Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Pengest Version

Cover versions needn't be rubbish. The alchemy that makes a song great involves a confluence of so many different factors: artist, style, production, time, its relevance to current affairs, etc., that it is statistically improbable that the original version of every song should always be definitive. However, the paradigm remains intact - modern humans seem hard-wired to expect that the song's authors will produce the ultimate interpretation. It's enough to make Roland Barthes spit.

It wasn't always so, of course. The people to blame, if you are the sort of person who likes to bear grudges, are the pioneers of Rock 'n' Roll. People like Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly were all self-contained creative hubs, a new breed of recording artists in an industry that had previously been dominated by softly crooned versions of Tin Pan Alley-penned standards. When this was adopted by the early movers and shakers in 1960s popular music - particularly by Bob Dylan and The Beatles (ironically, both extremely adept cover artists) - their contemporaries noticed how much more money they were making and the 'write-it-yourself, play-it-yourself' model became set in stone. Capitalism, there.

2016 has been such a stark, uncertain and frightful year for so many people that the prospect of 2017 being a pale facsimile is enough to make the hole in your arse heal over. This was when my mind turned to cover versions, I guess: looking for examples of when history looked at the past and made it better.  As ever, I took to Twitter and asked other people to do my work for me. The resulting list of cover versions of songs better than the originals was, yet again, pretty weighty and will be presented at the bottom of this post for the completists among you.

However, this time I have cast democracy aside and cordoned off a perfect ten. Complaints, as always, to the usual place. Your mum.

10. Saint Etienne - Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Written and first recorded by Neil Young, initially released in 1970.

It is still, just, 2016 and therefore let it first be said that Neil Young is a great artist and long may he reign, but his falsetto heavy version of Only Love Can Break Your Heart is really quite weedy compared to the version released by Saint Etienne twenty years later. Saint Etienne turned Young's slow-punctured balloon into a fully fledged tornado with the judicious application of breakbeats and syncopated piano. The overall effect is to switch the tone from a lachrymose, introspective after-hours bar singalong to a defiant and dubbed-out Poll Tax riot.

9. The Communards - Don't Leave Me This Way

Written by Gamble, Huff and Gilbert. First recorded by Howard Melvin and The Blue Notes, initially released in 1973. Most famously recorded by Thelma Houston and released in 1977.

A classic example of 1970s soul when it was first released in 1973, Thelma Houston re-energised the smooth yet stodgy Howard Melvin original into a huge disco floor-filler in 1977, where it also became an enormously significant anthem for both gay rights and AIDS-awareness. However, neither version can compete with the Hi-NRG version released by The Communards in 1986, a song so bursting with passion and intent that it leaves the previous versions looking ponderously sedate. It also features what is, surely, the greatest ever House music-inspired piano break to be played on record by a licensed clergyman.

8. Soft Cell - Tainted Love

Written by Ed Cobb. First recorded by Gloria Jones, initially released in 1964.

Tainted Love was, in common with the majority of the songs that are now deemed to be bona fide classics of the Northern Soul genre, a largely forgotten recording. It failed to chart in either the US or the UK, where the record buying public at large seemed immune from its urgent, pounding rhythm. Gloria Jones was better known as Marc Bolan's girlfriend and ill-fated chauffeur by the time Soft Cell made the song a huge hit in 1981. Rather than speeding it up, they slowed it down, giving the song space to breathe. Despite this, it retains all the urgency and feeling of the original. Contrary, too, is the warmth that radiates from the recording in spite of the ice and glass of Soft Cell's electronic style.

7. Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends

Written by Lennon/McCartney. First recorded by The Beatles, initially released in 1967.

Originally the second song on The Beatles' magnum opus Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, its charm, humour and richness was nevertheless completely derailed by Joe Cocker's ferociously powerful rendition, released the following year. Just watch the video. No-one is telling me that Joe Cocker doesn't need more help from his friends than Ringo Starr. But what really sets this version apart is the addition of the full orchestration of American Soul music. Where The Beatles version is perfectly formed and calculated, Cocker's is the roaring, desperate effort of a disparate collective which all somehow keep pulling in the same direction. The overall effect is little short of shattering.

6. Johnny Cash - Hurt

Written by Trent Reznor. First recorded by Nine Inch Nails, initially released in 1995.

This song was, overwhelmingly, the popular choice from my straw poll on Twitter. The original version, suffused with the hollow angst of Generation X, proved to be completely inadequate next to the heartfelt 2003 interpretation by Johnny Cash, reaching the end of his days but completely undimmed as a creative force. The enduring legacy of a cultural giant, its accompanying video has been known to completely overwhelm people of any number of certain ages.

5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All Along The Watchtower

Written and first recorded by Bob Dylan, initially released in 1967.

Many people will tell you that every Bob Dylan song is better if someone else is performing it. These people are, almost always, completely mistaken. However, there's no denying this one, released in 1968: even Dylan himself freely admitted that his version couldn't hold a candle to it and he has used Hendrix's arrangement when playing the song live ever since. Dylan's will-o-the-wisp, downstated and bucolic Biblical fable is transformed into a swirling, whirling dervish rock anthem by Hendrix's unique guitar heroism, simultaneously the meat of his sound without ever overwhelming it. Telegraphing the bit where your solo is about to drop is for suckers, kids.

4. Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U

Written by Prince. First recorded by The Family, initially released in 1985

The original version of this song, all sparse instrumentation and peculiar harmony singing by one of Prince's many pet project groups, The Family, is bloody awful. This time, it took some pasty white people to add some genuine soul to a song. Sinead O'Connor's version, which was number 1 in the UK for four weeks at the start of 1990, is completely definitive: all that remains of the original is the stupid abbreviations in the title. Brilliant, bold and defiantly beautiful, it came complete with its own iconic video. What's not to like? Prince, of course, hated it and O'Connor's first meeting with the tiny velvet genius predictably ended in fisticuffs.

3. The Slits - I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Written by Whitfield & Strong. First recorded by Gladys Knight and The Pips, initially released in 1967. Most famously recorded by Marvin Gaye and released in 1968.

There is no denying the fundamental power of Marvin Gaye's recording of this song. It is, quite rightly, considered one of the peaks of the Motown Records story and of its sound. Lushly orchestrated and powerfully delivered, it is one of the great single records of all time. But then along come The Slits, the chaotic "girl group" of the British punk era. Their interpretation of the song was the first thing that they ever recorded in a proper record company studio and it is possessed of a potency that defies easy description. Ari Up's vocals are packed with the confidence and attitude that only being seventeen years old can bring; Viv Albertine's clipped guitar and yelping, discordant backing vocals are endlessly beguiling and fun; Tessa Pollitt's bass turns a soul classic into a skanking uptempo dub bonanza. The fact that they all hum all of those tricky orchestral parts, rather than finding someone to play them, just seals the deal. A swaggering, energetic and life-affirming piece of work.

2. Pet Shop Boys - Always On My Mind

Written by Christopher, James and Carson. First recorded by Gwen McRae, initially released in 1972. Most famously recorded by Elvis Presley and released in 1972; also by Willie Nelson and released in 1982.

A country music standard, Always On My Mind's various versions have produced a series of masterpieces. Elvis Presley's interpretation was voted his greatest ever song in a poll done for ITV in 2013, while Willie Nelson's lush, yearning iteration won him a Grammy. The Pet Shop Boys' rewards were rather more prosaic: Christmas Number 1 in 1987 and now, the number two position in this list. This is not to diminish their electronic pop reading in the least. Simply put, it is one of the most magnificent pop songs ever recorded. Neil Tennant's distant, dispassionate vocal imbues the song with additional power and meaning; while Chris Lowe's layered, upbeat and punchy accompaniment cuts the traditional meandering orchestration through to the quick. The best bit? The theremin break, of course.

1. Aretha Franklin - Respect

Written and originally recorded by Otis Redding, initially released in 1965.

So complete is Franklin's hold over this song that many people don't even know that it is a cover. Otis Redding's scudding, energetic version was quietly establishing itself as a soul standard when Aretha came along in 1967 and completely reinvented it. Where Redding's song was a demure plea from a browbeaten husband, Franklin's was an unashamed statement of intent from women everywhere. Nearly 50 years have past since it was first released and they have done nothing to dim the importance or relevance of her message, nor tarnish the brilliant urgency of her delivery. Aretha Franklin, herself a talented songwriter and musician, has never been bettered as an interpreter of other people's work. A genuine landmark in the development of human culture and civilisation, it should probably be the National Anthem.

So, there you go. Some proof, if it were needed, that the second verse doesn't need to be the same as the first. I wish you all a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2017.


As promised, here is the full list of songs that you considered to be better than the originals. I can vouch for some of them, the others I'll leave up to you to decide:

Alien Ant Farm - Smooth Criminal
Amy Winehouse - Valerie
Bahaus - Ziggy Stardust
The Beatles - Money (That's What I Want)
Blondie - Hanging on the Telephone
Buddy Rich Big Band - The Beat Goes On
The Cramps - Surfin' Bird
The Damned - Eloise
Depeche Mode - Route 66
Dickies - Paranoid
Dinosaur Junior - Feel a Whole Lot Better When You're Gone
Dubstar - Not So Manic Now
Foo Fighters - Baker Street
The Four Tops - Simple Game
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Born to Run
Gary Jules - Mad World
Grace Jones - Love is the Drug
Guns 'n' Roses - Live and Let Die
Happy Mondays - Step On
Incredible Bongo Band - Apache
The Jam - David Watts
Jane's Addiction - Sympathy for the Devil
John Cale - Hallelujah
Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
Kevin Rowland - Thunder Road
The Kingsmen - Louie Louie
Lawnmower Deth - Kids in America
Loop - Cinnamon Girl
Marc Almond & Gene Pitney - Something's Got a Hold of my Heart
Michael McDonald - Baby I Need Your Lovin'
The Mike Flowers Pops - Wonderwall
The Mock Turtles - No Good Trying
Nadasurf - Love and Anger
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling
Nirvana - The Man Who Sold the World
Prince - Just My Imagination
R.E.M. - Toys in the Attic
Ray Stevens - Misty
Reigning Sound - Stormy Weather
Robert Wyatt - Shipbuilding
Ryan Adams - Wonderwall
Sid Vicious - My Way
Sonic Youth - Addicted to Love
Sonic Youth - Superstar
Stereophonics - Handbags and Gladrags
The Pixies - Head On
The Pretenders - Stop Your Sobbing
Therapy? - Isolation
Toni Basil - Hey Mickey
Tricky - Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos
The Wildhearts - Understanding Jane
William Shatner - Common People
Young@Heart - Fix You

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Favourite films

Six weeks ago, I asked Twitter what the song they most disliked was. The response was overwhelming. As an indication of what I mean by this, consider the following fact: my use of social media is not usually the start of a chain of events wherein I am asked if I want to appear on Australian television.

