A Brief Note About Donald Trump and "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

Every Donald Trump rally ends with songs about fucking (Free's "All Right Now") and other seemingly un-presidential topics. But the oddest choice may very well be the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." A generous reading is that Trump sees himself as "what you need" that you might find you get if you try sometimes. Or maybe he just likes the song and doesn't give two shits about what it means.

For some of us, the song has an association with the film The Big Chill, about aging children of the 1960s facing growing up and edging into middle-age in the anxious, conservative 1980s. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" plays early on, when the characters, a group of friends, are driving to a cemetery to bury one of their own who committed suicide, a melancholy soundtrack to a melancholy moment in a generally melancholy movie.

What makes "You Can't..." such a genuinely weird choice to play at a political event, beyond that it's hardly got a pump-you-up intensity, is that it's about giving up on unrealistic hopes and expectations, facing the end of the revolutionary dreams of the 1960s (something the Stones themselves would put the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence at Altamont in December 1969), and settling for what life hands you. In other words, you could kindly say that it's about accepting reality above illusions, or you could less kindly say that it's about the failure to bring about utopian freedom in the 1960s and what bullshit that pursuit had become. Hell, it's the last song on the Stones' last album of the decade, Let It Bleed.

As Greil Marcus put it in his original review of the album for Rolling Stone, "This era and the collapse of its bright and flimsy liberation are what the Stones leave behind with the last song of Let It Bleed. The dreams of having it all are gone, and the album ends with a song about compromises with what you want — learning to take what you can get, because the rules have changed with the death of the Sixties. Back a few years, all of London's new lower-class middle-class aristocracy were out for just what they wanted and they damned well got it. But no one can live off a memory that vanished sense of mastery felt in, when was it, '65, '66? If 'Gimmie Shelter' is the Stones' song of terror, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' looks for satisfaction in resignation." (Marcus wrote recently about songs around the Trump campaign.)

Maybe you could argue that the song itself has a Republican tilt, what with its admission that the 1960s party was over and, fuck you, hippies, welcome to the 1970s, which begins with Nixon and ends with the rise of Reagan. But it's sad and hilarious and sadly hilarious and hilariously sad watching obese white people dance when Mick Jaggar is singing,

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
to get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
and man, did he look pretty ill.
We decided that we would have a soda
my favorite flavor’s cherry red
I sang my song to Mr. Jimmy
and he said one word to me and that was "death."

Although, you know, to be fair, when one goes to a Trump rally, one does get their "fair share of abuse." And, to be fair, it's rich fucks like Trump who helped put a stake in the heart of the 60s.

Maybe the best way to go here is a meta-interpretation. As we have come to learn, words are meaningless to Trump. When he was asked by lipless cretin Hugh Hewitt about calling President Obama the "founder of ISIS," Trump asked Hewitt if he liked it. What mattered to Trump was that "Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it."

So fuck meaning. Fuck truth. Fuck words. What matters is if people like something. People like "You Can't Always Get What You Want," so fuck that it's actually saying, "Your revolution is over." It sounds good.