By Michael Scherer
If Republicans are on the campaign trail, Van Halen is back in vogue. For years, Republican candidates and politicians have been using Van Halen’s song, Right Now, as the walk-in jingle at rallies and events. The first time I recorded its use was November 5, 2006, when then-President George W. Bush used the tune to enter a rally in Greeley, Colo., not far from the slaughterhouse in a hall that smelled of cow manure. McCain used it in 2008, and over the weekend, Sarah Palin used the song to enter a rally in Wisconsin over the weekend. Connoisseurs of early-1990s hair rock know this is funny, even if Palin, Bush, and McCain never seem to get the joke.
The song was cut for Van Halen’s ninth studio album, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” which not only refers to criminal sodomy in its title, but also makes a snappy, not-so-Republican acronym. As Sammy Hagar, the lead singer, explained at the time, “I wanted to name the album just f–k.” The song also spawned one of the great rock videos in hey day of music television. As the band sings, phrases like “Right now oil companies and old men are in control” flash across the screen. During its 2004 reunion tour, Van Halen flashed phrases on a video screen as it played the song. One of them read,”Right now, nothing is more expensive than regret,” superimposed over visuals of President George W. Bush.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that Van Halen has long tried to stop Republicans from using the song at events. After McCain piped it in after announcing Palin as his running mate in Ohio, Van Halen’s management released a statement to TMZ saying, “Permission was not sought or granted nor would it have been given.”
That was then. This is right now. And the song remains the same.