Quite undeterred, last week I asked Twitter what, in a free space with no judgement, people consider their favourite film to be. Not the one that they think is the best or the most artistically worthy; the one that they love above all others and could watch again and again, regardless of time or situation. While the uptake on this query was distinctly more manageable, I did nevertheless receive a fair number of responses and (with just a couple of exceptions) there was very little duplication. The result was a respectably girthy list of films. 

I'm confident, thanks to the number of titles and the variety of theme and style, that there is bound to be something in there for everyone to wallow in when you aren't having the best of days. Say, for instance, if your mum died and then Donald Trump was elected President of Earth a week and a half later. That is just an example scenario off the top of my head, I am sure there are as many iterations of shit days as there are movies.

Without further ado, here is the list. It is presented in alphabetical order and, as with the Kryptonite Songs before, the annotations are mine and do not represent the views of the BBC. There will inevitably be spoilers, so that's your warning for that. 

As always, if you think that your favourite comfort blanket movie is missing, you can add it in the comments below.

Sigourney Weaver, having survived the initial trauma of battling with an alien, ends up on an exomoon that is positively teeming with them. Terrifying chaos ensues.

As Good as it Gets
Crabby author Jack Nicholson finds his humanity from looking after his gay neighbour's dog, before copping off with the only waitress in his local coffee shop who will still speak to him.

Back to The Future
Maniac scientist Christopher Lloyd converts a Delorean motor car into a nuclear-powered time machine. Consequently, Michael J. Fox almost has sex with his own mum.

Two women become friends as children and then remain friends throughout their adult lives, until one of them dies of cancer.

Beverly Hills Cop II
Upon discovering that the chief of police who he infuriated in the first film had been shot by a gang of jewel thieves, Eddie Murphy returns to Los Angeles to solve the case, something seemingly beyond every police officer in the whole city.

Blazing Saddles
Wanting to build a railroad through a town of recalcitrant frontier types and hopeful that their innate racism will force them to flee, Harvey Korman sends a slave due to be hanged in to be their new sheriff. Chaos, farting and Hitler ensues.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Outlaws Paul Newman and Robert Redford are forced to flee to Bolivia to escape the old bill.

A teenage boy who works as a golf caddy to pay for his college education falls under the spell of messianic golfer Chevy Chase after he is entered to play in a golf tournament. Gophers ensue.

Con Air
US Marshall Nicolas Cage is trying to get home aboard a prisoner transport plane when Ving Rhames, John Malkovich and Mykelti Williamson break free and cause havoc.

Laura Linney travels to Africa to find a millionaire's son and his diamond expedition team, but instead discovers that they have somehow taught gorillas to talk.

Die Hard
Bruce Willis travels to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to meet up with his estranged wife for the holidays, only to find himself the sole line of defence against a group of highly-organised terrorist thieves.

Die Hard with a Vengeance
Bruce Willis is singled out by the leader of a terrorist group at large in New York City and forced to play a game of Simon Says while they rob the Federal Reserve.

Double Indemnity
Insurance salesman Fred MacMurray is convinced by Barbara Stanwyck that they should do away with her wealthy husband and pocket the payout. Unfortunately his mentor Edward G. Robinson smells a rat.

Dumb and Dumber
Two complete idiots stumble into a kidnapping plot, completely unbeknownst to themselves. They instead try to cop off with women while urinating and defecating freely.

Ghostbusters (1984)
Four idiots establish an extermination service for supernatural entities, quite coincidentally at the exact moment that a Sumerian demigod tries to take over the universe via an apartment building in New York City.

Grosse Point Blank
Professional assassin John Cusack returns to his home town to attend his school reunion and cops off with Minnie Driver despite the attentions of hitman Dan Aykroyd.

Groundhog Day
Crabby TV weatherman Bill Murray finds himself forced to live the exact same day over and over again until he is able to find the strength within himself to stop being such a mard arse.

Hard Target
Jean-Claude Van Damme hunts down a rogue Vietnam veteran who hunts homeless people for sport in New Orleans and kicks the shit out of him.

Harold and Maude
A suicidal 20-year old man meets a fun-loving 80-year old woman at a funeral and they get off with each other.

