It’s a hard call to masquerade as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis let alone Sam Phillips, the real royal of rock’n'roll and founder of the legendary SUN Studio and SUN Records. A brilliant radio trained recording engineer, talent spotter (not forgetting of course the other halves of SUN Records Marion Keisker and Scotty Moore), and record company boss who sold Elvis to RCA to save his iconic label. He not only paid off his debts but bought a radio station and invested in a local motel chain called Holiday Inn. The SUN Studio delivered the first rock’n'roll record, Rocket 88 by Jackie Brentson and his Delta Cats with Ike Turner! Million Dollar Quartet actually revolves around Sam Phillips, not the MDQ.
I’ve worked at the SUN Studio at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis TN with Billy Swan of I Can Help fame, stood where Elvis did and alongside Sam at his other Phillips Recording studio. I treasure the picture of us and it sits alongside those of my family. That’s where I place Sam. I will never forget when I first heard his cutting edge ’50’s SUN sound that is rarely matched today and watched him receive his Grammy Trustees Award in 1991 in NYC where he didn’t go when courted by RCA. Sam lost the MDQ but followed them by signing the man with the funny name, Roy Orbison. But check out all the other blues, rockabilly and many other Sun sides covering a unique decade of raw music. The label is now run out of Nashville by John Singleton. I visited him last year and re-lived it all again.
Its easy to pick holes in a musical, my most disliked format, so I won’t. The music carried me along all the way. No need for a Lloyd Webber, Abba or a Sondheim. Rockabilly and rock’n'roll will never die and haven’t. The MDQ story is authentic thanks to Colin Escott, renown SUN Records authority. The actors deliver but needless to say Ben Goddard as Jerry Lee steals the show. A killer. Elvis played by Michael Malarkey is not a mere tribute artist and Derek Hagen as Johnny Cash is almost too real. The only American in the show, Robert Britton Lyons, doesn’t quite cut it as Carl Perkins even though he played the same role on Broadway. Perhaps Perkins is too weak a character. Nevertheless Lyons on guitar drove the all live music. Elvis had a girl friend in tow played by Francesca Jackson. Who couldn’t fall for her? And I give special mention to the stand up bass player, Gez Gerrard. He knows rockabilly!
The classic songs are all there kicking off with Blue Suede Shoes and Australian Johnny O’Keefe’s Real Wild Child which I saw him perform at the Sydney (boxing) Stadium, since demolished and replaced by an overpass. Check out Ivan’s version on a much sort after 45 rpm single. Some drummers can sing. I don’t associate all the songs with the MDQ and found hits like Fever, Memories Are Made of This, Who do you Love, Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Down By the Riverside, My Babe, See You Later Alligator and others out of place and awkward. But never mind, they have their place in history. I saw the second preview (I couldn’t wait) and can’t wait to go back again. If you love rockabilly and rock’n'roll, DON’T miss the MDQ at the Noel Coward Theatre and jive in the aisles. Hallelujah!!!
There was more to hear at the London Jazz Festival. I’ve never seen Cedar Walton live before and have clearly left it too late. He’s now 76. There’s no doubt about his iconic place in jazz history but the energy has gone. There were no highs and lows or “orgasms” as one listener commented. He just keeps playing in his own world, “Cedar’s Blues”, “Over the Rainbow”, “Little Sun Flower” and “Firm Roots” in his first set at Ronnie Scott’s. His second set was much more enthusiastic and included “Martha’s Prize” and Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star”.
Drummer Willie Jones 111 and bass player Darryl Hall knew their places. Jones’ solos were discrete and he didn’t try to dominate the set. Hall’s style was such that it got me talking about Scott LaFaro to the bass playing student sitting next to me at the bar. I saw Bill Evan’s last gig at Ronnies’. On the other hand, Piero Odorici on tenor sax overwhelmed the Quartet throughout and gave little space for Cedar, perhaps by design? I wished for a trio that night.
