The Pogues Fall from Grace with Government

Source: NME
Contributor: Ingrid Knetsch
Copyright: (c) NME 1988

The Pogues are the first musical victims of the government ban on broadcasting statements by terrorists or their supporters. Their song “Birmingham Six” is the only record on an IBA blacklist and the watchdog authority is advising independent TV and radio stations not the play the song. Ironically, it is the same song that was mysteriously cut from an edition of Friday Night Live earlier this year – long before the ban came into operation.

A spokesman for the IBA said the song, from the album ‘If I Should Fall From Grace With God’ , contains “lyrics alleging that some convicted terrorists are not guilty and that Irish people in general are at a disadvantage in British courts of law. “We think these allegations might support, solicit or invite support for an organisation provided by the Home Secretary’s notice.”

The spokesman added that it would be keeping a close eye on any song which might also be deemed “supportive” in the future and would be advising radio and TV not to play them. The decision comes just days after County Sound Radio in Guildford cancelled an interview with Errol Smalley, an uncle of one of the Guildford Four bombers, also mentioned in The Pogues’ song.

Pogues manager Frank Murray said he found the IBA decision “hilarious” and added: “I’m glad to see we’re that important, that we’re a threat to the State:” Murray said he never dreamed that the broadcast ban would stretch to the words of a pop song, but said that it would not affect the lyrical content of The Pogues’ music in future. “We stand by everything we say in our songs, there is enough proof, particularly in the case of the Guildford bombers, that Irish people are disadvantaged in British courts of law. The Pogues will continue to write about what they want and we hope every other artist does the same.”

When ‘Birmingham Six’ was cut from Friday Night Live in April, the IBA claimed it was because the programme over-ran and London Weekend Television were obliged to switch to a commercial break just as the song started. When The Pogues’ appearance is repeated in the current re-runs of the series, ‘Birmingham Six’ will not be shown, despite still being on video tape.

The BBC are also looking into the lyrical content of songs as they affect the broadcast ban, although a Radio 1 spokesman said it would not interfere with their programming a great deal. “Most songs are works of fiction which are exempt from the ban, but obviously with songs like ‘Birmingham Six’ or other references to terrorist groups we will have to look very closely indeed.”

Other politically motivated performers like Christy Moore and That Petrol Emotion will also be affected by the ban, and folk programmes are particularly hit. They will not be able to broadcast a number of traditional Irish rebel songs which have been a normal part of their programme in the past. But there are also fears that the IBA or BBC may misinterpret the lyrics of a song, something which worries Ciarran McLaughlin of That Petrol Emotion. “It’s all speculation at the moment, but we have been accused of being overtly political in our music in the past where we haven’t been. But at the end of the day, I think the whole thing is a bit of an over-reaction. I don’t see how anyone can say pop music could influence people into being violent or taking up a political cause.”