National Anathema

‘I use “America” throughout the text to refer to the United States. I choose to use the word America for its resonances as marker of a generic nation and mass-mediated political and cultural condition/terrain.’ – S Paige Baty

Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury
1983
[1]

‘Away shallow USA’

The unusual, compressed typography of the track title ‘Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart’ might possibly be traced back to a song by McCarthy, one of the formative influences on Manic Street Preachers – and whose ‘Charles Windsor’ had appeared alongside that key template for The Holy Bible, ‘Comfort Comes’, on the Life Becoming a Landslide EP. ‘Antiamericancretin’ would at first appear to be a song that opposes the sentiment of the Holy Bible track. Yet McCarthy’s criticism of anti-Americanism, specifically among the political left in Britain in the 1980s, served to highlight the way in which British nationalism was being comparatively overlooked. As singer Malcolm Eden wrote in the accompanying notes to the reissue of the band’s album I Am a Wallet:

‘At the time (and still today) anti-Americanism was a feature of left-wing British thought. It was a purely nationalistic point of view, in that it said that we should “preserve English culture” against the influence of the Americans. In my view, it is more important for English people to combat English nationalism than American nationalism. This is more or less the subject of the song.’

McCarthy’s leftist vision of an England ‘bowed beneath a baseball bat / Beneath an ice-cool Cola can’, a country sold on ‘fast-food chains’ and ‘trivial TV’, are echoed in Manic Street Preachers’ breathless attack on the vacuity and violence of American life on ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ – a song that in fact takes on American and British nationalism as twin menaces.

The song opens with a recorded sample taken from a 1994 television advertisement for the Republican GOP channel’s broadcast of a gala dinner in honour of Ronald Reagan:

‘Next Thursday you’re invited to watch Rising Tide’s live coverage of a gala tribute in salute to Ronald Reagan. Host, Haley Barbour joins special guest Lady Margaret Thatcher, in celebrating the former president’s eighty-third birthday. Tickets are one thousand dollars a plate but you can see the event free on GOP TV.’ [2]

Disillusioned with the reality of corporate America on a visit in 1992, which was covered by the NME, Richey Edwards remarked to journalist Stuart Baillie: ‘Everything just seems for sale’. [3] And not only mass-produced consumer goods and sexual services. As the song advertises: For $1,000, you too can dine with a former president and movie star.

“America is the most important place to us. America is our dream,” Nick confesses. “One thing I’ve always wanted is to get a No.1 album in America…Pitiful!” (Spin, April 1992)

The USA and its political, economic and cultural influence worldwide has been a subject of criticism from the first Manic Street Preachers album. The country is unambiguously denounced on the B-side ‘Dead Yankee Drawl’, which appeared on the Little Baby Nothing single  – and a version of which had been on the setlist at the band’s first London show in 1989. The lyrical contents directly anticipate those of ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’, which writer Rhian E Jones has described as ‘a slightly more sophisticated retread of the same terrain, right down to Moore’s marching-band beat’. [4] There are specific stylistic elements that link the song directly with The Holy Bible in general and its second track in particular: the number of references to real historical figures (Rodney King), places (Indiana Youth Center) and cultural products (Bill and Ted…); and the mesh of pop culture, history and politics in a stream of reportage, critical judgements and extreme imagery. [5] The band had arrived into LA just after the tumult of the riots in 1992 and found little to recommend of the country. But, as Jones and other writers have also underlined, the band have been largely shaped by American bands, films and writers.

‘Dead Yankee Drawl’ has the same slickly produced, heavy rock sound as the lumbering ‘Patrick Bateman’ another underwhelming B-side, this time from the Gold Against the Soul era, which, taking inspiration from Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho, lambasts the Reagan era yuppie culture, with an intro sample of children singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. While the earlier B-side criticises a culture which ‘Killed off literature for sex and violence’, in Ellis the band found a writer capable of turning that same sex and violence into a formidable, literary satire. Uninspiring musically; too dulled by, of all things, the influence of US mainstream rock music; and the words similarly shoehorned into the rhythm rather than shaping it – neither track matches the lyrical ingenuity and musical complexity of ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ which skips, propels and menaces – and features one of Sean Moore’s most inspired drum tracks. There are overlaps in sentiment and style, though, among the songs. The specific reference to Bateman’s character might easily have sat well within the lyrical contents of either of the other songs. ‘I pretty my face with all this cream and stuff / Ugliness inside much harder to cover up / I lack the thought to care about politics / Just do what I like, ain’t that democratic?’

