It’s International Women’s Day!

“IWD”. At work, I taught a Theatre Studies class – all female. Slightly cynical teens:

“What does it even mean…?”
“It’s a Google doodle…”
“Yeah, Google, thanks for my day…”

I’m a man, yes I am, according to biology, male, as far as our limited stock of gender definitions go… This kind of blogcommentarypost, man talking about talking about women, can be fraught with difficulty, if one thinks about these things. The point of such a day is surely not about what I think about it, really, is it?

No. From an extensive suite of articles related to IWD in the Independent:

International Women’s Day 2014 has the theme ‘inspiring change’ and celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women, while focusing world attention on areas that still need further action.

IWD, simply, as an opportunity to recognise the often unacknowledged work women do teaching, organising, parenting, sporting, engineering, writing, making music…

Yet inevitably snippets of imagined pub discussions echo round my brain:
“Thanks, sisters…”
“Shouldn’t we be doing this every day anyway?”
“Huh, there’s no International Men’s day, is there?” (Yes, in fact – 19th November.)
“Huh, EVERY day is men’s day.”
“Well, we were all being ground into the dirt by the super rich and their lackeys last time I looked…”
“Anyone fancy a pint?”
Etc, etc.

Derailment! It’s International Women’s Day. This post is not going to rehearse any sniping about “wimmin”, or heavens help us “feminazis”, for that way lies idiocy.

An idiot, recently.

An idiot, recently.

Nor will it, hopefully, exhibit too many organic beard fluff Neo-Nu-Man, or whatever I’m “supposed” to be being this year, tendencies.

Talking about “inspiring change”, in the UK, the Queen’s New Year Honours List has a higher proportion of female recipients for the first time, 51%. Way to go, Your Majesty. While still in many ways a story of privilege rewarding privilege (checkety check), the high proportion of mentions for charitable or voluntary work is also encouraging.

There is a huge number of ways in which one could talk about the importance of “change” related to women and how fings are in society. Women are still disproportionately represented in politics. In the UK there are currently 147 female MPs, out of a total 650 members of parliament. Half the population, 1% of wealth, as Echobelly once observed.

Or putting up with violent nonsense. In the news today also is “Clare’s Law”, (links to a report in the Indie again). The so-called ‘right to know’, a kind of DBS check for relationships. A social good – or perhaps a further step towards our living in a police state of thoroughly alienated individuals, rather than an empowering measure to protect people from psychotics. The unfortunate Clare Wood was killed by an ex-boyfriend. Regarding physical violence against women, I was glad to have had Kurt Cobain as an influence when I was growing up. He said:

“The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape.

As to other types of thoughtlessness, non-physical imbecile male actions… well, yeah. Soz. To keep throwing the words of dead male pop singers at you, I’m doing the best that I can (Lennon)…

My hopes for my lover are that she can do what she wants and that I can help her do that in whatever ways. As a father to a female, I hope my daughter will grow up literate, emotionally supported, able to make her own choices, play an equal role in society… design buildings, make hit records, overthrow tyranny… whatever she wants. Not get paid less or be expected to stand in a certain way in a certain place just because chromosomes.

Today, International Women’s Day, I note I have a daughter, the incredible N, and a female partner, the incredible J. They are both the most important thing in the world to me, every day. And word to my mum… and to my sister, and to my aunties, and godmother, and mother-and-sistren-in-law, and my now-departed nan and nana. And every female friend I have… Gosh, there are a lot of you in here. As Freddie Mercury suggested: “Sister – I live and lie for you.”

And on that note: music by women!

Pop songs, my favourite reality filter.

Well, awkward ending… I dunno, are there supposed to be flowers as well? Is that just patronising? Shall I get some wine in then? Awesome. Love you!

About nearly 10 years ago, probably, I, the author of this piece, was editor of a zine called Thingy.

One of the reasons Thingy came grinding to a halt as a means of expression was because it seemed an inadequate and facile means to address the Great Problem of that time – “post-9/11”, the Coalition of the Willing’s attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, post-modern colonialism, post, and so on. Cutting and pasting pictures of bands, making sarcastic comments about Leonardo DiCaprio, just didn’t seem to have any sort of bearing on the intolerable wrongness of “Blair’s Britain”.

