Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

How times change…

In 1997 the BBC telethon “Children in Need” released this charity single that went straight to #1 and stayed there for three weeks – the song was everywhere. My mother even bought the CD single.

Yup, Lou Reed’s song “Perfect Day”. These are the opening lyrics…

Just A Perfect Day,
Drink Sangria In The Park,

Try drinking sangria in the park these days and see what happens if there is a PCSO about (and God help you if there are kids in a paddling-pool – do they still have them? – and you have a camera). Yes, even if it’s a couple having a picnic. But think of the children! What message does that song send out to the kiddies as a charity single for deprived kids!

But wait it gets worse…

The song has a sombre vocal delivery and slow, piano-based instrumental backing balancing tones of sweet nostalgia (“it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you”) with an undercurrent of menace (“you’re gonna reap just what you sow”)…

The song’s lyrics are often considered to suggest simple, conventional romantic devotion, possibly alluding to Reed’s relationship with Bettye Kronstadt (soon to become his first wife) and Reed’s own conflicts with his sexuality, drug use, and ego.

Some commentators have further seen the lyrical subtext as displaying Reed’s romanticized attitude towards a period of his own addiction to heroin; this popular understanding of the song as an ode to addiction led to its inclusion in the soundtrack for Trainspotting, a film about the lives of heroin users.

- Wikipedia

A movie released not that long before the single. But flash forward to 2011 and…

An X Factor contestant has come under fire for performing a song about heroin abuse during the family show. But with so many narcotic references in popular music, is it possible to insist on drug-free cover versions?

When wholesome would-be popster Janet Devlin trilled Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers on reality television programme The X Factor, the Saturday peak-time setting was somewhat removed from the track’s lyrical message of degradation, squalor and despair.

I dunno. Somehow I suspect “degradation, squalor and despair” descibes ITV1′s Saturday vile crap-fest to a T.

Devlin and the show’s producers were attacked for exposing family audiences to a song about heroin abuse.

The horror, the horror!

This is the original of the song…

It can hardly be said to romanticise heroin addiction can it? Anyway, if we are to excise from the cannon of popular music any references to drugs then I suspect you’ve got very little left. Perhaps my colleague RAB might chip in here…

Charity Kidscape called the song choice “disturbing and irresponsible” while counselling service Focus 12 warned producers that their duty to protect young people from the horrors of addiction was “not something that should be taken lightly”.

Fourteen years is a short time in bansturbation is it not?

Guess who else joined in…

The Daily Mail attacked the show’s lack of concern over “troubling lyrics about heroin needles drawing blood”. In fact, during her performance Devlin – who was subsequently voted out of the contest – omitted the song’s final verse, the only part of it to deal directly with intravenous drug use.

Classic Daily Fail.

The same paper that has this on the front page of it’s website today. A tawdry and vile attempt to disguise showing pictures of scantily clad lasses out clubbing in Britain for the purpose of titilation by serving up a side-order of moral outrage. It is moral hypocrisy of the sort that would have the sterotypical Victorian of popular imagination reach for the smelling salts (which are probably illegal now anyway). If he wasn’t also having a crafty Barclay’s…

Just read the whole thing if you can. It’s foul – I dunno the word – “slutsploitain”?

Welcome to the new moral hectoring, same as it always has been. Welcome to Iran or The Republic of Gilead.

I’m not even going to mention a certain shift in British politics that happened in 1997 but you might think it.


  1. CIngram says:

    It’s fowl – I dunno the word – “slutsploitain”?

    Is that cos it demeans birds?

  2. Kevin B says:

    When I were a lad they wanted to ban this for drug references.

    Mind you, this was even more suggestive.

    Times sure have changed.

  3. NickM says:

    Point taken and changed CIngram.

    “Here’s having a go at the birds now!”

  4. right_writes says:

    Yes drugs can ruin your life man….

    Better stay at home, have babies, depend on the welfare state and watch telly…

    Particularly strictly cum x factor and ‘stenders.

    And p p please whatever you do, don’t think about anything, Gideon’s here to do that for you…

  5. NickM says:

    Mr Osborne thinks! We’re more fucked than I thought!

  6. RAB says:

    Well I can’t put it better than this good man…

    I saw Susan Boyle doing Perfect Day once, on the telly and it was obvious she had no idea what the song is about, but then neither did anyone else. Nobody listens to the words anymore, just the melody and the vibe.

    This kind of censorship is so stupid because Lou Reed the gent who wrote the song, and was a heroin addict, had already written two graphic anti heroin songs that I would credit for keeping me and my friends who heard “I’m waiting for my man” and “Heroin” well away from the white powders for life!

    In the words of Steppenwolf’s The Pusher… We smoked a lot of grass, and we popped a lot of pills, but nothing… that my spirit could kill. That song along with Neil Young’s.. Needle and the damage done, steered a whole receptive generation away from that shit.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: