Theresa May's Abba tribute just the latest fusion of politics and music
PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 October 2018
Mamma Mia, Theresa, What’s the name of the game? Did the Prime Minister meet her Waterloo at the party conference – or will voters take a chance on her again?
As a teenager and a student in the 1970s, that was the decade that really formed my interest in politics and my musical tastes – and 40 years later I almost felt that they collided at the Tory Party conference.
At school I guess I followed the herd a bit in coming to love heavy music like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and I must confess I looked down my nose a bit at “commercial” groups like Slade and T.Rex.
I learned my lesson later in the decade so when Noddy and the boys played at our big Freshers’ concert I was one of the first to snap up a ticket! Singing “Merry Xmas Everybody” in the encore at the start of October seemed totally rational!
Once I was a university I also developed a love for New Wave or Punk (depending on what you called it that week) so Elvis Costello and Sham 69 became firm favourites.
A uni friend told me I couldn’t like Pink Floyd and The Police. We had numerous debates over that down the SU bar or at the pubs in the city centre!
At the time I didn’t make a big fuss about the fact that I was also a secret Abba fan (or that my favourite group as a child in the 60s wasn’t actually The Beatles but The Seekers). But I had all the Swedish fab four’s albums in my collection.
It was also back in the late seventies that political parties in the UK started seeking celebrity endorsements – with the Tories setting the ball rolling with special conference performances from people like Bob Monkhouse, Jimmy Tarbuck and Vince Hill.
Labour then got in on the act with “Red Wedge” performances from people like Paul Weller, Tom Robinson and Billy Bragg – the most political (and frankly brilliant) singer-songwriter of his generation.
Since then politicians have always used music and sought celebrity endorsements. Sometimes it has had reciprocal benefits. D’Ream saw “Things can only get better” return to the charts in 1997 after the Labour’s election triumph
And that isn’t only in this country – and it doesn’t always end well. Shortly after Bruce Springsteen released “Born in the USA” it was adopted as an anthem by the Ronald Reagen re-election team.
Springsteen, a keen Democrat, told them to stop using it and to listen to the lyrics. It was rapidly shelved!
During his election campaign two years ago Donald Trump pumped out Rolling Stones songs to get his audience going. There’s not suggesting that Sir Mick and co are keen Trumpettes.
And then we came full circle this week when Theresa May strutted out on to the podium of the Conservative Party Conference to the Abba classic Dancing Queen.
I don’t know whether anyone had sought permission from the group to use the song. I don’t see is as the Swedish group endorsing Mrs May’s policies. I just found the whole thing a bit toe-curling.
When a politician comes out to the strains of Abba’s SOS or even Waterloo, we’ll know that things are really getting tough for them!