High Society
Socialite Bing Crosby still has the hots for his ex-wife, Grace Kelly. Unfortunately she is engaged to be married to John Lund. When newspaper reporter Frank Sinatra arrives to cover the wedding and also falls for Kelly, the three men all try and win her hand.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Staggeringly, the McCallister parents manage to leave their child on his own over the Christmas period yet again, allowing Macauley Culkin to meet Donald Trump and re-engage his blood feud with crooks Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

The new police chief of a small island community beloved of holidaymakers finds the preparations for Independence Day seriously stymied by the arrival of an insatiably hungry great white shark.

La Haine
When French police brutally beat a young Arab in Paris it sparks a riot. The victims three friends try to deal with their feelings about the issue, until they find a gun.

Local Hero
Sent by Burt Lancaster to buy out a small Scottish village, oil executive Peter Riegert is forced to reconsider his life choices after he meets all the inhabitants.

Lost In Translation
Craggly, pissed off movie star Bill Murray meets discontented newlywed Scarlett Johansson in Tokyo and the two form an intimate bond.

Mary Poppins
Horrible parents Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber appoint a new nanny for their horrible snot-nosed children and it turns out to be Mary fucking Poppins. Magical shindigs and universal suffrage ensues.

Midnight Run
Joe Pantolino engages the services of bounty hunter Robert De Niro to locate mob accountant Charles Grodin. The seemingly simple job is complicated when it turns out that both the mob and the FBI are also on Grodin's trail.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Hercule Poirot's journey home on the Orient Express is severely disrupted when a fellow passenger is murdered and an all-star cast of Hollywood superstars are all suspects.

Muriel's Wedding
ABBA-loving social outcast Toni Collette dreams of getting married but her overbearing father won't even let her out on a date. When Collette meets fellow dweeb Rachel Griffiths, the pair move to Sydney and chase their dreams.

A bookshop owner from the titular area of London finds his life changed forever after a chance meeting with the world's most famous film star, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he is, himself, Hugh Grant.

Once Upon a Time in the West
Rail baron Gabriele Ferzetti is after the land around the town of Flagstone so sends Henry Fonda to scare off the owner, which he achieves by killing him and blaming it on an outlaw. Things are further complicated by the arrival of Jason Robards and Charles Bronson. As they would be.

James Fox is forced to flee after killing a rival in self-defence, winding up at the house of a washed up rock star, played by Michael "Mick" Jagger. Drugs ensue.

Point Break (1991)
FBI agent Keanu Reeves infiltrates a gang of infamous bank robbers who wear the masks of US Presidents to do their job and discovers that they are in fact a group of beach bum surfers led by Patrick Swayze who rob banks for the thrill alone. 

Robocop (1987)
Omni Consumer Products win the contract to run crime-fighting cyborgs in a dystopian city of Detroit, luring police officer Peter Weller into a fatal confrontation so that they can use his body to test their technology. Unfortunately for them, Weller learns the truth and kicks some ass.

Saving Private Ryan
Army Captain Tom Hanks is sent behind German lines after the D-Day landings to locate Matt Damon, who has been ordered home on compassionate grounds following the death of his three brothers. Absolute bloody hell ensues.

Kevin Spacey puts Gwyneth Paltrow's head in a box and does six other equally bad things, pursued by mismatched New York detectives Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.

Simple Men
Flat broke New York crook Robert Burke is out of options so finds his philosophy graduate brother Bill Sage and the two embark on a cross-country mission to find their father, a professional baseball player-turned-terrorist kingpin.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
William Shatner is brought face to face with old enemy Ricardo Montalban, leading to an intergalactic showdown. KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN ensues.

The Big Lebowski
A layabout tries to seek compensation for the fact someone has urinated on his rug, while increasingly strange and annoying people prat about all around him.

The Family (2013)
Mobster Robert De Niro enters Witness Protection after grassing up all his Mafia cohorts and is relocated to a town in France, where FBI handler Tommy Lee Jones tries forlornly to keep De Niro and his family out of mischief.

The Goonies
A bunch of insufferable little pricks go on a quest to discover what the X marks on a treasure map they have found. Alas, some criminals have had the same idea.

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
Hapless detective Leslie Nielsen accidentally foils business tycoon Ricardo Montalban's plot to assassinate notable public figures using hypnotic mind control techniques, while simultaneously romancing Montalban's secretary, Priscilla Presley.

The Princess Bride
Princess Robin Wright falls for her grunt farmhand Cary Elwes, but is betrothed to marry a Crown Prince. However, after she is kidnapped by the unlikely unit of Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin and André the Giant, she is able to follow her heart's desires.

The Shawshank Redemption
A man wrongfully imprisoned for murdering his wife discovers how to make chess pieces from rocks, that the prison governor is an arsehole and, eventually, how to escape from the nick.

The Thing (1982)
A scientific expedition to Antarctica is damn nearly spoilt by the emergence of a shape-shifting alien life form which is hungry for delicious human flesh. Abject terror ensues.

The Untouchables
Mafia kingpin Al Capone (Robert De Niro) has his bootleg alcohol empire disrupted by the arrival of unimpeachably scrupulous FBI prohibition agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner), determined to bring about Capone's demise.

Thelma & Louise
Meek housewife Geena Davis joins her spunky and independent friend Susan Sarandon on a weekend fishing trip. However, when Sarandon kills a man who tries to rape Davis at a bar, their holiday turns into a cross-country flight from the FBI.

