Political (song)

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Song by Spirit of the West from the album Labour Day
Released 1988 (1988)
Recorded 1988
Genre Folk rock
Length 04:27
Writer(s) John Mann
Geoffrey Kelly
Hugh McMillan
Labour Day track listing

"Political" is a song by Spirit of the West. One of the band's most famous songs, it originally appeared on the 1988 album Labour Day. The song was written by John Mann.

Despite the band's reputation for writing politically-themed songs, "Political" is in fact about the end of a personal romantic relationship. The verses detail the friction that led to the couple's breakup, and the chorus confirms that "Everything, every little thing, every little thing/With you and me had to be so political." Although the song was not a mainstream chart breakthrough for the band, it garnered them significant airplay on CBC Radio, CFNY and campus radio stations throughout Canada. This expansion of the band's audience led to a major label deal with Warner Music Canada, who released the band's next studio album, Save This House, in 1990.

On 1991's Go Figure, Spirit of the West's first rock album, the band recorded a new rendition of the song. Although the lyrics remained identical (except for the word "little" being dropped from the chorus), the melody was moderately different and the instrumentation was more electric and rhythm-heavy. The 1991 version was released as a CD single, with the B-sides "Home for a Rest", "Sad But True" and "Again and Again and Again".

However, the new version proved controversial: at a concert in London, Ontario during their tour to promote that album, fans presented the band with a petition demanding that they play the original version of the song.[1] As a result, on subsequent tours the band have always performed a third version of the song, which retained the rock instrumentation of the remake while reverting to the original melody.

In a 1993 concert performance on Public Radio International's Mountain Stage series, Mann explained some of the song's backstory, stating that the song was written about a real relationship Mann had once had, which ended while the couple were travelling in New York City. This performance appears on the album Upfront! Canadians Live from Mountain Stage. It was later revealed in the book Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985-1995 that the song was written about Mann's relationship with Jean Smith of the band Mecca Normal.[1]

In 1995, "Political" was included in the band's concert with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The version recorded at that show appears on their 1999 greatest hits compilation Hit Parade.

In 1999, "Political" was named one of CFNY's "Top 1002 New Rock Songs of All Time", ranking 524th. It ranked immediately ahead of The Verve Pipe's "Photograph" in 525th place, and behind Sting's "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" in 523rd.

During Spirit of the West's 2009 live performances opening for Great Big Sea, the two bands frequently performed the song together, with Mann and Great Big Sea singer Alan Doyle alternating verses.[2]


  1. ^ a b Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider, Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985-1995. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-992-9.
  2. ^ "A great Great Big farewell; Ottawa favourites, fans in high spirits at final show before band breaks for a while". Ottawa Citizen, March 23, 2009.