As one of the most important and yet undeniably lurid election campaigns draws to a close I spent my time trying to think of a song to best encapsulate our current crop of political parties, campaigners and media outlets. Something that surmised their incredulous ability to smile like your Grandma with a bowl of Werther’s Originals whilst trying to shaft you like your dirty Uncle with a Rolf Harris complex. Something poignant.
I trawled my back catalogue, Spotify and every traditional outlet, but seeing as there is no song called ‘Don’t Believe The Muggy Etonians’ I was at a loss. Until BBC6 Music, that most delightfully eclectic radio station, popped up with a gem. ‘Pretty Vacant’ written by Glen Matlock and performed by The Sex Pistols (with and without Matlock) couldn’t be more perfect in all its gilt-edged irony and frustration.
The song thunders across the airwaves in sea of spit, bile and antipathetic discontent. Thrashing across three-chords, I mean really four chords is just for show-offs (a riff taken from ABBA’s SOS, I might also add), the song depicts a nation of no-hopers gleefully dressed up for the future without one laid before them. Seems all a bit familiar, right?
‘Pretty Vacant’ was written on the back of the Sex Pistols visiting America for the first time and encountering Richard Hell’s zeitgeist track ‘(I Belong to the) Blank Generation’. There was something that seemed poignant to Matlock “somewhere, something pretty fundamental was missing. As soon as I saw that I thought: That’s the kind of feeling we want to get across in our songs.” (speaking to Quietus) And so it was writ. Matlock composed the song entirely on his own and it became not only the third single released by the band but the only time they were allowed to perform on Top of the Pops.
Why ‘Pretty Vacant’? Well, as a society (and even within the music industry) we have become so intrinsically image based we seem to forget not only do we have a voice but that we also have passion and not just for Facebook and Twitter – and yes, I will be sharing this on both outlets – it’s a voice and a passion that’s not being heard.
Apart from summing up our current social-media driven, sex-mad culture so easily with its depiction of good-looking nothings waiting for something or indeed anything to happen or do, the track also portrays our current crop of cack-spouting politicians like a fucking mirror. Just read the lyrics, it’s uncanny.
With the leaders of the major and moronic (UKIP) political parties trying to smile and baby-kiss their way through the campaign they’re making promise after promise. They’re promises that they will most likely break as soon as they taste their first sip of Downing Street champers. They get prettier and more vacant by the day, while their media trained veneers seem to be becoming ever brighter but we are left wondering where the bite has gone?
All of the political parties seem to think that they can keep British Youth neatly at arm’s length and currently they’re not wrong. They dance around issues and have made careers from lying but it seems that now they are more disingenuous than ever.
Debate questions are pre-written and garnered from the moronic or the party themselves and politicians tend to ignore the hindrances on the street they face (‘Fuck off Back to Eton’ was a contender for this piece – see below) with complete, sedated ambivalence. With this, there leaves no connection to young people or their issues. Questions and problems are either ignored, entirely disregarded or ambivalently nodded at without a second thought of actually acting upon them.
Beyond dodgy Twitter accounts, calling themselves Dave or Nick or Ed and telling us they like Snow Patrol we get nothing accept an un-trusting smile beamed at us like a smug child. (Snow Patrol? At least Blair went for Oasis. And they wonder why we are disenfranchised?)
There’s no point in asking, you’ll get no reply
It’s our fault really. We haven’t been paying attention. We’ve let issue after issue slip through our fingers without so much as a “tsk tsk” of our tongues. Bankers bankrupt the country, ‘tuition fee promise’ scrapped, youth employment relying on zero-hour contracts, a 16 hour contract is now considered a full-time job, most work below the living wage and they rewarded the same fucking bankers who bamkrupted us. Yet, not a peep from Britain’s Youth (bar a mini Sports Direct battering – take that Mike Ashley!).
But, in fairness, name another generation who has had this much access to the instant entertainment and gratification that we have? We’ve become so pale from being indoors with XBoxs, social-media and internet porn, we’ve forgotten that there is a country out there being run for us and quite poorly.
So what to do? I am not a political activist. I’m not a party member. I will be voting, but only with that banner of ‘the lesser of two evils’ pointing my pen towards the red box. One thing that needs to change is…us. We need to be more involved.
‘Pretty Vacant’ is funny to me now because of how easily applied to the current political attitude it is, but it was once empowering and delivered a message and all excuses aside we just don’t have that now. Think about it, what and when was the last song/album/artist that made you feel like that? Truly empowered or aware at yours and others societal position?
I’m not saying become a party member, I’m not even saying you have to vote but we do need to make more noise. The Pistols knew it, Damon Albarn even knows it and we should know it too.
So, please someone, pick up a pen and stop me from listening to BBC6 Music.