E Pluribus Unum

As with ‘Faster’, the lyrics to ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ were co-written by Nicky Wire and Richey Edwards, as reproductions of various handwritten drafts in the twentieth anniversary boxset of The Holy Bible show. One page, in Wire’s hand, reads:

White USA

Verse Images of perfection of suntan + napalm

Greneda [sic] Haiti Poland Nicaragua

Who shall we choose for our morality

I’m thinking right now of Hollywood reality

Verse

 A corpse so pretty with its degeneration

Cuba – Mexico it’s all the same fuckin country

Your idols speak so much of seeking the abyss

Yet your morals only run as deep as the surface

A note addressed to ‘Nick’, written by Edwards reads:

  1. If white America told the truth for one day it’s world would fall apart
  2. Junkies and alcoholics are the nation’s moral suicides

This appears out of context within the documentation included as part of the 2014 reissue, but it does point to the crucial thematic links between ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ and ‘Of Walking Abortion’, two songs which are not typically discussed in tandem in writing about the album [6] but whose connection hinges explicitly on the presence of Hubert Selby Jr – author of a requiem for the American Dream – as well as the words of another vehement critic of American society, Valerie Solanas.

The title seems to have changed before the emergence of the final lyric (typed by Edwards), as another draft in Wire’s hand confirms:

If White America told the truth for one day its country would fall apart

Hello Good morning – How are you – fine – cool – great

You look great – I feel great – really cool

Command your impulse and stare

Smile please – shake my hand Hate me in reality

Images of perfection of sun-tan – and napalm

Greneda [sic] – Haiti – we understand Nicaragua

Who shall we choose today or is it too late

So so unhappy with your beautiful tragedy

Your corpse de-generates into ineptitude

Your morals run as deep as the surface

All the lost souls perish under your gun

Who can believe you were once human

Statistics statistics fact or fiction

How many live how many die

Who does it matter to anyway

Sony – a saviour your own [?] it well

Work [?] to do

Wire, then, seems to have lent much of the ironic humour to the song – the skewering of the surface niceties that characterise everyday interactions, and which operate against a backdrop of successive foreign interventions by the USA. An emphasis on the culture’s empty consumerism seems also to have been intended by a sample direction for the song, handwritten by Edwards, which suggests: ‘shopping channel’ – presumably an alternative to the final choice of the political gala dinner advert ultimately used.

Haiti
1959
[7]

‘The centre cannot hold’

After receiving the lyrics from Edwards and Wire, James Dean Bradfield imagined the song as ‘the American musical gone wrong’, referring to West Side Story and the gang rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets as a direct inspiration for the call-and-response chorus lines (‘Conservative say… / Democrat say…’). [8] What resulted was almost their own version of Bernstein and Sondheim’s ‘America’, replete with its own scathing criticisms, ironic humour and, unusually for The Holy Bible, simplistic rhyming phrases. While Bradfield remarks on the political opposition expressed in the chorus, the introduction of the Sharks and Jets comparison also extends the key element of the song’s thematic focus: race and nationalism. The racial element was there too in ‘Dead Yankee Drawl’, with its references to ‘Red Indians’ and the apparent differences of rape trial outcomes between Mike Tyson and William Kennedy Smith (owing to different monetary interests and levels of power). Still another line might have fit ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’: ‘Silent race war of sweet Hollywood lies’.

While ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ zones in on one nation under God in its title, its chorus explicitly likens the political divisions and racism of the USA to that of the UK. The voices that had chanted in unison on McCarthy’s ‘Antiamericancretin’ (‘Englishmen! Rise Again!’ and ‘Britons will never be slaves!’) find their counterpart in ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ Drawing on the title of Paul Gilroy’s study of black identity and national identity, ‘There ain’t no black in the Union Jack’ evokes the vicious chants of English football stands. The choice of ‘conservative’ (not ‘republican’) and ‘democrat’ (not ‘Labour’) contribute to this blurring of the two nations. Yet, America remains the focus from beginning to end, with all of the specific biographical, product and geographical references creating a splintered, though to all appearances sunny, state of the nation.

***

In his biography of the band, Simon Price dismisses the track as ‘a disjointed, mock-heroic rocker with a weak, ill-conceived lyric attacking the inherent racism of US gun laws.’ [9] An unfair assessment, when the tone, phrasing, historical references, allusions, overlaps with other songs on the album (and across the band’s catalogue) – and the sheer unlikelihood of the lyric as a possible basis for a rock song at all – are given anything more than the most superficial consideration.

Rhian E Jones, Daniel Lukes and David Evans have each likened the song’s images of urban malaise and violence to those of the album’s first track – Evans even perceptively describing the intro riff to ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ as ‘an inverted version’ of that of ‘Yes’. [10] Beyond the album, The Clash’s ‘I’m So Bored With the USA’ seems another obvious point of reference but interestingly Moore has mentioned a later Clash album as a touchstone while recording ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’:

‘It’s me trying to be Topper Headon, in a strange sort of way… It’s one of those songs where it just happened, The ideas were there, the little fast tom. I was thinking all the time of London Calling. For us it was the end – third album, everything’s bombing, fuck it, let’s do what we want.’ [11]

Wire has described the ease with which the rhythm section fell into place:

‘Sometimes in a band there is a telepathy and even in the rhythm section with me and Sean… that was happening on tracks like “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart”; it was just like speeded up Adam and the Ants! We didn’t need to speak about it. We just felt like we were doing the right thing.’ [12]

Sondheim and Bernstein’s ‘America’, which has the same kind of syllabic insistence as the Manics’ track, derives largely from the Hispanic culture it ostensibly pits itself against. Likewise, there is no small irony in the fact that the Manics’ anti-American songs have derived much inspiration from popular US rock bands, as Stephen Lee Naish remarks in his study of 2001’s Know Your Enemy. [13] But ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ breaks away from the bland mainstream rock mode of its companion songs ‘Dead Yankee Drawl’ and ‘Patrick Bateman’ drawing upon two British precursors. The blast of phased guitar that marks the outro section of the song also shows the band unhesitant in incorporating somewhat unfashionable, strident effects into the music – keeping the emphasis on texture and tone rather than radio airplay (even if the effect does resemble Rush’s ‘Spirit of the Radio’ – a song that, incidentally, would heavily shape the title track on Journal For Plague Lovers, the companion album to The Holy Bible).

The song’s lyrics are delivered in a non-stop wire-service of observations and catchphrases – urgent, scathing and tongue-in-cheek. The cascade of words mixes inventory, satire, debate, advertising slogans and slang – a key example of the album’s hybrid, or collaged, writing style. Wire and Edwards’s words mimic the televisual media’s seamless blend of Hollywood gossip, foreign policy, urban violence, race relations and advertising, creating a frightening flow. Rolling headlines, op-eds and frantic reportage are subverted in bullet points and succinct but surreal soundbites:

‘Big Mac: Smack: Phoenix, R: Please, smile y’all’, ‘Compton – Harlem – a pimp fucked a priest. Vital stats: how white was his skin? Unimportant just another inner-city drive-by thing’.

Here are product, pin-up and pornographic imagery – the first of the song’s two instances of the spiritual and the sexual colliding, almost as lurid and shocking as that in ‘Yes’ – and extending the album’s reference to prostitution (‘pimp’) but with a racialised element, introduced by the references to Compton and Harlem – only to be dismissed with brutal contempt (‘just another inner-city drive-by thing). Note also the unusual choice to reverse surname and forename (‘Phoenix, R’), which both echoes the similar reversal on ‘Dead Yankee Drawl’ (‘King Rodney’), and suggests a particular grammar: that of police/emergency room administration.

