15 November 2014
Richard Downes is an avid music-lover with a very large music collection, so when it came to commissioning a feature that highlights some of the less savoury ways in which disability gets represented, musically he was an obvious writer to ask. Drawing on a knowledge of some of the more obscure elements of popular music, IroniCrip Disco exemplifies how often we might hear a song and only subliminally recognise any meaning within it.
I love the Social Model of Disability. I love music. They're not always compatible. Especially when non-disabled musicians take on disability issues.
We've all been there. Heard the song that gets it completely wrong, winding us up something terrible. I've finished with that. I'm here to celebrate the wrong and the ridiculous.
IroniCrip Disco has over 60 songs to plunder, three hours of unsound sounds blasting out. I present the first ten songs you'd hear at one of my shows and truly it starts with a fanfare; 24 seconds, lyric free and perfectly safe; Sufjan Stevens - The Year of the Asthmatic Cat.
All sounds live here punk, rock, soul, country and blues. Here's a folky one. The Clancy Brothers leading us through a tryst between The Stuttering Lovers.
"He kissed her once and he kissed her twice
He kissed her ten time o'er
O its nice to be kissing that bonny wee lass
That's never been kissed befe, fe, fe, fe, fore, my lads"
A stammer is so easy to mimic in song. I prefer the 'f' stammer in The Who's My Generation where it seems to have a different purpose, but the Clancy's hit the button in assuming we stammerers are imminently unlovable and most unlikely to be kissable except when hidden in the corn.
Disability, impairment, life-limiting illness, which is it and why? The Fiery Furnaces may or may not have asthma but they know when they're likely to get it: "I woulda had a asthma attack
If I seen the shark bite back".
Some things just make you wanna catch your breath?
Then there are songs I genuinely love. This one appears twice. Two artists. Two titles. Mose Allison gives Eyesight To The Blind whilst Sonny Boy Williamson just calls it Born Blind but here's a classic rub: my girl's so pretty "Every time the little girl start to loving she bring eyesight to the blind" and "Every time she start to loving, the deaf and dumb begin to talk".
So we know where to go for a cure. And pretty cheap too.
Now for some 'Country' in the refined shape of the great Willie Nelson and his stupendous Half A Man.
Willie would settle for amputation, lameness, deafness and blindness:
"If I’d only, had one arm to hold her
better yet if I had none at all.
Then I wouldn't have two arms that ache for you
And there'd be one less memory to recall".
Great songwriter Willie Nelson. That's why he makes a later appearance with Crazy.
There was only ever one Elvis for me. He always struck me as a knock kneed, skinny, half-blind geek (before putting some weight on). Here is his cover of Sam and Dave's, Can't Stand Up For Falling Down.
I'm not sure why he can't but he hits on something real here:
"Why I'm not loved the way I should be,
Now I've lived with heartaches and I've roomed with fear,
I've dealt with despair and I've wrestled with tears".
Of cause its in response to love gone wrong and the falling over could have as much to do with alcoholism.
I couldn't tell you what speech impairment Tongue Tied Jill has but Charlie Feathers loves her and I love rock-a-billy. It's real dance floor filler.
Sticking with speech impairments and as a stammerer myself it feels good to be included here's stammering John Lee Hooker's Stuttering Blues with ne'er a word out of place.
When this was first a hit I was still in special school. Madness seemed desirable in comparison, but looking back on it now I see Napoleon XIV and I got so much wrong when looking forward to them Coming To Take Me Away and yet something right too:
"They're coming to take me away
ho ho he he ha ha
to the loony bin with all you can eat
prescription drugs like thorizine,
and lithium and electric shock and insulin"
So we came in on a fanfare and we go out on an instrumental, the late, great, James Brown, from blaxploitation movie 'Black Caesar', 'Blind Man Can See It but can you?'