Posts Tagged ‘Dire Straits’

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The Stabbing Knife Vol. 5: Doubleheader Edition

January 15, 2011

Don't sweat it, Roberto. I'm completely made of Tuesday.

If it’s completely true that snitches get stitches then it’s doubly true that self-righteous idiots who attempt to sand down the world’s rough edges through censorship get the business end of Roberto’s stabbing knife. And it’s been awhile, so we’re having a doubleheader. On to the wetwork.

We’ve all heard the phrase “One person can make a difference,” and we’ve all nodded thoughtfully while thinking, “Bullshit.” Just like the eternally optimistic phrase “Every vote counts” allows us to feel like our voice matters in the political arena, the sad truth is that one person has no chance in hell to make significant changes, especially in well-established institutions with years of history behind them.

And then something like this happens.

An anonymous (to us, anyway) complainant has singlehandedly gotten Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing removed from radio airplay in Canada. As many of you are probably thinking, what the fuck for?

This anonymous complainant (hereafter “AC” for the sake of my fingers) was offended by the use of the word “faggot,” which pops up three times as the narrator critiques the hair metal dominating MTV at the time. If you’re not familiar with the lyrics, I’m not going to run them down for you here. Perhaps you can get in touch with AC as you are apparently the only other English-speaking person alive who has not heard this overplayed rock radio staple several hundred times in their life.

A homophobe and his headband rarely part.

Having heard this track 26 years after it was released, AC sprung into action. Assuming the role of spokesperson for the entire gay (or “gey,” as I assume it’s spelled in Canada) community, AC fired off a letter to the offending station demanding they remove the song from airplay.

“A song was aired, “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits, and included the word “faggot” a total of three times.  I am aware of other versions of the song, in which the word was replaced with another, and yet OZ FM chose to play and not censor this particular version that I am complaining about.

I find this extremely offensive as a member of the LGBT community and feel that there is absolutely no valid reason for such discriminatory marks to be played on-air.”

At first, they blew her off, albeit in a very kindly fashion, running down the reasons for keeping it in the rotation and citing precedent.

“In this specific case, the song in question has been played countless times in its original form, from its #1 release in 1984 to the present day, and continues to be aired on stations across the country in this form.  As this selection has been aired continuously for 25+ years, and the original version is regarded by many as an historically successful and essential rock hit in that form with these particular lyrics, management chose in this specific instance to retain the authenticity of this selection.”

“We understand the concerns you have raised regarding this particular selection and do apologize for any undue stress caused to you as a listener by the lyrical content of this selection, but based on the above reasoning, we have operated with the understanding that in this specific case, no editing of the material is warranted.”

That should have been that.

The C stands for "Capitulation."

Not good enough. AC was still perturbed and fired back, using a lot of words but mainly pointing out than anything less than removal or censorship of the track would be unsatisfactory.

“I am highly dissatisfied with the response I have received.  I do not feel the argument in favour of the unabridged version of the song was valid, and it is certainly not strong enough to justify playing such words on the radio.  This word carries an unavoidable connotation of hate.  By airing it unapologetically on the radio, this station is indirectly propagating hate.  Although I can see the value in a timeless classic rock song in its original form, I cannot help but feel that it does not overshadow the importance of ending discrimination.”

The CBSC, not wanting to be seen as “propagating hate” or not being really on board with “ending discrimination” through continued airplay of a 26-year-old song, consulted and decided in her favor, issuing a lengthy missive explaining their reasons for removing the track.

So, apparently, one person can make a difference.

Now, before you get all inspired and head out to start a carpool or become a locavore or write your Congressman in an attempt to rid hotels you don’t even patronize of PPV porn, take a good, long look at what this is.

This isn’t justice. This isn’t David triumphing over Goliath. Hell, this isn’t even the local repertory theater’s production of Pay It Forward.

This is myopic, narcissistic bullshit.

This is saying, “This song offends ME. Change it. Fuck everyone else.”

It’s not that I think Money for Nothing is a classic work of art or that using the word “faggot” is ok in all circumstances. But maybe, just maybe, this instance is alright because FOR FUCK’S SAKE, THE SONG HAS BEEN OUT FOR 26 YEARS AND YOU WANT TO CENSOR IT NOW??

For Christ’s sake (or so they say), the Parents Television Council is always trying to censor this or that offending bit of culture but at least they’ve got some sort of quorum and the signed petitions and email carpet-bombing to back it up. I don’t agree with them ever but at least it’s not just one person wheedling away with a 2-year-old’s sense of entitlement, moaning “I don’t like this! Changeitchangeitchangeitchangeit!!!”

