Monday, February 4, 2008

EIB Parodies Creedence's "Who'll Stop the Rain?"

The Rush Limbaugh Show
KTTH 770 kHz
Weekdays 9-noon
[plus overnight & Sunday afternoon replays]

"Who Wants McCain?", the Excellence In Broadcasting Network's new song parody of a Creedence Clearwater Revival standard which Rush Limbaugh debuted this morning just minutes ago, is yet another demonstration that Paul Shanklin, EIB's Memphis-based musical mimic, is the best in the business.

Every time another of Shanklin's carefully-crafted creations is played in order to caricature one of Rush's ideological targets, I'm reminded of how head-and-shoulders Shanklin is above everyone else producing musical parodies for newstalk radio. (Weird Al Yankovic is the only creative and comedic equal of Shanklin's I've heard, but he's always avoided AM newstalk as an outlet for his hilarious work.) Lesser syndicated shows, like Imus's most notably, typically offer half-baked take-offs which are wincingly forced. These parodies from the various pretenders to Shanklin's throne, like Imus's guy Ron Barlett, may often approach amusing but almost never rise to the level of funny. Instead such recordings mostly just remind listeners that a familiar tune isn't being done any justice.

I may be harboring a couple biases here: Shanklin once agreed to be profiled by me for George, the defunct D.C.-based political magazine (though one of JFK Jr.'s editors eventually dropped the project). And I admit "Who'll Stop the Rain?" has long been my favorite Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, given frontman John Fogerty's imagery-laiden lyrics over that terrific rhythm guitar track, each enhanced by the lovely melody Fogerty's vocal carries while drenched in resignation. But the best thing about the 1970 Top 10 anthem is how its anti-war undertone was clear to nearly everyone who heard the single--probably initially in an AM station's rotation--despite its never being specified.

"Who Wants McCain?" follows many dozens of dead-on musical mimicries that Shanklin has been conceiving and executing for EIB ever since the mid-90s, displaying a remarkable faculty for replicating the timbre of an extraordinary range of voices. That would be impressive enough, but Shanklin also knows how to deftly replicate the lyrical style of each song he's modifing in the service of Limbaugh's ideology. (A less recent skewering of the onetime Keating Five legislator, Shanklin's "The Maverick McCain", sounds at some points almost indistinguishable from the familiar theme which opened each episode of James Garner's classic Maverick series.)

This latest Limbaugh lambasting of John McCain is just the most recent element of an unrelenting campaign the broadcaster has been waging against the polarizing frontrunner, fearful that the sometimes disloyal Republican will sell out his party's conservative wing once elected. But the song is a take-off of a rather melancholy recording, so this CCR parody ends up sounding decidedly less cutting than the well-honed and downright nasty McCain impression the broadcaster himself lately has been often sliding into. As the campaign has intensified, Rush has
employed this voice increasingly in monologue and even with callers.

Limbaugh's been evolving this impression ever since the former POW and current Rush foil declared for the 2008 GOP nomination. (Given the severe limitations of that cochlear implant separating him from absolute deafness, it's amazing he can still ape voices at all, much less nail them, as he usually does.) But as time has gone by, Rush's imitation has sounded increasingly embittered, and thus has been progressively more reflective of the nickname by which, according to Newsweek, the Arizonan is known behind his back in the halls of Congress: Senator Hothead.


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