‘Oh, my gosh, I’m playing the Clash... in the White House!’
May 10, 2022 9:16 AM   Subscribe

The Untold Story of the White House's Weirdly Hip Record Collection Jimmy Carter’s grandson is unlocking its mysteries (Washingtonian, Rob Brunner)
posted by box (23 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
We all know that Dubya was rather partial to Reign in Blood. He also had Killing an Arab set to permanent repeat on his MP3 player.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 9:27 AM on May 10 [9 favorites]

I guess I was sort of hoping that the White House had a record collection that had been created across numerous administrations and had grown across time as various Presidents all got music that they added. The Obamas were pretty well known for having pretty hip music tastes, so certainly all kinds of music has been played in the White House across generations.

This is a cool thing to exist, really. I'm glad they're working on updating it.
posted by hippybear at 9:57 AM on May 10 [6 favorites]

Okay, but what about that album with the 18 minute and 20 second long track that Chip Carter allegedly found in Richard Nixon's record library when they were moving into the White House?

Or was Arlo Guthrie just pulling our chains?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:16 AM on May 10 [9 favorites]

Hope there's some Dead Kennedys in there.
posted by Paul Slade at 10:58 AM on May 10 [7 favorites]

I’ve known John since forever and it’s awesome to see this project get some press.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:08 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

Is there a list of the records in the White House collection?
posted by SansPoint at 11:16 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

SansPoint, from the end of the article:
The White House Historical Association actually published catalogs for the first two record collections (these long-out-of-print books now bring big money online)
So, apparently: yes, but only in print (in out-of-print print), not online.

There are so many MeFi posts that I think look interesting but never actually get around to reading the linked article. I'm so glad I read this one, and I hope everyone who sees this post does actually go read the article. It's so interesting, and has a bunch of really great moments.

I'm really glad I got to read this, really glad to know about Chuldenko's footage and the project and the simple fact that these collections exist. Thank you so much for posting this, box!
posted by kristi at 12:10 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]

Yeah. This is a fascinating post and now I'm curious if Alice's Restaurant could have been included in the first collection and if Chip really did find it open and previously played when in the White House. And if so, who played it?

I hear that little anecdote every Thanksgiving and while I've never had any reason to doubt Guthrie, it always comes across as a just a joke. The album is certainly not the infamous gap on the Nixon tapes as Guthrie implies, but it's still really cool to learn that there was a White House records collection and the timing lines up to make the other parts of that story plausible.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:49 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]

And if Nixon was in office when the first collection was received, that also explains why the collection referred to in the story is associated with him and not Ford.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:53 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]

thanks for the extra nudge, kristi.. it's true, I don't get around to reading all the items thoroughly and you're right, this one is pretty cool

I love that image of Chuldenko holding the Costello "My Aim is True" album.. good memories
posted by elkevelvet at 1:15 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]

I remember reading a story about avant-garde jazz pianist Cecil Taylor playing at the White House when Jimmy Carter was president, and how Carter rushed up to Taylor after the performance to shake his hand and tell him how amazing the performance was. Say what you will about Carter as a president, but at least the guy had taste.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:21 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]

Say what you will about Carter as a president, but at least the guy had taste.

This is basically the thesis of the 2020 documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President.
posted by zamboni at 8:34 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]

How would you go about donating a music collection to the White House nowadays that is more substantial than, say, a Spotify playlist?
posted by tigrrrlily at 9:10 PM on May 10

This is basically the thesis of the 2020 documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President.

To save you having to search if you are interested it is currently on HBO Max if you are in the US.
posted by srboisvert at 3:54 AM on May 11 [4 favorites]

My quest is to live long enough to witness a POTUS who's into GWAR.

A member of GWAR becoming POTUS would also count for this.
posted by delfin at 6:47 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]

... the RIAA put together a team to select music from the worlds of classical, jazz, popular music, and so forth. Johnny Mercer was tapped to oversee the pop picks. In retrospect, this was an odd choice. The idea was to build a library that reflected American tastes in the post-Woodstock era. Mercer, meanwhile, was the “Moon River” guy—one of the all-time great songwriters, to be sure, but hardly the person to capture that era’s seismic musical achievements.
OTOH this is the Nixon White House that is involved, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that most of the previous decade was ignored.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 10:56 AM on May 11

“With every box, there was this new treasure inside,” Chuldenko recalls. “I knew what was in there on paper, but it’s different when you actually hold these records. They had never been played. It was like walking into a record store in 1979. They were absolutely pristine.”

Because of course the Reagans were philistines and probably the gift was forgotten by the time they were gone.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 11:03 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]

Wait... so there's a huge collection of records that nobody listens to stored away in a room somewhere nondescript, and somehow the solution is to add more records to that collection? By having large corporations donate artists' records to the government? So they can store them away and not play them? Records made of vinyl, which is environmentally devastating?

This makes no sense to me at all.
posted by MrVisible at 6:46 PM on May 11

Records made of vinyl, which is environmentally devastating?

Quick back-of-the-envelope calculations:
42 million vinyl LPs sold last year at average of 150g (probably high): 6.3 million kg of PVC
Total consumption of PVC in the US, 2020: 45 billion kg. So LPs make for 14% of PVC sales in the US. Wait, no, billions and millions, so actually it's 0.014% of PVC sold in the US.

If we take the Guardian's article's numbers as gospel, creating a vinyl record releases about 2.3g of CO2. An average US domestic flight releases 250g of CO2 per passenger. Take one less domestic flight and you can own 100 vinyl records. (The leftover can go to printing the sleeves.)

The US has about 45,000 flights annually. Let's say there are 150 passengers on each flight, that's about 1.7 million kg of CO2 per year or 4,600kg per day. Cancel 21 flights a day and you can offset the entirety of vinyl record production.

Let people enjoy nice things.
posted by aureliobuendia at 7:10 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

But people won't be enjoying these nice things. They're going to sit in boxes in a room in a building where the White House keeps all its gifts from lobbyists.
posted by MrVisible at 8:35 AM on May 12

I don't see the existence of this collection pushing the needle in either direction (don't have the collection = avert climate catastrophe, or have the collection = tipping point). Whether the collection exists, or not, has zero impact on how close we are to annihilation by nuclear or conventional warfare, I don't see that this will result in the destruction or salvation of an endangered species, the balance on women's reproductive rights (upheld, or withdrawn).. I guess your point is valid in some way, I'm just not sure it's the thing I'd focus on.
posted by elkevelvet at 9:43 AM on May 12

Should we focus on the fact that this whole record collection was created as a lobbying effort by the RIAA during the fight over copyright in the 1970s?
posted by MrVisible at 1:18 PM on May 12

A member of GWAR becoming POTUS would also count for this.

Cuttlefish & Gor-Gor, Twenty-Twenty-Four!
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:29 PM on May 15

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