Faggots and Maggots

Long in the tooth as I am – the first record I owned was a 78, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley, the other side being Thirteen Women and Only One Man in Town – the various incidents of BBC intervention on the part of a minority (or majority) have always stood out as pathetic beacons of shirt-in-underpants conservatism under the great pleasure dome of rock. These interventions have usually meant the banning of tracks from the main airwaves whether they be by Jane Birkin, the Sex Pistols or Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The latest decision (since rescinded as the maggots in Auntie’s carcass have been squirted with the bug killer of liberal sentiment) was to smudge out the word faggot from Fairy Tale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. This was on the grounds that it might offend the feelings of gay men and was made on their behalf. The song is twenty years old and is said to be as much a part of Christmas as mince pies and the Queen’s Speech. Well, I know which of three I would retain, if forced and it wouldn’t be the annual nonsense from the House of Windsor or the appeal to my gluttony. Songs have long been a way of causing the wounds to open as the cultural knives of the New meet the desiccated flesh of the Old. This has always happened in social, religious and political terrains.

Real rock music keeps alive the rebellious youth in the ageing and sustains the vitality of the young as they seek to supplant what they find to be vacuous and deathly. Rock music is part of the great tide of art’s radicalism. Even an inoffensive, anti-religious ditty such as Fairy Tale of New York may contain lines that might damage your bourgeois sensibility but it is in its overall message of bawdiness rather than in the word faggot that this power resides.

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