14 April 2009

Idi Amin - Amazin' Man

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Label: Transatlantic
Year of Release: 1975


Now, if there's one thing Laibach, Bob Geldof and I seem to agree on - and I'd be willing to wager if you put us all in a room together it would be the only thing we all agree on - it's the fact that a great many dictators behave uncannily like rock stars, using the same art school imagery, symbolism and sweeping universal statements that some of history's biggest murderers have also indulged in. In fact, the one reason rock stars will never seem like anything more than slightly comedic figures is that their use of arthole imagery for populist means, and their stadium rallies, and their fist-punching power gestures don't really amount to much more than a foot-stomping barn-storming session down at the Hammersmith Palais (and perhaps the odd sacked keyboard player here and there). Picture Bono with a machine gun in control of a third world state, though, and suddenly the imagery seems slightly horrific. In fact, one reason why I've never been too convinced that Tony Blair was actually, genuinely Evil is that he looked so damned unconvincing with a guitar. If you'd given Idi Amin an instrument, he'd have looked like he was born with the thing. Tony Blair just looked slightly ashamed and apologetic.

Of course, this isn't genuinely Idi Amin on this single, even though when I first picked up the disc I actually thought for a split second it might be. It is in fact satirist John Bird pretending to be Idi Amin, but still sending the single out under the ruthless dictator's name anyway (Hey, what was he gonna do? Sue for defamation?) Bird cooks up a mean groove as the frontman to this single, explaining his philosophy to win the public over with the power of song, and getting up to all sorts of backing vocalist sacking mayhem on the way. It would spoil the joke if I revealed the outcome of the record at this point.

The B-side, on the other hand, is purely a spoken word side outlining Amin's problems with the ladies. Both form part of the "Broadcasts of Idi Amin" album that Bird put out, after his Private Eye columns and offshoots on the same topic proved so popular that Transatlantic Records clearly thought there was an entire album's worth to be appreciated by the public.

Why Bird or Private Eye or Transatlantic Records stopped there I'll never know. This is surely under-explored territory, and whole albums by Kim Jong-il, for example, would be worthy additions to anyone's collection. You could simply file the vinyl next to Phil Spector's Christmas albums and have done with it. In fact, a cover of "Amazin' Man" by somebody pretending to be Phil Spector would be immensely topical at the moment....

Download it Here

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