Later the song seems to pay homage to the style of JG Ballard (who will appear elsewhere on The Holy Bible), with a reference that combines automobile, film, violence and sexual gratification: ‘Zapruder the first to masturbate’ could be a note from a lost draft of Crash. And just as Ballard introduces celestial and religious imagery into his vision of deviants of the highways seeking new life through physical wounding, so this fictional act of Abraham Zapruder’s is described by Edwards as ‘the world’s first taste of crucified grace’ – the phrase perhaps more specifically referring to the image of the assassinated president, John F Kennedy, in the public imagination; the president whose terrible, final moments were captured on 8mm by Zapruder.

E Unibus Pluram

‘I’m going to argue that irony and ridicule are entertaining and effective, and that at the same time they are agents of a great despair and stasis…’ – David Foster Wallace

It seems fitting that the sample that begins ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ is not only sourced from television but is advertising yet another TV broadcast. The central place of television in the lives of Americans and in the transformation of culture in the twentieth century is the subject of a remarkable essay by David Foster Wallace, who traces an all-conquering ironic tone, and an obsessive attention to prettiness, to the influence of the medium.

‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ is steeped in the irony described by Wallace – Edwards and Wire also ‘exploiting gaps between what’s said and what’s meant, between how things try to appear and how they really are…’ in the chorus of the song, reflecting a shallow surface of American life. [14] This will find its uglier mirror image in another song on The Holy Bible, ‘The Intense Humming of Evil’, which evokes the false sense of security that Nazi soldiers created for Jewish victims during the Holocaust (‘Welcome, welcome. Soldier smiling’).

But the band have clearly seen television as a source of information, education and creative influence throughout their lives, as the wide-ranging samples on the album also attest. Recall that definitive experience of hearing The Clash that propelled Bradfield and Wire into songwriting: as seen on TV. In an interview for Canadian television in 1992, Richey explained:

‘I mean it’s a pretty primitive form of writing. Like we’re just ordinary, like any average kid of the twentieth century, our attention spans are so limited. Like we sit in front of the TVs like this [turns channel dial], turn loads of channels all day, different radio stations, different records, read comics, read books, can’t ever… concentrate and we just like scribble down whatever phrases come in our head. And we usually end up giving James like two or three pages of paper and whatever line in it that makes sense or he can make a rhythm from he’ll use in a song. That’s why a lot of our lyrics are very confused.’ [15]

Another characteristic of The Holy Bible that Wallace (with respect to literary fiction), links with the influence of television is the use of ‘pop cultural references’. The band were unafraid to ground the material on The Holy Bible in the political and cultural context of 1993-94 – thereby making the album a work of a particular historical moment, as well as a reflection on history. The recent death of the actor River Phoenix from a drug overdose, and the enactment of a now obscure piece of legislation are mentioned in the song. Alongside these are two figures from other flashpoints of post-Sixties American politics, the satirical appearances by Tipper Gore and Abraham Zapruder, and references to the country’s foreign policy.

This chimes with Wallace’s description of Americans ‘no longer united so much by common beliefs as by common images’ and his criticisms of a former graduate school teacher who was of the view that a work of literary art should avoid “any feature which serves to date it”, believing, as Wallace saw it, that ‘[h]is automobiled Timeless and our MTV’d own [world] were different.’

The moving image – in particular the pain and destruction it captures – is, as much as the word, essential to The Holy Bible.

Poland
1943 – 1944
[16]

‘His heart PMRC. The white man is disease.’

‘They don’t just epater les bourgeois, they rub its face into its own merde. This is music to make the blood run cold, and if only a dimwit would salute its values, only a fool would completely disrespect them.’ – Dave Marsh and Phyllis Pollack, Village Voice (10 October 1989)

The principle concerns of racism and nationalism that drive ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ will be returned to in other songs on The Holy Bible, notably ‘Of Walking Abortion’ and ‘The Intense Humming of Evil’, where the scourge of anti-Semitism is referred to. And just as the introduction of the history of the Holocaust is liable to throw up questions about the suitability of rock music as a platform for exploring such material, the racial element of ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ has not been without its critics. For Daniel Lukes, the song’s focus on ‘white America’ is part of a lyrical throughline that ‘reifies and fetishizes a monstrous, terribly self-critical whiteness.’

