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Music Blogs

10 of the best songs for Thatcher's funeral

  • By MisterCharlie Author Avatar
  • 16 April 2013

 

Blimey. Ding, Dong eh? What a lot of fuss. The last time SupaJam can remember a song being plucked from antiquity and thrust up the charts, powered by a rapscallion urge to cause offense and a heartfelt disgust at the status quo, was when Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name trumped whoever that X Factor sucker was (I genuinely can’t remember his name, and don’t want to waste my precious fingertips googling it. Joe someone?). Funnily enough, the BBC didn’t feel the need to only play a 5 second snippet of the RATM track, or ensconce it in a nervous ‘Newsbeat’ section, all despite it sharing a host of the given criteria with The Witch Is Dead. Both were more than a decade old, and both were unfamiliar to almost all of the Chart Show’s declared demographic. You could argue that Killing In The Name’s explicit political polemic and liberal use of the word ‘fuck’ gave it the edge in the controversy stakes, but it looks like the BBC sheepishly disagree. 

Anyway, rightly or wrongly, Dong, Dong, The Witch is Dead will forever be linked in the mind of the UK public with Thatcher’s passing. Maybe the Daily Mail should have got their shit together sooner to drive something like My Way up the charts, but as it was, Tories outraged at the besmirching of Thatch’s gleaming memory were left with two choices – either to buy, as suggested by Louise Mensch, I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher, or to back the chart favourite, Duke Dumont’s deep house single Need U. Both choices were pretty weird – someone forgot to mention to sarcasm blind Mensch that I’m In Love with Margaret Thatcher was (whoda thunk it??) a pisstake, whilst supporting Need U led to the surreal scenario of Home Counties pensioners panic buying a rave banger that features prominently in the current Ministry of Sound Addicted to Bass advert. Is that a first? I think we can consider that a first. Interestingly, when I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher charted in the low 30s, the BBC chose to play it in full, with no comment. Bias? Nahhh…

What both strange options show, is just how few musicians there are out there who went into the booth to sing the praises of the Iron Lady. When I decided to knock up a Ten of the Best for Thatcher’s funeral I hadn’t figured that whilst many, many people loved Thatch, none of them could bloody sing. I wanted to give 5 songs from people giving Thatch hell, and 5 tracks she loved, or tracks that loved her, but in all honesty it’s taken a bit of fudging. The pro side has ended up featuring 2 classics (and one of them is mental), 2 stinkers and one vaguely fascist hymn. Trust me, this is the best you’re gonna do with a woman who basically hated culture. Meanwhile, the con side could have been culled from a far wider musical palette, but personal taste has encouraged me to keep it largely in the realms of jobless punks who swear more than a tourettes docker stubbing his toe. If you’re not a fan of ‘the ‘C word’, it’s probably best to entries #2 and #4 in this list. Now, without further ado, pick your corner (as if you haven’t already) and FIGHT.   

 

How Much Is That Doggie In the Window

AKA, Thatcher’s favourite song of all time. It’s almost too easy to take the piss of, but there’s something about Thatch liking this whimsical monstrosity that I like. First off, there’s no way a modern politician would be allowed to say this was their #NumberOneJam. Imagine the shit-fit an image consultant would have if Ed Milliband fessed up that he loved Bob the Builder’s Can We Fix It. There’d be headlines, blog posts and questions in parliament. The House of Commons would bay CAN WE FIX IT every time he opened his quivering mouth and The Sun would hand deliver him a hard hat. Disaster. Liking How Much Is That Doggie links Thatcher to an age when politicians were allowed to have personalities rather than images, and they didn’t give a shit about whether Gangnam Style was any good, or knew what the fuck an Angry Birds was. Plus the song is the perfect Thatcherite ditty. It’s resolutely low brow, and it’s all about market forces: how much is that doggie?  HOW MUCH ?? It’s still a bloody horrible song though. 

The Exploited – Maggie

And steaming out of the traps on the Anti-Thatcher side of things, we’ve got this sweet natured ballad from The Exploited. In an alternate (possibly smellier) universe the campaign to get Ding Dong to number one would have focused on Maggie instead, and we’d be facing the very real possibility of the BBC having to work out exactly which 5 second snippet they’d play of a tune with the chorus ‘Maggie, Maggie you cunt. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Maggie you fucking cunt’ The art of songwriting, distilled. 

The Tornados - Telstar

Thatcher’s favourite pop song is a triumphant, stiff necked march to space glory. The first English ‘pop’ tune to top the charts in America, it’s hard not to describe it as bonkers, and I’d say it’s 3 and a half minutes of gallant derring-do gives as good an insight into The Iron Lady’s psyche as any amount of Meryl Streep fronted nonsense. Telstar was written by the genius Joe Meek, and if you don’t know about this wonderful English eccentric, you owe yourself the treat of watching one of the documentaries of his life. Here’s a condensed history: Builds mad keyboards. Records the voices of the dead. Speaks to aliens. Writes game changing pop. Can’t handle being gay. Blows head off.

