Tag Archives: morrissey

Downfall on a Croydon tram

You know that an online meme has truly gone viral when someone does a Downfall mashup, and so it is that the recent Emma West ‘racist woman on a tram’ video can now be seen in a new version with Hitler – the source video got past 12m views in a few days before the person who uploaded it decided to delete the video. You can still see it all over YouTube though as other people uploaded copies.

It is an embarrassment to watch. West is clearly drunk, or using something you can’t buy at Boots, and making it all worse, she is carrying a young infant who seems oblivious to the foul language and threat of violence. She has now been remanded in custody to January 3rd by magistrates in Croydon – with the order to keep her behind bars apparently for her own safety.

When you take into account her accusation that someone on the tram comes from Nicaragua, though they are quite obviously not from Central America, it descends into idiocy. Just with the added foul language for good measure.

Most reactions to the video have expressed outrage. The UK is a modern, forward-thinking, liberal society that despises this casual racism. At least, this is the intelligent, educated, liberal reaction.

England is also a country where, just a few days ago, police questioned the captain of the national football team over alleged racial abuse of fellow professional footballers on the pitch.

Emma West doesn’t allow her targets to be limited by race; she appears to despise anyone who isn’t English – particularly the Polish – apparently demonstrating that cultural racism very clearly still exists in the UK.

British people know this anyway. The hard working, mostly Christian, white-skinned Poles have faced a negative reaction from the British as their numbers have increased since EU expansion in 2004. Anyone with a slightly longer memory, or appreciation of British history, would know that there were 16 Polish fighter squadrons within the RAF during World War 2, with squadron 303 at Northolt being the highest-scoring fighter squadron in the RAF. But do the ignorant worry about history?

The Irish faced a similar reaction many decades ago as they came to the UK looking for work. Landlords considered dogs and blacks to be just about as welcome as the Christian, white, Irish workers.

Racism isn’t always about the colour of your skin or the God you worship.

Within the British Isles we have often mocked each other in jokes. The drunken Irish, the stingy Scots and so on, but when a video like this achieves such notoriety in such a short period of time it would appear that something else is going on that exceeds mild stereotypes. That John Terry himself can squirm behind excuses such as ‘the context in which certain remarks were made’ shows how little the establishment really cares about true racial harmony in Britain today. Is ‘tolerance’ still the rather pathetic objective here?

The truth is that without migration the UK would never be able to boast the music of Morrissey or the Beatles. The chicken tikka masala might never have become the favourite dish of the nation – offering solace to all those who can’t manage a vindaloo. And Damien Hirst might never have started chopping up cows in the name of art.

The value migration brings is acknowledged by most, and the most recent explicitly anti-migrant political movement, the British National Party, was roundly defeated in the 2010 general election.

But the white working class fears migrants because of the perception that they steal jobs – it’s that simple. They like Irish beer and Indian (usually it’s actually Bangladeshi) food, but they don’t want foreigners coming and taking their jobs.

And jobs are where the political debate is at right now. Unemployment is soaring. The economies of Europe are collapsing and the OECD predicts that the UK will soon enter a new recession with more than 3m unemployed – that’s at least 400,000 more people without a job than right now.

If the government doesn’t grasp that this lack of employment opportunity is going to be a tinderbox that tests multicultural Britain to the limit then I suggest that ministers get on a tram and start talking to people – admittedly difficult when they are not even talking to each other because of Europe. But, don’t forget to carry a swear box.

Hitler In Hell

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Strangeways, here we come

On September 28th 1987, The Smiths released their last ever album ‘Strangeways, here we come’. It’s hard to believe that this is almost exactly 24 years ago now as I can remember the day itself.

I was 17 and at Frogmore Sixth Form then, taking my A-levels. In those days new records and movies came out in London first and then dripped out to the provinces over the following days and weeks. Even though we were only just outside London, it would still be impossible to get a copy of the album on the day of release, so me and a mate – David Ovington – took off on a bus to London that morning.

We got out at Kensington High street and bought copies of the album at Tower records, before crossing the street and catching a bus in the opposite direction.

We both went directly back to the sixth form common room and played the new album, much to the interest of the other assembled teenagers who were impressed at our dedication to Morrissey.

I haven’t bought a physical album for years now. The last one I know that I bought was the Manic Street Preachers, Journal for Plague Lovers, and that was because I specifically wanted the artwork. Apart from that, everything is downloaded or streamed these days.

For that reason, it harks back to a very different age. A time when two teenagers would spend most of a day just travelling to get hold of a piece of vinyl on the day it is released – a romantic idea that is already history and to the kids growing up today will sound archaic and deluded.
Morrissey and flowers all over the pub...