Young men explore their sexuality while also defending the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise with state-of-the-art fighter jets.

Top Secret!
Pop star Val Kilmer travels to East Germany to perform at a music festival but finds himself romantically entwined with  Lucy Gutteridge, who it turns out is an agent in the anti-government resistance.

Uncle Buck (1989)
A family emergency forces parents Elaine Bromka and Garrett M. Brown to leave their children in the care of Brown's shambolic brother, John Candy, who is forced to curb the worst of his dissolute bachelor ways to care for the needs of his niece and nephew.

Wayne's World
TV executive Rob Lowe tries to take Mike Myers and Dana Carvey's public access show to commercial television. However, the pair discover that success is not all they bargained for, particularly after Lowe steals Myers' musician girlfriend Tia Carrere.

Where Eagles Dare
Allied soldiers attempt to rescue a general being held at a fort in the Bavarian Alps. However, once they parachute deep into enemy territory, they discover there is a traitor among their number.

In 1969, two penniless out-of-work actors from London go on holiday to an uncle's cottage in Penrith; where they drink heavily and one of them nearly gets bummed.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Naked POTUS, number 40: Ronald Reagan

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

His nipples are clearly visible and he used to be a film actor, it is the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan (1911-2004). Here's what he got up to:


Born 6th February 1911, Tampico, Illinois
Died 5th June 2004, Los Angeles, California

Presidential Term 20th January 1981 - 20th January 1989

Ronald Reagan was the first divorced man to have  been the President of the United States, having separated from Jane Wyman in 1949. Three years later he would marry Nancy Davis. He was also the oldest man elected to the US Presidency, a record since beaten by Donald Trump.

He is the only President to have been born in Illinois.

Prior to politics, Reagan was a sports announcer on a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa. He first rose to national prominence as an actor, after his then girlfriend convinced him to take a screen test at Warner Brothers, where he would make over fifty movies.

He became active in politics in the 1940s, becoming the head of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947. He also testified at Senator McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee, although refused to name any names.

Following his acting career, Reagan worked for General Electric as a spokesman and advertiser but left the role after GE demanded that he keep his growing interest in politics out of his personal appearances. His speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention, in support of candidate Barry Goldwater, thrust him to the forefront of Conservative politics in the United States.

In 1967, Reagan was elected Governor of California, a role he served until 1975. He attempted to win the Republican Presidential nomination in both 1968 and 1976.

Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, a mentally ill man who was trying to impress Jodie Foster, in Washington D.C. on 30th March 1981. The President suffered a collapsed lung but returned to full health.

The biggest crisis of his Presidency was the Iran Contra scandal. Money from illegal arms sales to Iran was given to guerilla fighters in the Nicaraguan civil war. Ultimately, an army Colonel, Oliver North, took the fall.

Reagan initially weathered a storm of escalation of Cold War tensions. These peaked in on 1st September 1983, when Korean Air flight 007 from New York to Seoul via Anchorage accidentally strayed into Soviet airspace and was shot down. However, following the appointment of Mikail Gorbachev as the Soviet Premier, relations quickly thawed. Reagan and Gorbachev signed major nuclear arms reduction treaties and the Soviet Union began to fragment.

His domestic economic policies, which came to be known as Reaganomics, helped to rejuvenate and consolidate America as the leading global power. All of this despite the obvious handicap of being an idiot. Reagan is now held up by Conservatives as one of the greatest American Presidents.

Reagan was the first person to serve out a full two-term Presidency since Dwight D. Eisenhower, 28 years beforehand.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 38: Gerald R. Ford

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

No-one asked him to be naked, but here he is. The 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006). Here are the pertinent details:


Born 14th July 1913, Omaha, Nebraska
Died 26th December 2006, Rancho Mirage, California

Presidential Term 9th August 1974 - 20th January 1977

Gerald Ford attended college on an American Football scholarship and was offered the opportunity to turn professional. Instead, he decided to attend Yale Law School.

He saw action in the Philippines during World War 2. On his return to the United States he turned his efforts to politics. He was elected to the House of Representatives and would be re-elected on eleven other occasions.

Ford was a part of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.

Gerald Ford is the only US President to have never been elected to either the Presidency or the Vice Presidency. He had been promoted to Vice President the year before Nixon's resignation after the elected incumbent Spiro Agnew was forced to resign due to his financial improprieties.

One of Gerald Ford's first actions as President was to officially pardon Richard Nixon.

Ford was subject to two assassination attempts, both in September 1974. On the 5th, Manson Family member Lynette Fromme tried to shoot him and on the 22nd Sara Jane Moore did likewise. On both occasions their firearm failed to function properly.

Gerald Ford's wife, Betty, established a famous addiction clinic in California after her husband's retirement from politics.

The R stood for Rudolph. He is the only President to come from Nebraska.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Naked POTUS, number 37: Richard M. Nixon

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

Not a crook, it's the bare arsed 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994). Here's some knowledge:


Born 9th January 1913, Yorba Linda, California
Died 22nd April 1994, New York City, New York

Presidential Term 20th January 1969 - 9th August 1974

Richard Nixon is the only US President to have been born in California. He studied and practised law before enlisting in the US Naval Reserve and serving in the Second World War. Upon his return to the United States he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946 and the Senate in 1950, both times after tenacious and aggressively-fought campaigns.

