Don't tell I, tell 'ee.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Broken Britain is a phrase that gets bandied around a fair bit. It's not as catchy as Cool Britannia, which turns up every few years when a couple of blokes with guitars have somehow managed to make it big in the states. As far as I can tell, Broken Britain (tm) is all about teen pregnancy, gangs of rampaging youths on council estates, people living off benefits and thieves stealing from the pockets of dying people.

Few people are aware that it's concept was created by Adge Cutler, written as far back as 1968 and appearing on an LP called Don't Tell I, Tell 'ee. (Do you see what they did there?) The LP also featured classics including My Threshing Machine, Drink up Thy Zider and Chitterling.

Zummerzets' answer to 'N Sync
On the surface, a faintly amusing song about a man who doesn't want to be troubled with the problems of others. But delving a little deeper into the lyrics reveals a darker tale on how failing standards of education in rural areas, absent fathers, ignorance and how it has led to the dumbing down of a society that is fast losing its way.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Never been to School, I’ve never been to college/Rather be dead than stuff me ‘ead with a load of useless knowledge/I never couldn’t see, no point ‘n history/Well  I  wer’nt  there, so I don’t care, so don’t tell I tell 'ee

So here we have a young man failed by the educational system. Rising tuition fees and cuts in government funding have lead to the education system failing him. He saw school as worthless, the lessons as pointless and dropped out of the system, preferring to educate himself at the School of Life instead.

Don’t tell I, tell 'ee, thats my philosophy/ When folks do cuss and make a fuss, don’t tell I, tell 'ee.

Budge up a bit, dear. We can get another 15 pupils in there.
But this young man, /could/ have been saved. He knows the word philosophy, for goodness sake. He's smart. A caring teacher could have reached him, perhaps recognised a learning disorder - ADHD perhaps?  But the teacher - who no doubt has a class of 40 pupils crammed into a classroom meant for 20 - was too rushed, too harrassed, spread too thinly over his charges. The young man slips through the net, stripped of a bright future and left to take on menial, low-paid jobs as a result. He could have been a doctor, a scientist. He could have worked on drugs to fight cancer, written the greatest novel of this century...all that potential..wasted.

But by dropping out of school, he missed out on perhaps the best part of education - sex education lessons. Remember giggling at condoms? Comparing the dutch cap to a Kelloggs poppa? Staring at the coil with horror and blushing your way through the science teacher saying things like 'testicles' and 'vulva?' That's what school days are all about, yo.

Snrk. Ovaries.
Young Sarah Jones one day, got in the family way/Her father come wi a gert big gun, said 'ee, you’ll have to pay.

Oh dear. A local girl has got herself knocked up, and our working-class hero is prime suspect. Threatened with violence, our man makes an undignified escape with the help of a handy tree.

He chased I up a tree, I ‘ollered, leave I be/I 'appen to know, twer old Ted Snow, so don’t blame I blame 'ee.

So, not only has the education system failed our unnamed protagonist, but also Sarah Jones, and, potentially Ted Snow as well. A lack of education has these children copulating like rabbits. But it's easy to lame the blame at the feet of the teachers who failed to prepare them properly - but where were the parents? Why didn't they step in to ensure their children remained in education, or at the very least, take them to one side and say 'if you're going to use it, wrap it up, son?' Too busy working the farm, most likely? And why? The failure of an urban-oriented government to recognise the scale of the economic disaster plaguing agriculture, unpopular European regulations, the marked rise in rural transportation costs, and being priced out of the market by supermarkets, forcing them to work longer hours just to make ends meet.

A political statement. A /tasty/ political statement.
I took a ride one night, A PC hove inside/He made it up because I’d got no brakes, no bell, no light/I’ll fling the book at 'ee/That copper said with glee/I said sling all you like/It’s your dads bike, So don’t tell I tell 'ee

Why was he taking a ride on a bike? Government cutbacks in rural areas have seen bus timetables slashed, leaving those without cars stranded in villages with little more than a population of 16 sheep, a postbox and a boarded up pub. Our hero is forced to take his life in his hands traversing narrow, unlit country lanes on a borrowed bike, and consequently finds himself on the wrong side of the law because of it. Rising petrol costs and a looming oil crisis mean many people in rural locations can no longer afford to run cars and are frequently forced to shell out for a taxi, or hope a passing good Samaritan can run them into the nearest town for supplies.
For those who live in rural areas, this is what a bus looks like.

I got a lift to town, from good old farmer Brown/In a ten ton truck with a load of muck, when he set us down/A drink we did agree, it would be good for we/The bar Rose/ She held her nose, I said don’t smell - I smell 'ee

And so our working class hero, who could have written a novel, or studied at Cambridge turns to alcohol, turning his back on faith as he ponders his life - the cycle that has begun with him, could move onto his children and he works long hours in menial jobs to provide for his family, thus neglecting his children, who will be reliant on a failing educational system to help them find their place in the world.

The vicar came along he said you know ‘tis wrong/You gets tied on a Friday night I answered 'ere, Ale’s strong/Now Parson you’ll agree/The lord created me/An I’m afraid/ 'tis how I’m made/so don’t tell I tell 'ee

Because, of course, the man cannot see his own failings. This isn't his fault. It's the educational system, it's a fragile economy, it's God's - easier to be ignorant, easier to blame someone else for your failings than face up to them, and try and change them.

Got God?

But don't tell I, tell 'ee.


Marson said...

Interesting article, but I think that you are reading too much into the lyrics there. What he sings about are all typical happenings of a village, long before the whole 'Broken Britain' thing.

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