Monday, February 14, 2005

margaret thatcher & kenny ball

A friend of mine does a radio show in Manchester, and when I was round at hers the other week she was putting together her two-hour special for Thatcher's death.

This is a really smart move. We know she's likely to go in the next five years or so, and the immediate aftermath is likely to distract someone from doing a thorough job of making a celebratory radio show.

Also, there's inevitably going to be a great deal of 'the great leader' bollocks in the media. Making a show now avoids any tempering such twaddle may otherwise cause.

I know some people will point out that she no longer wields power and that those who've followed her are the problem now. This is factually correct, but misses the point. Her actions have had the entirely predictable consequences of huge numbers of people dying. I'm not just talking about the Falklands, I'm talking about things like the assault on the health service. I'm talking about the privatisation of the railways, selling them off to her mates for a pittance and resulting in the underinvestment that caused the spate of train crashes. She is as wilful a mass killer as her friend Pinochet.

To have a respectful tone when these people die is to say that what they did didn't matter so much. It says to all those who don't remember those times that these people weren't the vicious killers we know them to be.

Any respect given to Thatcher is respect taken from those whose livelihoods, dignity and very lives were taken by her.

So I'm really glad my friend is preparing properly. She was gathering Thatcher songs. She already had most of the ones I know - Elvis Costello's Tramp The Dirt Down, Morrissey's Margaret On The Guillotine, Stand Down Margaret by The Beat (that's The English Beat to you if you're in North America), Dong Dong The Witch Is Dead from The Wizard of Oz - along with a whole load of ones I've never heard of before including Oi Polloi's instantly memorable Fuck Everybody Who Voted Tory.

Class War have, with their characteristically brazen avoidance of any subtlety, already started distributing stickers and posters calling for a post-Thatcher party. Meet in Trafalgar Square 6pm on the Saturday after she croaks, bring fireworks and beer.

Where is Thatcher going to be buried? You know the family are pompous enough to want a burial rather than cremation so there's a proper grave for everyone to see. But they're gonna have to do summat like that Diana thing of an island in the middle of a lake on a vast high security estate. Otherwise it will swiftly become the world's biggest urinal.

Anyway, I recorded one of the little vox-pop anti-Thatcher rants that are going to pepper the radio show, on the musical front I was able to add Marty Willson-Piper's Evil Queen of England, and I've just run her off a CDR with some Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen too.

Kenny Ball hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, ever made an anti-Thatcher track. But he is undoubtedly the man for a post-Thatcher show.

When Diana died I was going to avoid coverage until I heard Elton John was playing the funeral. I just had to see that one. The question was, what to do with the two minute silence. The solution was to open the windows into the street and play Caterina by Kenny Ball fucking loud.

Kenny Ball surfaced in the late 50s/early 60s British trad jazz boom. Trad jazz is the most absurdly and forcibly cheery music yet conceived by humanity. In its original New Orleans form it has a freshness, a crackling momentum and a thick seam of soul that root it in something deeper in the human heart.

It takes a white guy from Essex - superbly able as a musician and genuinely enthusiastic, but ultimately coming from British music hall and vaudeville rather than Deep South cotton fields - to release trad into the arena it was always striving for: ragingly, contagiously energetic and laughably cheesy in equal measure. That guy is Kenny Ball.

The fact that he looks a bit like Stalin and has a really peculiar bottom-lip tash only adds to his merit.

Playing British trad at solemn occasions is way more disrespectful than expressing any anger because it declares a comedic dismissal that refuses to meet the solemnity on its terms.

Oh the joy of the internet. A quick bit of googling and it turns out Kenny Ball is still going. Maybe we could hire him for the Trafalgar Square bash.


transblue said...

We played the soundtrack to Evita during Diana's funeral, it was surprisingly apt. I truly hope that we don't have to suffer lots of media bollocks when Thatcher finally pops her clogs (although I'm sure we will), personally I plan to dance in the street singing "ding dong the witch is dead".

Jim Bliss said...

Don't forget Christy Moore's spoken word bit, "Goose Green". It's the first track on that compilation seedee I gave you.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog!

scarletharlot69 said...

I have my suspicions that she is Satan's current Vicar on Earth.

I was listening to Alestair Cookie's letter from Amerika once, and he did a slot on the newspaper morgue, viz, a good media outlet will have a mortury, of ready written obituries of the great, the good and the truly evil.

Viz, when a famous person transcends, the reading/listening/viewing public would be outraged if they had to wait till the following day for an obitury of someone dead famous such as Thatch, so draft obituries and so on are kept at the ready....

Any honest and unbiased assesment of her reign will be that it was an almost unmittigated disaster. Of course some right wing boneheads will try and tell us differently. Alas some latter day ragged trousered philanthropists may well think otherwise.

love and rage

Bluebell E.

Jim Bliss said...

In my view, the really sickening thing when Thatcher snuffs it, won't be the right-wing hagiographies that appear; it'll be the way Blair and other so-called "left of centre" politicians will be almost reverential. "Of course we didn't see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but we can all agree in retrospect that Thatcher did wonders to move Britain forwards into the 21st century..."

It'll make any sane person puke. We should be able to count on Ken Livingstone, at least, to tell it like it is (I have a big rant brewing in defence of Ken's latest ill-judged remark, and exactly why he's right not to apologise).

Personally I intend to spend a couple of days in Ireland when Thatcher dies. There'll be plenty of celebration, but none of the reverential bullshit. We all hated her.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Thatcher's dad's shop in Grantham was also a post office ? Ironic that.

Merrick has inspired me to track down the Trad Jazz classic film, It's Trad Dad on ebay.

I shall watch it the day she finally kicks da bucket.

cubesville said...

I reckon the song, "Fanny" from Kenny Ball's "Fleet Street Lightening" LP is a good contender. Recorded in 1970, right at the height of his career.

Otherwise, one of his excellent arrangements of "Someday (You'll be Sorry) would fit very well with the occasion.

Anything that facilitates joyous, frantic dancing on dead former prime ministers' graves really.

merrick said...

Ah Cubesville, that's certainly a choice from a connoisseur.

I'm a little dumbfounded at how you can pick any point as the height of his relentless career, though. Surely it's one long high.

On a personal note, good to hear from you, and I've added you to the blogroll in the sidebar.

Yer ma, etc.

Anonymous said...

for a petition to find the truth of thatchers role in the Saudi/BAE deal add your name to,