Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cliff Richard never sunk so low

I don't have anything to useful to add to the BBC's ridiculous publicity stunt of bowdlerising, then reinstating of the Fairytale of New York – if you're interested there are sensible comments on the Political Umpire's blog – bar to draw your attention towards Peter Tatchell's comments.

What concerns me is not so much the use of the word "faggot" as the hypocritical condemnations of Radio 1's original decision to bleep it out. They wouldn't endorse the use of the words "nigger", "paki", "yid" or "spastic". For the sake of consistency, either the f-word should be disallowed too or these other bigoted words should also be permitted. It's the inconsistency that grates.

Whatever else he may be, Tatchell is not a Pogues fan or else he would surely be aware that 'yids' and 'Paks' appear in the Sickbed of Cuchulainn.

However, at this time of goodwill to all it would be clearly wrong to focus on one artist's ability to offend when a quick trawl through YouTube reveals a wealth of songs which allude to frankly sickening attitudes about sex, race, power and class. The fact that this includes some of my favourite songs indicates more clearly than anything I might say that I am clearly a very bad person.

In that spirit, I offer you a choice of six supreme examples of musical and moral turpitude. (Feel free to suggest your own things we shouldn't be listening to in the comments box).

1. Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones.
A song about white slave owners having sex with their black slaves on the plantations. And they make it sound like such fun. The BBC clip linked to here clearly endorses such disgraceful attitudes and could quite easily have let to an epidemic of young plantation owners exploiting their labourers.

2. Kill the Poor by the Dead Kennedys.
Because if a song articulates offensive attitudes, it clearly endorses them. I think it a sad indictment of the Reagan era that punk musicians should have thought it acceptable to advocate the mass murder of people on low incomes, but what did you expect from a band with a name which makes such a tasteless attempt to exploit poor Ted Kennedy's narrow deliverance from a road traffic accident which could have happened to anyone. (Thanks to Quink for suggesting this).

3. Lady by Fela Kuti.
A political activist and scourge of colonialism, corruption and sectarianism he may have been, but Fela,'s attitude here is "women, learn your place and do what men tell you". His later polygamy and dying of Aids may not be entirely coincidental.

4. Handsome Devil by the Smiths.
Mozza's recent Daily Mail-esque comments about immigration upset the perpetual students who inhabit the music press. Twenty years ago the tabloids were getting worked up about his witty references to gay teacher-pupil sex ("a boy in the bush is worth two in the hand/ I think I can help you get through your exams".) I suspect it would have caused more trouble had he produced that gem today (and what a pity he no longer produces such lines).

5. Lemon Incest by Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
You didn't think I'd do a list of this sort without mentioning Serge, did you? It is as well for you that my iron self discipline means I've restricted myself to just the one. His best-known song was banned in several countries. His finest work includes concept albums about deflowering teenage girls, murdering teenage girls with whom one is sexually obsessed, anal sex and the last days of Hitler (the buggery and Nazism are two different albums, by the way. A single long player about butt sex and the fall of Berlin would really be something to treasure). But this duet and video performed with his 13-year-old daughter set the bar pretty high if you are the sort of person to get worked about people exploring the more questionable recesses of the human soul. It is possible Serge was trying to provoke a reaction from that type of person.

6. They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore by Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys.
"And them Niggers, Jews and Sigma Nus all they ever do is breed. And Wops, and Micks, and Slopes and Spics and Spooks are on my list." It's just as well Radio One doesn't play much country music or this record would be beeping like an Italian motorist stuck in traffic on his way to the brothel. This is to say nothing of the potential for religious offence. If there's one thing I can't abide it's an ethnocentric racist.

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Blogger Glamourpuss said...

There's some pretty dodgy lyrics in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's back catalogue...


10:52 am  
Blogger Quink said...

I still think "Come all over your fucking face" by the Spermbirds would a good addition, but that's the perpetual teenager in me. Well, not actually in me, but you know what I mean...

4:52 pm  
Blogger dominic said...

Rod Stewart's "Almost Illegal", the final track on his classy 1988 album (I jest) "Out of Order".

"She's fabulous
so sensuous
so marvelous
she's mii--i-i-ine

I'm delirious
It's serious
Kind of dangerous
Almost illegal"

Not helped by the statement on the album sleeve immediately below the name of the track that "Rod Stewart supports the work of the NSPCC" or something to that effect.

Like the Smiths lyric you quote, I don't think it'd be permitted nowadays.

None the less, I love Rod. (He also has a song - even a minor hit single, "Lost In You" - on the same album that goes "I'm coming home to you. Get ready cos when I do/ I'm gonna make love to you/ (shouts) LIKE FIFTEEN MEN!")

He means it man, just like Luther Vandross did.

12:56 am  
Blogger bill said...

Almost illegal is "naughty" rather than "offensive": a la girls in the early 20s dressing in naughty schoolgirl outfits (or indeed Jane Birkin pretending to me a 15-year-old girl from Sunderland).

I think Rod would manage to get away with it today. I'm not sure Van Morrison would have got away with Cypress Avenue.

12:30 pm  
Blogger dominic said...

Well, you and I make that distinction. But do the headline writers at the Daily Mail? (or the subs at papers that aspire to be the Daily Mail)

3:31 pm  
Blogger bill said...

Do the headline writers at the Mail know the difference between something being against the law and something being permitted under the laws? I think they do, you know.

I'm not sure what take the Mail has on the new St Trinians and its catering to the aforementioned naughty girl fetishists. I have a feeling that the Guardian takes a dimmer view of that sort of thing. (A different brand of joyless puritanism, but tis joyless puritanism none the less.)

5:34 pm  

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