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For those who think the ideal theme for Pentecostalist Sarah Palin’s campaign would be the Ramone’s chorus "Gabba Gabba Hey!", (from their song "Pinhead"), don’t count on it, because almost every step the McCain Campaign has made in using popular songs has been a misstep.

The Ramones: "Pinhead"

NOTE: There are numerous kos diary posts on this topic, (use the search terms "song" and "McCain" to find them) and other articles around the internet.  Some of them are not entirely accurate (particularly about ABBA and the Springsteen/Reagan flap), while others are incomplete, or do not provide links for all the rights-use controversies mentioned.  This diary not only attempts to give as fully a resourced McCain song list as possible, but also to provide some information on how song rights are managed for you future campaigners and candidates out there.  With Music

In the past, rock and rollers were not generally big fans of the Republican Party and vice-versa.  For a long time that didn’t matter, as most Republicans did not listen to "jungle music", and rockers generally did not have enough money to be good Republicans. But as boomers and others of the Rock and Roll era grew older, became more prosperous – and more attractable to Republican "values", Rock and Roll became just another marketing tool used to sell political candidates.  

One of the earliest uses of a rock song by political campaigns sparked the first, and still the most famous example of a Rocker challenging the unauthorized use of a song by a politician. That was when Bruce Springsteen questioned Ronald Reagan’s use of "Born in the USA" and Reagan’s attempts at co-opting the Boss into his 1984 reelection campaign.  Forget the blurbs you’ve read on the internet, Springsteen didn’t just simply tell Reagan to stop using the song and his name.  While not as confrontational as has been portrayed – Bruce  got the job done.

Bruce Springsteen: "Born in the USA"

The whole controversy began when Ronald Reagan mentioned Springsteen in a speech he gave while campaigning in New Jersey, saying

"America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire:  New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen."

In his book, Bruce Springsteen: Two Hearts, Dave Marsh (on pages 495-7) describes what happened next:

Bruce didn't respond quickly to [Reagan's speech] made...on a day off for the tour, which had just finished a four-night run at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Bruce's initial reaction was a kind of shocked amusement, and since he wasn't the kind of performer who issued press releases, he simply said nothing, figuring the issue would blow over.  Only the growing awareness that many in his audience - and the press_ who loathed Reagan and had faith in him expected some sort of reply forced him to react at all....

...Springsteen was canny enough to know that a full frontal attack on Ronald Reagan would never work.  Reagan was the most popular President since Franklin Roosevelt and all direct assaults redounded to his credit; denigrating the President would only make Springsteen seem an ungrateful hothead....

Springsteen came up with a subtle but uncompromising response

In the midst of his First set on September 22, [1984] Springsteen made his statement.  Finishing "Atlantic City, he said bitterly "The President was mentioning my name the other day, and I kinda got to wondering what his favorite Album musta been.  I don't think it was the Nebraska.  I don't think he's been listening to this one." And he played a scorching "Johnny 99"

Bruce Springsteen: "Johnny 99"

In a Rolling Stone interview, published after the 1984 election took place, Springsteen said:

I think what's happening now is people want to forget. There was Vietnam, there was Watergate, there was Iran -- we were beaten, we were hustled, and then we were humiliated. And I think people got a need to feel good about the country they live in. But what's happening, I think, is that need -- which is a good thing -- is getting' manipulated and exploited. And you see the Reagan reelection ads on TV -- you know: "It's morning in America." And you say, well, it's not morning in Pittsburgh. It's not morning about 125th Street in New York. It's midnight, and, like, there's a bad moon risin'. And that's why when Reagan mentioned my name in New Jersey, I felt it was another manipulation, and I had to disassociate myself from the president's kind words.

