McCain's rally song list is eclectic

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 1, 2008 

SPRINGFIELD, Va. _Julie Brooke shook and shimmied in place for nearly two hours Saturday morning as Van Halen and Brooks & Dunn blared over loudspeakers.

"I just been dancing and waiting, it's good music, mostly country," she said. "It's good listening music."

Brooke wasn't at a party or a disco. The 50-year-old Silver Spring, Md., resident was grooving to tunes at a John McCain rally here in the parking lot of a moving company.

Music is a huge component of McCain's events - from the honky-tonk campaign theme song "Raising McCain" penned by Big & Rich's John Rich to the majestic instrumental from the football movie "Rudy" played when the candidate or his Straight Talk Express bus makes a grand entrance into stadium events.

"We play things appropriate to events," said Brian Rogers, a McCain campaign spokesman, "When we were down, we played the 'Rocky' theme and the music from 'Hoosiers.' That team was down and dismissed."

Rogers insists there's no formula to figure out what music gets played.

"It's whenever someone has a good idea, it's a pretty democratic system," Rogers said "We like to play things that get people amped up."

McCain's campaign play list is an extensive and eclectic mix of country songs, rock standards and tunes from films. The country collection includes Brooks & Dunn's "Only in America" and "That's What It's All About." Van Halen's "Right Now" often blares when McCain is introduced at rallies.

Queen's "We Will Rock You," and the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" are sometimes played to get a McCain crowd fired up. Whitesnakes's "Here I Go Again" is a campaign standard, played several times a day.

"It's one of the most inspiring things ever written, said Rogers, 30. "I grew up with that."

From Hollywood, the campaign plays Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" from "Top Gun," the title song from "Footloose," another Loggins hit, and James Brown's "Living in America" from "Rocky IV."

For baby boomers in the audience, there's Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode" and Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation," a tune that conveys McCain's preference for action over talk.

However, missing from the song rotation is one of the candidate's favorite groups, the Swedish pop band ABBA. He listed two of the group's songs — "Dancing Queen" and "Take a Chance on Me" — among his Top 10 favorite tunes. But ABBA apparently didn't return the love. McCain's campaign sought permission to use one of ABBA's songs, but the price tag was too high.

Some songs played at McCain events contain messages - duty, country, honor, urgency - while others are played just for the music's sake, Rogers said.

Silver Spring's Brooke said she doesn't know whether message-aimed music is effective, or necessary for voters.

"Voting the right person in office matters to me most," she said. "But they do have a lot of songs about America, which makes you think about it."

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