[B117] ‘Socialist Serenade’

Released on: You Stole the Sun From My Heart (Single #23) Epic Records, 8 March 1999
Peak UK Chart Position: #5
Band Ranking: #20

When a song is the only original B-side on a particular single, it puts a degree of pressure on. This was the case with ‘Socialist Serenade’, as the only other B-side on the You Stole the Sun From My Heart single was a live cover of the Clash classic ‘Train in Vain’ (an interesting choice; for both the Clash and the Manics, the song was an uncharacteristic venture into out-and-out love song territory). Pleasingly, the song is significant as the first truly political track the band had put out for quite a significant period of time. Its primary subject is the advent of so-called “New Labour”, the new and more market-friendly direction the Labour Party had recently taken to guide them into power in the 1997 general election.

The lyrics largely deal with the Manics’ attack on the dumbed-down identity politics in which Labour courted various musicians and other “hip” celebrities (“politics of celebrity”), and the abandonment of the Party’s genuinely socialist policies in order to secure power. The line “yes I have money but I hate champagne” is presumably a satirical defence of the accusation of being a “champagne socialist”, or a politician whose upper middle class upbringing and relative wealth may conflict with their outward socialist views.

Most intriguingly, ‘Socialist Serenade’ was the subject of some self-censorship on the part of the Manics. The Japanese version of the This Is My Truth album contained both this song and [B115] ‘Black Holes For The Young’ as bonus tracks (B-sides being standard bonuses on Japanese versions of Manics LPs) and printed their lyrics in the accompanying booklet. In the case of this song, a verse was printed which cannot be heard in the recording:

Robin Cook’s gone wild
He’s licking too much pussy
John Prescott’s still cool
Must be cos he’s Welsh
We’re not talking buckets of water here

The prevailing theory is that the band thought better of including these lyrics due to their somewhat risqué attacks on well-known politicians, despite having hyped said lyrics up in the press beforehand. This decision must have been taken fairly late on, however, as the vocals were apparently just mixed extremely low rather than excised entirely – i.e., they did reach recording stage. Finally, there are a couple of lines which seem particularly apt today; especially “all this time such a debt to the city / I don’t know who is the real enemy”, which could easily be about the present financial crisis.

There was a degree of musical conflict in the song also, as Moore apparently disliked the track and so his drumming performance consists solely of a few ramshackle bars repeated on a loop – which is surprisingly effective, as it turns out. There are also a lot of dog barking sound effects which add to the slightly messy, eccentric feel of this track which feels fairly out of place in the Truth era but still provides a lot of enjoyment. The song did earn itself a place on the Lipstick Traces compilation in 2003.

Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“all this time such a debt to the city / I don’t know who is the real enemy”

Tuscany – a region of central Italy.

Change your name to “New” – a reference to the advent of so-called “New Labour”, a major policy shift in the British Labour Party in the late 1990s which made them more amenable to market interests, so-called “humanitarian” military interventionism, and much less connected to true socialist values.

Robin Cook – (1946 – 2005) British Labour Party politician mainly known for his opposition to the 2003 Iraq War and who spent four years as Foreign Secretary.

John Prescott – (1938 -) British Labour Party politician who was Deputy Prime Minister for ten years between 1997 and 2007.


One response to “[B117] ‘Socialist Serenade’

  1. Interesting about the ommitted lyrics, never knew that. The ‘buckets of water’ reference was of course an allusion to the infamous episode at the 1997 Brit Awards where Chumbawamba threw a bucket of water over Prescott. That Prescott was at a popular music awards ceremony anyway just about sums up New Labour’s cynical bandwagoning of Britpop etc. The other references to Tuscany and being in ‘debt to the city’ are of course very much of their time too – Tuscany being Blair’s favourite holiday destination and the latter ‘debt’ can equally be interpreted as figurative as much as literal, Brown/ Blair having agreed to be friendly to Big Business in contrast to old Labour. At the time I think Robin Cook was more famous for his marital infidelity than anything else – the principled stand on the Iraq War coming after this song was written.

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