SONGS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE WORLD SICK. A couple of weeks ago I asked for contributions to a list of the world's worst political song lyrics. The response, to quote Meatloaf, took the words right outta my mouth. Here, then, are the first batch of nominees - mostly my own, to start with - for the George Michael Activism in Music Prize:
Imagine, by John Lennon. This toxic truckload of sentimental slumming set the standard by which all idiot lyrics must be judged:
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
Imagine no possessions? Yoko just woke up in a cold sweat. As for "sharing the world", well, this song was recorded at an isolated mansion in the English countryside. His old friend Paul will tell you how keen John was on "brotherhood", too.
Eighties Brit band Simply Red, led by carrot-top Mick Hucknall, assumed to speak for busted-ass ol' black folks suffering under the Reagan jackboot in their 1985 hit, Money’s Too Tight (To Mention):
I been laid off from work, my rent is due
My kids all need brand new shoes
So I went to the bank to see what they could do
They said, "Son, looks like bad luck got a hold on you."
We're talking 'bout Reaganomics
Oh Lord, down in the Congress
They're passing all kinds of bills
From up there on Capitol Hill, we've tried it
Oh, Lordy! Dey been passin' dem bills agin. You know, when someone needs a bank loan to cover the cost of shoes, they probably aren't really qualified to talk 'bout Reaganomics or any other kind of 'nomics.
Australia's Midnight Oil have produced a slew of songs that since the '70s have hung above successive generations like a pall of death. They are nominated twice, first for Beds Are Burning:
The time has come
To say fair's fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact's a fact
It belongs to them
Let's give it back
You give your land back first, guys. We'll watch and see how it works out. The Oils are also nominated for The Dead Heart:
Mining companies, pastoral companies
Got more right than people
Got more say than people
Notice they don't mention record companies. Billy Bragg – or, to spell it as he'd pronounce it, Biwwy Bwagg – corrupted dozens of impressionable commie kids with his Red Wedge faux working class "songs". He is nominated for There Is A Power In A Union:
The Union forever defending our rights
Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters from many far-off lands
There is power in a Union
Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws cannot defeat us
But who'll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?
Who'll defend the workers from the unions, Biwwy? I love the line about "brothers and sisters in many far-off lands", as though unions care about anyone outside of their membership (and often not even those). Unions – fearful that they'd lose jobs to immigrant labor – were the force behind Australia's shameful White Australia policies. We see the echo of those policies in today's anti-globalisation protests.
From reader Steve A. comes a motherlode of powerful nominations, including North Sea Bubble, another song by Mr. Bwagg,:
My American friends don't know what to do
But they'll wait a long time for a Beverley Hills coup
War! What is it good for?
It's good for business.
It certainly is, if your business is writing songs about it. The catchily-titled We Support All Forms of Resistance Against This Racist System (Part II) by Chumbawumba is also a Steve A. call, as are the four following:
'Freedom of speech' – it's a worthless cause
As long as freedom is defined by laws
How else are you going to define it, you Dumbawumbas? By molluscs, or pillows, or photocopiers? From Intravenous Agnostic, by the Manic Street Preachers, come these punishing lines:
Brutality is needed in capitalist society
Television abandoned my very entity
Nature failed me
But then it made me
We all pray for pluralist babies
"Pluralist babies" – sounds like the crew over at IndyMedia. Public Enemy's Kevorkian raises the vital issue of cheese appropriation:
Start a war on the poor, gettin' mad donations
Takin' cheese out of poor nations
Got Haitians still on sugar plantations
Wiped 'em out, called it exotic vacations
As you dig it they set up regulations
Turn the rest of the world into cancer patients
Why haven't Pilger or Chomsky investigated this imperialist cheese theft? It's disgraceful. So is Tony Blair, according to Cyderdelic's Smash Up the Government:
Tory Tony Blair
He's worse than Hitler
There goes Thatcher
Quick catch her!
Lucky her name wasn't Thucker. Heaven 17 struggled not for rhyme but for reason in their '80s hit, (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang:
Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan's president elect
Fascist god in motion
Maybe the ICC should be ratified. Then they could drag Sting before it to answer for his infantile nomination, Russians:
How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer's deadly toy?
There is no monopoly on common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
I hope the 12-year-old girl he stole these lines from was justly compensated. Sting thinks communism and freedom are morally equal, which tells you a lot. And his mastery of the physical sciences – almost as great as his mastery of verse; this song rhymes "precedent" with "president" – entitles him to dismiss nuclear technology as a "toy".
Rage Against the Machine provide an apt soundtrack to anti-globo protests. Their lyrics match the protesters for incoherence, illogic, and self-importance. They are nominated for Take The Power Back:
Bam! Here's the plan
Motherfuck Uncle Sam
Step back, I know who I am
Raise up your ear, I'll drop the style and clear
It's the beats and the lyrics they fear
The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
You are the witness of change
And to counteract
We gotta take the power back
It's the beats and the lyrics that we fear? Sure, motherfucker. We're really scared. Now get back in the studio before Sony rips up your contract.
Reader Phil can't recall the title of the song he nominates, or the tune, or most of the words, but says the one line he remembers is "the most grating bit of naive, hippy-dippy bullshit in the whole steaming pile." To discover Phil's startling selection, and lots more besides, be here tomorrow for the next atonal instalment of Songs That Make The Whole World Sick.