Maggie's Farm: Margaret Thatcher in Popular Culture

Aardvark not included.Buzzfeed has assembled "21 Incredibly Angry Songs About Margaret Thatcher." (The list actually went up last October, but all my punk-nostalgist friends have been linking to it this week.) As a Kinks fan, I don't know whether to be offended that they left out "Dear Margaret" or relieved that the record has been mercifully forgotten. (Five points to the first reader who can give me a coherent reason why the song includes the line "Don't you like rock'n'roll?")

Elsewhere, a writer at the L.A. Times argues that "Thatcher exerted a remarkably creative influence on British music from the late '70s through the late '80s and beyond. The ridicule and rage heaped on her prompted some of the spikiest lyrics, angriest guitars and most indelible percussion to be heard during of one of the most rancorous eras in modern British music and politics." (He also claims that Thatcher had "determinedly -- some would say ruthlessly -- free-market economic policies." That's a stretch.) The Guardian has posted an overview of anti-Thatcher pop too.

One subject missing from all those articles is the British punk of the pre-Thatcher years, which assailed the old consensus as surely as she did, though -- naturally -- not from an identical direction. The omission is probably inevitable, given that Thatcher's death is the newshook for these pieces, but it's a bit like reading a history of the New Left that begins with the election of Richard Nixon.

In other Pop Thatcher news, cultural-studies mavens may enjoy Marcus K. Harmes' recent paper "A Creature Not Quite of This World: Adaptations of Margaret Thatcher on 1980s British Television." And here's a clip of Thatcher reciting the Monty Python parrot sketch.

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  • sarcasmic||

    There's tolerance, inclusiveness and equality in action.

  • John||

    Wasn't most of that influence bad? Inspiring otherwise talented artist to write shit songs about the glories of socialism isn't exactly a great contribution. And that doesn't even mention all the stupid hacks like Billy Brag who sucked to begin with.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Mermaid Avenue were great albums. Dunno if that's mostly Billy Bragg or mostly Wilco, but Bragg has a good voice for folk music.

  • B.P.||

    Bragg is the Rage Against the Machine of folk -- some timeless songs, crap politics. When Bragg sticks to his mopey, unrequited love shtick, he's great.

  • John||

    Mermaid Avenue is a great record. But it is Bragg singing someone else's lyrics. BP about nails it.

  • ||

    Piss off. Billy Bragg is one of the best love song writers ever. "Talking to the Taxman about Poetry" and "Worker's Playtime" has some of my all-time favorite songs. His politics are annoying, but come on.

    "Greetings to the New Brunette", "The Marriage", "The Warmest Room", "She's Got a New Spell" and "A New England" would all rank in my fifty favorite 80s songs.

  • Paul.||

    All this talk of the Thatcher period (which mirrored the Reagan period stateside) has made me almost nostaligic.

    I remember how much the left viscerally hated Reagan and Thatcher. There were good and bad things about the left during that period. The bad is obvious and unfortunately, still with us, but the good was that liberals were liberals and had a much more permissive streak. That era is gone and we're left with the fully anti-freedom crop we see today.

  • John||

    The only way to compare the British Left's feelings towards Thatcher is imagine if Sarah Palin won the Presidency in 2016, fought a successful war, turned the economy around and had two terms that were so wildly successful that the only way a leftist could win an election afterwards was by pretending they were like Palin. Imagine the amount of hatred that would produce and you have some idea how the British left feels about Thatcher.

  • wareagle||

    people get persnickety when someone does the exact opposite of what they would do with the exact opposite results their ideal would have gotten.

  • B.P.||

    A shout-out to Klaus Nomi in the Buzzfeed piece! Although not his finest moment...

  • Flatulent Monkey||

    Thank you so much for the clip at the end. It is good to see political figures break out of their stuffiness and show a bit of wit and humor. Albeit in a friendly atmosphere and delivering partisan rhetoric, all the same, I loved it.

  • Irish||

    My favorite fact about Thatcher: Before Margaret Thatcher took over, the UK had a lower per capita GDP than Italy.

    There's also this graph of pre-Thatcher inflation that someone posted in another Thatcher article.

    I don't know how British leftists can be so delusional that they think this monstrous inflation and non-existent GDP growth could have continued without completely impoverishing the UK. From 1976-1981, inflation never got below 8% and had peaks of 24% and 18%. Since then, they've never had inflation above 8%. We were bitching about 10% inflation, England more than doubled that.

  • Paul.||

    I don't know how British leftists can be so delusional that they think this monstrous inflation and non-existent GDP growth could have continued without completely impoverishing the UK.

    Having throngs of poor people is never an indictment of socialism.

    Example: On the local NPR station they were doing a story about local muslim immigrants and cultural barriers to certain activities.

    During the piece they noted that many of these people had immigrated from Somalia. Without any clarification, proof or context, the reporter said that the health of these immigrants declines once they arrive in the U.S.

    *pause for irony*

    Think about that. These people came from this... a country without clean drinking water, scarce food, dangerous conditions-- none of this mentions that there's no health department, building codes, clean air acts, food inspections, proper sewage treatment or bathroom facilities-- and their health declines when they arrive in the U.S., which has all of these things.

    What are we to conclude then? My conclusion is, "Hey, we actually can cut government by 95% and our health would actually improve!"

    Bottom line: There's never an "aha" moment where they realize their cognitive disconnect.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    It's the sodas. Somali cab drivers love them some Big Gulps.

  • grrizzly||

    The number of people in poverty tripled from 1979 to 1990. This is the most coherent argument I've heard of.

  • Irish||

    The problem is, liberals seem to believe that if EVIL MAGGIE THATCHER hadn't closed down those unprofitable mines, they would have continued in perpetuity, providing jobs to those miners, their children, and their children's children.

    The truth is this: The mines were going to die. It was only an issue of whether they were going to die in the early '80s or the early '90s and whether or not the UK economy could survive their death.

    If the UK hadn't made those reforms, the mines would have closed a decade later, after further hampering UK economic growth. Honestly, if it weren't for Thatcher, Britain today would be in the position of Greece, Italy or Spain.

  • Velcro Bootstraps||

    I love me some Final Cut, but that video could have been done so much better.

  • ||

    "The Final Cut" is probably my favorite post-Barrett Floyd album. I mean, it's basically a Roger Waters solo album guest starring Pink Floyd, but still.

  • ||

    The movie "The Full Monty" also had some "blame Thatcher" theme action going on

  • Sigivald||

    What, you include a panel from Cerebus and don't talk about it?

  • ||

    I'm a huge fan of the Thatcher-era music in the UK. It's actually my favorite era in music (bands like Felt, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Orange Juice, etc.) I half wonder if removing the dole handouts to musicians forced musicians to try harder. They could no longer slum with their crappy oi! bands on welfare checks, they now had to actually write and sell quality records that people actually wanted to buy.

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