Politicians and music will always be like oil and water but it's still funny when the two ideas mix. MySpace recently released a list of some prominent pollies and their favourite tunes. The list reveals the musical leanings of Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop and gyrating rocker turned environment minister, Peter Garrett. Apparently Rudd likes a bit of Sinatra and John Denver (Denver circa 71' even looks a bit like Rudd), while Turnbull digs some 80's classics. This does reveal what the pollies want to project about their musical taste and personalities but when politics and music mix, politicians will always come out on the bottom.
Bill Clinton playing the saxophone with dark sunglasses all those years ago has become as much of a cliche as the pot smoking and the stained dress. When John Howard came out and said that he liked Bob Dylan's music but not his lyrics — it both revealed a truth about his politics and a palpable dagginess. Many of Boris Yeltsin's most embarrassing moments were also to do with music, not least booze. Remember his famous drunken erratic dancing or when he tried to conduct a military band after stealing the baton from the bandmaster?
Peter Garrett's musical fame actually helped into politics, but he was quickly derided because he was seen to have abandoned the principles he laid out with his band Midnight Oil. His connection with music ultimately has come to harm his credibility — spawning headlines like "its hard to sleep while your cred is burning." Without his musical associations, we wouldn't probably have judged his political career so harshly.
When politicians reveal their musical taste it always gives us a few chuckles. Musical taste is, of course, entirely subjective. But in this list it's easy to see that some are trying to project something about themselves. In choosing Handel's Messiah, Rudd represents his Christian side. With John Denver's Fire and Rain we see a baby boomer/folk side. His choice of The Power and the Passion by Midnight Oil seems a plug for his environment minister. The Turnbull faves were arguably a bit more varied and belonged mainly to the 70s and 80s — what you would expect of someone from his generation. It's hard to tell what Joe Hockey is trying to say with some of the evocative titles in his list, Sweet about Me by Gabriella Cilmi , Catch my disease by Ben Lee, Kenny Roger's The Gambler and (wince) Believe Again by Delta Goodrem. All catchy songs but if you only had the titles to go by, it would paint an odd picture of Hockey.
Overall, despite some tragic moments, it wasn't all bad. There were some great songs on there, including Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower (a Garrett selection) or Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man (a Julie Bishop pick). But when you peruse the list you come away with an impression of dorkiness and a sense the MPs were consciously trying to say someting about themselves.
The truth is, politics is the opposite of music. Not to get a bit Hallmark card here, but music is about freedom of expression and truth. Politics could be nothing further from this and it is a fundamental reason why they seem incongruous when they are put together and why Garrett has been persecuted for crossing that musical floor so to speak.
The underlying reason politicians and music make an odd pair is that music means something to people, while politics, and politicians in particular, really doesn't. We associate music with good times and even a way to mark chapters of our life. Rudd himself said that "music has a strong nostalgic element" and that his play-list " reflects some of my treasured memories and life experiences.". It's not often you see a politician's face, or remember a particular vote in parliament, and connect it with a personal moment in your life. It's good to know that politicians have lives outside what we see in parliament. But when the two worlds mix, we just can't help but to poke fun.
BELLA COUNIHAN IS THE GOANNA