Rod Liddle

Rock’s quiet right-wingers

8 December 2016

3:00 PM

8 December 2016

3:00 PM

They will be sitting there right now, listening tearfully to the song for one last time on their dinky little iPods, before deleting it for ever. ‘-Heathcliff — it’s me, Cathy, I’ve come home, so co-wo-wo-wold, let me into your window.’ No, Kate. You are never coming in through our windows again. What about the cuts? What about the refugees? What about Brexit? How could you? The window is closed, double-glazed and with a mortice lock. ‘Wuth-ering Heights’ — which once I loved — is dead to me. Also that one about going up a hill or something. That’s gone too. Die, Bush, die.

They are strange people, and perhaps mentally unhinged, the liberal absolutists who for 20 years or more have decided what we are allowed to think and say without ever having actual hegemony. The cater-wauling and outrage on social media sites when dippy songwriter Kate Bush mentioned that she rather admired Theresa May was a wonder to behold. Evil, evil! Everybody has to share precisely the same inane, one-dimensional values as them, and recite the same empty shibboleths, or they will be defriended and expunged from existence. These, uh, liberals are surely the least tolerant people in the known universe. I think they have become ever more intolerant of late because they know that at last the game is up, that the rest of us have had enough — in the UK, across Europe, in the USA. And so the shrieking reaches a pitch which is slightly too high for the human ear to comprehend: that’s true dog-whistle politics for you.

It’s no great surprise that Kate Bush may be a closet Tory — only that she let it slip in an interview, when most musicians know what hell awaits if they dare to admit to right-of-centre leanings. The left have become accustomed to thinking that only totally crap pop artists tend to the right, a belief which has its origins in that awful party held for Margaret Thatcher in 1979: Vince Hill and Lulu performing horrible, family-friendly MOR dross. And yet in truth it was never quite so simple as that. Simply that the cooler musicians knew how much they had to lose by not toeing the line. Performing at Thatcher’s bash would have been a death knell to their careers, the polar opposite of performing, six years later, at Live Aid (which resuscitated the careers of those behemoths Status Quo and Queen, the former being well to the right of the Tories).

Bush comes from a prog-rock background, a rather pompous genre which was never known for its revolutionary fervour. A good proportion of its most famous exponents, Genesis, were Tories. Over the Atlantic, the Canadian prog-metal band Rush were dedicated followers of Ayn Rand. That other blue-collar blind alley of rock music, heavy metal, had plenty of conservatives here and in the United States, insofar as anyone involved cared about politics at all. Even the few metal bands considered cool by the left-wing music press were right of centre. In the 1970s Iggy Pop (James Newell Osterberg from Muskegon, Michigan) released a magnificent, howling opus called ‘I’m a Conservative’. Brilliant, brilliant satire, the liberal music press agreed, clapping their hands. Until Iggy said: ‘Uh, no, I actually am a conservative.’ So was Ted Nugent, and so were a whole bunch of others.

Nor were the supposed rock music intellectuals quite so on board with the programme as they might be. David Bowie once said that the UK deserved a good dose of fascism, the adored Lou Reed described himself as a ‘fascist liberal’, while his old drummer from the Velvet Underground, Moe Tucker, utterly loathed Barack Obama and was a Republican Tea Party supporter. Leonard Cohen was steadfast in his defence of Israel, the wonderful Neil Young endorsed Reagan in 1980 and Ross Perot in 1992, and Bob Dylan got afflicted with that most socially conservative of things, born-again Christianity. Each time this stuff was made public there was a predictable screech of outrage: Young is still hectored about his support for Reagan 36 years later, and also about quite what he meant by ‘A Man Needs a Maid’. He has a maid now, in Daryl Hannah, and has swung back to the left.

Even punk rock — Revolution! Anarchy! — was rather less left-wing than the music press of the time cared to believe. The Jam, from Woking, began as patriotic, pro-Tory monarchists, while Sham 69 from nearby Hersham railed about communism in ‘Red London’. Punk was about overthrowing ossified elements of the establishment, but it was at least as Thatcherite in that regard as leftish. It was the trade unions which refused to press the Sex Pistols’ single ‘God Save the Queen’ and the BBC which refused to play it: know your enemies. The independent record labels which sprang up in the wake of punk were not anti-capitalist — far from it — they were just anti the in-effectual and conservative capitalism which pertained among the likes of EMI and CBS. Punk was also a reaction to the sopping wet liberalism of the hippies; and the poster boy for the post-punk movement, Ian Curtis of Joy Division, was a fervent Thatcherite. Or at least he was before he killed himself.

So don’t worry, Kate Bush — you are not quite alone, no matter how dispiriting that cacophonous howling might have seemed when you dared to mention that you didn’t mind Theresa May. Rock music is an intrinsically conservative medium, no matter how much its proponents and champions in the music press might try to pretend otherwise. And, revolutionary concept though this might seem, you are permitted to have your own views on stuff without being ostracised from society. The USA, Brexit, Italy, maybe soon France — the people who get apoplectic when other people disagree with them have had too traumatic a year to worry about you for too long.

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