And didn't Paul Weller send his son to Eton?*

Posted by September Blue Sunday, 27 April 2008

There was a good Guardian article about a month ago on the strange and curious phenomenon that is David Cameron's taste in music. Or rather, David Cameron's alleged taste in music, because I can see why national newspapers might not want to get into a "did not, you liar!" slanging match with politicians over something like this, but I know I'm not the only person in the country who finds it a little bit difficult to believe that the leader of the Conservative party spent his teenage Tory years listening to the Jam, the Clash and the Smiths.

Anyway, it's a neatly-written article with some great turns of phrase - "the modern frenzy of political cross-dressing," "the Bono school of messianic non-politics," and Paul Weller referring to Boris Johnson as "that div who's running for mayor" - although I wish John Harris hadn't swatted the Morrissey issue that soon. "When it comes to Cameron's supposedly beloved Smiths," he says, "younger readers might want to factor out Morrissey's recent strange views about immigration and his all-round post-Smiths embrace of a crabby kind of small-C conservatism, and think instead about the themes [...] that implicitly put the Smiths at 90 degrees to their time." And you think, well, all right, but we Younger Readers don't have an image of the Morrissey of twenty years ago shining bright enough to blot that out, do we?

Not that I disagree, entirely. It's easy enough to see why the Smiths deserved their reputation in the 80s. But it's a little trickier to work out why we're meant to keep on claiming a man as a hero of the left after he wrapped himself in a Union Jack onstage at Finsbury Park, used the word 'flooded' in reference to immigration, and claimed that England had been 'thrown away' as a result. And if you weren't there for the 80s - or if you were there, but you didn't get out of single digits until the end of the decade - it's difficult to appreciate just how he could have mattered enough to make whatever he says now irrelevant, let alone mattered enough to have legions of not-yet-disaffected-enough fans leaping to support him in the latest war with NME, shouting "Out of context!" and "He wouldn't have said that!" louder than the man himself. (I read the interview, and not only did he indeed say that, but the only conceivable context in which it would have been excusable is an unquoted interviewer saying "Morrissey, I will give you this biscuit in return for your best Enoch Powell impression." David Cameron can have him for all I care.)

But then, our heroes wouldn't be our heroes if we let them disappoint us. And they'd never make it onto that pedestal without a younger generation that Just Doesn't Get It, either. Those of us whose teenage years were measured out in apolitical Britpop might be immune from the soul-gnawing feeling of watching Morrissey degenerate into a talking version of the Daily Mail, but hey, at least they had him back when he was good enough to make whatever he said later into something they could 'factor out'. Who did we have, Oasis?

Still, I don't think David Cameron et al's claims to love the anti-Thatcher music of the 80s ('well, I just liked the tune!') have anything to do with forces so pure as nostalgic hero-worship, or indeed the kind of musical cluelessness that John Harris suggests (albeit in the tone of a confused shrug) in the Guardian piece. Just a wild stab in the dark here, but I suspect the Tories are claiming such things as part of a wider effort to grab the massive disaffected-former-idealist voting bloc. Still feel the odd twinge of loyalty to your younger self, even though your Clash LPs are gathering dust in the attic and the Telegraph seems to make so much sense these days? It's okay! David Cameron's just like you! And so's Morrissey, so don't feel guilty!

But anyway, the reason I'm writing about all this a month later is because of (the excellent) Johann Hari's interview with (the still un-jaded) Billy Bragg, who summed up the whole thing in the best way possible:

As an earnest man, Bragg has a twitching nose for phoniness. That morning, he appeared on Andrew Marr’s morning programme, and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne told him he loved his music. “Him and Cameron claim they loved the Jam and the Clash,” he says. “It’s all lies. I can spot a Tears For Fears fan a mile off. I bet they spent the eighties singing along to ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World.’”

- Speaking of which, is that true? I was sure it was someone else who sent their kids there and Shouldn't Have Done, but someone swore blind to me recently that it was Paul Weller. It wasn't, was it? Was it?

1 Responses to And didn't Paul Weller send his son to Eton?*

  1. Laz Says:
  2. I can spot a Tears For Fears fan a mile off.

    ROFLMAO!!! I can't tell you how hard I laughed at that! Go Billy!

    Wait, I like Tears For Fears...