I’ve seen Geri Allen several times, the best gig being a trio performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall sometime ago with Paul Motion on drums. I’ve never forgotten the way he opened the set with a lightning swirl of the brushes. This time Allen played solo to a depleted audience in the Purcell Room to curious images on a screen behind her by photographer Carrie Mae Weems centred on Allen’s life. Earlier Allen was interviewed by Alan Shipton apparently in a dull mechanical way according to someone sitting next to me. Allen played relentlessly with jazz feel but not much emotion or variation. I don’t enjoy watching a screen and listening to the music at the same time. I don’t like music videos much either. I prefer my own mind pictures. The audience still applauded wildly and we were treated to a Charlie Parker song as an acceptable encore and thankfully no video.
The opening act was a trio called Curios lead by Tom Cawley on piano, Sam Burgess bass and Joshua Blackmore on drums. All three members played beautifully but it didn’t feel like jazz to me, whereas Geri Allen did. The songs had odd titles like “Nigel Roebuck” (an F1 journalist, “Brawn” (an F1 Team Principal) and “Maradona” (a footballer) which didn’t help the music much. The last song was obviously a love song but still not jazz to me. No blues or swing. But my classically trained guest saw a lot of merit in their playing.
Do you listen to John Scofield and Duane Eddy? I do and wouldn’t miss either of them in concert. Both played in London recently. Scofield at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the London Jazz Festival and Eddy aged 72 on tour in the UK for the first time in 18 years at the Royal Festival Hall, both to packed houses and acclaim. Scofield in a trio with the sublime Steve Swallow on electric bass and Eddy with the John Hawley Band, two stunning backing singers in red gowns, Hawley singing two Lee Hazlewood songs “The Girl on Death Row” and “Still As the Night” and a British blues singer Pete Molinari who did justice to the “Tennessee Waltz”, one of my favourite songs and places.
I walked away from both concerts on cloud nine. Scofield returned to top form, his rock’n'roll roots, jazz and intimate ballads. Swallow could have been mistaken for Steptoe until he stood upright and his long spider like fingers flew up and down the fret board in complete command. The music was magical with Bill Stewart on drums. In particular, “These Foolish Things”, the dirty rockin’ jazz lickin’ “Chicken Dog”, George Jones’ “Just a Girl I used to Know”, “Trio Blues” and “The Low Road”. I enjoyed Scofield’s New Orleans outing at last year’s London Jazz Festival but it felt like two different bands trying to play together. This year it was a mean untouchable trio I must hear again.
Duane Eddy kicked off with “Detour” and played his ’50’s twangy guitar rock’n'roll repetoire as if we were still there. I think I am. We also heard my favourites “40 Miles of Bad Road, 3.30 Blues, Peter Gunn and of course “Rebel Rouser” with a storming sax. Eddy’s started recording a new album with Hawley’s band and will return in the spring to perform it. Thank goodness someone has got Eddy to put down his book, get up out of his chair and play for us! What a man! Sadly, amongst others including Keith Urban, LeAnn Rimes and Vince Gill, he lost some of his precious guitars in the Nashville floods last year. But that hasn’t quelled him and never will.
Every year I look forward to the London Jazz Festival. Ten days of countless gigs all over the capital at all the usual music venues and more. There seem to be fewer icons playing these days but we have Herbie Hancock, John Scofield, Sonny Rollins, Hugh Masekela, Terence Blanchard, Cedar Walton, Gary Burton and Steve Swallow. But there are many new up and coming artists such as the Sam Crowe Group and the Kit Downes Quintet who played for free in The Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday! Not that there’s a shortage of live jazz in London but it doesn’t match NYC for venues and choice. That’s where I first heard the timeless Bill Evans Trio, Bill Frisell and Joe Lavano at the Village Vanguard.