Maybe my perspective was just off. Actually, there were a couple of anti-war edition Thingys in 2003, but these were just brief pamphlets, really. Certainly, later zines never approached anything like the 50-odd page splurge of stoned readers’ digest for the pop-loving word hound that Thingy was in its rather uncomfortably worn pomp.

Another reason Thingy came grinding to a halt was an unfinished, and unfinishable, somewhat tendentious, article regarding Franz Ferdinand. In an almost – nay! actual – comical fashion, after Alvy Singer in Annie Hall, unable to come to terms with the Warren Commission, I could not understand or accept the band’s massive success.


How I hated them! Blast! Their ubiquity, their absurd self-reflexivity, their paint-by-numbers scenemusic and annoying use of German!

My reactionary flailing at their unfathomable triumph led to a series of closely-read, reworked and increasingly ill-tempered versions of an anti-Franz Ferdinand diatribe, each pouring distaste upon disgust upon dislike to form an EU lake of surplus bile and semi-digested ranting.

One particularly splenetic draft ran to 270,000 words and, in a parallel dimension, has become the seminal text of an all-controlling crypto fascist cabal, at war with this world for allowing the four horse students of the Franz Ferdinand apocalypse to have rent the cawl and grown to wreak their pop-funk-punk atrocities upon the populace of the multiverse.

“Bring me four pairs of handcuffs, a teleportation device, a laser scalpel… and a raspberry Danish.”

Of course, I got over it. I recognised eventually that, in fact, it was not them, it was me. I was not in love with pop music any more. Well, not the radio, pop industrial, chart show thing I had grown up with and adored. I had lost my faith, simply: that moment kneeling at the altar when you realise it’s also just some bits of wood and a guy mumbling.

I’ve kind of got my poplove back, a bit, but you can imagine my untrammelled joy, I am sure, on hearing that after a not-lengthy-enough hiatus Franz are back – BACK! – with a New Single. ‘Right Action’ is enjoying endless and apparently compulsory rotation on BBC 6 Music, who today have even accorded them “Album of the Day Plus!” status, as if “Album of the Day” was not sufficient an accolade.

‘Right Action’ continues the band’s remorseless exploration of contrivance.

‘Right Thoughts
Right Wor-ords
Right Action!’

With a boingy bass line. Where to even continue? It sounds like the theme to a semi-educational programme for kids, one where the presenter will later turn out to have roundly abused his position and a succession of teenage girls. Designed to fit breakfast shows – Good morning! – Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, and anywhere else it can be shoehorned in before it’s used to advertise mobile phones, while wafting at a higher spiritual truth several bubillion miles from being approached, ‘Right shower Action’ is an awful set of checked boxes, none of them mine.

I mean, I wouldn’t mind if they were making cock-twangling, panty moistening POP I could hate-but-love for its insouciance, its casual throwaway joy, but they’re not. They’re making horrid, gloopy, ‘Would you like to see, and buy, some puppies?’ jingles. Waitrose rock.

It is a cacaphony – a shitracket – in every sense of the term racket – catchy as Hep C, and as welcome. The only thing to have momentarily dislodged the viral annoyance from my brain has been writing this bollocks.

Do we owe them a living? Of course we fucking don’t.

It’s a bit after the fact to complain about the use of pop music in adverts, a bit post-some shit or other. Witness the bleating that took place when Iggy Pop popped up in ads for car insurance: people who were but a glint in their grandad’s TV eye when Pop was raking bottles across his chest and vochowlising the missile trails of the nuclear A-bomb, these people, getting personally affronted, as if a) Iggy fucking Pop didn’t invent punk, b) Pop cared what they thought, or b) something really mattered about it. He is the passenger, but also the driver, yeah?

I used to get all stressed out about “selling out”. Being young and idealistic and making music in bands… haunted by the fantasia of the untainted artistic vision… for the majority of ‘mainstream’ bands, was it ever ought but the preserve of the financially secure, something easy to rationalise once the nasty period of ‘having a few hits’ was safely out of the way? And surely this model is now obsolete in any case, as ‘the music industry’ struggles to cope with new economic and technological paradigms? And has ‘the real story’ not always been one of artistes toiling for years in obscurity on their personal statements to the multiverse? (That’s enough pseudo-Žižekian economipop rhetoric? – Ed.)

Basically, moaning about pop music being a popular commodity is like dancing about Phil Collins retiring. I’ll be happy for a minute then feel like I’ve just wasted an opportunity to do something useful. However, I must express my extreme dissatisfaction with Queen’s ‘One Vision’ being included in a puff for British Gas. Witness the shitness here (embedding disabled because it’s AWFUL).

Of course, I was prepared to overlook the desperate appeal to aging Britpoppers now raising families that was the use of ‘The Universal’ in a previous, similar work. That ad also portrayed a number of animated planets, atomised individuals and families, looking in joy to the stars as their gas bills arced by in Newtonic splendour. The song playing the while was the one in which Damien Adenoidalbalm intones that “it reallyreallyreallycouldappen,” the associative grounds being that this is what we have been waiting for, this is the coming together of which they had a dream in them there 60s… I suppose it sort of fits with the advert, and the fact that Blur are, well, astronomically bollocks.

But! To continue the cosmic theme (because I know Brian May will like this, and it’s always worth nicking a great joke from Douglas Adams), with the use of One Vision in the recent ad, Earth has surely developed a minor eccentricity in its orbit, from Freddie Mercury SPINNING IN HIS GRAVE. It’s not even an asteroidal announcement of a pledge that a full third of British Gas profits will be going to fund renewable technology or something. It’s Nectar points.

Contrary to some arguments about his motivations, I think it is clear from the records and the record that Fred was, above all else, an idealist. The pomp, the nonsense, the ambiguities in life and death, were all part of one big Queen’s attempts to come to terms with life on this plane. Watch the bit from 01.58 in the video below. I almost cannot bear the expression of a desolation of ideals, an UNDERSTANDING of a better way swept aside by politics and economics, the assertion of the (naive but crucial) belief that, despite this, coming together and ROCKING THE PARTY can and will make it better.

Fred’s dead, baby. Fred’s dead. British Gas, with CHI and Partners, cast their eye around the world now, at different peoples striving for political autonomy and such, and thought ‘You know what, people NEED to know that being a British Gas customer means you can collect Nectar points.’ Then they thought that the best possible way to emphasise this was to use a song with basically incredible (in both the ‘I really dig this’ and the ‘Yeah, come on though, BUT…’ senses) lyrics of redemption through music. ‘No hate, no fight, just excitation…all through the night, it’s a celebration’. This fits, because it emphasises how you can also REDEEM Nectar points against a range of goods and services, and accumulate these points simply by being a British Gas customer. Simples! (That’s the wrong advert, you twat – Ed)

It’s a crazy little thing to get wound up about, maybe, but I saw it happening, that global harmony thing was, is, MY dream too. Nelson Mandela was let out on my birthday, and the Berlin Wall came down! ONE LOVE! But we’re STILL fucking fighting each other round the world, still living in a North Sea Bubble. Never mind, I shall amass Nectar points and CEASE MY WORRY. I mean, what’s the worst that couldappen? I suppose ‘One Vision’ could be used in a film glorifying militarist quasi-individualism or something.

Let us instead imagine the BEST that could happen. Clearly, the post-Freddie years of taking care of business with Baron Sir Ben Elton of Selloutavia have nullified the surviving (and participating) Queens’ aesthetic sensibilities too muchly. It has numbed the tongue in cheeks that Mercury brought them. But Brian… Roger… there’s still time. Time to tell British Gas to hitch a ride on someone else’s rocket ship. Then time to do a video with 5ive and JLS, in which you roll over their oiled bodies in homoage to the ‘I want to Break Free’ Video. Then go Stone Cold Crazy in some daft cover band midlife crisis mince. DO IT DO IT DO IT.

Meanwhile, here’s the full fried chicken silliness: