Sunday, 14 April 2013
Five Star Songs: Sinéad O'Connor- Black Boys On Mopeds
I know I shouldn't give a shit about British politics, and for the most part I am ignorant to what goes on in that country. However, during the 80's it was hard to ignore the unfathomable ultra conservative frightening reign from Margaret Thatcher, the leader of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990. The amount of anti-Thatcher songs that came out in that era were endless and made everyone angry from punks to folk singers to more well known musical artists. BuzzFeed made a pretty good list of some of the more angrier songs that were written as the result of her rule. You can read it here.
These feelings were stirred up again this week with the death of the former PM. One of the biggest artists to release a vitriol statement saying they are glad she has passed away was Morrissey. Never shy to mince words Moz simply stated on his fan website that "she didn't give a shit about people." Just an aside to back this up: besides Thatcher's economic policy that put a lot of Britons out of work and her war over a couple of rocks in the south Atlantic, one of the most atrocious policies of her legacy was supporting the South African apartheid government and labelling Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. Yes, she did help end apartheid, but only because sanctions were hindering South Africa's economy and not because she cared anything about that country's black majority.
I actually caught a glimpse of Thatcher when she was visiting Toronto in 1988 for the G8 summit. I remember I was in an office building beside the King Edward Hotel where she was staying. Looking from eight floors up, I could see the limo pull up in front of the hotel and Thatcher stepping out waving to her admirers. Even in liberal Canada she had her fans. While this was going on, I remember a slew of snipers on top of the hotel on guard looking for trouble. Scary stuff.
Getting back to the music, one of the songs on the aforementioned BuzzFeed list was Sinéad O'Connor's "Black Boys On Mopeds." The song appeared on the album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and is about an incident where a black youth was pursued by police for stealing a moped, even though the boy was innocent of the crime. When trying to evade police the boy crashed and was killed. The death was ruled accidental but O'Connor alleges in the song the only reason that the boy was suspected of the crime was because he was black. The start of the song references Thatcher and notes how strange it is that she was shocked at what was going on in China while the same things were going on at home in Britain. Listen to the political song-as performed on the Late Show in 1990-that points Thatcher as a hypocrite below: