The last few years feel like the civilised world has been on something of a precipice, buffeted from all sides by extremist, reactionary opinions and decisions that take us backwards.
/You Are Free (To Do As We Tell You)
/Subject /Freedom, Freedom of Choice
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/144 /Used Prior/5 /Unique Songs/121 /People Suggesting/60
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/37:11
Hence a /Tuesday Ten this week on Freedom of Choice. I decided to be more open when I asked for suggestions on this, around the idea of freedom (of any sort), but the majority of the suggestions pushed me down the Freedom of Choice route anyway (which was fine by me). I explicitly didn’t want to make this just about abortion (I am entirely pro-choice, by the way), but a couple of the songs featured (and the discussion around them) does cover the subject.
Thanks as always to the large number of people who offered their song suggestions (and there were a lot this week, too).
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/The Soup Dragons
/I’m Free (feat. Junior Reid)
Oft-forgotten that this is a cover of an old Rolling Stones track (from 1965 album Out of Our Heads), and listening back, it’s kinda surprising that The Soup Dragons didn’t do too much to it twenty-five years later. Well, at least to the melody and the chorus – they then shoved a baggy backbeat and squalling guitars solos into it, and a toasting section from Junior Reid that works. The song originally was likely a clapback to Jagger/Richards’ elders tutting at their new-fangled music and rebellious attitudes, and in 1990, worked neatly as a mouthpiece for the youth of then once again flexing their rebellious sides as rave took hold. Every generation will always try and break free of the last.
/Amyl and the Sniffers
/Comfort to Me
Aussie band Amyl and the Sniffers have much to say in a short time on the snarling, base-as-fuck punk rock of Choices, as vocalist Amy Taylor reminds her listeners and everyone else that she doesn’t give a fuck about their opinions on her life: as anything she does is her choice and her responsibility alone, as it should be. I entirely agree with this, and I apply it to my friendships too: I’m not going to offer opinions unless asked for, and in terms of people’s choices – particularly and especially around bodily autonomy – it’s none of my fucking business unless I’m asked.
This song fucking rocks, too.
/Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1
One of George Michael’s biggest hits post-Wham! was him effectively setting new boundaries for his career as a solo artist. Faith a few years before had made him a worldwide megastar, and I can’t help but feel that his record label must have had kittens when he made clear that he wasn’t going to play the usual press game for the next album – something that was confirmed with Michael’s later battles with Sony. The album was seen as a commercial failure compared to Faith (selling “just” eight million), but did, among other songs, result in the extraordinary howl of rage that was Freedom ’90. Tired of being a sex symbol, tired of having to give up his life to the press, this song was a call for letting all that go and doing his own thing – to the point of not appearing in the video, instead letting then young director David Fincher get a host of supermodels (both men and women) to smoulder in front of the camera listening and lip-synching along to the song. The result, of course, was an era-defining video and a smash-hit single.
/Standing In The Way of Control
/Standing in the Way of Control
Back in 2006, Beth Ditto and her band Gossip seemed to be everywhere. Their searing, dance-infused garage rock felt like it had struck a nerve with just about everyone, and thus, it became inescapable. I wasn’t paying that close attention at the time, though, and I had never realised, until researching this post, that the song was a searing tirade against George W. Bush’s much-trailed Federal Marriage Amendment, that would have effectively outlawed same-sex marriage: thus restricting the legal freedoms of LGBTQ+ (etc.) to have the legal protections hetereosexual marriages too. Thankfully, that was one far-right Christian move that never made it to the statute book, but frankly, I’ve no doubt that they will try again in time.
/Freedom of Choice
/Freedom of Choice
Devo were way ahead of their time in many respects, but this song feels like something that could have applied to our times as much as it did in 1980 when it was released. Perhaps a less immediate track than some of their other hits (although that riff is something else), it is very much more direct lyrically. The band detail poor decisions from history that could have been averted by better decision making, but make it clear that we all have freedom of choice in what we do.
Which is fine, but the problems come when smaller factions restrict that choice based on their beliefs, or make choices that will impact others without a second thought. Like those who resisted wearing masks in lockdown, or thought COVID was a hoax – thus risking the health of many others by their own selfishness.
/Levelling The Land
Now over thirty years old (!!) and still a stalwart of the now-veteran band’s live sets, in many ways it sums up the Brighton band in four rabble-rousing minutes. Mark Chadwick sneers at the nosy neighbours wanting to complain about the way he lives his life as much as he does intrusive, oppressive Governments (remember that at the time, significant parts of the alternative subculture were still reeling from the crackdown on Traveller lifestyles in the eighties, and the Criminal Justice Bill was just around the corner), and instead chants “this means nothing to me / the way we were is the way that I wanna be“, suggesting he’d like to be left alone with the freedom to live as he chooses.
/Worthless Is The Freedom Bought…
/Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent
Back before The Shape of Punk to Come, Refused were a furious hardcore band with even shorter songs, and Worthless Is The Freedom Bought… is about as short as they get, as Dennis Lyxzén roars over the cacophony to fling shots at capitalist democracy, reminding us that all too often freedom ends up being at the expense of truth and betterness – and fucking hell, twenty-six years on? Let’s just say we’ve gone even further back, and are in some cases even less free than we were before.
/Our Daughters Will Never Be Free
A seething early track from The Indelicates sees Julia Indelicate unleashing her fury at patriarchal bullshit for three thrilling minutes. In that short timeframe, she rails at misogynistic attitudes to women, the general expectations of women by men that boil down to outright sexism and control far too often, not to mention similar expectations of women in music, too (as cases like the appalling battle for control that Britney Spears has had to go through), and wearily accepts, by the end of the song, that little will ever change for the next generation, either, as she spits “Our Daughters Will Never Be Free“.
/Voicemail for Jill
/There Will Be No Intermission
I’ve thought a lot about the recent US Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v Wade – which, while it didn’t outlaw abortion entirely in the US, it did remove the constitutional right to an abortion, that meant individual states could set their own laws (and it is understood that twenty-six states are now moving toward banning abortion almost entirely – the rules will vary from state to state).
I am very much of the view that it is up to individuals to make their own choices on such an emotive issue, which boils down to the simple phrase “Their body, their choice”. A number of friends have spoken out about their experiences – and there are likely many more who have chosen not to speak about it – and what and how they choose to deal with such a situation, is none of our fucking business, certainly not to judge them on it.
Thankfully, for now the issue appears mostly settled in the UK, even if there is less freedom to the decisions than a majority would like (it requires mandatory involvement and sign-off by doctors, as I recall), and hopefully we will not see these rights rolled back.
We finish this week with a fierce call for freedom by the Queen of Soul. On a typically powerhouse performance, she builds the song from a steady base to a climactic, explosive chorus where she lays down the law to a partner not giving her respect and love – calling for freedom for them both in no uncertain terms. This song was, of course, later re-recorded for a spectacular scene in The Blues Brothers, where unsurprisingly, Aretha owns every single second of it.