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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control: Rocking out on campaign trail has its pitfalls

I know it’s only rock ’n’ roll, but I like it when politicians decide to use familiar tunes as a soundtrack to their events, which might mean different things to different people and tick off some thin-skinned musicians.

Case in point, the close of the Republican National Convention on Thursday. After nominee Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, during the traditional balloon drop and the filing out of charged-up delegates, the convention managers played two familiar tunes.

If you watched on a network that switched to talking-head punditry, they may have been barely audible in the background. But for those in the convention center, as well as those paying close attention at home, they were:

“All Right Now,” by Free, and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” by the Rolling Stones.

Although the first has a chorus that seems to suggest things are fine now, it is an odd choice for a family-values candidate. The song is, after all, about a guy who picks up a strange woman on the street and takes her home for sex. Whether she’s a prostitute or just looking for a one-night stand when she says “now you tryin’ to trick me in love” is open to interpretation. But still.

The chorus of the second could be an overture to all the delegates who started the campaign supporting someone else, sending a message that they didn’t get their first choice but now they have what they need to retake the White House. It does, however, have some pretty dark lyrics about drugs and death.

If they wanted dark, they might have considered “Eve of Destruction” as the follow-up to Trump’s acceptance speech.

Pop songs have been a part of presidential campaigns since at least 1800, when John Adams’ campaign put words to “Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular drinking tune. If you don’t recognize it, the song was used a decade or so later for “The Star Spangled Banner.” FDR used “Happy Days are Here Again” and Frank Sinatra reworked “High Hopes” for a campaign song for John F. Kennedy.

But using pop songs is not without controversy, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was just down the street from the Republican National Convention, noted last week. Bruce Springsteen told Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984 to quit using “Born in the U.S.A.” That was a questionable choice, anyway, because even with a rousing chorus that seems to celebrate American nativity, the lyrics are about a reluctant Vietnam vet who returns home to hard times.

Bobby McFerrin asked George H.W. Bush to knock off playing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in 1988, Sting had a similar request of Al Gore in 2000 over the use of “Brand New Day” and Sam Moore asked Barack Obama to stop using “Hold On, I’m Coming” in 2008, the hall noted. The Trump campaign has been asked by Neil Young not to use “Rockin’ in the Free World,” by Steve Tyler not to use “Dream On” and by R.E.M. not to use “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”

Can’t wait to see whom the Democrats tick off at their convention this week.

Calling the roll

The Roll Call of the States, in which each state delegation reports its votes for presidential candidates, was an item of high drama at a national convention when the nominee wasn’t known before proceedings started.

Lately, however, it is relegated to a nonprime-time slot when mostly political junkies watch the stream of people – some in silly hats or costumes – hold forth.

Usually done alphabetically, Washington often comes in after some other state has put the nominee over the top and the well-orchestrated spontaneous celebration has taken place. Some viewers might’ve turned the channel before seeing state GOP Chairman Susan Hutchison say:

“The Evergreen State, we are standing tall. Our beautiful state of volcanoes, the mighty Columbia River, vast wheat fields, and yes, often the national Christmas tree, also the proud home of the Boeing airplane company, celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, builders of the greatest jets in the world, we are named after the first president of the United States.”

Slate magazine rated the states for their roll calls, and Washington came in below average at 32. It was not clear if the staff knocked the delegation down for the silly hats, which looked like green foam cut in the shape of an evergreen and tied around foreheads with an elastic band, or the unnecessary explanation of the name origin. Idaho did better in the Slate ratings, coming in at 13 for this brag:

“Where we have famous potatoes. Idaho is the most Republican state in the nation. We are so Republican that when we say the Pledge of Allegiance, it is to the Republicans for which it stands. Our entire congressional delegation is Republican, all of our statewide constitutional officers are Republican, and our legislature is 80 percent Republican. We are indeed a red state.”

Slate gave the top spot to Connecticut, which bragged about manufacturing Pez and nuclear submarines.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at