But interwoven with this concern with race and politics is the issue of freedom of speech, which simultaneously links the song with the closing track on the album, ‘PCP’. And it is no coincidence that the political questions of ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’, ‘Of Walking Abortion’ and ‘PCP’ overlap in ways that repay closer analysis, since all three songs derive some of their lyrical contents from the same source, the journal Living Marxism. [17]

The influence of rap music – its depiction of urban violence, its themes of racial prejudice, and its subjection to censorship – seems pertinent here as well. The namechecking of Tipper Gore – known for her connection to the cause of the Parents Resource Music Center (PMRC), which advocated censorship of music albums – also makes the song a companion piece of sorts to Ice-T’s ‘Freedom of Speech’, which directs vehement, sexual insults at Gore. The issue of race was judged by some artists to have played a part in the PMRC’s campaign, with the imagery and language of rap music, performed mostly by black artists being among the key targets of the PMRC, notably the Compton based group N.W.A. [18] Ice-T’s attack on the attempt to curb freedom of expression includes imagery, style and sentiments that come very close to the Manics’ track:

‘You can’t hide the fact, Jack

There’s violence in the streets every day, any fool can recognise that

But you try to lie and lie

And say America’s some motherfuckin’ apple pie’

The PMRC had already been mentioned on one of the first recorded Manic Street Preachers songs, ‘Tennessee’, a version of which appeared on Generation Terrorists. The committee successfully lobbied for albums to be labelled, to warn parents of any potentially explicit material – predominantly the use of strong language and sexual or violent imagery in album artwork. And they attracted the support of right-wing Christian groups in doing so. [19] The Holy Bible itself has in the past been adorned with the familiar sticker that resulted from the campaign: ‘Parental Advisory: Explicit Content’. But across the album Edwards and Wire refuse any constraints that might be placed on their language, trusting their words to point out the abuses, lies and contemptible actions they saw. The pair claimed to have been inspired by comedian Lenny Bruce, as dramatized in the biopic Lenny (1974), in particular his tirade concerning the use of contemptuous terms and their perceived threat to social cohesion. [20]

Nicaragua
1854, 1928, and 1981 – 1990
[21]

We’ll pull that trigger

The most discussed line in ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ is, oddly, ‘Fuck the Brady Bill’. [22] According to all accounts, Edwards was vocal about a particular item of legislation that had been enacted in November 1993 in the United States: The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. James Brady, who was wounded defending the US president against an assassination attempt in 1981, takes us back to the start of the song and Ronald Reagan. Mention of the bill also sustains the racial theme, with Edwards commenting on the inherent discrimination of the policy. What had inspired Edwards’ passionate point of view? The final lines of the song provide the answer.

‘“God made men, Samuel Colt made them equal” so says the old Wild West proverb.’ And so begins the article ‘Gun control in the USA’, written by Kevin Young and published in the November 1993 issue of Living Marxism. [23] In it, Young argues against the implementation of the Brady Bill in a piece of writing that unquestionably shaped Edwards’ contribution on the topic to ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ As Young writes, ‘The new developments in the debate about gun control reflect intensifying hostility towards the inner cities and their black and Latino residents, rather than anything to do with the weapons themselves.’ He goes on to explain:

‘The hysteria about assault rifles is given an added twist today with the fears of gangs spreading out of the inner cities to the white suburbs. A Time magazine cover story notes the danger: ‘Not long ago, many Americans dismissed the slaughter as an inner-city problem. But now the crackle of gunfire echoes from the poor urban neighbourhoods to the suburbs of the heartland.’ (2 August 1993)

‘The ‘crackle of gunfire [which] echoes from the poor urban neighbourhoods’ has now become the focus for fears that American society is out of control. People’s insecurity, bred by the crisis of American capitalism, is being visited upon the inner cities.’

