Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Not for Everybody

It's a double post day today. I'll have a few final words about October on this last day of the month later on, but I also wanted to mention the following and, given the subject of this post, it wouldn't be appropriate to put the two topics together.

All around the music blogs today, you'll find various postings of Halloween-themed music. (Our friend Homercat has been at it for over a week at Good Rockin' Tonight--clearly, he's a man who knows how to celebrate Halloween.) Halloween horrors come in all flavors--mutants, monsters, guys in goalie masks, etc. But there's also the horror that people inflict on one another. To me, there's nothing more monstrous than our inhumanity to our fellow creatures. Exhibit A: "The Boiler" by Rhoda Dakar and the Specials.

I first read about "The Boiler" several years ago, when Dave Marsh placed it at Number 880 on his list of the top 1000 singles in The Heart of Rock and Soul, and despite Marsh's graphic description, I had trouble imagining it. Over the weekend, I finally got to hear it when bitterandrew at Armagideon Time posted it. It seems ordinary enough. The Specials sound almost jaunty, although Rhoda's thick British accent makes it hard to understand her until you get used to it. Rhoda describes herself as a "boiler," a derogatory phrase for an unattractive, often older, woman. She gets mixed up with a man who seems to treat her well at first, before things go terrifyingly wrong.

There's nothing more monstrous than our inhumanity to our fellow creatures. In the last two minutes of "The Boiler," you will know.

Amazingly enough (and despite being banned by most radio stations in Britain), "The Boiler" was a modest hit on the British charts in 1982, when the Specials' ska/punk fusion was hugely popular. It didn't chart in the States, where the Specials didn't translate well. And in truth, it's impossible to imagine any American radio station playing it. I'd rather not hear it again myself.


At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After hearing "The Boiler" for the first (and only) time a few years ago, I asked a friend about it. He told me that he'd read somewhere that its creators intended to make a record that people would play once, and only once. I don't know if that's true or not, but I'd say that was certainly the end result. -- Dave P.

At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh lawd, I ended up hearing the final minutes of this song just twice in the past 11 years.. by accident. My parents own the "This Are Two Tone" compilation so it was hard to avoid, unfortunately.

I must've been about 7 when I first heard it. It disturbed the hell out of me. I ended up hearing that goddamned screaming again just this afternoon. It's enough to make you want to castrate a sexual predator.


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