Dr. Alan Gribben is unaware that his moustache is on slightly crooked.

This is no different than Twain scholar Alan Gribben who’s working tirelessly to crank out a version of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, free of the troublesome word “nigger,” which has coyly been replaced with “slave.” (Also on the chopping block: “Injun” and “Half-breed.”) Once again, lots of history but at least in this case he’s not the first person to censor or ban this book.

“The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with “slave” when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the “n” word (“My mother said it’s only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people”) and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. “My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it.”

His main issue seems to be that it makes him “uncomfortable,” especially now that he’s relocated to the South. If he can’t handle using this in its historical context then he probably shouldn’t be teaching. Obviously it’s too much to expect that he might provide his students with the historical background or engage them in a discussion of how hearing/reading this word affects them.

No, I guess it would just be simpler to jack Tom Sawyer’s brush and whitewash the shit out of an American masterpiece. Even worse, he’s teaching a new generation that if something offends you, you should get rid of it no matter its history or context or importance to other people who aren’t you.

In this era of self-victimization thousands of people are running around with a chip on their shoulder and hot tears of self-righteous humiliation in their eyes. Why should something that offends them need to disappear? Are these self-appointed guardians of our culture really that selfish?

If you think that you might be offended by the word “faggot” leaking out of your speakers in the near future, just shut it off or dial away when you hear the very distinctive opening of Money for Nothing. And if you think you might not be able to handle the word “nigger” in print then just fucking read/teach something else, you projecting bastard.

Stabbity-stabbity-stab-stab-stab.

Quick postscript: Reaction to the ban of Money for Nothing has been pretty much completely negative. Here’s a typical take from an actual gay man, Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall):

“Shakespeare would be rolling over in his g-word,” said Thompson, the 51-year-old actor/comedian best known for his work with the Kids in the Hall troupe.

When you ban a word, you make the word more powerful. All this banning that’s going on just makes (the hate) go deeper and deeper into the soul, where it festers. Let it it out. I want to know what you really think. I can handle it.

“It makes me feel like we’re five years old and need to go potty. The n-word, I guess, is number 1 and the f- word is number 2.”

Check on previous victims here:
ASCAP
Steve Dahl
Garth Brooks
Bono

-CLT

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Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll Vol. 9

August 24, 2009

In the past volumes of this guide we’ve taken some swipes at some pretty big names. “But what of the small, indie, critic’s darlings?” I hear you asking. Well, they’ll get theirs as well. It’s just that, well, if you’ve had a 30-year career of diminishing returns, it’s just so much easier to broadly swipe. Not to mention, they’re all big boys and girls (Heart, especially) and should be able to take it. And while I hate to admit to taking the easy way out, today’s lineup is probably the easiest. It does include one request, however: Steven Wonder.

Def Leppard - Britain's finest seven-armed rock monster

Def Leppard - Britain's finest seven-armed rock monster

Def Leppard
If someone asked you what the ’80s sounded like, you could grab any of their first three albums and say, “Listen to this.” A band that was always more pop than metal (and more hair than talent – zing!), Def Leppard defined an era. That era was the “MTV stands for Music TeleVision” era, the early days when MTV was still pushing music in video form, rather than relegating it to soundtracking promos, bitchy Real World infighting or rolling behind the Real World closing credits.

They power on to this day, a testament to their longevity and their fans’ unwillingness to branch out their musical tastes. They’ve earned a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame if for no other reason than their multiple triumphs over adversity, including losing a drummer’s arm to a car crash and losing an entire guitarist to death. That, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s noticeably lax standards and elastic definition of “rock.” (No worse, really, than the Grammy committee’s definition of “metal.” Jethro Tull, indeed.)

Voted Most Likely to Be Asked to Please, for the Love of God, Put a Shirt On
Voted Most Likely to Be Asked to Please, for the Love of God, Put a Shirt On

John Denver
Speaking of elastic definitions, John Denver never strayed near “rock” or “roll” once in his career, or in the afterlife, according to our sources (Sonny Bono, the Big Bopper). As sickeningly clean-cut and wholesome as a busful of Young Republicans, Denver tore the ’70s a new wuss-hole and presaged country’s descent into bland pseudo-pop. Presumably Denver released several individual albums, but who fucking needs them, considering he released around 19 “Greatest Hits” compilations.

