by carl wilson

Vote the Rock


In the comments, Adam makes the good point that Maggie's not the first rocker to dabble in electoral politics, in Canada and beyond. I'm not convinced that Charlie Angus would ever seek national office beyond his current level - for good reason, as he is a localist in his interests and values - but who knows? It could happen. There's also Joe Keithley (aka Joey Shithead of DOA) who has run (unsuccessfully) for office as a Green Party candidate in British Columbia, and Chris Novoselic's political activity in the U.S. A quick look around also tells me that Lindy, the former drummer of the Go Betweens, has run for parliament in Australia. And of course there was Jello Biafra's run for mayor of San Francisco (he was also a candidate for the Green Party nomination for president at one point before the 2000 election, I think). And the Hummer Sisters in Toronto in the eighties... And, of course, Sonny Bono. Anybody have other examples? Is there a rapper on city council somewhere? Did any of the MC5 ever run for office? Is Mo Tucker some town's public defender?

I do think that Maggie's political prospects are interestingly different than any of the above, although they're also far off in the future, since right now she's got three bands to play in, a musical to bring to the stage (The Rat King, which had its first demo run before the public at the first Tin Tin Tin, is now complete and looking for a theatre), and is working on stories and books and such too.

If I'd realized they were going to put the 'prime minister' thing in the headline - which I probably should have - I might have mentioned some of the precedents such as Angus and Keithley, but a survey of the intersection of rock and electoral politics would have been a different piece. (Although it still wouldn't have counted Warren Kinsella!) As it was I wasn't able to include a lot of the fascinating things Maggie had to say, and I'll put some outtakes from the interview up on th' blog tonight or tomorrow. Meanwhile remember that Republic of Safety plays Hey Ladeez! at Stones' Place tonight, releasing their Passport EP. I might not be able to make it myself, sadly, so please do some dancing and out-of-control screaming on my behalf.

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, March 19 at 6:48 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (11)



"Shilling" is a bit harsh, granted, but that seems to be how Paul Weller now sees it....although he's kind of sullen in general.

One funny but not-really-related example this hypothetical article could include is Gerhard Schroeder. Not actually a musician, of course, but he did help make a hit single in Germany (some guy recorded him saying "Give me a beer or I'll go on strike." and set it to to bad dance music).

p.s. thanks for linking to the team of cream.

Posted by Ryan on March 21, 2005 10:26 AM



I'm not sure "shilling" is a fair description. The Wedge was anti-Thatcher and some participants were pro-Labour; others were just turning to Labour temporarily to deal with the problems of the time - much like the musicians who got involved in the election campaign in the U.S. this fall, who were decidedly anti-Bush but not all necessarily pro-Democrat or pro-Kerry. (See for further discussion...) It's one thing for musicians to speak up during a campaign, which I consider just activist citizenship, and another for them actually to try to participate directly in the mechanisms of government, etc.

Posted by Zoilus on March 21, 2005 12:29 AM



Right, but the Wedge were involved with oficial politics, to the extent that they were shilling for Labour.

Gilberto Gil may be the craziest example of them all.

Posted by Ryan on March 20, 2005 10:36 PM



Cases like the Red Wedge are different, tho - the amount of music that's been linked to activism is huge, of course, and even if the Wedge was an especially potent example, you could go on all day bringing up parallels. Music's involvement in official politics is more unusual (although not more important). Now that more politicians are "rock generation" people there's some blurring of those lines, too - Bono's lobbying is neither electoral politics nor the usual kind of protest-movement activism, but the use of cultural capital for political means, more comparable in a way to what a business magnate such as George Soros can do politically...

Posted by Zoilus on March 20, 2005 1:49 PM



Gilberto Gil! *That's* what was rattling around the back of my mind....

The question of the effect of illegality on art is also a pretty rich one, Steve. There's a lot of discussion of what it's like to shift from a samizdat culture to an overground one, from art that faces censorship to art that doesn't. While clearly nobody would choose repression, there's the sad paradox that when expression is scarce and difficult, it feels terrifically meaningful and when expression is abundant it seems cheap and interchangeable and what has an impact is what can be promoted to the point of saturation. It's difficult to be an artist in that condition too.

Posted by Zoilus on March 20, 2005 1:43 PM



Quebec's Bloc Pot party was founded by a guy who was in the francophone punk band, Grim Skunk...I think his name was Hugo St.Onge or something.

Also, an article like that would need to mention the Red Wedge, even though none of them ever ran for office, and Gilberto Gil, who is now a cabinet minister in Brazil's PT government.

Posted by Ryan on March 20, 2005 1:29 PM



wow, carl, i had no idea that havel's political life had so much to do with rock n roll. i was only vaguely aware of the plastic people, and even then, i had no idea what they were about. my family lived in rumania at the time, where rock music was virtually unavailable, so i'm sure it was left out of their version of the history of prague spring and after.

imagine if rock were basically illegal like it was in eastern europe during the cold war? then every venue would be like the dufferin hotel and the police busting up the parties wouldn't be so nice.

i think uz jsme doma have gone on hiatus for some time, but if they do come to N.A. again i'm dropping everything to go see them.

Posted by steve birek on March 20, 2005 12:08 PM



Oh and I had totally forgotten about the Midnight Oil fella. Can't imagine why!

Posted by Zoilus on March 20, 2005 1:05 AM



That's interesting - I didn't know Wanek had served in government, although I know Uz Jsme Doma's work very well. (If you ever get to see them, do - great folk-punk-prog hybrid, with the members interacting a bit like a military band.) Of course Czechs have a long history of rock-politics intersection with Plastic People of the Universe (later Pulnoc) having served as the voice of the underground after the '68 invasion and through the early 1970. As I'm sure you know, Steve, when they were put on trial by the commies, it was the protest movement against their jailing that led to Vaclav Havel writing the petition that became known as Charter 77, which led to his own imprisonment, all of which pointed toward the eventual Velvet Revolution and Havel's presidency, during which he held official state meetings with Lou Reed and Frank Zappa (whom he almost made his cultural minister, despite adamant American opposition), and in 1997 asked the Plastic People to perform a reunion concert, which has led to continuing activity to this day, despite the sad 2001 death of leading Plastic person (singer-bassist-songwriter) Milan Hlavasa from cancer. The term "Velvet Revolution" is generally taken to refer to the non-violence of the process, but it carries a second meaning - the revolution instigated by the Velvet Underground, via their influence on the Plastic People of the Universe.

Posted by Zoilus on March 20, 2005 1:04 AM



Peter Garrett, formerly of Midnight Oil, is currently a Mamber of Parliament in Australia. Somewhat further afield, piano virtuoso Ignacy Paderewski was Prime Minister of Poland. On the other end of things, Mike Curb (of the Mike Curb congregation) was long active in Republican politics in California, and was Lt. Governor there. Stevie Wonder, sadly, still hasn't run for mayor of Detroit, despite years of hints and promises.

Posted by JD Considine on March 20, 2005 1:01 AM



there have been times where protest rock n roll has found itself inciting revolutions.

during the revolution in czechoslovakia in 1989, uz jsme doma, a prague prog-punk outfit who had been deemed illegal by the communist gov't, played a concert for 15,000 in the third week of the uprising. soon after, when the gov't had fallen, frontman Mirek Wanek ended up on a local provisionary council and was responsible for eradicating corruption in transitional authorities.

Posted by steve birek on March 19, 2005 8:23 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson