14 April 2013

Anticipating the funeral of Margaret Hilda Thatcher

Noting the impending funeral on Wednesday of a former leader who divided Britain and the entertaining tomfoolery of the BBC controller attempting to suppress the appearance of 'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead' in the top 3 of the UK top 40 this weekend, it's worth noting that there are more trenchant critiques of Margaret Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister than the Oz-themed jollity currently bounding up the charts. The other oft-cited anti-tribute, and one whose lyrics contain a much more direct and forthright reaction to Thatcher's death is that of Elvis Costello. His 'Tramp The Dirt Down' from the 1989 album Spike is as biting and visceral a eulogy as any leader could hope for. It has apparently reached no.79 in the iTunes charts this week, so perhaps 'Tramp The Dirt Down' will turn up in the official UK charts and be banned too?

“I also think you have to remember that it’s not only her that the song is aimed at. It’s what she represents. The way she’s changed the way people value things. It’s like some kind of mass hypnosis she’s achieved. People are afraid to speak out. You know, one thing I thought I’d be asked when people heard it was whether I was saying it might’ve been a good thing if she’d died in the Brighton bombings. I don’t think so. It would have made things 10 times worse, because then she would have been a martyr. We would have had a dead queen. So really, in a profound sense, the song is hopeless. It’s a hopeless argument. Because I think it’s a hopeless situation. So, no, it’s not in a large, historical sense, going to change anything.
“But I think it does have maybe an individual effect. There’s always a chance it’ll sneak through somehow. Like, I sang it at a folk festival in the Shetlands, at one place that was very brightly lit and I could see the audience quite clearly. And all the way through, there was one guy nodding away, applauding every line obviously getting into it. And on the other side, there was another guy being physically restrained from getting up on the stage and hitting me. He just fused, he really went. You could see it in his face. And I thought, ‘Well, I’ve really got a winner now.’ To the extent, you know, that it had succeeded in being at least provocative.” 
- Elvis Costello talking to Allan Jones when 'Spike' was released, Uncut, 9 April 2013

Here's Costello performing it live in 1989 (intro NSFW-L):

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