The awokening of Piers Morgan
Hope you're all well.
I have strong memories of being at brightly coloured and well lit children's discos in the depths of the 80s, in short shorts, dancing reticently to Kylie Minogue, wondering why everyone liked this obviously bad music so much. Then the obligatory "star trekking across the universe" a "funny the first 12 times you hear it" star trek novelty song would come on, followed inevitably by the ubiquitous Jive Bunny mega mix, which would be played as if it were a ceremonial rite to do the twist to a sample-mashed re-writing of rock and roll history as you vomit iced-gems and party ring puke onto the grave of Chubby Checker. This was the 80's. And it was.
It is looking back that I realise now that the one song that stuck out amidst the wall of kitsch, camp and outright musical abuse, the one song which still stands up to 2021's chillingly post-ironic scrutiny, was a shining diamond in the rough, the great, the glorious, Spitting Image novelty single, the chicken song.
This wonderfully absurd piece of satire which implores the listener to "throw a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up your nose", "climb inside a dog" and "behead and eskimo", was, unbeknownst to me at the time, a satirical take on the string of novelty holiday hits such as the birdy song, the conga and agadoo the latter 2 of which were both by bemulleted English Smut-pop duo Black Lace. Black Lace, went on to release this song called Gang Bang, which is about having a gang bang, and was played regularly at school discos because the 80's were devoid of irony. All, that is except for the magic, the snark, the wilful bile, the knowing, wonderful, underhanded, sly absurdity of spitting image's take on the smutty, shiny pop of the day. At the time, not being able to discern a meaningful difference between the reference material and it's pastiche didn't realise i was listening to an entire genre being expertly lampooned by the most pin-sharp satirical force British culture had at the time, I assumed that the chicken songs insistence that you should "paint your left knee green" and "extract your wisdom teeth" were just a funny bunch of things puppets might say, when in actual fact they were dadaist dance moves meant to send up the worst musical trend since WWII German propaganda swing.
And so it was that a song with lyrics that asked you to "disembowel yourself with spears" and "skin yourself alive" played on heavy rotation at children's discos, was blasted at sweaty, tobacco smoke-filled family-fun package holiday dance floors from the Costa del Sol to Ayia Napa, and belaboured on every radio station on every radio in every shop and hairdresser up and down Thatcher's blighted Blighty.
Now of course, things are different. We have a keenly-developed, finely-honed sense of irony, and novelty records tend not to make it that deep into the mainstream charts. We play one of the 4000 versions of "baby shark" to our children now, because we are happy for the algorithm to raise our young, as it saves us the trouble and we dare not question it's wisdom.
I have picked my kids up from their nursery many time to see them dancing numbly to baby shark. No-one knows who wrote it, no-one in the nursery even knows who recorded the version they are subjecting my children to, and so the cycle continues. Shit music is just part of life it seems. The more we try to filter it out, the more insidiously it must creep back into our world, baby shark is like MRSA, it has evolved around our efforts to gate keep the ears of our young and now we are powerless to stop it. What then can I do to shine a beacon in this musical darkness, in this oozing mire of faceless internet schmaltz? How then shall the enduring power of absurdity and satire call us back to our bastions of taste and refinement?
It was Summer, lockdowns had been tentatively lifted and my family and I had absconded to Devon to escape the plague. As we were getting out of the car to feed our hungry sprigs, my mate Matt called and asked me if I'd be up for doing some of the music for Spitting Image. Spitting image had been an institution, effectively the ministry of satire. In the 80's if you were a politician, Spitting image making a puppet of you to satirise you with, meant you'd hit the big time. And of course, for me, my enduring memory of spitting image was the way they always lifted the drudgery of any shitty kids party with their spiking of the musical punch that was the chicken song. This was it, this was to be the antidote to everything bad! This was how i would take down the government! THIS IS HOW I WOULD SAVE MY CHILDREN FROM THE TYRANNY OF BABYSHARK!! THIS WAS TO BE MY FINEST HOUR!!
They rejected every one of my submissions, paid me to recreate the backing track to a Kanye song, and the series got relegated to a backwaters pay per view SVOD under mixed reviews.
Still. . . I proudly present one of the submissions they roundly rejected. The redemption of Piers Morgan. This won't save us from babyshark, but it's doing no-one any good sitting on my hard drive so fuck it. . . here you go.