Politicians Go Pop


Written by Jack Sharp
12 Sunday 12th February 2012

Last week, the ironic Liberal Democrat politician Lembit Öpik trended on Twitter. Öpik, it would seem, is the sole star of a music video in which he mimes, pretends that he’s a tiger and practices push-ups. The video is for a song called 'Pop Wound' by an unsigned indie band called The Good Suns, and for better or worse, Lembit’s participation is sure to attract a lot of attention to the band.

There was a time when politicians and pop music didn’t mix, but in our ridiculous modern world, where popular culture has a much greater affect on people than MPs ever , things are very different indeed. Today’s politicians are open about their listening habits, which may or may not have been dictated by extensive research and music sales figures. These days, politicians aren’t the squares they used to be. For example, David Cameron likes The Smiths, Gordon Brown pretends that he likes The Arctic Monkeys and George Osborne enjoys listening to cassettes of crying babies.

These days, politicians practically are rock stars. They’re like The Who, smashing up their instruments with little regard for themselves and those around them. Except, of course, rather than instruments, politicians favour the senseless destruction of various bills and legislation. And in a way, doesn’t that make them the real rock stars? No, obviously. But some of them do, on occasion, like to pretend that they are rock stars, so here are just a few of our favourite examples of them doing so.

Herman (“Rock it to Me!”) Cain

As previously covered by Don’t Panic, Republican Herman Cain has been known to wail out a tune from time to time, regardless of whether he’s being accused of both sexual harassment and adultery, or not. Here he sings John Lennon’s Imagine (There’s No Pizza), a song that in no way undermines the good intentions expressed in Lennon’s non-pizza-themed original:

In addition to Cain’s own material, which he insists on singing with the same bizarre, intense vibrato previously pioneered by puppeteer David Liebe Hart, Cain has also inspired an entire rock concept album Cainthology: Songs In The Key Of Cain. The man behind the album is comedian Tim Heidecker, one half of the duo Tim and Eric, who sings each song with sincere conviction.

Tony (Formerly of Ugly Rumours) Blair

Few politicians rock harder than Tony Blair, who was often referred to as the GG Allin of the Labour party during his time as Prime Minister due to his frequent and fierce invitations to his party’s backbenchers to feast on his festering, faecal-smeared body during PMQs. In the wake of the Iraq war, of course, this behaviour rarely made headlines, but I think it might have gotten a brief mention in his book.  

Throughout his career, Blair has often confessed his passion for rock and roll. He enjoys the powerhouse anthems of bands such as Free, and listed The Beatles’ In My Life as one of his favourite songs on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs back in 1996. He’s also fond of Bruce Springsteen’s hugely overlooked song 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).

A Stones fan through and through, Blair loosely based his stage persona of Mick Jagger whilst performing with his band Ugly Rumours back in the 1970s. The band reportedly played a total of six gigs before disbanding, the first of which climaxed with the drum kit spontaneously collapsing. But although Blair’s dreams of becoming a rock god largely fell apart along with that drum kit, his flamboyant and energetic side lived on (much like a “Free Bird”) in his uncompromising and reckless political career.

Blair’s “fuck you” approach to politics attracted literally dozens of rock star admirers during his time in power, from Lesley Dodger of the 1970s glam rock band Slam to Bono. Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne also has a fondness for Blair. "I met [him] a couple of years ago,” Ozzy once recalled, “He said to me, 'I was in a band once, and I could never get the riff to 'Iron Man' right.' I thought, 'Why are you telling me about 'Iron Man' when there's a war going on?'"

Vladimir (“Go Putin, Go Putin, GO!”) Putin

Vladimir Putin’s crippling inability to form even vague facial expressions might make the Russian Prime Minister look as if he’s constantly wearing a Vladimir Putin mask, but he is capable of emoting. Putin just chooses to express himself through song, rather than conveying emotion with a smile or a thrown, for example. In the video below, Putin speaks a no-frills rendition of Fats Domino’s 'Blueberry Hill' to an awkwardly applauding audience.

You might think that this is a lousy performance, but you simply have to have seen a lot of Russian Prime Ministers perform low-energy rock and roll to understand the genre. The subtle greatness with which he tinkles the song’s melody on the piano, like a child, before walking over to the microphone to murder a rock and roll classic, might not immediately be evident to philistines, but it’s actually quite inspired.

Putin’s skills as a vocalist clearly haven’t gone unnoticed. He’s attracted plenty of attention from young Russian ladies, many of whom are willing strip down to bikinis and wash cars in honour of the grimy politician.

Bill ("Bustin' out the jams") Clinton

Not long ago, Clinton celebrated his birthday by having artists such as Stevie Nicks and U2 serenade him. This is unsurprising given Clinton’s much publicised love of rock music. A keen saxophonist, Clinton isn’t shy of performing, and has even been known, against his best judgement, to sing. Here Bill awkwardly sings along to John Lennon’s 'Imagine', a song, of course, made famous by Republican Herman Cain:

Like many rock stars, Clinton, as you may know, has spoken openly about drug use. He claims to have experimented with marijuana, although he never inhaled, which is possibly the reason why he’s not still experimenting with marijuana. But even in his drug-taking days, Bill never lost sight of what he’s really passionate about: the music—and sex, on occasion. Clinton has even spoken at great length to Elvis Costello about his love of music in this very bizarre but interesting TV one-off that aired a few years back:

Rod (“The King”) Blagojevich

As Fabio (the muscular über-hunk, famous for appearing on the front cover of countless erotic novels) watches on in confusion, US politician Rod Blagojevich stuns his audience by attempting to impersonate “The King”. It’s embarrassing, and not least because Rod appears to have stapled a dead crow to his head. Yet, living under the delusion that this isn’t the most awful thing ever recorded on camera, Blagojevich begins to awkwardly gyrate his hips and seductively grab his belt.

Perhaps the best moment in this video comes when the cameraman turns to a lady in the audience, who then appropriately mimes the words, “What the fuck!?” She’s right, of course. What the fuck!? During this time Blagojevich was facing charges of corruption for attempting to sell Barak Obama’s senate seat, a crime for which he was recently sentenced to 14 years in prison. But perhaps, at the time, getting on stage with Fabio and wailing out a tune seemed like the right thing to do.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at panic@dontpaniconline.com and we will respond asap.