Sports, Music and Burning Down the Disco…

I’ve discovered in the last few years that I’m far from alone in this.

Many of us possessed of a generally liberal economic outlook find that either the thought of running a sporting competition, what could be described as a ‘tasteful’ approach to popular music or both have this capacity to bring out some closet interventionist tendencies, a wish for ‘the ref’ to step in and load the dice in a particular direction. Whether its the banality of the Premier League or the all-too-familiar journey from X Factor contestant from intenational megastar, there’s a sense that the time for laissez faire is over and, to coin a most dreadfully statist phrase, something must be done.

I mean, forget whether or not this is what people want – it’s a bag of shit. People are wrong…while me and a few of my pals are right.

Domestic football can be sorted out with a few relatively minor adjustments. It’s quite interesting that in the United States, a nation with an economically liberal tradition that survived for much longer than ours, the concept of salary caps and/or restrictions on foreign players has been accepted as part of national sports competitions at various points in their history. Capping wages at a team level prevents the super-wealthy from buying clubs, running them at losses as personal toys and then leaving them to go to the wall when they get bored, while also maintaining a level of competitiveness, ensuring that the same two or three teams do not walk away with the honours every year.

Overseas players is a more interesting and potentially amusing topic, since it would only be possible to implement this in the event of leaving the European Union. If we were talking about immigration quotas based on ‘skilled’ labour, then a team attempting to sign, say, a striker from Sweden would need to 1) have sufficient space within the set limit on their roster and 2) be watched by an independent expert to ascertain how much ‘skilled’ labour they already had. Signing players from overseas may prove much more difficult for some clubs than others in those circumstances – the aim of course is to re-create the glory days of the 1990s when it was essentially a British league, with a few foreigners thrown in to add a bit of flair, a different dimension.

As we all know, Premier League football was just so much better back then, even if for most of the decade the teams representing it in Europe bombed spectacularly.

Popular music is an altogether more complicated creature, although a friend and I did come up with an utterly brilliant and entirely ridiculous solution (yes, we were drunk) in order to impose our narrow view of what constitutes ‘decent’ music on the rest of the population. Firstly, we need a quango, the Popular Musical Council, or something like that, comprising of John Lydon and a few others. They would earn their £60,000 a year by playing as much new music as they could and deciding, completely arbitrarily and with no guidelines at all, where it measured on a sliding scale.

Those near the bottom, basically anything released by a former X Factor, Pop Idol or Brtain’s Not Talent contestant, would qualify for the ‘tasteless shit tax’, a levy of some £18 on every CD single, £80 for an album and £12 per download purchase. The revenue raised by this would be spent, in true Common Agricultural Policy stylee, on purchasing additional units of music deemed by the PMC to be ‘pretty fucking good’ and therefore worth promoting, or if we’re honest, rigging the charts to gain it additional exposure. The aim of this policy would be cost neutrality, as well as the utter destitution of Simon Cowell and Pete Waterman, who would personally qualify for a ‘cultural contamination levy’ of some £3 million per annum.

I’ve only re-remembered all of this since someone reminded me yesterday of this capacity of sport, music, or a strange fusion of the two to trigger some pretty illiberal instincts in otherwise sane, rational people. I mean, if you can’t take the perfectly logical step of banning disco, then the next best thing is probably the Morrisssey/Johnny Marr method of burning it down. This is exactly what 50,000 baseball ‘fanatics’, driven by a wish to revitalise popular music did when they attended Disco Demolition Night in 1979. Quite hilariously, allowed into the ground for 98 cents if they brought a disco record with them for the occasion, fans responded in kind and invaded the pitch as a giant crate containing the offending vinyl was, er, blown up.

Enormous holes were blasted into the outfield and the match due for later that evening had to be forfeited to the visitors, while it was rather amusing to hear that the Bee Gees amongst others cited Disco Demolition as a reason for the subsequent decline of the genre. Talk about losing the battle, but winning the war. I suppose the serious point is that while certain aspects of popular culture might piss us off from time to time, the fact that we could potentially make a difference doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. Much better just watching or listening to something else, while lamenting the undeniably inferior tastes of sheep.

Now if you don’t mind I’m off to draft the ‘ban Jeremy Kyle, Trisha and Super Casino’ bill. Take it easy.

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