Wednesday, May 18, 2011


When I was working on the FDR side of Monday's post, something in my brain fired off. I was thinking about how Roosevelt had been diagnosed (properly or no) with polio, and how polio was often treated by some weird contraption called an iron lung. It was at this point that my brain informed me, "Hey, doesn't your favorite band have a song called 'My Iron Lung'?"

Why, yes. Yes, it does.

Naturally, this got me thinking: how many Radiohead songs could be ham-fistedly tied to U.S. Presidents? Having given the matter some consideration, I hereby file the following report:

"Just" - to Richard Nixon.
Nixon's presidency, of course, was undone by the whole "Watergate" scandal, which is really a classic case of the coverup being worse than the original crime. After all, the original crime was organizing a break-in of the Democratic campaign headquarters. Stupid and criminal? Yes, of course. Impeachment-worthy? Debatable, but we'd say "no." The resulting coverup, stonewalling, general deceit? Very, very impeachment-worthy. You did it to yourself, Nixon, and that's why it really hurt.

"How to Disappear Completely" to William Henry Harrison.
Dude held the job for a month, then died. Of course he's getting this song.

"Pyramid Song" - to John Quincy Adams.
This one's officially a stretch, but it's my favorite Radiohead song, so of course I'm going to shoe-horn it in. Anyway, JQA made a name for himself among presidents by occasionally swimming in the Potomac River. That's a pretty strenuous swim, but he clearly had nothing to fear, nothing to doubt. 

"Separator" - to Grover Cleveland. I might be tempted to give this to Benjamin Harrison just on the title alone, but no, let's go Cleveland. Why? Well, what line could better symbolize Cleveland's bifurcated terms than "If you think this is over, then you're wrong"? As a bonus, this line also spawned plenty of speculation when it was released earlier this year as part of The King of Limbs album; fans strung together a series of Paul-is-dead-esque clues to determine that Radiohead were going to release a second part of the album sometime in the summer. Radiohead have since debunked the rumors, which is rather sad.
"Nude" to Bill Clinton. Sure, this song may seem like a bad choice in the context of its first lines ("Don't get any big ideas, they're not gonna happen"), as anyone who becomes president has clearly had some big ideas work out for them. However, once you get to the end of the song, you get this: "You go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking." That's Clinton.

"Sail to the Moon" to JFK. Right? Right. 

"You and Who's Army?" to Teddy Roosevelt, who led his own damn army during the Spanish-American war. Yes, other presidents have been generals, of course, but Roosevelt was the only one who went in as an amateur. That takes a certain amount of chutzpah, and this song embodies that spirit. Kind of. (Bonus Roosevelt entry: "The Tourist". Why? Because he was the first sitting president to travel outside the U.S., of course.)

"15 Step" to George H. W. Bush.
After successfully smacking Saddam Hussein around in the first Gulf War, the elder Bush's poll numbers were riding high, and he might have been forgiven for thinking he was a shoo-in for reelection in 1992. What he wasn't counting on, was the economy, which left voters asking: "You used to be all right... what happened?"

"Optimistic" to Jimmy Carter.
The irony choice. Clearly.

"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" to Barack Obama.
This song goes to the man who benefited from the most successful ground operation in modern presidential history, turning an army of small donors and volunteers into an improbable nomination for to the top Democratic ticket, and thence, to the White House. Of course, Obama is going to want to recapture a lot that magic if he wants to avoid a battle for the "15 Step" crown with Bush I, but that's neither here nor there.

"Vegetable" to Woodrow Wilson. Well... to post-stroke Woodrow Wilson, at any rate.


Can an entire album be applicable to a president? Well, scan down Radiohead's discography, and one entry really jumps out. And we're hereby dedicating said album to a man who benefited from one of the most chicanery-filled elections in history. That's right, we're giving Hail to the Thief to...
Rutherford B. Hayes!

What, you were expecting someone else?


"Packd Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" to John McCain, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and Al Gore. These guys ran for president multiple times, and after many trials and tribulations, they each were rewarded with their party's nomination. And then, they lost. Or as Radiohead put it, "After years of waiting, nothing came, and I realized I was looking, was looking in the wrong place." Dang. That's bad news.

Okay, that's all I've got. Any other ideas, readership? Let's hear 'em in the comments! And if you haven't voted in this week's contest, well, you know what to do. Polls are open until Friday. See you then!

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