Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Thatcher, a Bounty of Fodder for Art and Song ; from '80S Political Rock to Current Theater, an Icon Both Divisive and Rousing

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Thatcher, a Bounty of Fodder for Art and Song ; from '80S Political Rock to Current Theater, an Icon Both Divisive and Rousing

Article excerpt

From '80s political rock to a current theater, Margaret Thatcher was an icon who was both divisive and rousing.

"The lady's not for turning," Margaret Thatcher famously said in an early speech. But almost from the moment she moved into 10 Downing Street in 1979, Mrs. Thatcher, who died Monday at 87, was most definitely for filming, recording and generally excoriating by British artists and writers who saw a rich target in her stiff- necked conservative politics and stiffer coiffure.

From the beginning, some of the toughest depictions came from musicians. Opposition to her free-market ideology infused albums like Gang of Four's 1979 "Entertainment!" and, in the same year, the Clash EP "Cost of Living," the cover of which Joe Strummer reportedly wanted to include a collage featuring Mrs. Thatcher's face and a swastika. Robyn Hitchcock, in the song "Brenda's Iron Sledge" (1981), imagined Thatcher's Britain as a surreal dog-sled ride to hell. The Beat's "Stand Down Margaret" (1980) called on her to resign. In 1985 Billy Bragg, Paul Weller, Kirsty McColl and other musicians founded Red Wedge, a collective aimed at forcing her to do just that.

When that effort failed, some turned to dark fantasies. In "Margaret on the Guillotine" (1988), Morrissey trilled "People like you/Make me feel so tired/When will you die?" Elvis Costello, in "Tramp the Dirt Down" (1989), promised "When they finally put you in the ground/I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down."

Literary depictions were hardly kinder. The Thatcher-era ethos was skewered in novels like Martin Amis's "Money," Jonathan Coe's "What a Carve-Up!" and Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" (where she was mocked as "Mrs. Torture"). Other writers took more direct aim at the lady herself. Angela Carter once mocked her "braying tones." In Alan Hollinghurst's 2004 novel, "The Line of Beauty," she shows up at an upper-class country-house party "looking like a country and western singer."

Sometimes she hit back. In his memoir, "Hitch 22," Christopher Hitchens (who once called himself "sexually but not politically" attracted to her) gleefully recalled the time he invited her to spank him with her parliamentary-order papers after a fight about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe policy. …

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