Kerry's case of the 'Summertime Blues' puts him in line as second rock'n'roll president
Friday 10 September 2004
Anyone looking at John Kerry's poll numbers knows his presidential election campaign has undergone a touch of the summertime blues. What they may not realise is Summertime Blues - the old Eddie Cochran number - has been part of Mr Kerry's repertoire for more than 40 years.
Ever since it surfaced during the primary season earlier this year, the lone recording cut by Mr Kerry's high school rock'n'roll band has been a slow but steady seller among political junkies and collectors of obscure vintage rock. Now that the presidential contest has reached its two-month home stretch, copies of the rare original vinyl version are trading for more than $2,000 (£1,100) apiece. A CD knock-off version is available online for $14, and doing brisk business.
The teenage Mr Kerry was the bass player in the seven-piece outfit, called the Electras, which was made up of pupils at the ritzy St Paul's prep school in Concord, New Hampshire. They did covers of rock'n'roll standards and imitations of the surf guitar sound that was coming into fashion.
Mostly they played at school dances - the band being a good way of meeting girls - but they also spent a couple of days laying down an album's worth of tracks on an Ampex reel-to-reel machine owned by a schoolmate. Everyone chipped in $250 to pay for the printing costs of about 500 copies, which they then peddled at their live shows.
The sound was enthusiastic, but distinctly wobbly. In the liner notes, Mr Kerry is described as "the producer of pulsating rhythm that lends tremendous force to all the numbers" - not something he would necessarily be accused of with his stolid political campaigning style.
The quality of the music, though, may not be as significant as the symbolism. Mr Kerry can now call himself the second rock'n'roll presidential candidate, after the sax-playing Bill Clinton, and part of a long tradition of musical White House aspirants that has included Thomas Jefferson (violin), Warren Harding (cornet) and Harry Truman (piano).
The campaign buzz has it that he has been strumming on an acoustic guitar and may soon be ready to give it a public airing.
Time will tell whether his advisers think such a venture would be wise.
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