In a conclusion that, coincidentally, calls to mind a sardonic line about nonchalance in the face of public violence from an earlier Manics single, Young says:

‘In spite of the shootings of John Lennon and Ronald Reagan in the early eighties, Reagan’s own vigorous reassertion of American traditions ensured that no federal gun control legislation was even seriously considered during his presidency. In today’s climate, however, fear of black crime has overtaken fear of state incursions on individual rights.’

Young’s summation of the Brady Bill as a measure that ‘gives a liberal edge to an authoritarian crackdown’ is useful in discussing Edwards similar misgivings about political correctness on ‘PCP’, similarly inspired by writing in the same journal.

Portraying an American nightmare rather than the American dream, the Manics’ national anthem is, like ‘Yes’ before it, at once grounded in contemporary social and political matters while clearly owing much to the graphic vision of favourite fiction writers, especially Hubert Selby Jr, whose voice is nevertheless displaced onto the following track on The Holy Bible – sustaining the sentiment of ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ and taking the listener further into the blackest reaches of human life.

***

All artwork by elin o’Hara slavick, from the series/book Bomb After Bomb: A Violent Cartography (Charta Books, 2007). Images reproduced courtesy of the artist. For more information about the series and other work by elin o’Hara slavick visit http://www.elinoharaslavick.com

Notes:

[1] Image caption: The Invasion of Grenada left over one hundred American, Grenadian and Cubans dead. ‘Abuse took on unsuspected proportions in the Caribbean when the US bore down on a tiny country which is less than one twenty-seven-thousandth its size, with an army much smaller than the police force of any US city, with a population which is less than that of a New York City Borough, and on whose land mass it was difficult even to deploy all the military machinery used in the invasion.’ – Raul Castro, Grenada: The World Against the Crime (elin o’Hara slavick)

[2] As advertised: https://egrove.olemiss.edu/barbour/87/ The sample that opens the song has been attributed to Laura Kightlinger’s compilation show United States of Television (further extending the televisual metatextual levels), which aired on Channel 4 in the UK from February to March 1994. (Info from manics.nl via repeatfanzine.co.uk/interviews/alex%20silva.htm) Unavailability of the programme means this cannot be confirmed at the time of writing.

[3] Bailie, Stuart ‘Non-stop Neurotic Cabaret’, NME, 30th May 1992. Accessed online at http://www.foreverdelayed.org.uk/msppedia/index.php?title=Non-Stop_Neurotic_Cabaret_-_NME,_30th_May_1992 (16 January 2020)

[4] Jones, Rhian E ‘Unwritten Diaries: History, Politics and Experience through The Holy Bible’ in Triptych (Repeater Books, 2017)

[5] This stylistic evolution from the B-side to The Holy Bible has also been pointed out by Andy Johnson on his website Manic Street Preachers: A Critical Discography: ‘“Dead Yankee Drawl” contains a sheer weight of references that would go unmatched until The Holy Bible was released in 1994.’ See https://manicsdiscog.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/b39-dead-yankee-drawl/

[6] Rhian E Jones does link the songs, however, referring to Hubert Selby Jr as a key influence on the style of Edwards’ writing. See Jones, Triptych pp.84-85 Both Daniel Lukes (Triptych) and myself also see Selby Jr as a significant influence on the writing and experience of The Holy Bible.

[7] Image caption: For Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Stan Goff, and my father.

‘The US military mission in Haiti, to train the troops of noted dictator Francois Duvalier, used its air, sea and ground power to smash an attempt to overthrow Duvalier by a small group of Haitians aided by some Cubans and other Latin Americans.’ – William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s only Superpower (elin o’Hara slavick)

[8] Cameron, Keith ‘Chapter and verse. Track by track. 13 Reasons to believe in The Holy Bible’, liner notes in The Holy Bible 20 (2014)

[9] Price, Simon Everything (Virgin Books, 1999)

[10] Evans, David The Holy Bible (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)

[11] Wilding, Philip ‘The Manic Street Preachers: Their best songs in their own words’, Louder, 12 December 2017. Accessed online at https://www.loudersound.com/features/the-manic-street-preachers-their-best-songs-in-their-own-words (16 January 2020)

[12] Doran, John ‘Holy Moly’, 2004. Accessed online at http://www.ireallylovemusic.co.uk/interviews/manic.html (16 January 2020)

[13] See Naish, Stephen Lee Riffs and Meaning (Headpress, 2018)

[14] Wallace, David Foster ‘E Unibus Pluram: Television and US Fiction’ (1990). Reprinted in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (Abacus, 1998)

[15] The interview can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-ut9ASB3fY

[16] Image caption: Allied aircraft flew over 40 bombing missions in Poland. Over 900 five hundred pound bombs were dropped during one mission alone. (elin o’Hara slavick)

[17] Both Simon Price and Rhian E Jones have remarked on the inspiration of Living Marxism on the writing of ‘PCP’ but no attention has previously been drawn to source materials for other songs on The Holy Bible that can be traced to the journal.

[18] Jones, Triptych

[19] See Marsh, Dave and Pollack, Phyllis ‘The FBI hates this band’, Village Voice, 10 October 1989. Reprinted online at https://www.villagevoice.com/2015/08/20/when-christian-america-and-the-cops-went-insane-over-n-w-a-rap-and-metal/ (Accessed 16 January 2020)

[20] Edwards and Wire specifically referred to Lenny Bruce as an influence on the writing of ‘PCP’. See Marlowe, Chris ‘The New Testament’, Metal Hammer, September 1994, accessed online at http://www.foreverdelayed.org.uk/msppedia/index.php?title=The_New_Testament_-_Metal_Hammer,_September_1994 (16 January 2020) and Paphides, Peter ‘Cutting Edge’, Time Out, 7 December 1994. Accessed online at http://www.foreverdelayed.org.uk/msppedia/index.php?title=Cutting_Edge_-_Time_Out,_7th_December_1994 (16 January 2020). Since the release of The Holy Bible, the title ‘Ifwhiteamerica…’ has been repeatedly attributed to Bruce without any clear source for this claim given. It is possible that an error of attribution has arisen as a result of the band’s discussion around Bruce, free speech and ‘PCP’.

[21] Image caption: For the Sandinistas.

In 1854, the American navy bombarded and destroyed the undefended city of San Juan del Norte in Nicaragua and in 1928 the US Air Force bombed guerrilla strongholds of Augusto Cesar Sandino.

‘In January, 1981, Ronald Reagan took office under a Republican platform which asserted that it “deplores the Marxist Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua”. The president moved quickly to cut off virtually all forms of assistance to the Sandinistas, the opening salvos of his war against their revolution.  The contras had their own various motivations for wanting to topple the Sandinista government. They did not need to be instigated by the United States. Then the American big guns began to arrive in 1982, along with the air power, the landing strips, the docks, the radar stations, the communications centers, built under the cover of repeated joint US-Honduran military exercises, while thousands of contras were training in Florida and California.

‘American pilots were flying diverse kinds of combat missions against Nicaraguan troops and carrying supplies to contras inside Nicaraguan territory. Several were shot down and killed. Some flew in civilian clothes, after having been told that they would be disavowed by the Pentagon if captured. Some contras told American congressmen that they were ordered to claim responsibility for a bombing raid organized by the CIA and flown by Agency mercenaries. Honduran troops as well were trained by the US for bloody hit-and-run operations into Nicaragua… and so it went… as in El Salvador, the full extent of American involvement in the fighting will never be known. The contras’ brutality earned them a wide notoriety. They regularly destroyed health centers, schools, agricultural cooperatives, and community centers – symbols of the Sandinistas’ social programs in rural areas.’ – William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (elin o’Hara slavick)

[22] Seldom mentioned is that this is not the only ‘Brady’ to be denounced on the album, creating further unexpected echoes and mirrors across the album.

[23] Young, Kevin ‘Gun control in the USA’, Living Marxism No. 61, November 1993. Accessed online at https://web.archive.org/web/20000310104908/http://www.informinc.co.uk/LM/LM61/LM61_Guns.html (16 January 2020)

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