The Sam Crowe Group were straight forward and more than competent, especially Crowe on piano. Adam Waldman on sax added warmth but I’m not a fan of the vibes, not even when played with four mallets! Whereas I could listen to Kit Downes on piano endlessly in his very skilled quintet. If there was jazz justice in this world his trio album Golden would have won this year’s Mercury Prize. But he has a new album coming out in 2011 and the quintet played all of it. Very exciting music with the textures and the feel of a George Russell Orchestra with British musicians thanks on this occasion to James Allsopp, saxophone and bass clarinet, Adrien Dennefeld cello, Calum Gourlay bass, James Maddren drums.
On Sunday night I went for the Americana artist and former lead singer of The Mavericks, Raul Malo. But is this jazz? I think not but I’ve always been a big fan of Malo who is now a leading Americana artist, not country, alongside such luminaries as Levon Helm, John Mellencamp, Robert Plant and Alison Kraus, Buddy Miller, producer musician T Bone Burnett, Emmylou Harris, Billy Swan, Wanda Jackson and The Crickets. The Americana Music Association Awards in Nashville showed of much of this great talent in September.
As a frequent visitor to Nashville I’ve followed Raul Malo from the beginning of The Mavericks. They became international stars thanks to the support of their legendary manager Frank Callari who died not so long ago and Luke Lewis of Lost Highway Records. Since the band’s demise Raul Malo has developed a successful Americano solo career. He has the big voice of an Orbison or an Elvis, great feel, rhythm and swagger no doubt emanating from his Cuban roots. Malo played accoustic guitar, sang his heart out and romanced us for nearly two hours bringing tears to everyone’s eyes with songs like “Smile” for his sons’ 14th and 15th birthday. He was accompanied by Michael Guerra on bandoneon and accordion. The bandoneon became a little pointed and tedious on its own but mellowed when joined for a short stint by former Shakin’ Stevens piano player Elio Pace. Malo also sang in Spanish which works so well and two Maverick’s songs O What a Thrill and of course Dancing the Night Away. An Orbison classic J D Souther’s You’re only Lonely, Ole sole Mio, Elvis’ It’s Now or Never and Dont. Malo returns to England early next year for the release of his new album Sinners & Saints. It wasn’t jazz but Americana roots music that never failed to stir the emotions.
The opening act, Alyssa Bonagura, from Nashville but a frequent visitor to England joined the others for the encores. Her Nashville sound didn’t emerge from her own songs until she finished the set with Blue made famous by LeAnn Rimes. It always helps a little known act to sing a great cover.
REVOLUTION at the COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS 2010 – Miranda Lambert, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Sheryl Crow, Sugarland, Kid Rock and Keith Urban
Nashville CMA Awards nominee Miranda Lambert, who entered “Country Music’s Biggest Night” with a record nine nominations, walked away with an armful of CMA Awards. The Texas bombshell took home three trophies, including Female Vocalist, Album for Revolution (produced by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke) and Music Video of the Year for “The House That Built Me”. The three Awards were the first Lambert has won in her career.
“Revolution has certainly caused a revolution in my life this year thanks to the Country Music industry,” Lambert expressed after winning Album. “It’s what I love, it’s what I do, it’s what I live for, so thank you for loving it too.”
Highlights from the CMA Awards in Nashville TN will be presented by country music fan Dale Winton on BBC Radio 2 at 10pm on Friday 12th November.
Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow made her Country singing debut on the Awards, performing “Country Strong,” the title track from the upcoming film in which she portrays a Country singer on a comeback tour. The film, which co-stars Tim McGraw. Paltrow closed the show, accompanied by Vince Gill.
Lady Antebellum won their second consecutive Single of the Year Award for the smash crossover hit “Need You Now,” becoming the only artist in CMA Awards history to capture the Single honour in consecutive years. The trio also won their second Vocal Group of the Year Award.
“The 44th Annual CMA Awards” was hosted for the third time by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
After wowing the crowd with his tribute to the music he loves, “This Is Country Music,” Awards co-host Brad Paisley won the big one, Entertainer of the Year, which was his first win in the category.
Sugarland picked up their fourth Vocal Duo of the Year Award after performing their latest No. 1 hit “Stuck Like Glue.”
