The unconventional music of Trump's convention

'You Can't Always Get What You Want'? Really?

Republicans dance at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland
(Image credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

After Donald Trump finished his historically long acceptance speech at Thursday night's Republican National Convention, the 1970 hit "All Right Now" by the British band Free played to accompany the confetti and balloons. The next song? "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Seriously.

Nor was it the Rolling Stones' relatively upbeat single version — it was the album version, with the choral introduction by the London Bach Choir.

See more

Choosing a 1969 ballad to rev up a Republican convention is an odd enough choice, but one whose chorus is an admonition that sometimes you can't get the thing you want is doubly strange. Yes, "you get what you need," The Stones conclude, but come on, that could be Hillary Clinton's slogan — the Trump Republicans want Donald Trump. Was this a middle finger to Ted Cruz and other #NeverTrump Republicans? Was Trump suggesting that despite his big promises, people should lower their expectations? Was Trump trying to clear the hall so he could fly back home to New York?

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
See more

The song that followed Ivanka Trump's glowing and happy warm-up speech for her father was appropriate enough, though George Harrison's estate was not pleased:

See more

Continuing the theme of British music used against the artists' wishes, Trump made his first entrance to Queen's "We Are the Champions." Rudy Giuliani walked off the stage to Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" — perhaps a nod to Trump's fondling kiss of in-drag Giuliani in 2000. But If you watched the cable networks, you might have missed some of the other musical choices made at Trump's convention.

The house band, led by G.E. Smith, was excellent, but delegates were probably tired of "Sweet Caroline" after the fourth rendition. They played "My Sharona," from The Knack, "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC, multiple light-jazz versions of The Beatles' "Eight Days a Week," The Turtles' "Happy Together," an upbeat country version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," and David Bowie's cocaine-fueled "Station to Station." Maybe the strangest sight, however, was the Republican delegates dancing unironically to The Clash's "Rock the Casbah."

Still, there was one genuinely new song, "Make America Great Again," and you can watch Fox News' Shep Smith celebrate its debut (and sing along in harmony with former MVT host Kennedy) in the video below.

So at least the heart of rock 'n' roll is still beating in Cleveland.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.