Primal Scream, Port Meirion and Freedom of Speech

Primal Scream’s set at Festival Number 6 last night was unexpectedly impressive for a number of reasons: their epic showmanship, the way Bobby Gillespie makes the tambourine look completely rock n roll and the ten minutes of feedback, loops and retina-burning strobes at the end, for example.

The thing that really stood out for me, though, was about two tracks in. Bob was standing in the front of the stage, still skinny in black. “Clap your hands if you fucking hate the Royal Family” he said, banging the tambourine. And then he repeated it, a few minutes later.

Now I’m not saying I agree with him, because I’m towards agnostic when it comes to Mrs Windsor and family, but I admire his total and utter lack of self-censorship and it made me scan through my mental list of my favourite bands and DJs. Who else would say this in public? I came up with a sum total of zero. No-one.

And disagreeing with the monarchy’s only a minor thing really. But where are the people who are prepared to speak their minds? And how have we ended up in a situation where self-censorship is rife, even among our marginal music-makers?

I heard an interesting argument about this from Index On Censorship. “What’s more important,” they said. “My right to say what I want, or your right not to be offended?”

Basically, we need more people who are prepared to say what they think – and we all need to do a whole load of getting over ourselves. We’re adults in an adult democracy and we are allowed to have opinions even if other people will disagree. We some more Voltaire, who wrote ‘Monsieur l’abbĂ©, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write’.

So next time someone offends you – say thank you. It’s a reminder that we live, more or less, in a free society.

There were loads of other brilliant things about Festival Number 6, but you’ll have to wait for that. I’m off to bed.

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