Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jam tomorrow

Some nice work in today's Guardian, where John Harris asks leftist popstars how they feel about the endorsements they're getting from Cameron and chums:

When I put in a call to Paul Weller, he mentions Cameron's alleged fondness for his old songs, and expresses a fatalistic puzzlement. "It's like, which bit didn't he get?" he says. "It's strange, but the whole nature of politics has shifted, hasn't it? The stark contrasts of Thatcherism and socialism have gone: you can't really tell who's Brown or Cameron or anyone else. I don't know what Cameron's for or against, really. Even with that div who's running for mayor - Boris Johnson - there's some things he's said that I've found myself agreeing with, like bringing back the Routemaster buses. You sort of think, 'Hang on - I'm agreeing with a Tory twat.'"

When I mention his residual feelings about the long years of Thatcherism, however, out it all comes. "I think they were absolute fucking scum - especially Thatcher, who I think should be shot as a traitor to the people. I still think that, and nothing will ever change my opinion. We're still feeling the effects of what they did to the country now, and probably always will: the whole breakdown of communities, trade unions, the working class - the dismantling of lots of things."

It's hard to see how anyone who believes what Cameron believes could really have enjoyed the Jam - especially since, back at that end of his career, Cameron would have still been in The Bullingdon Club, still Thatcher supporting. It's hard to shake the suspicion that liking The Smiths and The Jam has been arrived at by back-projecting 'what would the man I'm meant to be now have been listening to then?'.

Otherwise, we have to believe one of three things - one, that Cameron enjoyed the music, but ignored the politics. But take the politics out of The Jam, and there wasn't a lot left.

Two, that Cameron enjoyed the music and approached the lyrics as a dialectical, maintaining some sort of dialogue as he pogoed: "Ah, when Paul Weller sings of thugs having attended "'too many' right-wing meetings", he is falling into the trap of portraying agression as being rightest, whereas, of course, with his money and take-away curry and a bottle of wine, the protagonist is, in fact, truly the right-winger in the tale, enjoying the economic benefits of twelve months of Tory rule, turning round the economy after the stagflation of the wasted Callaghan and Wilson years." But this seems unlikely.

Third, that Cameron was just too stupid to understand what the songs were about. This isn't impossible - indeed, it turns out to be true of one his colleagues, as Harris discovers:
On this score, my favourite story concerns the Cameroonian Tory MP Ed Vaizey, who recently appeared on Michael Portillo's BBC4 Thatcher documentary, The Lady's not for Spurning, talking about the Birmingham-based 80s band the Beat, whom he claims to have "adored", despite being an "ardent Thatcherite". "They had a song called Stand Down Margaret," he marvelled, before telling Portillo he assumed that everyone in Britain admired Mrs Thatcher in much the same awestruck terms as he did, so when it came to the song's target, the penny never really dropped. "I couldn't work out what they had against Princess Margaret," he said. D'oh!

In a recent Guardian webchat, Cameron was asked how he felt about Morrissey's Margaret On The Guillotine. His response?
"The lyrics - even the ones I disagree with - are great, and often amusing."

Now, it is possible to enjoy a song with whose politics you diverge - Robert Wyatt doing Stalin Wasn't Stalling is a great piece of music, even though is somehow manages to ignore the actually-quite-stalling Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. But could an ardent Tory really listen to a song suggesting that right-thinking people would enjoy the execution of one of your party's touchstone leaders and think "well, that's a well-written tune. The calling for what would amount to a regicide is very amusingly phrased"?

Surely only if you didn't believe in anything very passionately could you make such a claim?


1 comment:

M.C. Glammer said...

OTOH, many left-leaning youngsters still bought David Bowie albums after his Nazi salute.

I can understand the Tories' problem, though. Apart from DB's coke-addled dalliance, there's not much else for right wingers to listen to in pop music, not with being right-on and lefty de rigeur for aspiring and rebellious multi-millionaires. Perhaps Tory listeners actually see the real truth behind the image.

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