 

Inner City Unit – Blue Rinse Haggard Robot

That title is priceless. It makes me nostalgic for an age I never lived through, an age when the first question a band needed to answer was ‘does this song offend someone?’  Keeping the subtlety content to a spartan minimum, noisy early 80s punks ICU shout ‘blue rinse haggard robot’ a lot, and pop this ace couplet in half way through – ‘little girls are pretty. Robot, you are not.(pause) You’re a cunt!’. Timeless swearing.

Gary Numan – Cars

Gary Numan was (and probably still is) an unapologetic Thatcherite, and I feel you have to respect his willingness to voice his deeply unpopular views in an 80s music scene dominated by left wing sloganeering that was often reductive, mindless posturing. This classic peon to automotive isolation is a perfect expression of a doctrine that treasured the individual above all. “Here in my car, I feel safest of all, I can lock all my doors, It's the only way to live” sings Gary, like an agrophobic Jenson Button.

Dead Kennedies  - Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round

One of the weirdest tracks the Kennedies ever wrote, Kinky Sex is an imaginary phone call between The American ‘Secretary for War’ and Thatcher, held over the thrashings of an indistinct hardcore track. As the American lays out his plans for economic policy (“The more people we kill in this war, the more the economy will prosper, We can get rid of practically everybody on your dole queue if we plan this right. Take every loafer on welfare right off our computer rolls…”), Thatcher quivers in orgasmic pleasure. As with a lot of DKs tracks, it’s funny, prescient, and terrifying, and probably ensured that lead singer Jello Biafra guaranteed himself an extremely thorough cavity search every time he subsequently tried to board an airplane in England and the States. 

The Thatcher Song

Yay! Finally I found a track specifically written in support of Mags. Bad news though, it’s flipping awful. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Thatcher, with her taste for How Much Is That Doggie and 2 Little Boys and Telstar might have found space in her heart for the horrible kiddie melody on this autotuned dance tribute to the Iron Lady. I’m not entirely sure what the songwriter’s message is, but I think it’s – broadly – that socialism is crap, and that Maggie is the nuts. Incisive. There’s absolutely no way this would have made any other list I was ever writing, but guess it pretty conclusively proves how hard it is to find a Thatcher supporting song. Life gives you lemons, make lemonade etc.

Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding

And in a break from all the shouting and guitar bludgeoning here comes Robert Wyatt with one of the most heartbreaking songs sung in the last 30 years. Shipbuilding, written by Elvis ‘tramp the dirt down’ Costello, is a lament to the horrible irony that saw jobs returning to decimated Northern shipyards, but the work being the building of ships to sail to war in the Falklands, taking the children of the communities building the ships off to die. Costello describes the song as having ‘the best lyrics he’d ever written’ and as protest music goes it’s up there with the best.

I Vow To Thee My Country

This has been chosen – by a pre death Thatch - as one of the hymns for her funeral. It’s already stirring up a bit of controversy, with lyrics that take patriotism and dial up the love of country business right the way up to goose step. Back in 2004, the Bishop of Hulme tried to get the song banned from church service, calling it ‘heretical’ and questioning whether the lyrics “I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above, Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love: The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best; The love that never falters, the love that pays the price, The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice,” might be a teensy bit Hitler-y. Still, what does he know? I for one am totally willing to lay my life down, and the lives of all my nearest and dearest, the minute whoevers in charge tells me to. Those guys never get it wrong.  

 

Crass - How Does it Feel to be the Mother of a Thousand Dead

Crass and Thatcher had a whole mutual hatred thing going on. Never ones for the soft option, the anarchist goodtimers of Crass penned the raging polemic How Does it Feel along with Sheep Farming in the Falklands in the wake of the Falklands War. The lyric “You accuse us of disrespect for the dead,
But it was you who slaughtered out of national pride,” will have particular resonance with those determined to criticise Thatcher this week. In later years the band spliced together recordings of Thatcher and Reagan to make them apparently discuss using Europe as a nuclear target in the event of war, then leaked the tapes to the English media who bought the fake hook, line and sinker, leading to the KGB trying to enlist Crass, and the CIA stalking them. It all seems such a far cry from whatever the Lumineers did this week…


So there we are. Thatcher in song. Give it two weeks and the whole kerfuffle will seem like a bizarre cheese dream. See you again in 30 years when Blair snuffs it.

 

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