Lambert and Sheryl Crow offered a rendition of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in honour of Loretta Lynn’s 50th anniversary as a Country Music recording artist. Actress Sissy Spacek, who portrayed Lynn in the 1980 biopic “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” made a surprise appearance to celebrate the Country Music Hall of Fame member. Lynn joined Lambert and Crow onstage for the last verse of the song she made famous before presenting the Female Vocalist of the Year Award with Spacek.
Awards co-host Carrie Underwood opened “Country Music’s Biggest Night” with instrumental accompaniment by Australian Keith Urban and fellow co-host Paisley on “Songs Like This.” Later, Underwood brought down the house with the powerful “Mama’s Song.”
Female Vocalist nominee and 2009’s Entertainer of the Year Taylor Swift wowed the crowd at the Bridgestone Arena with “Back to December,” the new single from her latest release Speak Now, which sold more than 1 million copies in its first week and continues its dominance of Country and pop charts.
Genre-blurring Country rocker Kid Rock offered his anthem “Born Free,” the title track from his new album due in November.
Congratulations to Guitarist Mac McAnally picked up his third consecutive Musician of the Year Award.
The Winners of “The 44th Annual CMA Awards” are:
Entertainer of the Year
Female Vocalist of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year
New Artist of the Year
Zac Brown Band
Vocal Group of the Year
Vocal Duo of the Year
Album of the Year
(Award goes to Artist and Producer(s))
Produced by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke
Single of the Year
(Award goes to Artist and Producer(s))
“Need You Now”
Produced by Paul Worley and Lady Antebellum
Capitol Records Nashville
Song of the Year
(Award goes to Songwriter(s))
“The House That Built Me”
Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin
Musical Event of the Year
(Award goes to each Artist)
Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins
Music Video of the Year
(Award goes to Artist and Director)
“The House That Built Me”
Directed by Trey Fanjoy
Musician of the Year
Mac McAnally – Guitar
Highlights from the CMA Awards in Nashville TN will be presented by country music fan Dale Winton on BBC Radio 2 at 10pm on Friday 12th November.
There will be a special performance featuring Gwyneth Paltrow in her live Country Music singing debut performing with Vince Gill.
All available tickets for “Country Music’s Biggest Night” have been sold out for the second consecutive year. “The 44th Annual CMA Awards,” hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, airs live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Wednesday, Nov. 10 (8:00-11:00 PM/ET) on the ABC Television Network shot in high definition and broadcast in 720 Progressive (720P), ABC’s selected HDTV format, with 5.1 channel surround sound.
Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Reba, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Underwood, and Keith Urban will perform. Also top nominee Lambert with Sheryl Crow in a tribute to Loretta Lynn’s 50th Anniversary as a recording artist; Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson; and Zac Brown Band with Alan Jackson.
Presenters are The Band Perry, Luke Bryan, Easton Corbin, Sara Evans, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Jerrod Niemann, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker, and Chris Young, as well as NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and ABC television stars JoAnna Garcia (“Better With You”) and Ty Pennington (“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”). Rodney Atkins will present Awards in Pre-Telecast Ceremonies.
On Thursday 11 November Country Music’s biggest stars are joining together in Nashville for the CMA Country Christmas Special to celebrate the holidays! In true Christmas spirit, these artists will celebrate the season with songs and stories that are sure to warm your heart. Joined by some of their family members, Sheryl Crow, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Reba, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker, Kellie Pickler and Sugarland will share with fans their holiday traditions and memories.
Country Music has a long been a part of holiday traditions from Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” to Gene Autry’s “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and the Elvis Presley classic “Blue Christmas.”
“CMA Country Christmas” will tape in front of a live audience at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The special will air Monday, Nov. 29 (9:30-11:00 p.m. ET) on the ABC Television Network.
REFUGEES FLEEING PERSECUTION PERFORM THE WORLD PREMIERE OF A DRAMATIC CANTATA WITH MICHAEL CHANCE, ELIN MANAHAN THOMAS, OMAR EBRAHIM, YOLANDA GRANT-THOMPSON AND HOWARD MOODY
Saturday 6th November 2010, 7.30pm – Tickets see below
St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square
Concert celebrating the work of the Helen Bamber Foundation
16 refugees escaping persecution, sometimes involving rape or torture, have come together as a choir, Woven Gold, since arriving in the UK, and are now performing alongside leading artists. The choir will give the world premiere of a dramatic cantata, Consider the Lilies, in the Church of St-Martin-in-the-Fields on 6 November, alongside counter-tenor Michael Chance, baritone Omar Ebrahim, soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and mezzo-soprano Yolanda Grant-Thompson. The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields, New Foundling (children’s) Choir and La Folia orchestra are conducted by Howard Moody.
Woven Gold has a raw energy and power drawn from their harrowing experiences and from the diversity of the musical cultures they came from – Burma, Congo, Guinea, Iran, Kenya, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Uganda. Together they have found a voice which, while silently acknowledging isolation and sadness, expresses a basic belief in humanity and pure delight in music for its own sake.
The members of Woven Gold are clients of the Helen Bamber Foundation, a human rights charity working with survivors of cruelty, which believes in the therapeutic value of working together creatively to rebuild shattered lives. The Foundation brought together a team of professional UK musicians who for three years have worked with the refugees, giving their time for free. In 2009 Woven Gold released their first album, Much More Than Metal.
Consider the Lilies, commissioned from composer John Barber by the Helen Bamber Foundation, mirrors the considerable personal journeys these refugees have made. The work traces a path from darkness and despair to the rekindling of hope. Two oppressed people find resilience within themselves, in different circumstances and in different ways – he, prisoner in a cell, with the voices of others who have survived; she an asylum seeker, clinging to the prisoner’s story, finally realising she no longer needs it, she has the strength within herself. John Barber’s music communicates very directly these journeys and the range of emotions they evoke: the initial isolation of the powerless, the death and rebirth of hope, the callousness of the authorities, tranquil images of a garden symbolising the possibility of survival and peace.
The music is built on playwright Peter Cann’s powerful and moving libretto. His brief was to capture the spirit of survival. He worked closely with Woven Gold, inspired by their energy, dignity and capacity for joy.
Elin Manahan Thomas is Marta, the lily, the spirit of survival
Michael Chance is the interrogator
Omar Ebrahim is the political prisoner
Yolanda Grant-Thompson is the asylum seeker
Woven Gold are the voice of survival
The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields personify the voice of authority
The New Foundling (children’s) Choir represent the voice of innocence.
La Folia (until recently the Sarum Orchestra) will be conducted by Howard Moody
John Barber is an exceptionally talented young composer. His music is passionate, rhythmic, melodic and very human. He studied composition with Sir Harrison Birtwistle and continued his training at the Royal College of Music and at Wigmore Hall. Collaboration is a central feature of John’s work, with professional singers, orchestras and non-professionals. He has led large-scale projects for Glyndebourne Opera, the BBC, Spitalfields Festival and the Royal Opera House. Recent commissions include a new oratorio based on Hansel and Gretel for Glyndebourne Opera, The Last Genie – a collaborative theatre piece with the Royal Opera House; Dance for oboe and piano, A Winged Spark for female chorus, premiered at the South Bank Centre, and a community opera Rapunzel, performed at the Royal Academy of Music. John performs and records with his band, firefly and has worked with Woven Gold for three years.
