Stored in the basement of the executive mansion is the official White House Record Library: several hundred LPs that include landmark albums in rock (Led Zeppelin IV, the Rolling Stones‘ Let It Bleed), punk (the Ramones‘ Rocket to Russia, the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols), cult classics (Captain Beefheart‘s Trout Mask Replica, the Flying Burrito Brothers‘ The Gilded Palace of Sin) and disco. Not to mention records by Santana, Neil Young, Talking Heads, Isaac Hayes, Elton John, the Cars and Barry Manilow.
But, including music in the White House Library, was not always the case:
During the waning days of the Nixon administration, the RIAA, the record companies’ trade group, decided the library should include sound recordings as well as books. In 1973, the organization donated close to 2,000 LPs. The bad news: The selection was dominated by the likes of Pat Boone, the Carpenters and John Denver. In 1979, legendary producer John Hammond (no relation to Albert Hammond or Albert Hammond, Jr.) convened a new commission to update the list for the hipper Carter administration. In 1979, legendary producer John Hammond convened a new commission to update the list for the hipper Carter administration. “They felt they needed to redress some of the oversights that might have taken place the first time around,” says Boston music critic and author Bob Blumenthal, who was put in charge of adding 200 rock records to the library.
At the commission’s first meeting, Blumenthal brought up Randy Newman’s thorny dissection of Southern culture, Good Old Boys, to determine what restrictions the panel might face. “That was exhibit A,” Blumenthal says. “And I was told, ‘Oh, the president loves that album! Go ahead!’ ” So Blumenthal and his advisers — including Paul Nelson, then Rolling Stone’s reviews editor — compiled a list to reflect “diversity in what was going on in popular music.” They picked the Kinks’ Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) for its “theme of empire,” and Blumenthal snuck in favorites like David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.
On January 13th, 1981, the LPs — each in a sleeve with a presidential seal — were presented to Jimmy Carter at a White House ceremony. But the collection — placed in a hallway near the third-floor listening room, complete with a sound system — didn’t remain upstairs long. When Ronald Reagan took office that year, the LPs were moved to the basement. Depending on the source, the reason was Nancy Reagan’s distaste for shelves of vinyl, or the edgy choices themselves. A spokesman for Obama said it was too early to comment on whether the president would revive the library. But Obama may be pleased to learn that at least a few of his favorite albums — Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run — are there if he wants them on pristine slabs of vinyl.
So, I’m thinking, if we pretend that no new music has been added to the White House Record Libary since January 13, 1981, what 20 LPs are absolute musts? This is going to be really tough… all right, if we pretend no new music has been added to the White House Record Library since January 13, 1981, what 20 LPs are absolute musts???
I’m starting on my list now…
Black Mountain “Modern Music”