mon 15/07/2024

Thatcher: The Sound and the Fury | reviews, news & interviews

Thatcher: The Sound and the Fury

Thatcher: The Sound and the Fury

We pick five songs which define the era of Thatcherism

Loadsa Money: Harry Enfield's scratchy rap spoof

The political legacy of Margaret Thatcher is being sifted and analysed all over the world. But what of the music she left behind? The first and only female Prime Minister had barely a cultural bone in her body, but on her watch a young generation of musicians had something to kick against or, in one or two cases, a set of values to emulate. The music writers of theartsdesk have identified some of the songs which define the age of Thatcher.

Duran Duran: “Rio” (1982)

By opening up the closed shop of City trading, Mrs Thatcher created a new subculture. The Pet Shop Boys’ “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” starkly caught the flavour of the deregulated City and the post-Big Bang fervour. A pop hit in 1986, it was also satire. But Duran Duran were the analogue for the shiny and empty aspirations of the over-moneyed City boys in their branded suits and hunger for now-affordable baubles. The promo of “Rio”, from pre-Big Bang 1982, could have become their holiday video. LeBon and co revel in the sun in front of objectified women, beflecked with foam that could be the spume of the sea or the froth of champagne. Or the spittle of a frantic, coke-fuelled City trader. Kieron Tyler

The Blow Monkeys: "It Doesn't Have To Be This Way" (1987)

It is an indication of the effect Margaret Thatcher had on the Eighties pop scene that even a shiny band like The Blow Monkeys was driven in a political direction by her scorched-earth policies. Their 1986 breakthrough single "Digging Your Scene" referenced the miners' strike and their 1987 album, She Was Only A Grocer's Daughter, picked up the political baton and hurled it in the direction of the Tory government. I should imagine that a lot of fortysomethings have been dusting off their copies of the single "(Celebrate) The Day After You", which imagined the demise of Maggie and featured guest vocals from Curtis Mayfield.

By a funny coincidence I was thinking about lead singer Robert "Dr Robert" Howard for the first time in ages at the weekend when Kym Mazelle, who sang on his solo house hit "Wait", attempted to revive her career on The Voice. And by another eerie coincidence there's a new Blow Monkeys album out later this month. This video for "It Doesn't Have To Be This Way" is the band at their swoony, shimmering best, making the personal political and mixing lip-gloss soul, anti-consumerism and riot police. Lovely hair too. Bruce Dessau

Harry Enfield: "Loadsa Money (Doin’ Up the House)" (1988)

Harry Enfield’s finger was never very near the political pulse, but it got close with the single of the stand-up act featuring his Cockney plasterer flashing stacks of cash in the mugs of those less wedged up: “I wave my wad at the geezers in the gutter” was Loadsamoney's charming worldview. He was a product of the zeitgeist, a commentary on a generation of council-house first-time buyers which kept helping return the Tories to power. Enfield's scratchy rap spoof, also featuring Paul Whitehouse and various other Enfield characters, tipped its hat musically to the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Abba’s “Money Money Money”, and politically to Norman Tebbit’s injunction to the unemployed to get "on your bike”. To split hairs, this was really the unedifying soundtrack to the Lawson boom (that's Nigella's dad for younger readers) Jasper Rees

D-Mob: "We Call it Acieed" (1988)

The acid house / rave movement was the insane climax of the Thatcher era: in equal measures a product of and rebellion against what she stood for. It was fuelled by unmistakeably Thatcherite go-getter entrepreneurialism, and its hedonism could certainly be seen as individualistic – yet, for a brief glorious few years, it also gave a voice, power and untold joy to everyone her government had marginalised: ethnic minorities, gay people, the children of the ravaged industrial north, and those ultimate folk devils, druggies and football hooligans. Look at the sheer manic joy of this video, the utterly bizarre blend of gorblimey Eighties flash with fuck-it-all-let's-go-and-dance-in-a-cave hippie psychedelic delirium: it was a mad subculture for mad times. Joe Muggs

Pete Wylie: "The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies" (2010)

This has been kicking around on YouTube since 2010, when it was seemingly destined to be part of a new Wylie album. The latter never materialised - no great surprise, since the former Wah! supremo's career has been a series of incandescent moments like "The Story of the Blues" or "Sinful" interspersed with a litany of disasters and false starts - but the track itself is a speaker-rupturing blast of garage band vitriol, a bare-faced mash-up of "Wild Thing" and "Get Off My Cloud". Loathing drips from every semiquaver - "She tortured north of Watford with her vicious hate / So when Margaret Thatcher dies let's celebrate". For a B side, how about "If Ed Miliband Died Would It Even Get On The News?" Adam Sweeting

The acid house / rave movement was fuelled by unmistakeably Thatcherite go-getter entrepreneurialism

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"The first and only female Prime Minister had barely a cultural bone in her body." BS. She played the piano, enjoyed poetry, went to the opera regularly and loved the music of Bela Bartok so much that she drove to Southampton to honour the ship carrying Bartok's remains from the US to Hungary. "I have always been whenever Sir George Solti has been doing Bartok." Her most important contribution to the arts, however, was philosophical. Her understanding that state monopolies and subsidies suffocate artistic creativity led to the creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation - which gave Damien Hirst his first show, Freeze - and the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation, which ultimately paved the way for The Baltic and Sage and the regeneration of Newcastle.

Oh bog off - good riddance to her

Thankyou, Igor for skewering the idea that she somehow lived completely outside of culture, which seems to have become doctrine - and looks very suspiciously like an attempt to dehumanise the woman... ironically just as she dehumanised her opponents! But in resisting the idea, you've swung way too far in the other direction. What you describe is classic "I don't know much about X but I know what I like" - a stultifyingly functional view of culture, and one which informed everything she did. Culture to her needed to be kept in its place, and its place was "the culture industry" - the idea that there could ever be art-for-art's-sake was HORRIFYING to almost all in the Thatcher government. I think Stewart Lee nails her failings in this department:  "the prime minister attached no intrinsic language to knowledge of another culture or its past or its language"

Disagree. She attached great value and achieved great success in understanding the culture of the working classes. In understanding that most of the working classes wanted to stop being working class. Which is why she won three elections.

Disagree. She killed off thousands of your 'working class', one way or another. The bad does so very far outweigh the good, even if I don't deny there was some of that. I still want to know what she heard in Bartok, though...that IS intriguing.

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