He rose to national prominence during the House Un-American Activities Committee for his tireless pursuit of former Roosevelt aide Alger Hiss, suspected of Communist leanings.

Nixon served as the Vice President under Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961. He was the caretaker President for two months in the autumn of 1955 as Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack. Nominated as the Republican Party's candidate for the 1960 Presidential Election, he narrowly lost out to John F. Kennedy. Two years later he also missed on being elected as the Governor of California. After this defeat, he gave a bitter press conference, famously saying "you won't have Nixon to kick around any more".

During the 1960 campaign, Nixon took part in the first ever televised Presidential Election debate.

Nixon won two landslide election victories after he returned to front line politics in the late 1960s. His victory over George McGovern in 1972 was the most dominant election in American history: he won 49 States and 520 electoral votes, nearly double the amount required to win.

Nixon passed the 26th Amendment, allowing all citizens aged 18 and over to vote.

Nixon was the President when man first landed on the moon on 20th July 1969. In 1970, he created the Environmental Protection Agency. However, he also signed off on National Guard involvement in a student protest at Kent State University, in which 4 students were shot dead.

Nixon became the only President in history to resign from office on 9th August 1974. He was facing impeachment due to his administration's involvement in a break-in at Democratic Party national headquarters at the Watergate building in Washington D.C.

Nixon was the first US President to visit China, having also visited the Soviet Union whilst Vice President.

The M stood for Milhous.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 36: Lyndon B. Johnson

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

Bum and balls flapping, it is the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973). This is all about him:


Born 27th August 1908, Stonewall, Texas
Died 22nd January 1973, Stonewall, Texas

Presidential Term 22nd November 1963 - 20th January 1969

Like his predecessor, Johnson was a decorated war hero: he won the Silver Star for gallantry while serving in the US Navy. Following his return to the USA, Johnson moved into politics.

Johnson won a seat in the US Senate in 1949. By 1955 he was the Majority Leader of the House, the youngest man ever to hold the position. He was the favourite for the Democratic Presidential nomination for 1960 but his refusal to leave the Senate to attend the  Primaries cost him dear: by the time of the Democratic Convention, John Kennedy enjoyed unstoppable momentum and support. Johnson was selected as the Vice President in order to appeal to the Southern States.

Upon Kennedy's death, Johnson became the seventh Vice President to be promoted to the top office. He had been two cars back from Kennedy in the Dallas motorcade and was sworn in as President on board Air Force One as it stood on the tarmac at Dallas Love Field airport.

Johnson's Presidency is notable for its social progressiveness as he continued the Kennedy administration's program of civil rights reform. In 1964 he signed the Civil Rights Act, making racial discrimination illegal in the USA.

Johnson was also responsible for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made any techniques of voting suppression illegal, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which made housing discrimination on racial grounds illegal. Johnson was perhaps the most progressive US President since Abraham Lincoln, a century before.

Johnson's own initiative was The Great Society, an umbrella of social reforms that included Medicare, Medicaid and environmental protection laws, in addition to civil rights reforms and a declaration of war on poverty in the US. As with all of his crusades, Johnson used his exhaustive network of political contacts, friends and colleagues to barter them into existence.

The war in Vietnam, a program that had been supported by the previous two US administrations, began in earnest under the Johnson government. Following the Gulf of Tonkin Incident on 2nd August 1964, Johnson finally formally committed US ground troops.

Johnson refused to stand for a third term of office at the 1968 election, stepping down in a speech to the nation on 31st March 1968. This was variously attributed to public anger over the escalating Vietnam War, his personal rivalry with Robert Kennedy (who had declared his candidacy for the top office earlier in the month) and fears about his own health - both his father and grandfather had died of a heart attack at the age of 64, which would be his own age at the end of his office.

Lyndon Johnson died of a heart attack in 1973, aged 64.

The B stood for Baines. His wife (Lady Bird), daughters (Lynda Bird and Luci Baines) and dog (Little Beagle) all shared his initials LBJ, which was also how he was popularly known.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Naked POTUS, number 35: John F. Kennedy

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

The hope of a new generation of naked Americans, it is the 35th President of the United States John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). Here's the stuff to know:


Born 29th May 1917, Brookline, Massachusetts
Died 22nd November 1963, Dallas, Texas

Presidential Term 20th January 1961 - 22nd November 1963

Kennedy was the son of John Kennedy Sr, a diplomat who served as the Ambassador to Great Britain during the 1930s. Kennedy served under him as a graduate before the outbreak of hostilities. He was the first American President to have been born in the 20th Century.

Kennedy rose to national prominence during the war in the Pacific, winning the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions in saving the crew of his small boat, PT-109 after it was scuttled by a Japanese destroyer. After his return and recuperation, Kennedy turned to politics.

Kennedy was elected to the House of Representatives in 1947 and to the Senate in 1953, winning an unlikely victory over Henry Cabot Lodge, who he would later appoint ambassador to Vietnam. Kennedy in fact never lost an election in which he was a candidate.

