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Paul Ryan's playlist: What's between AC/DC and Led Zep on his iPod?

August 30, 2012|By Randall Roberts | Times Pop Music Critic
  • Mitt Romney, left, and Paul Ryan on the campaign trail in Milwaukee.
Mitt Romney, left, and Paul Ryan on the campaign trail in Milwaukee. (Scott Olson )

Americans are starting to get a better feel for Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who gave an impassioned -- some would say hard-rocking -- speech at his party’s national convention Wednesday night. 

We learned more about the Wisconsin House member’s family, his youth, his beliefs. But most important for Pop & Hiss, in one revealing moment, Ryan shed light on his relationship with running mate Mitt Romney as the 42-year-old Ryan noted the team’s diverging musical tastes.

Speaking at the GOP convention, in Tampa, Fla., Ryan said: “There are the songs on his iPod which I’ve heard on the campaign bus -- and on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, ‘I hope it’s not a deal-breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin.’ "

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Notwithstanding the sting that ABBA Republicans must have felt, or that ZZ Top fans for Romney/Ryan are no doubt planning to issue a terse statement as we speak, Ryan’s sliver of information is notable.

And as a Midwesterner of Ryan’s generation who grew up being force-fed a diet of classic rock, my understanding of the candidate’s tastes and musical passions increased tenfold. Adding into the equation Ryan’s earlier boast that he was a Rage Against the Machine fan, and that before stump speeches he’s played Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” a much clearer picture of Ryan’s iPod is emerging.

He's an avowed rocker.

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These four songs suggest that when he’s cruising in his virtual Trans Am (he doesn’t really have a Trans Am), Ryan likely has Milwaukee classic rock station WKLH-FM pumped up to 11. The station's playlist not only includes (Led) Zep, AC/DC, Rage and Twisted Sister but also a volume of rockers that are likely to appear on 99% of the classic rock voting block’s iPods. (On Thursday morning, the station was rocking Bon Jovi and Queen.)

Using these same (utterly unscientific) statistics, anyone whose playlist includes said arena rock bands is likely a huge Pink Floyd fanatic, turns up Boston's "More Than a Feeling" when it comes on the radio and can't believe his luck when it's followed by Rush's "Tom Sawyer." When he's feeling introspective, he might appreciate Heart's "Dog & Butterfly." 

Ryan was a junior in high school the summer of '87, when Guns n' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction" came out, and possibly absorbed Axl Rose's ode to heroin, "Mr. Brownstone," during weekend cruises. He was a senior when Def Leppard's "Hysteria" was ruling the metal world, and it's not hard to imagine Ryan guiltily enjoying Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" when his date turned it up. Statistically speaking, Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" was perhaps less to his liking, and President Obama's favorite band, Wilco? Not likely to be on a Ryan playlist.

Questions remain: Is Ryan an AC/DC completist? Does he prefer the group’s early years, when Bon Scott was yowling in poker-playing double entendres about getting a venereal disease from a woman "who said she'd never had a royal flush, but I should have known" in “The Jack”? Or the Australian band's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," which hints at male prostitution?

After Scott's death (he drowned in his own vomit after drinking too much), singer Brian Johnson took over in AC/DC. He was more concerned with the afterlife, as evidenced by "Hell's Bells," the band's ode to vengeance and murder.

And even if such themes don't resonate with Ryan, "Hell's Bells" is one of AC/DC's biggest songs, and one verse reveals much about the band's lyrical bent. It's a song that any self-respecting fan might have rolling around in their head.

I'll give you black sensations up and down your spine 
If you're into evil, you're a friend of mine 
See the white light flashing as I split the night 
Cos if good's on the left then I'm sticking to the right 

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Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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