Banning music is what Putin does to Pussy Riot. Is what the Taliban does to, well, music. It’s not something we do here. We keep on rockin’ in the free world. Until, that is, when the BBC has these sudden, blinding revelations that it knows what’s good for us.
This weekend, as it wades in on another of its ill advised incursions into aunty knows best territory, we’re witnessing the slow and painful death of yet another public figure. The BBC itself.
But here’s the thing. If you’ve bought Ding Dong The Witch is Dead, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Here’s why:
1) It’s facile
2) You’ve allowed a facebook meme to deputise for your political views.
3) If you really wanted to say something about the week’s events, you’d have chosen one of the songs in our top seven Anti-Thatcher list, or countless others, from UB40’s One in Ten, to Sinead O’Connor’s Black Boys on Mopeds.
4) It’s a shit song.
Yes, if we were in charge of Radio 1 we’d editorialise the Munchins so far off the playlist they’d be on a one way ticket to Kansas. We’re frankly sick of lazy, Facebook-orchestrated assaults on the charts standing in for direct action.
And we’re embarrassed that our country sees to comment on the career of one of the most socially divisive leaders of the 20th century with a scratchy also-ran musical song, and thus donate a nice fact cheque to the Sony Corporation which, no-doubt, will waive all royalties and donate them to a good cause in the UK. Because they’re socially minded like that.
Yes, it’s easy to hit ‘buy’ in iTunes. It’s harder to make a stand for real change. This is the soundtrack to our lives these days. This is Thatcher’s real legacy.
But come 7 o’clock this evening, all of this is irrelevant. Because the Top 40 countdown isn’t a parade of the most interesting and vital new songs (was it ever?). It’s not in Radio 1’s gift to alter it. It’s ours. It is the news, in music. It’s how the week sounded, shit songs and all. And in has to be played, in full, by presenter Jameela Jamil (pic). Perhaps with a bleep over of the occasional motherfucker.
Because, if you don’t, you’re tampering with the facts. You’re putting yourself inside the story, and you’re allowing emotions to sanitise the real world in all its insults, open graves, mourning families and ignorant social-media kids.
The BBC has a long and sorry history of silencing music. And, in every case, with a little distance, its decision has been shown to be, at best, ill judged, and at worst, hypocritical.
This is the Corporation that banned Relax because it flirted with consensual gay sex, while it still employed a predatory paedophile, who picked out schoolkids from its Top of the Pops audience.
This is the corporation that banned Eurovision winner, Boom Bang a Bang during the Gulf War (never mind that it was written twenty years previously) because it was deemed disrespectful to our troops (really?). The corporation that massaged the charts so that The Sex Pistols didn’t reach Number 1 with God Save The Queen during the Queen’s silver jubliee week. Meddling with music, every time ending up as out of step as your dad at a dubstep night.
Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper announced that the Corporation will play a clip as part of a news item about the “Wizard of Oz” track, in the chart rundown. “It is a compromise and it is a difficult compromise to come to,” Cooper said. “You have very difficult and emotional arguments on both sides of the fence. Let’s not forget you also have a family that is grieving for a loved one who is yet to be buried.”
“Emotional arguments?” since when did they hold sway over hard facts? What next? Emoji subtitles on the six o’clock news? Give us the truth, not a fudge, BBC, and we’ll take it from there, thanks.
Thatcher’s longtime friend Lord McAlpine was quoted by the Telegraph as being “absolutely astounded” that the BBC was “letting the charts be hijacked for political purposes…it’s another example of how out of control the BBC is.”
UPDATE: The single got to No2. Newsbeat explains ‘this song divides opinion. Radio 1 controller decided not to play it’ – with some Newsround-style voxpops. All rather pathetic.
Of course, music has the power to be distasteful. And one can envision plenty of examples where the BBC had a better argument for treading carefully. But this ain’t one. And here’s the nub of the issue – of course the BBC isn’t banning the song out of respect for one family’s loss. It’s banning it because of clumsy, corporate cowardice. It’s banning it because of Jimmy Saville and Rupert Murdoch, and a million other reasons. Not one of them to do with the death of a politician.
We are, as a nation, rubbish at death. We never know quite how to act around the recently bereaved.
But here are the facts – it doesn’t get any worse than death. Margaret Thatcher is getting buried this week. Her family is in mourning. They already know about the song, and of its trajectory up the charts. Playing all three minutes of it, or 10 seconds of it will make not one scrap of difference. When you’ve lost your mum, you don’t get sadder the longer a shit song is played.
No, the BBC is not playing the song because it’s terrified of tomorrow’s Daily Mail headlines.
It’s terrified of the Tories greedily eyeing up its Charter.
It’s terrified of its own mortality.
The irony, of course, is that, during her time in office, Thatcher and her cabinet regularly accused the BBC of left-wing bias. Norman Tebbit called the BBC ‘the stateless person’s broadcasting corporation’, others the ‘Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation.’ For her part, Thatcher was vehemently opposed to top down governance, of the ‘Nanny state’ doing what it thought of was best for the rest of us.
At 6:55 this evening, that’s exactly what’ll happen. Wouldn’t it be deliciously ironic if this heavy-handed incursion into the Top 40 is, in reality, the BBC’s final insult to Thatcher’s memory?
Sadly, the BBC’s not that smart. On this issue, even it it pressed the red button, it would be unable to see the bigger picture.
And the bigger picture is that Thatcher wouldn’t in the least be offended by Munchkin-gate. No amount of dead-eyed social media campaigns and wrong-footed bans would alter the fact: the iron lady’s not for turning in her grave.