What causes you offence is as effective a marker of personality and persuasions as anything you can write on a t-shirt or post on a FaceBook feed.
The knee-jerk of righteous indignation is easy pickings for shock jocks, standups and bogus hip-hop crews of Goldie Lookin’ Chain‘s ilk, and we know it well. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to stop us reacting to the most puerile of stimulus, even when it’s wound tightly with irony, or the dubious claim that self-identification using terms of abuse disempowers the language of the aggressor.
Windups come in many forms and with many subjects. Race is a recurrent theme. Gender, religion, sexual orientation, body mass index, hometown, marital status. If there’s a knife that can be twisted, twisted it will be. The same William Shakespeare whose quotes on love will stink up the world’s social media today, knew the publicity value of offensive theatre as well as Jimmy Carr or Chris Moyles.
English teachers worldwide have long made use of the Shakespearian insult-generator to enliven sullen youths in Literature class, and there is a satisfying valedictorian aspect to constructing put-downs such as ‘thou mewling pox-marked skainsmate’ or ‘thou paunchy flap-mouthed bum-bailey’.
But offensiveness changes with time and place.
A modern audience might take issue with The Merchant of Venice‘s Shylock presented as a grasping Jewish loanshark but see little to take offence at in the central construct of Othello: the fear, as voiced much later on Bodycount‘s Cop Killer album, ‘of the white girl falling in love with the black man’.
Offence need not be so time-consuming either. A single line, word or song can be twisted to cause maximum outrage for minimal effort. Witness the reaction to Ricky Gervais‘ use of the word ‘mong’. Nor does it seem to matter if the originator is attempting to provoke a reaction or not. UK rapper BangOn‘s reference to last-attempt nightclub girls as looking ‘like Johnny Vegas in drag’ wanting him to ‘lick their pissflaps’ is designed to irritate sensibilities, but is nothing like as genuinely offensive as when he describes his flyblown dustbins as being ‘like Heysel’. Offence, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Similarly, the Roy Chubby Brown version of Smokie‘s ‘Living Next Door to Alice’ courts offensiveness by adding ‘Who the fuck is Alice?’ to the refrain. Offensive? Perhaps, but not nearly so objectionable as British skinheads tweaking it further. Racist conflagrations at urban flashpoints have long resounded to the sound of the same chant with ‘Alice’ replaced by ‘Allah’.
In a twisted celebration of the offensively smug Valentine’s Day message, Trebuchet rounded up some contributors for an overview of musical offensiveness.
NOFX: My Vagina.
US political debating chambers consider the mere word ‘vagina’ so offensive that they are unable to maintain the business of upholding democracy when it is uttered. NOFX’s rousing ditty about the joys of gender realignment could surely be used as a terrorist weapon: ‘…and when I wipe my ass, I go from front to back, coz I don’t want a bladder infection….’ – Sean Keenan
Johnny Rebel: Lookin’ For a Handout
Good ol’ Johnny Reb. Yes siree. Johnny has been famous in these parts and the world over since the 1960’s. Pappy has all the hits from ‘Move Them Niggers North.’ ‘ Nigger Hatin’ Me’, ‘Who Likes a Nigger?’ and the classic ‘Lookin’ for a Handout’. Now Johnny Reb was also a favourite of many Rockabillies and Psychobillies from the 1980’s to the present day, keeping ol’ Johnny’s pockets lined with cash and wearing their Confederate flags with pride.
Perhaps Johnny was the Bob Wayne of his time? Funny thing is I still hear the same words and phrases from Lookin’ for a Handout today, be it from conversations in bars from the local KKK supporters to your very own EDL people. You’d have thought things would’ve moved on a little by now. Pappy knows no better, he’s a different generation, but there is education these days. – Col. Jon Burrows
Kunt and the Gang: Jimmy Savile and The Sexy Kids
There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to Kunt and the Gang. Berating a heckler for being a ‘fat bitch’, transforming Katy Perry‘s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ into the singsong tale of a lost building-site bet: ‘I Sucked Off a Bloke’, or his Faustian pact with a corrupt A&R man in ‘Use My Arsehole as a Cunt’. Pride of offensive place though, goes to the paedophilia apologism of ‘Jimmy Savile and the Sexy Kids’. – Chosen by Nick Henderson.