During the 1960 campaign, Kennedy took part in the first ever televised Presidential Election debate.

Kennedy is the only US President to have won a Pulitzer Prize. He received it for his book "Profiles In Courage", in 1957.

Kennedy spent his Presidency and life as a sickly man. He suffered from Addison's Disease, which required daily cortisone injections. He also had osteoporosis, which would frequently leave him in so much pain that he required a back brace in order to walk.

He was the first Roman Catholic to be elected President and the youngest person to be elected to the office, aged 43. He would later also become the youngest to die.

His Presidency was marked with turbulence at home and abroad. It began with the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by CIA-backed Cuban rebels in 1961. The following year, the US discovered that the Soviet Union had installed nuclear missiles on Cuba, resulting in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the world came to the brink of nuclear war.

Domestically, the US was beset with Civil Rights struggles and the rise of the movement for change led by Martin Luther King.

Kennedy oversaw the beginning of the Vietnam War, which you may have heard of.

Kennedy was assassinated during a trip to Dallas in November 1963, shot by Lee Harvey Oswald with a sniper rifle from the sixth floor of an office building. He was the fourth President to be assassinated and the seventh to die in office.

The F stood for Fitzgerald. He almost certainly porked Marilyn Monroe. Like Warren G. Harding before him, Kennedy's wife was a very tolerant sort who was in full possession of the facts about her husband's indiscretions.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 34: Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

Wary of the military industrial complex but obviously not carrying any weapons himself, it is the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969). Fact me do:


Born 14th October 1890, Denison, Texas
Died 28th March 1969, Washington D.C.

Presidential Term 20th January 1953 - 20th January 1961

Following on from Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight Eisenhower was the third great popular military hero to be elected President of the United States. Eisenhower rose to prominence as the commander of the troops in the European theatre of the Second World War.

Although born in Texas, his family relocated to Abilene, Kansas a year after his birth, which became his home. He was originally named David Dwight, like his father and elder brother. This proved sufficiently gormless for his mother to quickly reverse his names.

Eisenhower, like Grant, attended West Point Military Academy. However, this was not the result of any great military ambition, rather it was in order that he might gain a good, free education. Initially his primary interest and focus was on playing American Football, though a potentially promising career was quickly ended by injury. Eisenhower spent 35 years in the army but retired having never seen active combat.

After the Second World War, Eisenhower was appointed Head of NATO by Harry S. Truman.

Though reluctant to enter public politics - having previously been invited to join the Democrats by President Truman - the advent of Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist crusade and the candidacy of the isolationist, anti-NATO Senator Robert Taft (son of William Taft, 27th President of the United States) for the Republican nomination convinced him to act.

Eisenhower continued the Truman Doctrine in US foreign policy, which stated that the US had the right to defend any country that was being threatened by Communism. Eisenhower was notably anti-war in his overall policies, however, opting to retain the passive strategy of containment that had been begun by his predecessor.

Eisenhower was particularly concerned with the corrosive effect that excessive defence spending had on everyday life in American society, as well as it being used to gain power and influence in Washington via what he termed the Military-Industrial Complex. He favoured the maintenance of a strong nuclear capability so that spending on conventional weapons could be curbed in favour of civic projects.

Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in September 1955 and was forced to take two months off. His Vice President, Richard Nixon, was his caretaker.

Other key incidents of the Eisenhower Presidency include the U2 Spy Plane incident, where Gary Powers' U2 was shot down over the Soviet Union shortly before planned talks aimed at arms reduction; and Brown versus The Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas. This landmark legal decision forced the desegregation of all schools in the United States and began the turbulent Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s.

During Eisenhower's Presidency, the United States in its current form was completed with the admission to Statehood of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.

The D stood for David.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 33: Harry S. Truman

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

Atomic fresh and ready for anything Communism can throw, it is the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). Facts:


Born 8th May 1884, Lamar, Missouri
Died 26th December 1972, Kansas City, Missouri

Presidential Term 12th April 1945 - 20th January 1953

Harry S. Truman grew up in Independence, Missouri. He remains the only US President to hail from that State. As a child he dreamt of becoming a concert pianist. His family were staunch segregationists. Truman's mother held John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, up as a hero.

After graduating high school, Truman was unsuccessful for much of his early life. Having failed to finish his law degree due to a lack of money, Truman worked on the family farm until his father's death in 1914. By then aged 30 and eager to strike out on his own, Truman headed to Oklahoma. He first invested in a zinc mine and then in an oil expedition, both of which proved unsuccessful and left him close to broke. (The oil rig, bought by another company, ultimately bore fruit with some additional drilling. It would have made Truman's fortune had he persisted.)

Truman instead went to fight in the Great War, the only US President to have done so. He was virtually blind in one eye but learned the eye chart beforehand and was declared fit for duty. Upon his return to the United States, Truman opened a men's clothing shop. When this also failed it left him, aged 38, bankrupt and without employment.

It was not until he turned to politics that his fortunes began to change. Within ten years of being elected to the Senate, Truman had become President of the United States.

