Punk Music as Metaphor

Some years ago BBC 6 music was at risk of closing due to its small listenership, so a campaign was launched to save it. One night, DJ Gideon Coe played the punk song by Half Man Half Biscuit, Joy Division Oven Gloves, adding that only on 6 music could this oddity be heard. Listeners started to request the song be played on all the shows, and the DJs did their best to do so within legal limits. It was not that people necessarily liked it, but they wanted it played as a way of supporting the station, and the DJs played it as a way of thanking them for their support. So it may be that this song saved the station, and has gone from strength to strength since, with the last 2 years staging its own festivals. And the song has spurned a whole range of oven gloves.

This may not seem like the sort of history I usually deal with, but it seems to me it is a lesson on how to read historical accounts. The bare bones of this story suggests that the song was really popular. It was not. It was a ritual that seems to have sprung up spontaneously and became a movement of sorts. Fascinating, and I would suggest very English. A country that lost its rituals has become masters of inventing them on the fly.

Here’s the song:

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