well see them on level pegging terms with Labor at the conclusion of a disastrous federal election. Or maybe they’ve seen the writing on the wall and simply decided it’s better to sit this one out? No matter the reason, they’ve got every right to let Canberra know exactly how they feel. And what better way to get all that vitriol out in one magnificent burst than with a catchy pop banger. The Greens may well realise that we’re heading down a socially dark path, and if that’s the case, fuck it, we’re all gonna do it dancing.
This article appears on Junkee.