Unlike the edgier Pat Boone and the comparitively “gangsta” Air Supply, Denver never toed the line once, cruising a steady, easy-going center line that left people yearning for the street toughness of the Eagles or Jackson Browne. Oddly enough, he was the subject of one of the darkest tribute albums ever, as death metal’s finest took on such classics as Sunshine on My Shoulder and Sweet Surrender on the unfortunately named Things to Do with Denver When He’s Dead (Cleopatra Records). Keep your ears peeled for Morbid Angel’s take on his (also unfortunately titled) classic, Fly Away.

The secret of Dire Straits' success? Glow-in-the-dark headbands.
The secret of Dire Straits’ success? Glow-in-the-dark headbands.

Dire Straits
Speaking of bands that hitched their star to MTV (we were: just scroll up to Leppard, Def), Dire Straits were yanked out of their mopey pub-rock scene and held under the fast-flowing mainstream, when their single Money for Nothing burst onto the scene in 1985.

Propelled to multi-platinum success by a video so meta it name-checked the only channel that would play it, the Dire Straits seized this opportunity, wove it into a wicker lawn chair and collapsed into it for six long years. Having Rip van Winkled right past their sell-by date, the Dire Straits awoke to a very different world; one that had passed them by in a blur of distortion and flannel.

Now stuck in the unenviable classification of “boomer rock,” the Dire Straits are doomed to walk the earth, playing mid-sized arenas and large corporate conventions along with other hellish acts like Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Steve Winwood.

Album cover for Wonder's relatively unknown classic "Stevie Wonder Sings the Rick James Songbook"
Album cover for Wonder’s relatively unknown classic “Stevie Wonder Sings the Rick James Songbook”

Stevie Wonder
A brilliant child prodigy (perhaps not on par with Mozart, but at least up there with Bill Withers or Huey “Piano” Smith), Stevie Wonder went on to usher in a new era of R&B in the ’70s. This, of course, was followed by another ushering in the late-’90s by, among other artists, Usher. Known for his well-crafted hooks, infectious swaying and not being able to see, Wonder is a shoo-in for the African-American Blind Piano-Playing R&B Singer Hall of Fame, joining charter member Ray Charles and Jamie Foxx, who portrayed Ray Charles in the 2004 film, Ray.

Wonder lost his sight at an early age during a tragic “Wonder Twin Powers” accident with brother Davie. Due to a disagreement in terms that neither was aware of until after the word “Activate,” the resulting mixture of garbled syllables resulted in their potent twin powers being activated in the form of “Summon Baphomet,” an ancient malevolent diety (who is not a morning person, per se). The wrathful and drowsy god responded by removing Stevie’s eyesight and Davie completely. The suddenly removed-from-this-dimension twin was renamed “He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken or Referenced To” and so we won’t for the remainder of this piece.

Stevie Wonder went on to sign with Motown Records as age 11, thanks to Baphomet, who admitted he had “overreacted” and “owed him one.” The rest is history. Wonder went on to release album after album with hit single after hit single, culminating in the peak of written music: I Just Called to Say I Love You. Understandably, no self-respecting indie record store clerk will come within 100 miles of this single, leaving you to purchase it pretty much anywhere else.

The hundreds of members of Little Feat prep for a turf war with Chicago
The hundreds of members of Little Feat prep for a turf war with Chicago

Little Feat
The story of Little Feat’s formation is a fascinating one, filled with facts, intrigue, Frank Zappa and jazz fusion. Legend has it that Lowell George was trying to form his own group, using members of Frank Zappa’s touring band. Fed up with Frank’s terrible anal jokes and endless guitar wankery, George approached Bill Payne, another Zappa band member.

Word of this dissent leaked back to Zappa, whom George overhead saying, “Trying to organize these halfwit guns-for-hire into an actual band would be no small feat.” George overheard this and took off as fast as his size 4’s would carry him.

George formed his own group and, poking fun at his diminutive shoe size, suggested they name the band “Little Feet.” His bandmates and promoter heard this as the much-more-clever “Little Feat,” and hastily cranked out thousands of posters and album covers featuring this spelling. After discovering their error, George was furious and shuffled band members in and out of the lineup for the next 30 years.

Little Feat’s blend of rock, jazz, funk, R&B and shoegaze proved popular and Lowell George soon found himself surrounded by groupies, all oohing and aahing and saying how “cute” and “adorable” he was. Because you know what they say about guys with little feet? They have big hearts. And are as cute as buttons.

-CLT