Log in

No account? Create an account
April 2012   01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Thos Paine

Were the good old days worse?

Posted on 2005.12.06 at 10:13
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Nirvana - Oh, The Guilt
One thing that I hear on the news a lot is that the political climate in Washington, and around the country is worse than it has ever been; there is more acrimony, more partisanship, more personal attacks, less collegiality and sense of mutual loyalty even amidst disagreement than ever before.
Then I heard this album, Oscar Brand's compilation of Presidential Campaign songs from Washington to Clinton, and I was led to think otherwise. I acquired it through emusic.com, which I highly recommend. If campaign songs can be some sort of measure of the tone of a campaign, which I think they were especially before the rise of modern media, then today represents nothing close to the low point. So here, I present some down and dirty old-style campaigning- cut so as not to mess up your page, but read it anyway. All you have to do is click.

The election of 1840 seems to have been the nastiest one- It started out amicably enough (although the second verse gets in some jibes at a few rivals) with this little ditty supporting Whig candidate William Henry Harrison, who was known as 'Tippecanoe' after the battle of that name which was won under his command. His running mate was John Tyler.:

(tune of yankee doodle)
Come swell the throng and join the song
Extend the circle wider
Join the run for Harrison, log cabin and hard cider!
With Harrison, our country's won, no treachery can divide her
Thy will be done with Harrison, log cabin and hard cider!

Let Calhoun sneer and Benton jeer
Like every such backslider
The fight was won by Harrison, log cabin and hard cider!
To all the world our flag's unfurled, to victory Tip'll guide her
Second to none is Harrison, log cabin and hard cider!

OK, not so bad, right? Well, take a look at the reply song from the incumbent, Democrat Martin Van Buren:

(tune of rockabye baby)
Rockabye baby, Daddy's a Whig
When he comes home, hard cider he'll swig
When he has swug, he'll fall in a stew
And down will come Tyler and Tip-pe-ca-noe

Rockabye baby, when you awake
You will discover Tip is a fake
Far from the battle, war cry and drum
He sits in his cabin a-drinking bad rum

Rockabye baby, never you cry
You need not fear old Tip and his Ty
What they would ruin, Van Buren will fix
Van's a magician, they are but tricks!

That's going negative, don't you think? I particularly like the use of 'swug' as the past tense of 'swig.' Is that correct? I don't even know. Anyway, the reply to this reply is one of the most famous campaign songs, even though most people have only heard of the title:

(a bouncy marching tune)
O! Who has heard the great commotion-motion-motion all the country through?
It is the ball a-rolling on for Tippecanoe and Tyler too, for Tippecanoe and Tyler too
And with 'em we'll beat little Van, Van, Van is a used-up man
And with 'em we'll beat little Van

Sure, let 'em talk about hard cider-cider-cider and log cabins too
'Twill only help to speed the ball for Tippecanoe and Tyler too, for Tippecanoe and Tyler too
And with 'em we'll beat little Van, Van, Van is a used-up man
And with 'em we'll beat little Van

Like the rush of mighty waters-waters-waters, onward it will go
and its course will bring you through for Tippecanoe and Tyler too, for Tippecanoe and Tyler too
And with 'em we'll beat little Van, Van, Van is a used-up man
And with 'em we'll beat little Van!

Harsh stuff! And it worked! Of course, Harrison died 30 days after his inauguration, but it's still a catchy tune.

There are tons of great things on this record, and maybe I will post more of them, but for now I will just stick with the Whigs, who seem to have had great campaign songs, and also had a habit of dying in office (both times they won!). They seemed to like to nominate war heroes, like Harrison, and their second President, Zachary Taylor, known as 'Old Rough-and-Ready,' hero of the Mexican war. He won the election of 1848 with this tune, perhaps the most belligerent of campaign songs:

(a fast, enthusiastic tune with drums on the rumadumdum parts)
Rumadum Dum vote for Taylor
Rumadum Dum son of freedom
Rumadum Dum vote for Taylor
He's the boy to skin and beat 'em!

Throughout the land there's such a cry
And we all know the reason why
Old Rough-And-Ready's bars and stars
Beat Mexico's two-legged b'ars (n.b. I assume this is 'bears' tortured to rhyme here)


He met 'em off the Rio Grande
He played 'em Yankee Doodle Dandy
When brave Taylor crossed the line
He made 'em snort like a steam engine (pronounced to rhyme with 'line')


Ol' Zach kicked up gunpowderation (I have no idea what this means)
With the Texas annexation
If anyone makes much ado
He'll flog 'em and annex 'em too!


See what I mean? Maybe the good old days were really kind of horrible after all.

Previous Entry  Next Entry