Peter Cann, writer and director: his libretto for Stari Most, an oratorio about the Bosnian War, was the catalyst for Consider the Lilies. Recent librettos include: Stari Most (Salisbury Chamber Orchestra, composer Richard Chew); Dee (Birmingham Conservetoire, composer Robin Grant); Jericho Stone (Absolute Theatre, Simon Fraser and Ibo Cooper); Gate (Absolute Theatre, composer Simon Fraser); Wild Edric (composer Charles Dakin); The End and A Dot On The Sun (Robin Grant); Of Bricks and Bones (Welsh National Opera, composer Andrew Peggie). Community and small scale touring plays for Birmingham Repertory Theatre; Pentabus Theatre Company; Solent People’s Theatre; Theatre Foundry; InTransit; Teatro Regional Da Serra Do Montemuro, Portugal ; Theatre Royal Northampton; Rattlesnake. Large scale/site specific and community plays, including for Shared Experience, Welsh National Opera, Pentabus, mac and TRSM, Portugal. His work as a director includes 3 years as artistic director of Pentabus Theatre and annual projects in Portugal. He lectures in drama at Wolverhampton University.
Howard Moody will conduct the cantata. He works in many different styles of music as conductor, composer and keyboard player. He has recently conducted and been commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Brussels Opera and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and works closely with some of the world’s most creative composers and players, including John Surman and Paco Pena. He has recorded for the BBC, Netherlands Radio, Chandos and ECM. He has worked closely with John Barber on the creation of Consider the Lilies.
La Folia (formerly Sarum Orchestra) draws on a pool of creative and inspired musicians, specialising in bringing alive traditional and new music from diverse disciplines and cultures, under the artistic direction of Howard Moody.
Woven Gold has performed at the British Museum (the title song of their album, Much More Than Metal, was inspired by the Museum’s Tree of Life, made of guns from the war in Mozambique), the Roundhouse, and this summer at Hackney World Music Live Festival, the City of London Festival and Tête à Tête Opera Festival.
The New Foundling Choir, made up of primary school children, is a partnership between The Foundling Museum, Camden Music Service and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. With John Barber and their leader Rachel Coward they are involved in composing the songs they sing in the cantata. They have performed to the Queen and on BBC Radio 3.
The Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields are a group of full time students who spend an intensive year at St Martin’s, receiving education and training in different aspects of church music with the focus being singing choral services.
Tickets: St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ
Box office: 020 7766 1100 (Monday-Friday 10am to 5pm), booking fee applies
Online: www.smitf.org booking fee applies
In person: Box Office in the Crypt (Monday-10am to 8.30pm)
Tickets: £22, £18, £14, £10, £7.
As the dust settles on the US Congressional mid-term elections, President Obama appears through the haze. He’s bruised, but still standing. The Republicans did most of what they promised to do; they wrestled control of the House from a Democratic party they saw as profligate and misguided, and damaged the reputation of a President that they have long since accused of being all style with little substance, but in the Senate they fell just short. Come November 15th, the man sitting at the helm of that chamber remains a Democrat, and he will cast he eye across the floor and see marginally more blue ties than he will red.
In the end, the House race wasn’t even close. If this was baseball, they would have enacted the mercy-rule. As many as 70 Democratic politicos have now been released back into the wilderness, many having been mauled by their hungry Republican counterparts. The new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, called this a victory for America and is promising to “restore trust” in Washington. It remains to be seen if either of these sentiments will hold true.
The Senate race, by contrast, brings the only positive headlines for a Democratic party that must now at least show itself to be humbled. They lost 7 seats, retaining a slim majority of 6. With 2 seats still undecided, this margin could become even slighter. Nonetheless, key party figures were returned such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who managed to win a contest that he described as ‘not close’ – though many others would disagree – and Senator Barbara Boxer of California, winning her eleventh straight election victory. This will provide some stability to a party that is currently rocking without the help of any Presidential ballast.
First and foremost, this election was a vote against President Obama. His voter-approval ratings have plummeted since he rocketed into office in 2008 fuelled with hope and promise, and this result was simply a confirmation of that feeling. It would be easy to put all the blame on Obama’s election strategy of high rhetoric and vague promises, but this would be to ignore recent history. It has become something of a tradition to give presidents a bit of a kicking come mid-terms. Not so much out of malice, or even genuine disdain, but as a means to keep them on their toes, batting for the team rather than their party.
