The wizards are currently taking it upon themselves to prepare for a weighty discussion in or around Podcast 11. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but following on from Chorizo Garbanzo’s highlighting of Bruce Springsteen’s song Long Time Comin’ as a rare example of The Boss turning the air blue, it has been, rightly, decided, that a full celebration of swearing in song is required on the pod.
In this blog, I will set the (low) tone for what is to follow by nominating my favourite band, Guided By Voices, as the best swearers in rock music. Of course, by having released well over 1500 studio recorded songs under various guises (Boston Spaceships, Circus Devils, The Moping Swans, etc.), Robert Pollard has a good head start over other potentially potty-mouthed acts whose back catalogues are a pathetic fraction of his. One sweary swallow does not a blue summer make, etc.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t take long to realise that we are here talking about an artist who has released swearily titled albums like Happy Motherfuckers & Sad Clowns, Licking Stamps & Drinking Shitty Coffee and The Relaxation Of The Asshole, as well as a written collection called The Dogshit Chronicles.
An artist who has also used the band names Ceramic Cock Einstein, Bleep Bleep Fuck, Bird Shit Mosaic and, ahem, Ghost Fart, and toured under the moniker Robert Pollard’s 60 Assholes and a Piss Bucket.
This, clearly, is not a man who shies away from making full use of popular vernacular.
However, can the claim that Pollard is Rock’s Swearing Supremo be proved empirically? Of course, it can. All we need to do is apply 3 key criteria: frequency, range and impact.
Well, I reckon I’m on pretty safe ground here. According to the indispensable Guided By Voices Database www.gbv.com there are 28 Pollard-penned songs that include the word ‘fuck’, 37 that include ‘shit’, 7 ‘bastards’, 3 ‘assholes’ and 9 examples of ‘piss’. That’s 84 (eighty-four, teleprinter fans) foul-mouthed outbursts.
Particular favourites include the early Airshow ’88 with its desperate cry of “let’s stay all fucking day” and The Colossus Crawls West in which “jazz bastards will fall and confess”
And playing with words in the cynical Sleep Over Jack, Pollard comes up with the suitably cyclical:
“You’re gonna fuck up my makeup
You’re gonna make up my fuck up”
That’s 2 fucks in one line, kids.
An afternoon on www.gbv.com can also establish in detail Bob Pollard’s creative and extensive use of fucks, shits, bastards, assholes and pisses. All appear in numerous songs, some being combined in exemplary filthy poetry.
In It’s Only Natural, we hear about a “21st century what-the-fuck.”
In Mobile, we hear “fuck, fuck, fucking fuck”, which may not necessarily be part of the lyric, but was certainly utilised as a rallying cry well before The Thick Of It (fuckity-bye) was even thought about.
And here, 1’48” into Sucker Of Pistol City, there is a call to “…let them all come piss in the pool.” The dirty bastards.
What about songs that give us variations on swearing that we haven’t heard before? Well, in my head I have used the exhortation Piss Along You Bird more times than I can remember. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes verbalised. And I get sacked. Again.
Finally, with more creative filthiness, The Circus Devils, bring us the delightful image in A Living Necklace Of Warts of “A bucketful of stewed assholes.”
One to store up for the future there, I think.
A subjective criteria sure, but perhaps the most important. Does the artist’s use of taboo language still shock the listener? Does the cursing amplify the meaning? Does the rude line stick in the listener’s head long after listening such that it is inadvertently sung at totally inappropriate moments? Yes, yes and yes.
How about a killer opening line like “He who shits out magic may shine…” that starts Pollard’s Pop Zeus – that’s got you listening, hasn’t it? Substitute ‘shits’ for any other verb and the full poetic imagery is reduced.
Then there’s the classic GBV line “I wish I could give a shit, just a little bit” in Lethargy, where the simplicity of the language belies the depth of meaning being conveyed. I’d explain further, but frankly I can’t be arsed.
Get that refrain out of your head now, if you can. And then get it printed on a T-shirt. And wear it with pride.
But perhaps more than any other use of after-the-watershed language in the GBV canon, it is the subtler use of “shit, yeah it’s cool” in Echos Myron from the fabulous Bee Thousand album that moves me more than any other. No doubt it helps that the song is an all-time stonewall classic work of genius.
On previous pods, the Wizards have already sung the praises of such sweary masterpieces as Pixies – Nimrod’s Son (“I am the son of a motherfucker…”), John Grant’s Queen Of Denmark (“I really don’t know who the fuck you think you are…”) and Super Furry Animal’s The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (a bucketful of ‘fucks’ in there!).
No doubt, swearmeisters such as Ian Dury, Half Man Half Biscuit and The Sex Pistols will get an admiring nod or two on podcast #11, but for me, the King of The Curse is, undoubtedly, Robert Pollard. Shit, yeah, he’s cool.
Fuck you, if you don’t agree.
Send in your favourite sweary songs and lyrics by either posting here on the blog or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting us or just shouting loudly as we pass you in the street.
Have a listen to some selected sweary Pollard classics on the Spotify playlist below.