Tea & Fascists
I remember once going absolutely ape at my Mum & Dad after I saw a British National Party leaflet on their coffee table. Two less likely fascists were you ever likely to meet. But the man at the door was such a nice man and he seemed to be saying some of the things they thought. I pointed out to them that they had fought a World War against people like the ‘nice man’. I can remember numerous occasions when they would both mockingly liken someone on the telly or radio to Lord Haw Haw for whom they had total contempt, so I had full confidence that me and my four brothers and four sisters had not been born into a far right household.
Mum & Dad worked tirelessly for us, and for the grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren with which they were blessed. For many years Dad supplemented his Civil Service pay by working as a bar tender at the Regal pub in Cleveleys, which I recall at the time was anything but regal. Mum used to stand up for four hours a day cooking (mainly egg and chips), with the youngest children arriving in from school around 3:30pm and my brother Joe numbly arriving back on his Honda moped from the farm where he worked near St. Michaels on the Wyre sometime before 8pm. When she wasn’t doing that she was cleaning, shopping, or going to church. The only time our parents ever really saw each other was to count his tips when he returned home from the Regal.
At the time there were still only four channels on their TV and their daily rag of choice was the Daily Mail (or Daily Fascist as it is known around here). Neither of those things were especially unusual for my parent’s generation back in the 1970s. Like many couples their focus was on the work that was needed to feed and clothe their children, and while they never had much money they excelled at catering for our growing needs. I grew up on a music diet of the Beatles and the Stones, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, the Grateful Dead and others – all contributions from my older siblings (of which there are six). My Mum liked the Beatles but then she tended to listen more to the radio during the day, while my Dad was more traditional and liked his military bands.
These two were anything but fascists. They were a politically liberal couple who mainly spawned hippies! They were good people who worked their socks off for us, which meant they actually had precious little time to get involved in community groups (outside the church) and were not inclined towards political activism. Just like so many people today, they didn’t have much time to delve far below the headlines, and a newspaper was as much a diversion from the drudgery of life as it was there to inform. My Dad used to hide behind the Daily Mail broadsheet. It was probably his way of avoiding child contact after a long day’s work. It was also our method of hiding when something rude appeared on the telly. We would sit behind an opened out Daily Fascist and silently laugh ourselves silly.
Then in the early 1970s they introduced the tabloid newspaper. My Dad was horrified, even though it was much easier on the arms. Tabloids also provide greater impact for the main story of the day, because there isn’t the physical space for much else – maybe just a painted celebrity or two. I believe that the advent of the tabloids gave them a much more obvious political stance, and thus the Mail seemed quickly to swing even more to the right. Then the Sun came along and the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express went tabloid, and the Star appeared, mainly to compete with the Sun for the nicest looking pair of breasts on page 3. Of course, most men only bought papers like that for the sports section. Like hell.
Fast forward to today and we still have those vile rags in our shops, but the internet provides the younger generations with most of their news, either via the news sites themselves or across the myriad social media. Bad news always used to travel fast, but there was more time to assimilate and understand its core points. These days it is easy for people, for anyone, to manipulate the news. Anyone can post an outrageous statement on social media and it can go viral within a very short time, even if it is fundamentally wrong, immoral, abusive, disrespectful, or something much worse. I don’t think Mum & Dad could have coped with social media.
All that preamble was a long way of saying that increasingly, people do not actually read the news. This is dangerous for a number of reasons: it means they can’t possibly formulate an accurate opinion; it means they are easier to manipulate; it means that bullying and intimidation are much easier to achieve; and it means they are more likely to vote for political parties who are able to convey a populist agenda. Most of these people are no more fascists or Commies than my Mum & Dad were, but there is always a danger that the extreme groups will gain a foothold simply because the people they target don’t read deeply enough, and rarely ask questions.
It’s the same with song lyrics, so listen to them! We musicians and artists spend our lives creating and making statements about things that are important to our own lives and to society in general. We don’t know everything and we are just as likely as anyone else to be sucked into lazy ways. But do us all a favour and spend five minutes listening to the message of one entire song – mine or anyone else’s – and then formulate your own opinions about it away from media influence. Or there is a genuine danger that one day you may invite a nice man into your house for a cup of tea.
I am currently recording songs for next year’s double album of protest songs The Breeding Ground of Vile. There is a lot to protest about, and I suspect the next year or more will provide a high volume of new material for songwriters. I have about 40 songs to record and select from. There will be other output before then, and there will be live gigs so keep your eyes and ears open over the summer. Meanwhile you can listen to me at: