Earlier this week, Madonna received a tidal wave of criticism from her own fans after putting up an Instagram post that praised former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher — a woman so hated in the U.K. that after she died in 2013, “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead” went to the top of the charts. (Seriously.)
Once she realized that Maggie T. wasn't quite the “#rebelheart” she had thought, Madonna quickly deleted the post — something that's almost unprecedented for the singer, whose Instagram regularly courts controversy (whether it's because her underage children are posing with bottles of booze, or because she's altered images of civil rights leaders to promote her new album). It's rare for Madonna to back down on anything, so we have to assume that she just wasn't as familiar as she could've been with Margaret Thatcher's policies when she initially put the picture up.
Perhaps she should've listened to the wealth of songs that have been written about Thatcher's time in office. After all, it's not just underground punks like Crass, The Not Sensibles and Thatcher on Acid who've sung about her. For a while there, in the U.K., it was pretty much everyone.
Here are the five most depressing songs written about Margaret Thatcher:
[jump] 1. Morrissey, “Margaret on the Guillotine” (1988)
When Morrissey recorded this happy little ditty, openly longing for Thatcher's death, Margaret had been in power for nearly ten years. In that time, she went to figurative war with miners across the country, actual war with the Falkland Islands, introduced homophobic legislation regarding how LGBTQ issues were handled in classrooms, and privatized much of the U.K.'s national infrastructure. If Morrissey sounds exhausted and depressed here, it's because Thatcher's time in office was exhausting and depressing for about half the country.
2. Elvis Costello, “Tramp the Dirt Down” (1989)
A year after Morrissey had longed for Thatcher's death in song form, Elvis Costello released “Tramp the Dirt Down”, a mournful and frustrated examination of the political hypocrisy that uses the left hand to embrace sick children for photo ops, while simultaneously using the right one to send young men to their deaths in an utterly pointless war. “Because there's one thing I know,” Elvis sings, “I'd like to live long enough to savor/ That's when they finally put you in the ground/ I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.” And just in case you're not clear on who he's singing about, one line made Costello's point abundantly clear: “When England was the whore of the world, Margaret was her madam.” Holy shit!
3. The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981)
If you ask British people who are old enough to recall 1981 what they remember about that year, chances are they'll talk about the riots that kept breaking out all over England, in response to issues related to poverty, joblessness and racial tension. Two years into Thatcher's chaotic first term, “Ghost Town” came out and perfectly nailed the atmosphere in the country at the time, as well as the lack of hope for working class youth. “Why must the youth fight against themselves?” The Specials asked here, “Government leaving the youth on the shelf” — an accusation that would be leveled at Thatcher repeatedly throughout her time in office.
4. Sinead O'Connor, “Black Boys on Mopeds” (1990)
Sinead O'Connor gets straight to the point here, with shocking opening lines that compare Thatcher's policies with the ones that caused the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre: “Margaret Thatcher on TV,” she begins, “Shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing, It seems strange that she should be offended, The same orders are given by her.” The track goes on to tackle issues of poverty and racism in a nation that, through O'Connor's eyes, has lost all its glory.
5. Frank Turner, “Thatcher Fucked the Kids” (2006)
The thing that really stings about this one is that it came out a full 15 years after Thatcher's time in office came to an end (at the hands of her own party, no less), and stands as proof that Thatcher's policies and legacy are still being felt in British society today. As someone whose entire childhood was spent under Margaret Thatcher's policies, Frank Turner can look back now and note: “We spent ten long years teaching our kids not to care/ And that “there's no such thing as society” anyway/ And all the rich folks act surprised/ When all sense of community dies/ But you just closed your eyes to the other side/ Of all the things that she did. Thatcher fucked the kids.” Even more shocking is the fact that these views are being expressed by Turner — who considers himself “pretty right wing”.