1. “The Waiting” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Log from Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, ~ 3 p.m.: Triad City Beat sports columnist Anthony Harrison rolls into the Wells Fargo parking lot with a cigarette holder clenched in his teeth and sunglasses with green, neon frames while blasting “The Waiting” by Tom Petty. We’re undertaking a daylong stakeout of the Jamestown News and the song perfectly captures the tedium of the endeavor. The waiting is the hardest part. After hours of observing a continuous non-event, there would be a psychological payoff if something significant happened — some small flurry of drama. Ironically, the purpose of the stakeout is to prove exactly the opposite. We suspect that the Jamestown News’ sister paper, Yes Weekly, is printing about 17,700 papers instead of 43,000, as its marketing materials indicated (see story on page 16), but a Womack Newspapers employee had told Triad City Beat Associate Editor Eric Ginsburg that the remainder of the papers will be delivered later in the day. Boredom bears out our theory: The day passes without an additional delivery.
2. “Watching the Detectives” by Elvis Costello & the Attractions
This trenchant slice of punk fury and reggae inflection courtesy of Elvis circa 1978 turns the tables on the idea of surveillance. I’ve always thought the song title was ripe for journalistic appropriation in service of stories about FBI infiltration of anti-war groups and monitoring the Muslim community, not to mention electronic surveillance by the NSA.
3. “Every Breath You Take” by the Police
Just for the sheer creepiness of it, let’s throw in “Every Breath You Take,” with its rueful refrain: “I’ll be watching you.” “Every Breath” was an ill-considered favorite for many 1980s weddings, even though the song is clearly written from the perspective of a jealous lover obsessed with marital transgressions and infidelity. Puff Daddy might have missed the point as well with his 1997 remake “I’ll Be Missing You” — a tribute to the late Notorious BIG. Then again, Puff’s rewrite inverts the lyrics from paranoid obsession into brotherly love and maximum respect.
4. John Lennon, circa 1971
I don’t know if John Lennon memorialized the FBI campaign to hound him out of the United States as a “strategic counter-measure” to his anti-war activities, but the episode overlapped with one of the ex-Beatles’ most fruitful and righteous periods of songwriting, including “Power to the People,” “Imagine,” “Jealous Guy” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”
5. “Fingerprint File” by the Rolling Stones
While the politicized John Lennon was the one who was actually under surveillance, the hedonistic Rolling Stones nailed the spirit of the Nixon era better with a dark slice of funk, released in 1974, in which Mick Jagger declares, “And there’s some little jerk in the FBI/ A-keepin’ papers on me six feet high.”
6. “Stakeout Song” on “Teen Titans Go!”
Veering away from the serious business of government surveillance and repression, the tenor of the TCB stakeout at the Jamestown News was a lot more like “Stakeout Song,” an 18-second clip on the Cartoon Network show “Teen Titans Go!” The exclamatory lyrics in their entirety are as follows: “Stakeout! Hiding out in cars/ Stakeout! Eat some chocolate bars!/ Stakeout! Staying up real late/ Stakeout! Puke up what you ate/ Stakeout! It’s just what we do/ Stakeout! Shaggy, Scooby Doo/ Stakeout! Spot a creeping dude/ Stakeout! Bust a creeping dude/ Stop!”