Trump rubs the lamp, and the genie appears. “Well, what’s it to be?” he says.
The Donald doesn’t hesitate. “Make me the President of the United States!” he cries.
“Um ...” says the genie. “You sure that’s what you want?”
“Damn straight that’s what I want!” shouts Trump. “When I say jump, you better jump! You look like some kinda Muslim to me, anyway, and I don’t mean Sadiq Khan! Get on with it!”
“Suit yourself,” says the genie. He waves his hand. When the smoke clears, Trump has turned into Barack Obama.
Be careful what you wish for, kids. Unless you’re Ben Lee, in which case it’s perfectly OK to say I Wish I Was Him (Evan Dando, that is). I hope Evan was pleased. I’m afraid I have to correct Brian Fallon though – ‘British racing green’ certainly rhymes with Steve McQueen but it’s a colour for cars not horses. I know because I once had a Metro in that iconic hue.
Sometimes, while wanting to be our hero, it’s tempting to make that hero a little bit more like us at the same time. A Southern Mark Smith, for instance. A set of detailed instructions is good too, so that others can follow in our footsteps when Walkin’ Like Brando.
I was a bit puzzled by Radiohead’s Someone Else till I discovered it was really called Talk Show Host. The queasy, uneasy arrangement – not to mention the gun and the pack of sandwiches – point to something awful about to happen. Luckily, the existential angst suffered by many young people usually has a more comfortable resolution: you either make up your mind to go your own way and not fit in, like Pink in Don’t Let Me Get Me forming an outgroup of one, or you find your cultural subgroup and immerse yourself in it. Of course, as fans of the Who's Quadrophenia know, the Jimmy of I’m One will eventually become disillusioned by the hero he was so desperate to become.
What about changing yourself into someone you’re really not? You can use this idea to comment on society. I Want To Be Straight, says Ian Dury, though we’re pretty sure he’s not really “sick and tired of taking drugs and staying up late”. Lou Reed’s I Wanna Be Black is a reminder of the strength and persistence of racial stereotypes; the Poison Girls’ Old Tart’s Song tells us that gender equality still has a long way to go.
So perhaps the problem is that being human isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What large mammal would you like to be instead? One at the top of the food chain, perhaps? Well, as recommender swawilg points out, Eisbär was "written in the days before global warming". Or before we realised the danger, anyway. You might not choose to be a polar bear these days.
And is it true that every man would say I Wish I Was James Bond? I really do hope not, although... there’s a photo of Daniel Craig and the Queen doing the rounds on Facebook, with added speech bubbles. Bond is saying: “And Donald Trump, ma’am?” and HM replies:
“Make it look like an accident, 007.”
The A-list playlist
I Wish I Was Him – Ben Lee
Steve McQueen – Brian Fallon
Southern Mark Smith – The Jazz Butcher
Walkin’ Like Brando – The Royal Crown Revue
Talk Show Host – Radiohead
Don’t Let Me Get Me – Pink
I’m One – The Who
I Want To Be Straight – Ian Dury
I Wanna Be Black – Lou Reed
Old Tart’s Song – Poison Girls
Eisbär – Grauzone
I Wish I Was James Bond – Scouting For Girls
The B-list playlist
Substitute – The Who
It’s Good To Be King – Tom Petty
David Watts – The Kinks
Personality Crisis – The New York Dolls
Rambling On – Procol Harum
Seahorse – Devendra Banhart
Prince Caspian – Phish
Doll Parts – Hole
I Want To Be The Boy – The White Stripes
Si J’Etais – JJ Burnel
I Wish I Was A Lesbian – Loudon Wainwright III
Wish I Woz A Dog – Alien Sex Fiend
Guru’s wildcard pick:
The Great Valerio – Richard and Linda Thompson
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic Share: songs about wanting to be someone else. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.