The Anti Nowhere League: So What?
The Anti Nowhere league perfectly summarise the anarchic and anti establishment vitriol espoused by the punk movement. ‘So what?’ is a song drenched in vulgarity and violent imagery which is essentially designed to shock listeners into attention. It’s quite a catchy three chord punk ditty that always brings a smile to my face; even if I still have to try and block the image of spewing up after drinking a pint of piss. So what? – Scott J Ryan
Gallows : Orchestra of Wolves
This is right in my ball park…
Where to start? Ok then, Gallows – ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ is a good choice.
“If I offer to buy you a drink, trust me when I say it’s not alcoholic. You’re no good to me when you can’t even speak, I don’t want you passing out when you’re sucking my dick” pretty much sums it up.
The unsigned scene has loads of great material. If you have time, just listen to this whole album by Cojko Dial# (pronounced cockodile). It’s astounding.
Back to the Gallows-esque hardcore – Get Fucking Dead have some pure offensive gold here in ‘Fanny Punch’
Oh yeah, anything by Steel Panther. Definitely. – Jed Saint
Damageplan – Fuck You.
Although probably more targeted towards Phil Anselmo than being a generally offensive song (Damageplan being the band Dimebag and Vinnie started post-Pantera).
Also, anything by Cannibal Corpse, maybe ‘Entrails Ripped From a Virgins Cunt’? – James Domone
Skrewdriver: Voice of Britain
Anything by Skrewdriver I suppose, although I’m not sure I’d want to give them any publicity…. – Sarah Corbett
Goldie Lookin’ Chain: Your Mother’s got a Penis
The title says it all. – Amy Abbott
Petrol Powered Goon Bag Holocaust: Hey White Cunt
Certainly a lot more vitriol than Beds are Burning. – Chosen by Kailas Elmer
Borat: Throw the Jew Down the Well – Chosen by Kailas Elmer
Riskay – Smell Yo Dick
‘Smell Yo Dick’ is the tragic story of a misunderstood young man whose lover gets all antsy and suspicious at his nocturnal activities. Simply asking where he’s been is not good enough for this lady, nor indeed a session of counselling at Relate. Instead, she resorts to the time-worn tactic for detecting errantry: the meekly-voiced ‘can I smell yo dick?’.
And then he suggests that ‘that’s how a bitch get an eye swoll up’. Happy Valentine’s Day. – Chosen by Nic Lobo
Adele: Someone Like You
Some narratives are simply chilling. The unwitting ex-boyfriend atempting to shield his family from the doorstepping hulk of an emotional Adele is one. To be roused from domestic bliss by a frothing mental, looking as if she has constructed herself voodoo-style from a sleepingbag full of well-mulched grass clippings topped by a face modelled on Dame Kiri Te Kanawa‘s (had Dame Kiri’ face been built from shards of smashed Royal Doulton plates)? This is a scenario that plays upon the most primal of fears.
That, combined with the vulpine screech at 2m52 as the singer’s cockernee karaoke rasp fails hopelessly to maintain or even reach the moderate rise in pitch of ‘ah behhhheggg’ exacerbates the fear factor. Nevertheless, fear in itself is not offensive, even if the song does posit the idea that a spurned woman hanging around her ex-boyfriend’s house to eavesdrop on his lovemaking is reasonable behaviour.
The offensiveness of ‘Someone Like You’ stems not from the appalling reedy timbre of the singer’s voice, the unforgiveable passive-aggression of its protagonist or the GCSE-level piano arpeggios, but in the patronising assumption that an audience would somehow identify with such a scab-picking, self-indulgent, boyfriend-defined, needy and narcissistic hymn of overblown misery to actually go out and buy it.