Friday, May 23, 2008

The Race For Records 2008: Spiro T. Agnew Speaks Out

In honor of the election year, I have decided to pay homage to the contest for the highest office in the United States of America the only way I know how: by writing about records instead of voting. Just kidding. I will also write about the occasional CD.

The Race For Records was inspired by this first record, one I probably shouldn't have bought, but for 50¢ in a Virginia antiques mall, I couldn't say no. Look at that face! Those mournful eyes, the slicked-back hair, the crisp suit, the look of pathos. Who among you could say no to Spiro T. Agnew?

Not me. For those of you who don't know, Spiro T. Agnew was the vice president under President Nixon. He was the first Greek-American vice president, the first vice president from Maryland, and the first vice president to resign under a cloud of criminal corruption. While the office of the vice president has been a rogues gallery of monsters, robots, idiot man-children, banana-headed elitists, and Walter Mondale for the last 28 years, the words of Spiro T. Agnew ring loud and proud. And out of touch. And hilarious.

Every track addresses a different side of Agnew. Whether it's his aggressive side where he's blasting hippies, or his sensitive side when he's blasting hippies, Agnew isn't afraid to let it all hang out.

Agnew is the nation's drunken father-in-law, lashing out against things he doesn't understand and painting them with the broadest brush possible. He's obviously angry and confused about the turmoil that fills the country, and even a little hurt, he attacks people freely expressing themselves in a democracy:

"It is not unusual nor should it be distressing that individuals of monumental ego among the failures of our society should attack everything fundamental to our free culture. They are simply lashing out in all direction because they cannot bear to face their individual inadequacies."

Har har har! Individual inadequacies. That's great. It's not dissimilar to many speeches I was on the receiving end of in high school.
"The every day, law abiding American who believes in his country needs a strong voice to articulate his dissatisfaction with those that seek to destroy our heritage of liberty and our system of justice. To penetrate the cacophony of seditious drivel emanating from the best publicized clowns in our society and their fans in the fourth estate."

Of course, it the country needs a strong voice that was not accused of accepting bribes in nearly every public office he held as well. But that was for another generation.
"And if the hippies and the yippies and the disrupters of the systems that Washington and Lincoln as presidents brought forth in this country will shut up and work within our free system of government, I will lower my voice."

Oh no, please don't. 
"A spirit of national masochism prevails encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.

"Why then, if these political phenomena are standard to a democratic government should we be disturbed about them today?

"The answer lies not in the fear of kooks or demagogues themselves, but in their current respectability. Never in our history have we paid so much attention to so many odd characters. Twenty-five years ago, the tragicomic antics of such societal misfits would have brought he establishment running after them with butterfly nets rather than television cameras."

It is important to note here that the inclusion of laughter or applause is a little scattershot. Sometimes, it seems like it's natural. Other times, it seems like it was spliced into the recording without trying to make it sound remotely smooth.
Side two begins with a track called "Some Examples Of The Vice President's Wit."

"The vice-president's reputation for wit is well deserved, often at his own expense."

[Spiro T. Agnew]
"I enjoyed my recent visit to our Asian embassies. Eight of them still had windows.
"I knew I did fairly well when Bob Hope told me that he thought is was a little much that I waded ashore at Manila.
"And I remember an experience President Nixon had with his schedule. He picked it up one day, and it had this scenario. It said President Nixon will speak for 10 minutes, following which, his remarks will be translated into English.
[nervous laughter]
[awkward explanation]
"Well, I knew he had trouble communicating sometimes, I didn't think it was that bad"

The wading ashore at Manila joke is little bit of a mystery to me. I can't figure out if the inclusion of Bob Hope makes it a joke, or if people are just pleased that they recognize a reference to General MacArthur.

As with any great work of entertainment, the record follows the joke portion with a threat of nuclear war with Asian communists. Now that's a build!

Back to Agnew:
"When I see a United States senator travel to Paris and engage in secret conversations with the enemy at a time when he should be reinforcing the solidarity of our effort to bring an end to that conflagration, it makes me wonder what those people in his state were thinking of when they sent that man to the Senate!"
[wild applause]

Of course, this was likely recorded some time before Henry Kissenger went to Paris for his won secret meetings to end the war, so I won't fault him for that. And it goes on.
Though it spins its wheels on the same themes, Spiro T. Agnew Speaks Out is nothing if not entertaining. By the end, you kind of feel sorry for him.

"In closing, let me say simply that I am growing terribly weary of America's noisy detractors.
[applause awkwardly cut in]
"If this is such a terrible place to live, if our government is so oppressive and inept, then why is there an endless waiting list of people seeking to emigrate to America?
"Why doesn't the so-called brain-drain of Europe's greatest scientists and technicians moving the U.S. to work run in the opposite direction? Today, we the people of the U.S. should seek to emphasize what is right, what is decent, and what is good about our country."
[album fades out on applause]

You said it, Spiro. U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mentioned in a post a while back about how we, your beloved readers, could obtain some of these records. After reading some of these quotes, I think this would be great to use in a high school history class. I think I have to own this record. Drop me a line?

George Garner

9:47 PM  
Blogger VoteJoe said...

Well, I'm not actually getting rid of this one. I may rip it to CD, though. It's also available for a reasonable price on eBay from several sellers.

11:51 AM  

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