Eddy Says

Eddy Says: No cigar, but close

By | Published on Monday 23 May 2011

Eddy TM

Under normal circumstances, when I hear a record by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, on the radio, I rejoice. Just a little air punch in my head, to remind my soul that we’re winning. But increasingly I’ve become irritated when I hear, for instance, the radio edit of ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’.

“Thou shalt not buy C*** **** products, thou shalt not buy N***** products”.

This is nothing to do with Dan and Pip, it’s either the record label or the radio station taking a position of paranoia. I suppose you can understand a commercial radio station for not wanting to offend Coca Cola, or Nestle (spits), whom they may be pitching for some kind of advertisement, but it’s hard to forgive, when in doing so, they are castrating one of the greatest lyricists the UK has ever produced.

And in terms of what the listeners want, there really is no need for this censorship – or any of the other cut lyrics, cut not for commercial reasons, but because of the rules that come from on high – the regulator. No individuals have ever complained to me about these or other supposedly offensive lyrics that I may have aired in all my years on air; actually it’s the opposite, people complain to me, regularly, about me playing these radio edits, or about me giving out apologies and warnings regards tracks that the regulator thinks might offend.

Unfortunately these people are not accounted for in the odd process that governs us in radio, like the hundred thousand or so of us that were on Jonathan Ross’ side during Wossgate.

But us DJs do have to pay attention to what the regulator says, partly because we don’t want our stations to get in trouble, partly for our own survival. Many stations operate a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy with regards upheld regulator complaints. Much like speeding, if you go a few years without any complaints upheld, then the slates are wiped clean. My second ‘strike’ sheds interesting light on the regulator’s complaints process. I did an anti-George Bush mix on the eve of his second term US Presidential elections, because I knew that I had quite a few listeners in Colorado, a ‘swing state’ at that time.

Of course, if this had been an election on home soil I’d never do that, as it breaks the law regarding politics in broadcasting – everyone has to have the same crack at the whip and we have to be totally impartial. But given these people were listening in a country thousands of miles outside our area of jurisdiction, I thought I was safe. I was wrong. But here’s the interesting thing: I had the lion’s share of a hundred emails from people bigging up this mix of Bassnectar, The The, Coldcut, Bill Hicks, Adrian Mitchell, Double D and Steinski. I had ONE email from a Republican listening in middle America, a staunch Bush fan, who complained. The complaint was upheld and I got a serious slap on the wrist and was threatened with unemployment.

Even though the complainant was in a tiny minority (of one!), he won the day, and none of the people who’d written in positively had their views even acknowledged. Any reasonable person can see that the system is tragically skewed, out of kilter, with the people it is trying to protect.

What irritates me, almost more than the castration of lyrics, is the double standards at play. On the one hand you can hear, on a regular basis, on Xfm or Radio One, Gary Lightbody singing about ‘ecstasy’ in the song ‘How To Be Dead’; a gratuitous and direct drug reference, calling a spade a spade. I often play ‘E-Talking’ by Soulwax. Same deal: “It’s not you, it’s the E talking”.

Then you may hear, even as the next tune, ‘Weak Become Heroes’ by The Streets, written by the greatest British lyricist of his generation, Mike Skinner. But you won’t hear it as he wrote it, you’ll hear the line “imagine all the world’s leaders on p****”.

The word removed is ‘pills’. Not ‘ecstasy’. ‘Pills’, for fuck’s sake. Not even a direct reference to the drug, but a euphemism, and it’s been cut out, ruining the song. The sentiment there is wonderful. I WANT to imagine the world leaders on pills, what an exquisite image to conjure, what a delightful hope to wish for. He’s not talking about taking ecstasy, he’s just asking us to IMAGINE what it would be like if the G8 suits were to relax to that degree and show the same loved up, communal spirit you’d get at a big rave or one of the better festivals.

Instead, I just get angry when I hear it. It’s censorship, plain and simple, and it’s gone too far. Broadcasters fear of causing offence has become so acute that they have adopted a general view that censorship is more important than the art itself. They are forgetting that the art is the reason why we are there, why we consume their brand and buy into their product, the adverts are a necessity for them (the independent stations, of course, not the BBC) but are a major annoyance for us. Adapting the artistic content of your station to the wants and needs of your audience is how it should be, castrating, censoring, changing – in every case – for the worst, to suit the mood of a corporate behemoth or a small group of too easily offended complainers is degrading and borderline fascistic.

The Vines, or more likely their record label promotions department, came up with a brilliant way around it several years ago. I don’t recall the name of the song, even though I could play most of it for you, or sing the chorus melody. (‘Highly Evolved’? Maybe not but it was around that time.) The last three words of the main strap line in every chorus was “gonna fuck yoooou”.

A radio edit would have sounded pony, so they just put a sticker on the promo CD which printed the (wrong) lyrics. They changed that line to “gonna affect you” so Xfm and other stations had an excuse to play it without the daft edit. It sounded great, I loved hearing that twitchy, burger-loving, ADHD/Aspergers dude from The Vines hollering “gonna fuck yoooou” several times a day, and anyone who was uptight enough to complain could be fobbed off with an official, “You just heard it wrong – it’s ‘affect’, no harm done, Padre, please enjoy your slice of Battenberg and the altar boy”.

Radio stations will argue that their castration of records is not censorship, but to my mind, it’s too close to call it anything else. And it’s not just radio stations, every organisation that interfaces with the public, in any way, is becoming so over cautious as to actually cause even more offence, in the most ridiculously inverted way. At the tail end of last year, one of the London councils put up that iconic picture of Winston Churchill, holding up his fingers in a ‘V for Victory’ sign. He was at that moment, toking a cigar, as he was in many of his famous poses or snapshots.

The council in question, for fear of offending anti-smokers, had the cigar removed, leaving Churchill’s lips looking very odd and pursed in a totally unnatural fashion. When the story broke on local news it caused such a furore, the news went national and they were so embarrassed that within 24 hours Winston had his stogie back.

While this is quite funny, it is also, I feel, symptomatic of what I’m talking about here, the collective nanny state, and view that everything must be done with kid gloves, and that art must be censored to cause less offence. This is a very dangerous and slippery slope. Imagine if those in charge had been like this decades ago, imagine them looking at that multi award winning picture of that poor little Vietnamese girl running down the street towards the camera, her innocent skin scalded by American napalm, her cheeks streaming with tears and her face contorted with physical and mental agony.

It’s one of the most powerful shots I remember from my youth. Picture these knob-jockeys saying: “Aw, that’s a bit too harsh, let’s Photoshop the scalding and change her expression to a smile”. Banksy did a version with a smiley acid face on her shoulders and a happy meal in her hand. The point is simple: Art can be offensive, it can be challenging, and ask questions of it’s audience. But we cannot allow the state endorsed public defacing of art in the name of some fucked up concept of taste and decency. Art is art. Without it our lives are empty and with it censored, it’s not much better.

Now I must get to Rome to see the Sistene Chapel ceiling before some fuckwit decides to paint over Adam’s tiny cock and balls.

X eddy