Talking to You about Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)
I spent the summer of '82 in a student exchange program at Colegio Estudio, a school in Madrid . . . The night before I left, we went to a house party where the hostess kept spinning Enola Gay, a song about two kids wanting to make out so bad it's like a bomb about to go off. When their lips meet, it's a nuclear explosion that blows up the whole world, and nothing will ever be the same. It didn't sound like an exaggeration.
You know the story behind this song, right? The plane which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was named "Enola Gay," after the commanding pilot's mother. The bomb itself was named "Little Boy." But how obvious were the connections before OMD released this single? I confess that all I ever hear in the song is the anti-war message; I have to pull up the lyrics and squint at them to see the boy and girl for whom Sheffield says a kiss is exactly like an atomic bomb.
It's not surprising that pop music often mines politics for content, but I guess it's unfortunate that people believe their taste in pop music can be a political statement. I believe The Last Psychiatrist blog has a post which psychoanalyses those who have no identities outside their image and for whom the music is really just another label, like a tattoo. (If you don't like the way I've paraphrased it, here is the original: Time's Person of the Year Is Someone Who Doesn't Actually Matter.)
But music isn't political in and of itself. By what standard can we say that there are songs proper to fascists, but not communists . . . or proper to republicans, but not monarchists? Isn't the nightclub a perfectly
There were fascist discos and socialist discos. One of our Spanish classmates invited us to a party at a place called Aguacates. [The American exchange students] never refused a chance to go clubbing, but the Spanish girls wouldn't go, because they said it was the right-wing disco. I was like, who cares, it's just disco, right? At midnight the DJ played Arriba Espana, the perky theme song of the Fuerza Nueva Party, and everybody rushed to the floor to sing along and give fascist salutes, even the very drunk girl in the fuschia tube top whose cleavage I had spent the evening admiring . . .
We left Aguacates a little rattled. I understood why my friends wouldn't go there. It was like The National Front Disco, one of my favourite Morrisey songs, about how there's a group of friends and one of them starts going to the fascist disco and everybody grieves because they've lost their boy. In general, political enemies didn't party together.
Apparently not. =P But why should it be so surprising when even Catholics who don't mind listening to the same pop music as heretics and infidels will divide themselves along liturgical musical lines at church? (This really confused my Protestant friends.) Now, there's at least one socialist Marty Haugen song I kind of like, so I'm not a proper fascist Trad: I remind myself of this whenever I feel I need taking down a peg.
While I've never actually had the
Back to lighthearted matters . . . During my own clubbing days, the only division was between the place which played only slick, modern Hip-hop and the place which mixed them up with Pop and some Disco and New Wave classics. It was always a let down when my friends who preferred the first club prevailed over those of us who preferred the latter. As superficial as this breach between us was, it means that to this day we argue heatedly about which song gets to define our year.
Of course the correct answer is THIS one
And now, as I throw the old, tired gauntlet down again, I wonder whether even Sheffield's old friends from that "summer of '82" couldn't believe it when they saw he had persisted in picking Enola Gay to headline his essay about them. =P
Up next in my "Talking to You" series . . . I can't decide, so you'll have to help me pick! Shall we share our early memories of MTV or struggle together to remember Haysi Fantayzee?
Your Turn at the Jukebox: Is there a song (or book/movie/etc) that you and your friends just can't seem to agree on . . . to the point of argument?