There is a speech that the leaders and prominent figures of all political parties have given recently that makes absolutely no sense. It goes something like this.
UKIP are vile, and what they stand for goes against everything that makes Britain great. Make no mistake, their brand of narrow-minded xenophobia is not what the British people stand for, it’s not what the [insert party name here] party stands for, and it’s not what I stand for. We must take a firm stand against UKIP, and tell Nigel Farage that you can love your country without hating others.
So we will not let hatred win. We will win by making a case for our values, [insert party here] values, the traditional, forward-thinking, British values, that make Britain and [insert party here] great. We must stand up to Nigel Farage and say “No more!”
But at the same time, we must recognise that people have real, legitimate, concerns about immigration, and those concerns must be dealt with. Fairly, responsibly, [liberally/progressively/conservatively]. That is why I am pleased to announce that [if I get into government I will ensure that/I have pushed in government to ensure that] from 2015 all immigrants, children of immigrants, and people who have touched an immigrant, will have to wear a sign round their neck saying “unclean!” and ring a bell whenever they are in public.
It is by fair, moderate, sensible, [progressive/liberal/conservative] measures like this that we can tackle people’s legitimate concerns, while still keeping the benefits of immigration, and maybe stopping our last three voters from switching to UKIP oh shit did I say that out loud?
That’s far less paraphrased than I’d like.
Now, the worst thing about this speech is not the mealy-mouthed refusal to take a stand without immediately contradicting it, nor the craven abandoning of every principle in the face of the electoral juggernaut that is UKIP, whose greatest success to date has been to return two incumbent Conservative defectors to the seats they already held, with a reduced majority, but wearing a different rosette. It’s not even the unnecessarily cruel policies these speeches announce.
No, it’s that these cruel policies are pure theatre. They’ll hurt people, but they won’t deal with the problems they purport to solve. And the people making these announcements know that. They don’t intend them to.
Do you see the bait and switch there? “People have genuine and real concerns about immigration, therefore we will punish immigrants“
Now, let’s accept for a second the politicians’ argument, that they’re not aiming these policies at racists or xenophobes, but only at those people (and they do exist) who have reasonable concerns. We’ll ignore for now whether those concerns are right or wrong, and just accept that. Those concerns generally amount to “there are too many people from abroad coming into Britain”. There are nuances — some are concerned about pressure on public services, others about housing, others about jobs — but they boil down to “too many people are coming here”.
(Again, I’m not saying those people are *right* to have those views — I’m a liberal, and tend to be in favour of free movement. But one can hold those views without necessarily being racist, and those are the people those speeches purport to be aimed at.)
Now, if you are presented with the problem “there are too many people coming here”, there are things that can be done about that. They range from changing the requirements for skilled worker and student visas slightly at one end, to UKIP’s policy of an all-out ban on any new immigration at all, including withdrawing from the EU in order to completely close the border.
I’m not saying those would be *good* things to do, but they would go towards solving the actual problem they claim to be dealing with. Too many people coming in — stop people coming in.
But no politician is ever actually going to do that. The Tories won’t because the City is so dependent on free(ish) movement, Labour won’t because so many public services rely on cheap immigrant labour, and the Lib Dems won’t because the majority of the party are still Liberals who believe in freedom of movement and internationalism.
So what we get instead is persecution of those already here. Making life difficult in a myriad tiny nasty bureaucratic ways for people who already live here won’t stop more people from coming — you only stop people from coming by, you know, stopping them from coming. Life in Britain is already, frankly, fucking horrible for immigrants (as my wife would tell you at great length, and she’s a white English-speaking immigrant and thus doesn’t get the worst of it). Anyone still moving here is doing so because they have a very good reason, and won’t be put off by pettiness like being unable to have a translator when taking a driving test.
It just makes people’s lives needlessly worse, but lets the politicians look like they’re “responding to people’s concerns” and “being tough on immigration”.
It’s not fooling anyone, least of all the people they actually want to fool, who are moving to UKIP in greater numbers all the time. Either actually deal with anti-immigration people’s actual concerns, however politically unfeasible that would be, or (the option I infinitely prefer) just say “no, we’re not doing that, we need immigrants”, and just stop trying to patronise voters. Unless, of course, the aim isn’t actually to attract the reasonable people with reasonable concerns about immigration, but to attract the bigots — in which case, again, just be honest and say “we hate the foreigns, they talk funny and they smell”, don’t try to pretend to be more principled than that.
And I’d remind Nick Clegg, especially, that there are as many *pro*-immigration voters as *anti*-immigration ones, and they don’t have all the major parties and a minor one that gets overrepresented on TV chasing after them. Maybe, just maybe, if he started making speeches that said “I won’t be needlessly horrible to vulnerable people” instead, we’d get back into double digits in the polls? Just a thought…
With Headquarters, the Monkees had become a real band at last. Every guitar, keyboard, drum, or percussion part on the album, and all the vocals, was performed by one of the Monkees, with only bass, strings, and horns performed by session musicians. And even in the case of the bass parts, they’d been handled by people close to the band — either producer Chip Douglas, Douglas’ old Modern Folk Quartet bandmate Jerry Yester, or John London, who had been in Michal Nesmith’s pre-Monkees band Mike, John, and Bill.
However, working as a full band in the studio quickly became untenable. While Micky Dolenz was an imaginative drummer, he often took many takes to get a complete performance, and Davy Jones, who had been less keen than the others on the whole “real band” idea from the start, resented having to spend ten or twenty takes hitting a tambourine or playing maracas, just to make sure all four band members played on the track. Not only that, but the band’s time was limited. They were recording their second twenty-two-episode TV series and regularly touring, and simply didn’t have the time and energy for extended recording sessions.
But at the same time, the band didn’t want to lose control of their own material, and Tork in particular wanted the band to remain a band, rather than a group of solo performers.
So early in the recording for Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd, the follow-up to Headquarters, a compromise was reached, in which there would effectively be a “studio Monkees” consisting of the two best instrumentalists in the band — Nesmith on guitar and Tork on keyboards — augmented by Douglas on bass and session drummer “Fast” Eddie Hoh. Jones would add percussion to those tracks that really required it, and Dolenz could add acoustic rhythm guitar or Moog where appropriate. The result allowed the Monkees themselves to retain control in the studio, and to provide the core of the instrumentation on their own records, while still being able to work quickly and produce tight, commercial, recordings.
Nowhere is this more evident than on Pleasant Valley Sunday, a track which all the surviving Monkees refer to as a favourite. This is unsurprising, as of all the Monkees’ big hits, it’s the one that allows every member of the band to have his moment in the spotlight.
The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and is a fairly typical piece of mid-60s Baby Boomer sneering at suburbia and materialism, mocking “Mr Green, he’s so serene, he’s got a TV in every room”, and singing about how “creature comfort goals, they only numb my soul”. While King’s melody is, as always for her, superb, Goffin’s lyric seems, frankly, a little mean-spirited with several decades’ hindsight, and listening to King’s demo one can hear something that might have become a pleasant album track in the manner of Early Morning Blues And Greens from Headquarters rather than an absolutely massive hit.
That the track is a success is down to Chip Douglas’ arrangement. While previously the Monkees had followed King’s demos precisely, replicating the backing track and copying her vocal harmonies, this time everything except the basic song was scrapped, and Douglas came up with a new arrangement using the same sense of dynamics that had made Happy Together such a success.
The track starts with a guitar riff, composed by Douglas but played by Nesmith, in the manner of the harder pop-rock records that had been coming out over the previous couple of years — it’s reminiscent of the Beatles, but the Beatles of Day Tripper, Taxman, and, especially, I Want To Tell You. Dolenz comes in with one of his most successful vocal performances, and then in a masterstroke thought up by Tork, Nesmith starts doubling the vocal — while he occasionally sings harmony parts, for a large proportion of the song, Nesmith is singing in unison with Dolenz, and the band’s two strongest vocalists’ voices are blended into one “Monkee” voice.
Tork also gets his own moment to shine, in the middle eight, where his hammered, staccato, piano part manages to enliven what would otherwise be a very musically uninteresting section, and Jones gets a solo spot in the break after the middle eight, where he gets to sing-sneer a wordless verse of “ta ta-ta ta”s, in what may be his finest ever moment as a vocalist.
And then there’s that ending, when Chip Douglas and engineer Hank Cicalo push the faders up well past the point where the track becomes a mass of distortion, creating the most psychedelic thing the Monkees had ever done.
Pleasant Valley Sunday was by far the Monkees’ best single to date, from their best album — an album as consistent as Revolver or Pet Sounds. Unfortunately, it was also their least successful single to that point, “only” getting to number three in the US charts rather than number one — although being kept off the top spot by All You Need Is Love and Light My Fire is nothing to be ashamed of. Although they didn’t yet know it, the Monkees’ career had peaked…
Pleasant Valley Sunday
Composer: Gerry Goffin & Carole King
Line-up: Micky Dolenz (vocals, acoustic guitar), Michael Nesmith (vocals, guitar), Peter Tork (piano), Davy Jones (vocals, percussion), Bill Chadwick (acoustic guitar), Chip Douglas (bass), Eddie Hoh (drums)
Original release: Pleasant Valley Sunday/Words The Monkees, ColGems 1007
Currently available on: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd (Deluxe Edition), Rhino Handmade CD
Over at my Patreon, the first of the essays proper on the Batman films and TV shows, this one discussing the 1943 serial. This can only be read by those of you who are kind enough to be giving me money, but will be posted for free on Mindless Ones in four weeks’ time.