The immediate ancestor of the “Rappin’ Ronnie” record was The Altered Nixon Speech, a one-minute tape collage made from Nixon’s August 15, 1973 speech about the Watergate break-in. I’m no lawyer, but gosh, it sounds kind of incriminating:
I had prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in. I authorized subordinates to engage in illegal campaign tactics. I accept full responsibility for the break-in and bugging of the Democratic National Headquarters and other campaign abuses. Let me explain to you what I did about Watergate after the break-in occurred. I took part in the subsequent cover-up activities. My effort throughout has been burglary and bugging of party headquarters, obstructing justice, harassing individuals, and compromising those agencies of government that should be above politics. We of course must be extremely careful in the way we go about this. I shall continue to subvert the institutions of government by unlawful means. How to carry out this duty is often a delicate question. That is the simple truth.
The novelty single was the work of Irv Teibel, the field recordist behind the Environments albums. (Environments’ marketing slogan, “THE MUSIC OF THE FUTURE ISN’T MUSIC,” still points the way to a better world. Stop the madness! Let us pump nature sounds, not dance beats, into our pharmacies and “off-price” department stores.) What Teibel achieves with 140 tape splices is more than a gimmick: in the alchemical retort of the Syntonic Research laboratory, he transforms the Trick’s tissue of horseshit into a series of truthful statements. The B-side, which reproduces Teibel’s source material, is the homely “before” picture to the A-side’s handsome “after.”
Teibel knew that when you are standing on the president’s testicles, it is wise to tread lightly. Copy on the label forbade the owner to copy or broadcast the record:
This recording was assembled as proof that magnetic tape can be made to do almost anything. It is not our intention to malign the Office of the Presidency. For this reason, we specify that this recording is not to be copied nor may it be used for any purpose other than private listening in the home. Broadcast usage without written authorization is specifically prohibited.
Doesn’t the Watergate affair, in comparison to a more current Oval Office scandal, seem to be the product of a much more innocent time? After all, no one ever suggested that President Nixon and those around him might be the puppets of the Kremlin…