Friday on My Mind: The Best Songs Done By the Presidents of the United States of America

John with The Presidents in 2008
photo by Ron Henry

It’s time again for Friday on My Mind, which is a weekly collaborative effort between KEXP and King 5 News.

What better way to commemorate President’s Day than celebrating Seattle local heroes The Presidents of the United States of America? I’m sure NO ONE has had this idea before me. I’m the first. I am, right?

Childhood friends Chris Ballew and Dave Dederer formed the Presidents in 1990 and gained a small but loyal following as a duo. Jason Finn of Love Battery became their drummer in 1993 and that was right around the time the band started to pick up steam. They released their self-titled debut the Spring of 1994.

I still remember going to their show opening for Mad Season at the Crocodile. People thought Pearl Jam were going to be playing and were very curious about this band with the really long name. Chris Ballew came out and played the first few songs in a dreadlock wig, the crowd went nuts. After that, I made every one of their shows for at least the next year. The Presidents were playing at least once a month at Seattle clubs like the OK Hotel, the Backstage, the Crocodile, and a lot of shows at Moe, which is now Neumos. Every show gained more buzz, more energy, more followers, and insane idiots like myself jumping off of the stage and losing my mind at their shows.

I remember going to one of their shows after my brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner . While in my suit, I ran up on stage and nearly jumped to my death. I bought their 7 inch on the stage of Moe from Jason Finn and when they finally started selling the full length, I remember handing Chris 10 bucks for it and I rocked the CD non-stop at my restaurant gig in Wallingford every night. As the attention grew so did their exposure and soon I was hearing them on the radio and then came the videos. True to their upbeat and crazed live show the videos perfectly captured the band’s vibe, but a couple of those vids really made Seattle a video star. And for a country who had become accustomed to seeing aggressive, angry, (and hairy!) music coming out of the Pacific Northwest for years it was a nice change to see this happy, poppy band fronted by a man who was bald.

“Lump”

Lump was the first glimpse the rest of the world caught of The Presidents of the United States of America. They start the video wearing suits, while playing in the sludge that is the Seattle Arboretum. They end the video on the back of a tug boat in Elliott Bay with downtown Seattle in the background. In my opinion this is one of the most Seattle videos ever made.

“Peaches”

“Peaches” now finds the band in the forest and not the swamp. They also battle ninjas. People aren’t aware that Seattle has a ton of ninjas hiding in trees.

“Video Killed the Radio Star”

While not actually their song, The Presidents used to end their shows with their cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star”. The audience would go apeshit. This song was then used in the movie, “The Wedding Singer” and for the video they incorporated footage from the movie. It’s a classic video mistake, but the fact that this cover, which became a standard during their Seattle club shows, was now included in a major motion picture, made up for the music video faux pas.

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