Margaret Thatcher passed away today at the age of 87, but British musicians have been anticipating her death for decades in songs, in interviews, and through album cover artwork (for a comprehensive list, see “21 Incredibly Angry Songs About Margaret Thatcher”).
In 1989, shortly before Thatcher stepped down as prime minister, the band Kitchens of Distinction released “Margaret’s Injection” (sample lyric: “Her corpse is threatening to smell/ I watch her blood congeal/ Just skin and bones/ She’ll never be forgotten/ I’ll paint it on her grave/ Taking from her kind/ Any love that they’d made”).
Why all the hate?
In his song song “Tramp Down the Dirt,” Elvis Costello sings of stomping on Thatcher’s grave. He explained some of his feelings in a 1989 interview on British TV.
“She seems like a perfectly reasonable person. You know, in some manifestations she certainly looks fairly benign,” Costello said. “She’s a middle aged woman with hair like candy floss, but she does some of the most monstrous things and shows not just two faces but seems to like any face that suits her at the time and then tells you that it’s a completely honest way to be. I just can’t find any words that portray my contempt strong enough.”
In 1984, Morrissey was quoted practically calling for Thatcher’s assasination, “She’s only one person and she can be destroyed. I just pray there is a Sirhan Sirhan somewhere. It’s the only remedy for country at this moment.”
His song, “Margaret at the Guillotine” features the refrain, “When will you die?/ when will you die?/ when will you die?/ when will you die”/ when will you die?”
Writing about Morrissey in 2009, critic Stephen Metcalf probed Morrissey’s feelings toward Thatcher.
I think the word that best captures the times is heartless, as evident in the stupid rictus of Sting’s face, circa 1983, as it was in Margaret Thatcher’s budget cuts. No wonder Morrissey’s voice sounded so fresh, so slyly subversive. As much as he publicly avowed a hatred of Thatcher, culminating in ‘Margaret at the Guillotine,’ it was Thatcherism that made Morrissey. The Iron Lady represented a hardness of purpose, a pitilessness that would allow England once again to produce winners. But also, inevitably, losers. And here is the source of Morrissey’s originality.
The vitriol didn’t end with Thatcher’s resignation in 1990, either. Ten years later, in 2000, the band Hefner put out the song “The Day That That Thatcher Dies.” Here’s a sample lyric: “We will laugh the day that Thatcher dies/ Even though we know it’s not right/ We will dance and sing all night.”
And ten years after that, Pete Wylie, lead singer of the band Wah!, released a different song, “The Day The Margaret Thatcher Dies!”
Pete Wylie performing “The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies!”
Today, Wylie celebrated the news of Thatcher’s death on Twitter.