Charles Shaar Murray just read me a brilliant demolition of “Hong Kong Garden” by Siouxie Sioux and the Banshees and “Every Picture Tells A Story” by Rod Stewart from journalist and former NME writer Johnny “Cigarettes” Sharp who has written a most excellent book, Crap Lyrics (pub Portico).
Punk rock never had any truck with petty social rules or niceties. Yet when Siouxie sang, Slanted eyes meet a new sunrise, a race of bodies small in size, she seemed to be expressing a knowledge and empathy with immigrant peoples that had more in common with pre-punk figures such as, say, Bernard Manning. Chicken chow mein and chop suey, they rhymed questionably with Hong Kong Garden takeaway, displaying all the searing wit of the bloke who goes into a Chinese restaurant and asks for ‘flied lice’. But let’s not be too hasty in our condemnation. After all, Miss Sioux has since claimed that the song was ‘kind of a tribute’ to immigrant communities who were harassed by skinheads in the late 80’s.
It’s certainly an interesting way of showing respect for other cultures, especially coming from a band who once wore swastikas on stage. I’m sure they meant well, though. Anyway, I’m off down the Notting Hill Carnival dressed in an afro wig and boot polish — it’s my tribute to the afro-caribbean community. I’m hoping for a warm reception.
I can’t stand Rod Stewart so I was lucky enough to miss out on this lyrical masterpiece, “Every Picture Tells A Story”.
Once the Beatles had taken the word by storm, the globe became a playground for tight-trousered troubadours eager to export some culture (usually a culture of sexually transmitted bacteria) to their foreign cousins. But like latter-day Marco Polos, they did at least report back on theier experiences, to educate us in the customs and peoples they met there. As Rod Stewart put it in this postcard from the edge:
On the Peking ferry I was feeling merry, sailing on my way back here.
I fell in love with a slit-eyed lady, By the light of an eastern moon,
Shanghai Lil never used the pill, she claimed it just ain’t natural
… and so I did the decent thing, and put a condom on my Deng Xiao Ping.
OK, so I kind of made up that last line. But don’t dismiss old Rod for any lack of chivalry, or indeed romance. He goes on to inform us how she won his heart, then refers to her once more as the ‘slit-eyed lady’. How she must have loved that pet name. Sadly, history history does not record whether she affectionately dubbed him ‘parrot face’ in return”
Johnny’s sharp book is full of equally funny take-downs, throwing like a top martial artist, actually not having to do much except have an eagle eye and present what’s already there. The Beastie Boys telling us, Girls! To do the dishes! Girls! To clean up my room. Girls! To do the laundry!; Rod Stewart again, promising to make love to you Like fifteen men when he gets “Lost In You” (hmm); Prince coming over some poor woman’s wedding gown in “Head” (double hmm); Prince once more coming where he shouldn’t in “Come” (triple hmm). Who’s this Liz Phair who wants to fuck you like a dog (presumably after sniffing your bum for the longest time) and threatens to make you like it in “Flower”? And Prince yet again, this time coming in his “Sister” like some sort of dribble-monster run riot.
Thank heavens song-writing giants like Bob Dylan and David Bowie set a better example. Oh, wait …!
Anna’s food blog here: