Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Led Zimmerlin

No, this isn’t Mister Rogers. It’s New Jersey Senate candidate Dick Zimmer, a Republican challenging Democratic incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg.
New Jersey’s Senate race has been overshadowed by the presidential race, so what news or talking points coming from both Senate candidates has been eclipsed by John McCain and Barack Obama.
That being said, the Zimmer camp released an ad on Zimmer’s website entitled “Ramble On”. This has got to be one of the weirdest political ads I’ve seen, namely for the choice of music. Apparently, someone at the advertising firm Zimmer hired is a big Led Zeppelin fan. The gist of the ad is Lautenberg, who is about 109 years old, has spent a good portion of his Senate career utterly senile.
The ad begins with Jimmy Page’s melodic guitar refrain and a quote from the Bergen Record: “New Jersey now gets less back from every $1 sent to Washington than any other state.”
That’s followed up with footage from a Lautenberg press conference where he is less than eloquent.
Then we see the words: “In 1982, Frank Lautenberg ran for Senate saying that New Jersey shouldn’t be 45th in “return on investment.” And “26 years later, New Jersey is DEAD LAST. No. 1 New Mexico: $2.01 for every dollar sent to DC, No. 50 New Jersey: $0.61 for every dollar sent to DC.”
We hear Robert Plant crooning “Aw, sometimes I grow so tired. But I know I’ve got one thing I’ve got to do…Ramble On…” Just when Plant sings “Ramble On”, we get a still photo of Lautenberg at a press conference and more footage of him having a really long senior moment.
This is followed by the on-screen pronouncement: “Frank Lautenberg had his chance and failed. He has not fixed New Jersey’s problems.”
Yeah! How dare grandpa not fix all of the state’s problems! I mean, he’s only been in office since the Industrial Revolution.
But the strangest part of the commercial is a mock-up of the Led Zeppelin II album cover. Instead of the band’s name, we get, in the same style-font “Zimmer” and under that, “Dick Zimmer will bring the change we need.”
This really was an incredible ad. Incredible because I don’t know that many Republicans who actually listen to Led Zeppelin. Maybe if there were Lawrence Welk references here or there, his base would get it. But the choice of “Ramble On” was meant to play on Lautenberg’s incoherent statements at press conferences.
You know, maybe if someone on Zimmer’s staff heard more of the song, they’d realize it contained blatant references to Lord of the Rings. The song isn’t about a senior politician fumbling or making missteps. It’s about the epic struggle in Middle Earth, something Zimmer’s base wouldn’t understand because I don’t think the average Zimmer voter has read anything that wasn’t less than 100 pages long.
Here are some of the Tolkien inspired lyrics to “Ramble On”:

“Mine’s a tale that can’t be told,
My freedom I hold dear;
How years ago in days of old
When magic filled the air,
T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up
And slipped away with her.”

If Zimmer wanted to borrow from Led Zeppelin II, he might have chose other tunes, like the jamming “Whole Lotta Love”, the bittersweet “Thank You” or the double entendre-filled “The Lemon Song” with lyrics like:

“Squeeze me, babe, until the juice runs down my leg
The way you squeeze my lemon
I’m gonna fall right outta bed”

Dick Zimmer has ruined Led Zeppelin for everyone. He’s like the square dad who thinks he’s cool and tries singing the latest pop tunes, only to tarnish them forever and alienate the youth around him. Maybe I’m wrong about Zimmer. Maybe back in the day he was a long-haired stoner kid who cruised around in a van with an airbrushed mystical wizard on the side, one resembling Gandalf. Maybe the young Zimmer would pick up girls at a record store and together with his buddies all get high in the back on his van listening to an 8-track tape of Led Zeppelin II. Maybe teenage Zimmer wasn’t an uptight nerd he’d later become but a rebel, a guy who wanted to escape the affluent hellhole of Glen Ridge, New Jersey and become a Congressman and then make a run for Senate. Maybe the Gollum he fought was an elder Senator and the golden ring of power was the coveted Senate seat. And, like the ring in Tolkien’s tale, the Senate seat will corrupt and drive one mad.
Maybe I’m over-thinking this.
Maybe it just comes down to something as simple as exploiting a well-loved classic rock song for political gain.
On that alone, Zimmer’s campaign staff should be publicly flogged by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

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