Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Unamerican Activities - 10 songs about America from the rest of the world

Britain and America have always been culturally linked and especially in the fertile exchange of pop and rock music. There was a sort of inverted snobbery about home and a yearning for our brethren on the other side of the pond. Hence a US band could call themselves "Pavement" because it's a British word not an American one, while UK band Jesus And Mary Chain produced a feedback-laden version of Californian surf music with a track called "Sidewalking" as part of their homage.

But as America became the only super-power in town with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US got a really bad press from overseas particularly about its all conquering culture. Here's 10 songs sung by non-Americans about our Stateside cousins.

1) Au Pairs - "America"
Sort of paranoia about just how paranoid Reaganite America was. Go figure

2) The Clash - "I'm So Bored With the USA"
they sang on their debut album and yet ended up living and working there... On the same album they sang about how boring London was that it ought to be burned to the ground. There's just no pleasing some folks.

3) DOA - "America The Beautiful"
Just so you don't get the impression that it's only us Brits who are mealy mouthed about America, here are their northern cousins the Canadians getting all clichéd about America's Moral majority.

4) The Skids - "Working For The Yankee Dollar"
Who wouldn't right? Ever since the Beatles, the Brits have been obsessed with breaking the American market. Few succeed, although One Direction depressingly seem to be more successful than most in the task.

5) David Bowie - "This Is Not America"
Bowie was a man with more experience of the US than most, having spent time working there in film as well as music. He made the "Man Who Fell To Earth" about an alien struggling to comprehend life in the US. He hasn't really put his experience to use in this song, not necessarily due to the lyrics, but because this is one hell of a mess musically as a song. Dreck as the Yanks might say.

6) The Pogues - "Body Of An American"
Well Shane Magowan went about mythologising Irish culture from his London base, so why not do the same for American Irish culture?

7) The Proclaimers - "Letter From America"
Well it took the seventh song to find something vaguely sympathetic to the USA, albeit from the point of view of looking back longingly to Scotland.

8) The Guess Who - "American Woman"
Those canadians at it again, although the strength of this song is such you can only but forgive their prejudice against their daughters to the South.

9) U2 -  "The Hands That Built America"
If there would be one band to stick up for the Yankee Doodle Dandies it would be Bono's we don't dislike anyone bunch of god botherers. I'm ashamed to have to include them in this post, but what ya gonna do?

10) Test Department - "51st State Of America"
Remember when we all really believed this, with the assault of US culture of TV and films and the proliferation of nuclear arms in US air bases sited on British soil? No? Then you were problem born after the 1980s.

Bonus Track:
Just to prove we're not all foaming at the mouth with hatred for everything American
Noel Coward - "I Like America"

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