Orleans music lovers need to update their fan sites. It’s now a fact: “Vote with Me” is Democratic Congressman John Hall’s least favorite song and he has made the legal threats to prove it.
Don’t be fooled by the playful guitar riff or catchy melody. This song is quickly becoming a headache for the incumbent. Despite his best efforts, it’s not going away.
Those of you who haven’t completely repressed the 1970s might remember John Hall as the former frontman for the mostly naked pop-rock group Orleans. He was the musical mastermind behind elevator classics with three-word titles like “Still the One” and “Dance with Me.” That was until 2006, when he was swept into office with a majority of fellow Democrats, winning the race to represent New York’s 19th Congressional District. This year he is pressed hard to defend his seat against a strong conservative challenger in Nan Hayworth. In fact, a recent Daily Kos/Public Policy poll showed Nan Hayworth up two points.
As you would expect, being a hit rocker has its fundraising benefits. John Hall’s celebrity has been a key strategy to his re-election. He books fellow music performers to hold concerts as opposed to campaigning. For example, he has opted for OFA astroturf over leading and organizing a local campaign, presented New Jersey Congressman Robert Andrews at a local town hall to explain his vote on health care, and sent a local mayor to read his answers at a debate he was supposed to attend with Nan Hayworth. If not campaigning, there is one thing that John Hall is interested in, and that is pulling Nan Hayworth’s Young Voters for an Orleans Reunion Tour off the Internet.
Like many brilliant ideas, the birth of Nan’s Young Voters occurred while sipping coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. “We had just finished greeting commuters at a train station and were talking about how we liked Hall’s music, even though we thought his politics were driving our country off a cliff,” group leader and Yale student Michael Knowles explained. John Hall might just be one of the only congressmen proud to have “gone Washington” and like the rest of the 111th Congressional Democrat Caucus, John Hall believes his “constituency is Nancy Pelosi.” There wasn’t an Obama agenda item John Hall didn’t try to check: government bailouts, cap and trade, ObamaCare — I’m sure you are familiar with the list by now. In response, Nan’s Young Voters envisioned a website dedicated to reuniting John Hall with his old band.
Instantly, the idea paid dividends in media attention. The group’s first video was picked up by the New York Daily News, one of New York’s largest statewide newspapers. Realizing that what they had created was the perfect counter to Hall’s rock celebrity, they produced their own “Dance with Me” spoof music video called “Vote with Me.”
Although devoid of Dale Peterson’s John Wayne, the outrageousness that surrounded Demon Sheep, or the quirky oddness of Mattie Fein, “Vote with Me” was clever enough to garner the attention of local media.
Soon after Nan’s Young Voters put their music video up on YouTube, a local news channel responded with their iPods and hit the streets, asking local voters what they thought of the video. The highlight of the news report came when a minivan-driving grandma replied to the song’s upbeat chorus of “let’s make John Hall leave Washington, D.C.” with “that sounds about right!” Then the lawsuit threats began.
Through their lawyer, Orleans sent a letter to Michael Knowles demanding that he remove the Young Voters website from the Internet. The letter charged that the website was a “subterfuge” used to advance the Nan Hayworth political campaign and violated federal cybersquatting laws. Determined to get the original Orleans band back together, Michael Knowles kept the site up in defiance.
“It is unfortunate that the band I love has decided to sue me. However, this lawsuit does not change the beautiful lyrics of “Sails,” the upbeat rhythms of “Still the One,” or the heart-wrenching sentiment of “Dance with Me.” I am and will remain a loyal fan of Orleans. Of course, I’d be a much bigger fan if they’d again include Congressman Hall in their lineup,” Knowles admitted in an interview at the time.
The lawsuit’s intent may have been to put an end to the reunion dreams of Young Voters, but it had the opposite effect instead. The threat coupled with the celebrity of Orleans made for interesting political news. Thanks in part to Maggie Haberman at Politico, the story got picked up by many of the major news outlets including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.
“Every time John Hall and Orleans tries to stifle our group, we get more attention and hits to our site,” Michael Knowles explained. If the group’s founder is correct, then they are about to be inundated with coverage as lawsuit threats have increased now that EMI Publishing has entered the legal fray on behalf of John Hall and Orleans.
Despite the official legalese contained in EMI’s letter last Saturday, all issues raised by John Hall-related parties have long been settled and the website is broadly protected as political free speech. “It’s amazing that EMI Publishing would argue on behalf of John Hall,” Knowles pointed out. Without legal motive we are left to point to the obvious political motive.
Spurious legal claims are something of a trademark for the John Hall campaign. The important clue to Hall’s campaign desperation is evidenced by the fact that no lawsuit has yet been filed. Instead, Team Hall has been hard at work threatening service providers of Young Voters. They’ve now successfully closed down the Orleans Reunion Tour online store and pulled “Vote with Me” from YouTube.
If you aren’t convinced that John Hall has become obsessed with the song, he and his former band Orleans have created a response music video to “Vote with Me.” This song follows along to his old hit “Still the One.”
For me, I’d love to be a fly on the wall and get the Freudian rationale behind Hall’s obsessive distaste for the uplifting “Vote with Me.” I suspect it has something to do with the five stages of grief, where Hall is fixated somewhere between denial and anger. “Vote with Me” might be a silly video cooked up by some kids, but that song might just be representative of the voters in New York-19’s majority Republican district and that is why John Hall hates it.