A friend of mine once watched Jeremy Corbyn try to rape an owl. This was the early to mid-1980s. The Labour leader used to come round to my squat in Leytonstone and we’d sit cross–legged on the floor, sniffing glue from a large plastic bag, and listen to Camper Van Beethoven’s ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’. Jeremy was on the periphery of our little clique and we were suspicious of him because he was posh. Sometimes, when we were passing the glue bag around, we’d miss him out from sheer spite. Eventually this friend of mine — I won’t name him — told Corbyn that if he wanted to join our gang, rather than just sit there on sufferance, he’d have to pass an initiation test. He had a choice — he could either take a left-wing black woman, any left-wing black woman, on a motorcycle tour of the German Democratic Republic, or rape an owl. He looked out from beneath his fecund and autonomous beard and said, fairly promptly, ‘I’ll rape the owl.’
He had to break into an owl sanctuary somewhere to procure the owl. He turned up in Leytonstone a few days later with a rare and rather magnificent giant scops owl, renowned for its haunting call of ‘whuuuah, whuuuah’. My friend accompanied Corbyn and the owl into a bedroom, while we lay about downstairs in a narcoleptic stupor. I didn’t want anything to do with this initiation rite, as I have always liked and respected owls, and felt that this was an infringement of their liberty. Anyway, seemingly ages past. We heard, from upstairs, an occasional rather panicked ‘whuuuah, whuuuah’ and after a while Jeremy and my friend came back downstairs, Corbyn looking morose and my friend cackling with glee. ‘He couldn’t do it! He’s out of the clique!’ Corbyn shook his head and just said: ‘I’ll have to take some black left-wing woman to Czechoslovakia, I suppose.’
‘East Germany!’ we all shouted, as one.
I relate this entirely fabricated, fictitious and untrue story not out of a wish to harm Jeremy Corbyn’s political career, but from chippiness. My journalistic colleagues all seem to have been privately educated and spent their time smoking ‘weed’, mon, with future prime ministers in some Oxford quad, ramming kilos of charlie up their well-born nostrils and on occasion soliciting oral sex from dead pigs. Well, frankly, chance would be a fine thing. I’m from the aspirational working class — I wanted to do all that. But it was never to be, on account of my being brought up in Middlesbrough. And that hurts. (The irony, of course, is that Corbyn was not much less highborn than the rest. He was never in a squat in Leytonstone really.)
I read that Conservative Central Office has denied the allegation about Cameron and the pig’s head. Straight denial, never happened, let all voters — and especially Muslim voters — be assured. This was a response to what CCO assumed was a national expression of utter disgust at the various revelations. But being Tories, what they didn’t understand was that the real disgust was occasioned by the fact that what all these toffs were listening to in the mid-1980s was the horrible band Supertramp. My good friend James Delingpole revealed this (and has attempted to excuse himself, very unconvincingly, elsewhere in this magazine, by saying he listened to U2 and Dire Straits as well. Fine then!). Oh, James — hugely admirable in so many ways, but with a staggeringly unhip, right-wing public schoolboy’s taste in popular music. This would explain why he became the Daily Telegraph’s rock reviewer — a bit like being the Ku Klux Klan monthly bulletin’s reggae correspondent.
Why does the right have such awful taste in music? It would have been bad enough listening to Supertramp in 1974; by 1980, after punk, it was heinous. And yet this is the thing — Tories and the well-orfff always head for that arid, pretentious and inane cul de sac, prog rock. Rock music stripped of all the things which once made it exciting, i.e. rhythm and sex and rebelliousness and, uh, melody. They like prog, one supposes, largely because so many of its talentless practitioners attended Charterhouse and Westminster. And because they like to think it’s ‘serious’ music, a sort of rival to the classical music which they know they are supposed to enjoy. But it isn’t remotely a rival to classical music. Almost all prog rock was mind-numbingly stupid, the compositions slight, the lyrics frankly hilarious.
And when they’re not listening to prog rock, they’ll go for the bland corporate crap. Yes — U2 and, even more so, Dire Straits. Show me someone with the remixed deluxe edition of Brothers In Arms and I’ll show you someone who is a more nailed-on Tory voter than even David Cameron. All of the artists James Delingpole mentions, in an attempt to exculpate himself from the most appalling bad taste, veered towards prog rock in the end: Kate Bush, U2, Dire Straits, The Teardrop Explodes. The truth is, the upper middle classes don’t get the medium of rock music — which is fine. It is, as Roger Scruton once observed, a somewhat limited medium. But in which case, why pretend?
The second irony is that most of these bands are lefties. There are one or two right-wingish rock bands — Rush, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iggy Pop, sometimes David Bowie, previously Neil Young — but by and large it is an engagingly vacuous artform, if it is an artform at all, which lends itself to similarly vacuous left-wing politics. I have never heard a leftie rock song which convinced on an intellectual level, not even ‘Masters of War’ by Dylan or ‘Fortunate Son’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Wonderful songs though they may be.
I bet, after they’d done with the pig’s head, they listened to the Eagles.