Truman had only been Vice President for 82 days when he was summoned to the White House to be informed of President Roosevelt's death. He had only met with Roosevelt twice during this time, having been chosen by the Democratic Party for the role rather than by the President himself.

Truman was the first person to sanction the use of nuclear weapons. The US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan on 6th August 1945 and another at Nagasaki three days later, effectively ending the Second World War. Truman, largely sidelined from Roosevelt's inner circle, only discovered about the Manhattan Project several days after he had assumed the Presidency.

Truman's Presidency was marked by the new Cold War realities of the atomic age. The Korean War, the Soviet Union's own acquisition of nuclear weapons and Mao Tse-Tung's Communist uprising in China all destabilised the status quo. At home, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin began his House Un-American Activities Committee to weed out Communist sympathisers and fifth columnists in American society.

Truman himself had invoked fears of the spread of Communism in order to suit his legislative agenda, in what came to be known as The Red Scare. The Truman doctrine argued that the United States had the right to intervene when a country abroad was threatened by Communist tyranny.

Truman took numerous steps towards civil rights in American society, including desegregating the US Army and being the first President to address the NAACP. He also passed the Marshall Plan, a major humanitarian aid effort for post-war Europe, in 1947.

In 1948, Truman won one of the most unlikely election victories in American history. The Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey, led the polls so strongly that Gallup ceased all polling activity a month before the election took place. Truman's energetic, cross-country campaign had won a wavering electorate over, thanks to aggressive challenges to the Republican Senators (who had blocked legislation he wished to pass and now used Truman's failure to do so to form their own manifesto pledges) as well as his progress on civil rights and support for the new state of Israel.

Truman was the subject of an attempted assassination on 1st November 1950. Puerto Rican nationals Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola stormed the Blair House in Washington D.C., where the Trumans were staying during the renovation of the White House with the intention of killing the President. Torresola and a policeman were killed during a gunfight but Collazo was captured and sentenced to death. However, Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison.

By the way, the initial in his name didn't stand for anything, making him the second US President to have a fake middle letter. Like the first, Ulysses Grant, he chose 'S'.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 32: Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

He is twice as naked as any other American President, it is the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945). Here are the details:


Born 30th January 1882, Hyde Park, New York
Died 12th April 1945, Warms Springs, Georgia

Presidential Term 4th March 1933 - 12th April 1945

Roosevelt was born into considerable wealth and privilege in New York. His fifth cousin Theodore was the 26th President of the United States. Franklin studied law and practised as a lawyer before going in to politics.

By the outbreak of the Great War he was part of the apparatus of government, serving as the Assistant Secretary to the Navy and visiting the front line in France and Belgium during early 1918. Following the Wilson administration, Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York.

Roosevelt was crippled throughout his Presidency. He contracted polio during the summer of 1921 and was unable to walk unaided until the end of his life. However, this fact was artfully concealed from the majority of the American public.

Roosevelt devised and implemented The New Deal in order to create jobs, boost manufacturing and stimulate the US economy out of Depression. As part of the program, Mount Rushmore was completed in 1939.

One of Roosevelt's first acts as President was to pass the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment and ended Prohibition.

He is best remembered for being the President who took America into the Second World War. Roosevelt was pro-war but unable to raise enough popular sentiment until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941. Before this he had been instrumental in the creation of the Lend Lease Act, which assisted Britain with food and materiel in their fight against Germany.

Roosevelt is the only US President to have served more than two terms of office. In the end he won four, although he died shortly after the beginning of his final term, which began on January 20th 1945. January 20th, now the traditional day of the Presidential Inauguration, became the date during the Roosevelt administration, after his re-election in 1936.

Roosevelt was the first American President to visit Russia, for the Yalta Conference in 1945. He was also the first American President to fly in an aeroplane during his term of office, although his cousin Theodore had done so while he was a private citizen.

Roosevelt was the seventh President to die in office. His health had been failing throughout much of the War years. He suffered a fatal cerebral haemmorhage at his holiday retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia on 12th April 1945, just four weeks before the end of hostilities in Europe.

The D stood for Delano, his mother's maiden name.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.

Naked POTUS, number 31: Herbert Hoover

"Even the President of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked" - BOB DYLAN

Unable to afford clothes, it is the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover (1874-1964). Let's absorb information:


Born 10th August 1874, West Point, Iowa
Died 20th October 1964, New York City, New York

Presidential Term 4th March 1929 - 4th March 1933

Herbert Hoover was the son of a blacksmith. He was the first Quaker to be the President of the United States and the only Chief Executive so far to have been born in Iowa.

He and his wife were in China during the Boxer Rebellion. During their escape back to the United States they became fluent in Mandarin and would often speak it later in the White House if they didn't want anyone to know what they were saying.

He is most famous for being the President during the Great Depression, which began after the Wall Street Crash on 24th October 1929. This made him a particularly unpopular President.

Hoover came out of retirement in 1946 to help co-ordinate post-war famine relief.

In spite of the fact that they had pretty much the exact same head, Herbert Hoover was no relation to the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover.

N.B. Some parts of the above image have been redacted by the CIA for reasons of national security. An unexpurgated version of all the naked Presidents will be made available at the end of the project.


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