14 Jul 2016

Let's Work: Mick Jagger's Thatcherite Musical Sin

The 60s. The epitome of counter culture, or so we're told. The decade where the white middle class male was able to temporarily adopt an attitude of vague radicalism. I know that there were great cultural strides achieved throughout the 60s. Most notably the ever increasing push for racial equality. However the late 60s hippie movement largely operated as a privileged lifestyle choice for young people who grew up in well off households. It was an experiment, and one which many opted out of by the end of the decade. There were fantastic aspects about the culture, but let's not treat it as if it was the apex of western civilisation. 

One of the iconic bands of the decade were obviously The Rolling Stones. Now, I should preface this next statement by saying that I am a fan of the band, however there is something which needs to be made very clear. Mick Jagger is an absolute cock. Anyone seeking evidence for this claim need look no further than his 1987 single Let's Work.

It's a musical apology for the sins of neoliberalism. A grotesque anthem for the ethos embodied by both Thatcher and Reagan. Everything the 60s counterculture supposedly despised is amplified throughout the song, and its accompanying video. Seriously watch the video. You rarely see so much euphoria gushing from a person spouting such vile conservative rhetoric.

This is honestly one of the most offensive songs ever made. A great big fuck you to the victims of Thatcher's economic policies. "No sitting down on your butt, the world don't owe you". Yeah, alright Mick, that's a really well thought out little worldview you've got there. Consider me converted. Now I can see that all those pesky miners were just sat around twiddling their thumbs, too lazy to get a job and ensure their families would have an adequate amount of food each week.

For Mick Jagger's revolution stretched as far as being able to shag whoever he wanted. Equality, peace and love were just buzz terms for him. Make no mistake Mick Jagger is an establishment figure. Someone who reaped in the rewards of the capitalist system and is then more than up for making a song which demonises those unfortunate enough not to come from his privileged background.

In a fantastic article for The Quietus entitled "How The Baby Boomers Stole Music With The Myth Of A Golden Age". Luke Turner notices how odd it is that "a 20- or 30-year period in just two countries nearly half a century ago has been allowed to utterly dominate conversation on contemporary music ever since." It is especially odd given how inaccurate its supposed connotations of radicalism are. Mick Jagger - one of the key figures of this era - has demonstrated with the song Let's Work, that for him at least, progressive ideologies are not at the forefront of his goals. He's not alone either, take Eric Clapton, who after making a career from the whitewashed appropriation of tradition styles of black music, had the audacity in the 70s to make claims in support of Enoch Powell. Or how about the rampant misogyny which took place within the scene. All I'm saying is we shouldn't emulate the time too much in regards to its morals.

I'd say as a young music fan there is now a certain feeling of prohibition. For instance I'm allowed to find the work of Oneohtrix Point Never or Jenny Hval fascinating, but am forever reminded that I should have an even greater appreciation for those brave pioneers of the 1960s. An unattainable mythology is built around these releases which prevents contemporary innovators from ever being held in the same regard. When a younger generation loses a healthy dose of irreverence towards the past, what will emerge in it's place is a beige retrogressive orthodoxy. I'm not trying to attack the 60s. I'm merely making the obvious point that there is roughly the same amount of good and bad music made each decade.

Perhaps the slaughtering of sacred cows inst really a worthwhile endeavour. The great Simon Reynolds believes that making the achievements of the giants of the past seem less substantial is almost a apology for the failings of the present. However, personally I must admit that I do get an innate amount of satisfaction from uttering these words: FUCK OFF MICK JAGGER.

Words: Eden Tizard