Coming from someone who released an album by the name of Rant, Ian Hunter’s political outspokenness is no surprise.
For the first single off his album out this week, Hunter chose the catchy song of the same name, “When I’m President.” On it, the former Mott the Hoople frontman rips on politicians for going against their promises the second they assume the Oval Office – a pattern Hunter says transcends party lines.
“Everybody’s got their own agenda,” Hunter tells CBS Local, adding that he’s “right down the middle” politically. “I really think it’s a couple of businesses vying for power and control. I don’t have an issue with Republicanism, my problem with the Republican party is that they’re bad actors! You want to watch a good movie, you don’t want to watch a bad movie.”
When you release a single called “When I’m President,” it invites questions of what you’d change if you were in the White House. Hunter’s first priority: “My focus would be the monopolies commission. Purely selfishly, I don’t like the way companies eat each other up here. That kind of happened in music. I think there should be 500 main banks, not five.
Of course, British-born Hunter wouldn’t actually be able to assume the role of president, but American politics have served as a suitable muse for the rocker on his recent albums.
“As a young man, you can talk of love and all that stuff,” Hunter explains. “As you become older, it becomes slightly more embarrassing. You start looking for alternative things to write about. With President Bush doing what he was at the time – which I thought was pretty idiotic – there was a lot to write about. It was like the comedians at the time – they had so much material they didn’t know what to do with it. [Comedian] Lewis Black was having a field day!”
However, it was a different era of American history that caught Hunter’s attention for his new album. On When I’m President, he speaks of Native American leader Crazy Horse, of Jesse James and his outlaw brethren, of the Civil War. Needless to say, it’s a particularly Western album in its themes, though not its sound. As Hunter explains, he became fascinated by the closeness of American history – the fact that, for example, Wyatt Earp died just a decade before he was born in 1939.
Hunter’s fascination with America is not a new thing, though. Some of his biggest hits center around American cities (“Cleveland Rocks,” “All the Way from Memphis”), and Hunter says the appeal of American culture hit him hard in his youth. He’s lived more of his life here, he says, coming up on 39 years stateside after spending his first 35 in his native U.K.
“I was brought in the Shropshire area in England after the second World War,” Hunter explains. “Nothing to do, nowhere to go. The only thing that was happening was movies, most of which were American. That’s where you escaped. Then, in the mid-1950s, music came in from America: Little Richard, Jerry Lee and all that. All this stuff impressed me, all the Hollywood glamor and showbiz really got to me – I just thought you guys did it better than anybody else. I was always aiming in this direction.”
– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local