Cereal and Beer (for Barack)

The other morning I had a strange dream about Barack Obama.  I was watching him do an interview on CNN.  Suddenly, the footage began slowing down drastically, and instead of talking, he began to sing, in a slow, deep voice that suggested the ingestion of lots of codeine.  The lyrics were full of plaintive regret about how his life, and his political fortunes, were turning out.  Before going to bed the night before, I had scribbled down “Cereal and Beer” as a possible song title.  When I woke, it seemed like a phrase that could represent Barack’s longing for simpler pleasures.  This is my attempt to recreate the song Barack sang in the dream.

On a seemingly unrelated note, it’s also a homage to the Stones, particularly to my favorite Stones song, “Rocks Off” (the first track on Exile on Main Street).  I’d spent much of the week trying to master the opening riff, and I was having a predictably hard time getting it up to game speed.  So, it seemed fitting that I could use a drastically slowed-down version of it for my Barack song, since he was singing to me through a thick dream-fog anyway.  The backing band becomes a bizarro-world version of the Stones circa 1972, with Keith playing way too slow, Mick Taylor playing the same boneheaded riff over and over, and Charlie banging out a Meg White-worthy rhythm on kick and snare.

You’ll also note the presence of lots of sound effects — applause, laughter, etc.  Yes, it’s true, I discovered the Garageband “Sound Effects” menu this week, and I went a little wild.  I would argue, however, that it helps the track.  Barack’s attempt to give an honest reckoning of his shattered dreams, induces only distracted giggles from his audience.  As the song fades, he finally gives ’em what they want — which, for whatever reason, is an imitation of Mick’s lascivious “oh yeeeaah” from the beginning of “Rocks Off” — and they burst into applause.  The entertainment-hungry spectators give a grim layer of irony to Barack’s attempt at sincerity.  I was thinking of the last scene of The Candidate, in which Robert Redford’s character, an idealistic young political candidate who evolves into a cynical deal-maker on his way to victory, looks across his raucous victory party and mouths to his campaign manager, “What do we do now?”

For all you completists out there, I’ve also included “BBQ 2000,” another song in which I took on the persona of a celebrity.  This is from Pick Yourself Up, the 2000 release from my college band, Pearly Sweets and the Platonics, and I envisioned the song as a duet between myself and Liz Phair (another Exile connection, by golly).  When the delay kicks in, that’s me doing Liz’s parts.  Those were simpler times.

13 Responses to “Cereal and Beer (for Barack)”
  1. blevitan says:

    Now I remember why I voted for him. To quote The Sound of Music, “You brought music back into the [White] house. I had forgotten.”

  2. Abraham says:

    Well-played, blev!

  3. B. Berkowitz says:

    In addition to the sludgy blues of the Stones, I’m hearing some VU-isms in the weary swagger of the vocals, the murky guitars (complete with bent single-note line against simple chords) and hi-hat-less, repetitive drums. It sounds like a previously unreleased track from disc 3 of the “Peel Slowly and See” set to me. Which is apt, ’cause I’ve never heard more of a loving homage to the song “The Murder Mystery” than the piano-pounding/spoken-word denouement of “BBQ 2000”–a track that can be found on disc 3 of “Peel Slowly and See”!

  4. Abraham says:

    BB: Thanks for the good thoughts. Yes, there’s definitely some world-weary Lou Reed-isms in Barack’s take on the world here. Turns out he’s just another Upper West Side limousine liberal, worrying about the price of arugula at Whole Foods and then going home to study his Velvet Underground box set….

  5. Nice! “Rocks Off” is my favorite Stones song too, probably; I used it as my walk-up song for Squidball (Squid-Ball.com) a few seasons ago. I also used it (and other tracks from EXILE ON MAIN ST.) as conclusive proof for a friend who believed that horns didn’t have a proper place in rock music (and wouldn’t be convinced by Bruce Springsteen or Bill Haley), that indeed they did.

  6. Abraham says:

    Yeah, in “Rocks Off” the horns are used in sort of an off-handed way that I think owes more to a New Orleans sensibility than to a toodle-dee-doo type of thing. So, good call on using that song to sell your friend on horns. Could you sell him on SAXOPHPONE in rock music? That’s always Jim’s big beef…. that the sax has no place. I mean, come on! Sax, drugs, rock and roll, right?

  7. I think sax is the MAIN horn he thinks not to belong in rock music (and won’t be convinced no matter how much Clarence Clemmons he hears on a Springsteen track), but he expanded it at some point to mean horns at large. In any case, EXILE ON MAIN ST. got him to rescind any such silly notion. Heck, “Rocks Off” alone probably did that.

  8. Abraham says:

    Bobby Keys vs. Clarence Clemmons…. who’s really the “Big Man”? A worthy debate.

  9. I don’t think there’s any question as to who has the more storied and prolific rock-sax career (Keys), but possession is 9/10ths of the law, especially in terms of nicknames!

  10. Hans Jäger says:

    Catchy, Herr Levitan. Sorta mid-70s Rolling Stones slow n groovy. Those guitar chops are coming along nicely, too.

  11. Abraham says:

    Thank you, Hans. I can now officially play guitar like a Robitussin addict.

  12. Chris says:

    You should post “I Like It Raw.” I have that one on a Magnet magazine sampler CD; shoulda been a big college hit.

  13. Abraham says:

    Ah Chris, you’re taking me back. It cost us $400 to get on that Magnet sampler!! The good old days of pay-for-play.

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