For sure, there is disagreement with some of his policies. The health care bill – smartly dubbed ‘Obamacare’ by his opposition – was mis-pitched. Had the President and his Democratic Congressional counterparts chosen to stress the economic necessity of stealing back health care from the profit-driven insurance industries in order to return it to the increasingly desperate Americans who need to keep cash in their pockets now more than ever, then it may have found more success. But this is just one of many examples where Obama’s gift as a communicator deserted him.
Instead of framing the health issue as one of economic need, he and his party tried to use it to keep the momentum of 2008 going – painting Obama as the harbinger of real change – in spite of the fact that by the time it was bungled through the Senate it was already too late. He would have done well to listen to the campaign-mantra of the last Democratic President to get a mauling in the mid-terms, President Clinton: ‘it’s the economy, stupid’. Especially during a recession, stupid.
Perhaps more worrying for Obama, though, is that this was not just a vote against him by conservatives scared of what they see as the imminent nationalisation of America’s public services, but by a number of those constituents who voted him into office in 2008. One of his great advantages was that the young and vibrant loved him back then, and this in turn made Obama look young, vibrant and full of promise. But as enthusiastic as the young and vibrant are, they are also impatient. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect major change within two years, perhaps candidate Obama really did mean “change you can believe in… but not overnight” (as he tried and failed to point out on The Daily Show last week), but it is pure folly to promise the young something great and not deliver on time. They will move on, and are doing so. Obama, though, must work hard to ensure that this is but a phase of adolescent pique, rather than a permanent phase-shift away from himself and his party.
Most of all, this election highlights the difference between campaigning and governing. Obama is a maestro at the former, but is currently floundering with the latter. This same problem will challenge none more than the newly empowered Republican establishment. They have, in their midst, a grassroots movement to make Obama’s look like it’s been sprayed with weed-killer. The Tea Party train rolls on, all the way into Union Station, with figureheads such as Rand Paul riding out front to ‘take the government’ back for the disaffected. What they may find when they arrive, though, is an institution so stuck in its ways that it would take the entire AmTrak fleet to make it budge. Congress is the home of deliberation and compromise, and promising to change it radically with tactics that are anything but compromising is a non-starter. Many and better have tried previously and fared poorly.
That will suit the Democrats and President Obama just fine. If the Republicans try to force change by blocking every initiative the President puts forward, they will quickly be branded the party of ‘no’. If they sit down and compromise, the divisions within their own party will make the disagreements across the parties seem trivial. Furthermore, they will struggle to find a Presidential candidate who can capture both the centrist swing-voters and hang-on to the Tea Party activists. They will need to select well, which automatically rules out Sarah Palin, because if there’s one thing we know Obama is very good at, it’s Presidential campaigns.
This election was, as President Obama rightly points out, a right “shellacking” for him and his party. But it wasn’t the bloodbath it could have been. He must and will do better. The first and possibly only item on his agenda from now until 2012 has to be the economy. He has started well by offering an olive branch to the newly victorious Republicans. This has put the ball in their court. Either they start to play and the economy grows to everyones benefit, or they bicker and stall allowing Obama to prey on them in 2012 just as they gorged on his Democratic colleagues yesterday.
Either will do for a President who is down, but whom it would be foolish to count out.
By Mat Hope
Absolut Vodka has an exciting new story to tell with the launch of its brand new, limited edition ‘Absolut Glimmer’ bottle. The new bottle is made in crystal pattern-shaped glass, designed to make the present exceptional.
With its glimmering crystal design, Absolut Glimmer inspires you to have fun, dress up and party, adding a touch of glamour to your evening. The new limited edition bottle would also make the perfect gift, for a close friend or family member, just in time for Christmas and the New Year party season.
To celebrate the release Absolut vodka are hosting a special event in Shoreditch tonight, where guests will experience a number of out of the ordinary events such as navigating a small maze, eating at a one minute restaurant, and adding a word to a never ending story. The events will of course feature the Absolut Limited edition drinks including the new Absolut Glimmer.
To learn more, or to find your local Absolut retailer, visit absolut.com/glimmer.