28 May, 2006

On record

The choice by Tory leader David Cameron of REM's 'Perfect Circle' as one of his Desert Island Discs feels as provocative a gesture as any the wannabe Prime Minister could make.

For a start, politicians aren't supposed to 'get' pop music. It's OK for them to like it, and to want to be seen associating themselves with it, but tradition dictates that when pressed on personal taste they reveal a hapless and clumsy inarticulacy bordering on the ridiculous. Witness Tony Blair turning up at the Q Awards back in 1995 and praising "the music of U2 and The Smiths and Morrissey" with the kind of conviction you'd normally bring to the recitation of a parking ticket. A more honest assessment emerged a couple of years later when he was asked to name his three favourite groups; the erstwhile Mick Jagger impersonator responded by listing M People, The Lightning Seeds and Simply Red.

From the other side of the fence, there was John Redwood's woeful attempt to co-opt The Lightning Seeds song 'Lucky You' into Conservative Party mythology because of the line "Everything's blue now, oh lucky you". Further back, Mrs Thatcher, of course, hated pop music other than, I quote, "that long-haired chap, what's his name, Paul Daniels, who sang 'When A Man Loves A...When A Man And Woman Loves...er...". When pressed she did concede her favourite popular song to be 'Telstar' by The Tornados, hailing from the hip-shaking mould-breaking year of 1962. But as for the hordes of young people clamouring for her exit from Number 10: "these people with their pink hair, their yellow hair, their punk hair; they say they want to kill me; they haven't even met me!"

No, by law politicians aren't ever supposed to 'get' pop music, which is why Cameron's choice of 'Perfect Circle' is a step too far in the wrong direction to be treated seriously. There's also the problem of it being a pretty obscure REM song, which again is wrong. Politicians are only ever supposed to declare their hands for the big hits. By rights he should have gone for 'Everybody Hurts' or 'Losing My Religion', though I doubt either of these titles would have gone down well at Tory Central Office.

'Perfect Circle' is a gorgeous song off REM's very first album from 23 years ago, the kind that only 'proper' fans should only know and like and boast about. In other words, anybody but a politician. Yet here's David Cameron singing its praises and bestowing upon it, ditto his other dangerously fashionable choices of 'This Charming Man' by The Smiths and 'Fake Plastic Trees' by Radiohead, patronage of a solely disingenous kind.

I wonder what he is hoping to invite by making such an oblique selection; credibility, presumably, along with backstage passes the next time any of the titular artists is passing through town. British politics is such a discredited art, though, it's impossible to treat Cameron's offbeat selection as any other than contrived and a calculated strategy to win today's headlines at the expense of anything of more direct substance and import. It's notable that, while he's been only to ready to expound upon the virtues of taking a husky ride to the North Pole, the pursuit of a better work-life balance and the merits of 'The Fastest Milkman In The West', Cameron has failed to outline a single policy on those otherwise trivial matters of education, health, the social services and transport.

When pop music ventures into politics the result is always more questions than answers; when politicians venture into pop music the result is even worse: the wrong answers to the wrong questions.


Post a Comment

<< Home