As a "proud foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution" one would think that McCain might have remembered how Reagan’s unauthorized use of "Born to Run" came back to bite him.  Apparently not, as the McCain campaign has embarrassed itself nine times (and counting) by using songs without permission.  Even without the Reagan experience in his background, you would think that as a good Republican, McCain would respect a song owner’s property rights, and at least ask for permission. Especially when his campaign makes the following promise:

John McCain Will Protect The Creative Industries From Piracy. The entertainment industry is both a vital sector of the domestic economy and among the largest U.S. exporters. While the Internet has provided tremendous opportunity for the creators of copyrighted works, including music and movies, to distribute their works around the world at low cost, it has also given rise to a global epidemic of piracy. John McCain supports efforts to crack down on piracy, both on the Internet and off.

Obtaining the rights to use a song depends on what "part" of the song you want.  Do you want to use the orignal version?

Bob Dylan: "It Ain't Me Babe"

Or do you just want to use the words, (My own little piece in comics history is that I negotiated the rights to use the lyric from Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" in the "Watchman" graphic novel by Allen Moore and Dave Gibbons) the music* or both?  How are you going to use them?  Do you want to do a "cover" version, a video, for a live performance? Will the performance be broadcast?

June Carter and Johnny Cash: "It Ain't Me Babe"

Or do you want to "exploit the song for more commercial purposes such as in advertising, or in a movie?

Jaoquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon: "It Ain't Me Babe" From: "Walk the Line"

Even if you obtain the rights to use a song, that does not necessarily entitle you to the right to use a particular performance of that song.^  It is clear that the McCain Campaign  knows this, and it becomes clear when you read John McCain’s explanationabout why he’s no longer using ABBA’s "Take a Chance On Me":

"It's more difficult to play 'let's take a chance on me' than I thought," the four-term Arizona senator told reporters aboard his campaign plane.

"It gets expensive in a big hurry and if you're not careful you can alienate some Swedes," he joked. "If word gets out to Stockholm that we're using Abba music, then there'll be a worsening in U.S.-Swedish relations."

If the above quote makes it clear that John McCain knows he should ask for permission and probably pay for the rights to use songs in his campaign, then it is also clear that he is a repeat infringer who regularly uses songs and performances without asking permission from authors and performers (many of whom would never give it).  In doing so, McCain has endangered the marketability of some songs by attaching them to a partisan political affiliation that some performers take great pains to avoid (see Van Halen below), and has also appropriated the property and reputations of people who actively oppose his election.  

As a result, John McCain he has been asked, shamed, and even sued to stop using the recorded performances and/or original songs of the following artists:

Asked to stop:

Our Country and Pink Houses

Four days after John Mellencamp’s reps asked John McCain to stop playing his songs "Our Country" and "Pink Houses" at his rallies, the Republican frontrunner’s campaign spokesman announced today that Mellencamp’s songs would no longer be played as McCain’s rallying cry.

John Mellencamp: "Pink Houses"

Right Now

After John McCain used a Van Halen song during his big speech earlier today, the band wants to make to make one thing clear -- they're not running with McCain.

Van Halen: "Right Now"

Still the One

New Hampshire picked up McCain in the 2000 Republican primary and stayed true to him in 2008. It was fitting, then, that McCain concluded a Nashua event yesterday with the 1976 Orleans' hit celebration of monogamy, "Still the One."
Well, almost fitting.

Proving that campaign vetting should extend beyond vice presidential contenders (or those vetting the potential veeps), McCain sparked the ire of the song's co-writer, the founding member of Orleans and current New York congressman, John Hall.

This is yet another example of John McCain not learning anything from George Bush's mistakes," Hall wrote First Read in an interview over e-mail. "First, McCain adopted Bush's failed policy of an open-ended war in Iraq, then, he wrapped his arms around the failed Bush economic policies that have put the squeeze on middle class families. Now, he's making the same mistake George Bush made illegally using a copyrighted song without asking either the writers or the performers for permission."

Orleans: "Still the One"


After the McCain Campaign initially ignored Heart’s request to discontinue the use of the song "Barracuda", singer-songwriters Nancy and Ann Wilson the founders of the group issued this personal statement to Entertainment Weekly

"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 70s 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."

Heart: "Barracuda"

Rocky Theme aka Gonna Fly Now

McCain said he also ran into problems while using the soundtrack from the 1976 Hollywood movie "Rocky."

After playing the anthemic horns of the "Rocky" theme song at his rallies, the owner of the song's copyright telephoned the McCain campaign to politely complain it was being used without permission, McCain said.
"It wasn't a formal complaint or a letter. Someone just called on the phone and said 'Hey, that's our property,"' he said.

Bill Conti:  Rocky; "Gonna Fly Now"


Johnny Be Good

[T]he McCain camp is having trouble settling on a suitable campaign anthem. After searching for months, it finally picked "Johnny B Goode" – Chuck Berry's rock 'n' roll classic from 1958. The high-power guitar licks and "Go, Johnny, go" chorus put a spring in Mr McCain's step. When asked why he chose it, he quipped: "It might be because it is the only one [the artist] hasn't complained about us using."

Berry, 81, may not have complained about his song being appropriated by Mr McCain, but he has made it clear he would prefer Barack Obama in the White House. "America has finally come to this point where you can pick a man of colour and that not be a drawback," Berry said. "It's no question, myself being a man of colour. I mean, you have to feel good about it."
The anointment of Mr Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate was, he added, "definitely a proud and successful moment for all the people of this country – not just black people, but Americans in general".

Berry, known as the "father of rock 'n' roll", recounted: "In the Fifties there were certain places we couldn't ride on the bus, and now there is a possibility of a black man being in White House." "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last," he added, quoting Martin Luther King.

Chuck Berry (with the Boss): "Johnny Be Good"


Running on Empty

(AP) — Jackson Browne doesn't want John McCain running on anything fueled by his lyrics. The singer-songwriter sued McCain and the Ohio and national Republican committees in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday, accusing them of using his song "Running on Empty" without his permission.

The lawsuit claims the song's use was an infringement of his copyright and will lead people to conclude he endorses McCain. The suit says Browne is a lifelong liberal who is as well-known for his music as for being "an advocate for social and environmental justice."

The advertisement mocks Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's contention that if U.S. drivers got regular tuneups and drove on properly inflated tires, they could save the same amount of oil that would be gained by offshore drilling. According to the suit, "Running on Empty" plays in the background of the ad criticizing the remarks.

Jackson Browne: "Running on Empty"

Used with permission?


As John McCain was being called to the stage to accept the Republican Party presidential nomination in St. Paul, John Fogerty’s song "Centerfield" began to play.  It is unclear whether permission was sought to use the song, or whether Fogerty minds.  If Fogerty’s permission was not sought and he's upset, John McCain may have stumbled into his biggest song-rights problem yet.  Fogerty has already litigated copyright issues about the album "Centerfield" from which the song comes. He was willing to go alll the way to the United States Supreme Court - on the issue of recouping attorney’s fees under copyright law – and won.

John Fogerty: "Centerfield"

Of course, if John McCain had followed the allegedly Republican value of respect for property, he wouldn’t have to worry about what John Fogerty’s reaction might be, because he would have asked before using the singer-songwriter’s song and performance.  

* E. C. Publications, Inc., otherwise known as MAD Magazine, was sued for $25 million by a consortium of music publishers and song writers, lead by composer Irving Berlin, on the basis that MAD’s "sung to the tune of" parodies constituted public performances of their songs.  The case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court.  MAD won. One of the songs parodied was Berlin’s "There's No Business Like Show Business."

Irving Berlin: "There's No Business Like Show Business"
Sung by who else? Ethel Merman

^The advertising agency, Young and Rubicam learned the hard way when it was ordered by a Federal court to stand trial, after it hired one of Midler's former back-up singers to imitate her rendition of "Do You Want to Dance" in a commercial for Ford’s Lincoln- Mercury line. After the trial, the ad agency was ordered to pay Ms. Midler $400,000.

Bobby Freeman: "Do You Want to Dance?"
Sung by: Bette Midler

Bobby Freeman: "Do You Want to Dance?"
Sung by The Ramones - they brought us in, so they can take us out.

Originally posted to masguy on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 10:04 AM PDT.

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