Could 'Mood Music' Calm Political Tensions?

Musician David Was has an idea to calm tensions in Washington, D.C. Though it's sometimes dismissed as elevator music, "Mood Music" of the 1950s could be just the thing, he thinks.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

News of the debt talks breaking down has raised tensions between President Obama and congressional Republicans to a new height. Musician and commentator David Was has an idea of how to get talks back on track.

DAVID WAS: There is much disharmony in the air in Washington D.C. these days, what with the rhetorical battle over raising the debt ceiling. My suggestion to simply lower the floor instead has gone largely ignored, so I've come up with a musical strategy that might just bring all this contentious posturing to a standstill.

It's called mood music in some circles, disparaged as elevator music elsewhere. Allow me to explain my ingenious plan.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Back in the Eisenhower '50s, when men were men and mortgages weren't traded like nickel-packs of baseball cards, our parents unwound after a hard day with two martinis and a side of Mantovani. That jittery swing music that accompanied the rat-a-tat of wartime had given way to the sound of luxury and easy living. Demon rock and roll had not quite reared its greasy pompadour, leaving soft-sell artists like Lawrence Welk and Percy Faith to step to the gentle fore.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: What I'm suggesting is that a return to such soporific sounds might just restore a measure of calm to our clamorous capitol. Oh, and don't forget those martinis.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Oddly enough, one of the early commercial successes with that silky, sultry sound was by comedian Jackie Gleason, better known as fictional Brooklyn bus driver, Ralph Kramden. His 1952 album, "Music for Lovers Only," sold half a million copies.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Hulking, low-slung stereo consoles soon became the rage in affluent American living rooms. Popular music had left the concert hall and become a species of aural wallpaper. Thus relegated to the background, it became the sound to eat your Swanson TV dinners by. If Mom and Dad were worried about the future, they didn't show it. It must have been the music.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm in the Mood for Love")

GROUP: (Singing) I'm in the mood for love, simply because you're near me...

WAS: So how's this plan sound? The master chefs at the White House microwave a dozen of those delicious Salisbury steak suppers one night this weekend while I don a satin smoking jacket and deejay yet another debt ceiling summit between the opposing parties. I may not raise the roof playing such soft and mellow music, but maybe these grizzled Washington warriors might chillax long enough to come to some kind of an agreement, in which case I'll reward them with a little Tony Bennett to close the set. Ain't life grand?

(Soundbite of song, "The Good Life")

Mr. TONY BENNETT (Singer): (Singing) Oh, the good life...

NORRIS: Musician David Was lives a long, long way from Washington, D.C. in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song, "The Good Life")

Mr. BENNETT: (Singing) ...the good life lets you hide all the sadness you feel. You won't really fall in love, fore you can't take a chance. So, please be honest with yourself, don't try to fake romance...

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