Smiths Indeed

I spent much of the 1980s listening to The Smiths. Today they are eulogised as one of the seminal English bands, the Beatles of the 1980s, the only band of the era that managed to combine incredibly poetic lyrics with a bright sound that was at odds with the pop music of the time.

But I have vivid memories of the Smiths, buying ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ on vinyl the moment it arrived at Our Price records, taking a bus to London to buy ‘Strangeways…’ because it would be quicker to go to London, rather than waiting for the album to get to stores in Surrey and Hampshire, spending an entire holiday in France listening to the first album, especially ‘Suffer little children’… I just regret never seeing them live. I probably could have managed it, but I was only 17 when they split – maybe if I lived in London I might have seen them on the final tour, but it was never to be.

So, it’s always fun to see a Smiths tribute band. I’ve seen the Smyths several times now and they are very good – also doing a lot of Morrissey solo material as well as Smiths – but last night I went to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see ‘Smiths Indeed’. I had never seen them before this gig, but if they had the guts to book a 2,000-capacity venue as a tribute act then they had to be worth seeing.

They didn’t fill the venue. When I arrived it was still quite empty, maybe 100 people were in there and I was worried it might be a disaster. The crowd filled out eventually to something like 500-600 (my guess), which was good enough to fill out the standing area in front of the stage. By the end of the evening, the crowd were having so much fun, it felt as though the venue was packed to capacity. In a pub that kind of crowd would have been huge, a packed pub heaving to the rafters, but in this venue it felt a bit empty until the crowd really got into the gig.

The smaller crowd meant they cut back a bit on security – there were several stage invasions, which isn’t really much fun for the band or the fans who want to hear the band as some loon runs around the stage trying to grab the mic.

They were really good though. They should have sold out the venue and I’m not sure why it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s too close to Christmas. Maybe it’s because The Smyths had just played in London at the weekend, so old Smiths fans chose that gig instead because it was on a Saturday night. Maybe they just did not do enough promotion – it’s always tough to promote gigs and when the venue is much larger than normal that just makes it even harder.

BUT, forget my moaning about the venue size…

If you closed your eyes, it could have been Morrissey and Marr up there. All four of the guys were very good, but particularly the ‘Marr’ who did a great copy of Marr’s style, and ‘Morrissey’ who really captured the voice and affectations, even if he only bore a passing resemblance to Mozza. They produced a really nice rich sound that was well mixed and sounded a lot better than many bigger gigs I have been to recently.

I’d definitely go to see them again, it was a really great night out!

Smiths Indeed @ Shepherd's Bush

Is it OK to throw bottles at artists?

In today’s edition of The Sun, Jane Moore argues that Morrissey was wrong to walk out of his concert in Liverpool last weekend. He had started the gig and was on to the second song when a bottle, thrown by an audience member, hit him in the face.

Morrissey walked off and never came back to complete the concert.

Moore claims that ‘in her day’ the Sex Pistols actively encouraged missiles, and when she once saw The Damned you could see saliva dripping from the face of Dave Vanian – and it was not his own saliva. Clearly Moore is a punk aficionado and believes that the artist should accept whatever the audience (literally) throws at them. She claims Morrissey protests too much.

But is it really acceptable anymore for an audience to behave like this?

Back in the days that Jane Moore talks about, Joe Strummer ended up with hepatitis after a fan gobbed in his face. Is that really the kind of concert atmosphere we should look on with rose-tinted glasses?

I remember once seeing Buzzcocks and witnessing a beer can narrowly missing the face of singer Pete Shelley. He stopped playing for a moment and asked everyone in the crowd who was thinking about throwing something at the band to ‘do it now so we get it over with’… hundreds, maybe thousands, of missiles suddenly rained upon the stage. Then the gig carried on… and there were no more beer cans lobbed at the band.

Because, in practical and rather obvious terms, it’s dangerous. The artist is usually facing lights and can’t see missiles as they approach. The crowd has an unfair advantage in targeting a singer on stage half-blinded by a number of spotlights. Most venues these days prevent glass from being brought inside or purchased, but a plastic beer bottle that’s mostly full weighs about half a kilo. Try getting someone to throw a half kilo weight at your face and see if it’s a laughing matter.

Add to that the fact that a concert stage is jammed full of electrical equipment and wires. It’s no fun for the roadies and engineers to try breaking up the show when all their equipment is covered in beer, water, and whatever else… and it may even be positively shocking. For a band lower down the food chain than Morrissey, that may be the only amplifier they can afford and to have someone chucking a pint of lager on it could be a financial disaster that messes up their next gig.

I understand Jane Moore’s sentiment, but I don’t think she has really thought it through. Or maybe she is commenting as someone who used to attend concerts and has not been to a gig in decades, so it would never affect her anyway.