In 1992, Ross Perot, looking for a song that would define the sensibility of his failed presidential campaign, landed on Patsy Cline’s country hit “Crazy,” a rootsy tune about lost causes. In 1996, Perot supporters remained committed to bringing music to the campaign. This time around, the results were a bit more odd than the average country song.
Exhibit A is a 28-page pamphlet entitled Rhythm of Reform: Lyrics for Reform Party Volunteers, published by the Pasadena, Maryland-based Peacock Press. In it, George Washington University professor Linda Grant De Pauw rewrites the lyrics of nearly two dozen popular standards to reflect pro-Perot sentiments:
ROWING ALONG WITH ROSS PEROT
(Melody: Row, Row, Row Your Boat)
Sing as a round as long as you want until everyone gets tired of it. Good music for stuffing envelopes and similar tasks.
Go, go, go, Perot
Take us all the way
Every vote counts when it’s cast from the heart
Don’t throw it away
Rhythm of Reform may have been little more than a thinly veiled attempt to increase the mailing per minute ratio of Perot volunteers, but Exhibit B, a CD EP of Perot tunes performed in various genres, aspires to professionalism, and its hackwork is hilarious.
The San Rafael, CA-based imprint Ursa Minor (an independent label) released the CD entitled Rhythms of Reform; click on the crop circle diagram on its Web site and you’ll find a mission statement noting that “beyond ordinary perceptual limits, a para-quantum wave of energy (love) sings life consciousness/infinite.” Each of its five songs invokes reform in a different genre, from alterna-rock to rap.
By any vaguely musical standard, the record’s a god-awful, para-quantum wave of sonic piffle. It’s chock-full of canned beats, wishy-washy acoustic guitars and pan flute solos; none of the performers’ names are given in the press materials, and on one listen it’s easy to see why. Over a polite lilt of guitars on “A Mother’s Prayer” — which might’ve been retitled “Jaded Before Kindergarten” — a woman sings to her baby of the damning effects of a government that allowed the deficit to skyrocket:
"As you take your first steps
You're already in debt."
“The Rhythms of Reform” is syrupy R&B that even Lionel Richie would be ashamed of, “Not For Sale!” is vapid alt-rock for those who find Alanis Morissette a tad too gutsy (It’s The System’s fault!), and “A Child’s Song” is just what the title says, all missing teeth, slurred consonant clusters and I’d-like-to-buy-the-world-a-Coke sentimentality:
"If onwy powiticians
With kindneth and mowality
Wouwd twy to wuv
And not to deceive."
The finest moment, however, is “Class War,” an attempt at a gangsta rap song that’s the only tune brave enough to mention Perot by name [“Ross Perot wanna lead us in the class war”], and actually sample his voice:
"Give me Ross in effect and watch it happen
With much more substance
And colorful words and graphics."
The CD was intended for the Reform Party’s promotional efforts, and also contains nearly a half hour of quotes from various speeches by Perot and running mate Pat Choate. It’s no surprise that the pamphlet and CD didn’t help Perot make much of a dent in the polls — what did Lee Atwater’s guitar playing ever do for the GOP? — but just imagine hordes of Perot supporters swayed by the musical message, working hard — if futilely — to keep Ross in effect on Election Day.
Rhythm of Reform: Lyrics for Reform Party Volunteers is available for $6.50 (including tax and postage) from Perot ’96, 14 Market Space, Annapolis, Maryland 21401. Make checks payable to Perot ’96.
The Rhythms of Reform CD is available for $10.00 plus applicable sales tax from Ursa Minor Arts & Media, P.O. Box 3084 San Rafael, CA 94912. Call (415) 459-4457 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.