May 8, 2008

Exhibit 12: Upbringings in depressing British industrial cities

Far from the sweltering American south, where rock and roll was borne from the collision of hedonic euphoria and the religious release of gospel music, young men who had upbringings in depressing British industrial cities felt the call of the new music that had simultaneously enthralled and liberated their brethren across the Atlantic. However, the characterless factories which employed these boys, and their fathers, mothers, and if under age 9, sisters provided Britons with an even more restrictive, overbearing entity to rebel against than the Americans' Southern Baptist churches, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Benny and Moon Pies.

A conspiracy of hard labor, 28-hour days, soot inhalation and malfunctioning vending machines both filled these young men with rage and oppressed their spirits. But a faction of these men were eventually able to use their decidedly rough breaks as the spark of inspiration for powerful work, as this 1962 transcript of a supervisor-employee meeting in a Birmingham munitions plant preternaturally reveals:

S. BRIGHTLY: Right then, so, young laddie, your production of safety latches here at Sabbath Industries is down one-eleventh of one percent this quarter, and don't think everyone in this depressing British industrial city hasn't been noticing it all along. What have you got to say for yourself?

O. OSBOURNE: Um firtunn fokin yurrs ull, yald fut bustird!

S. BRIGHTLY: Blimey, I can't understand a word you're saying with your mouth full of food, Osbourne. Swallow that biscuit… there. Thank you. Now what were you saying?

O. OSBOURNE: Um firtunn fokin yurrs ull, yald fut bustird!


O. OSBOURNE: Ths int wut a firtunn yurr old ked shud be dooin! I shud bi havin foon like thuss Amerkin keds!

S. BRIGHTLY: I'm… I'm afraid I can't… why do you keep looking at my parrot's head like that?

O. OSBOURNE: Hingry.

The Dickensian existence of these children in relentless, exploitative conditions was misery enough, but even more traumatized were children beset by unemotional, even-toned exchanges with their drunken fathers, who upon returning home from a trying factory shift would begin drinking instantly and not finish until the following fortnight.

The cool, uninvolved responses of these fathers often drove these children to carry deep secrets within themselves for years, secrets that were frequently exposed with much embarrassment in the most unexpected of situations. A transcript of this 1969 exchange at a pub in Walsall, outside Birmingham, reveals this tendency in heartbreaking fashion:

EDWARD NAUGHTON, VISITING FROM KENILWORTH: What are you talking about, Robert?

ROB HALFORD: I dunno. I just feel out of place in this depressing British industrial city. I see all these men with their wives and families – well-toned men, with strong physiques, confident gaits. I notice them walking. I can't stop watching them. I feel an inner rage building up – no, "rage" isn't quite the word – it's a sort of prickling that begins in my breast, and travels in a somewhat southerly direction… then I just want to put on my leather pilot's cap and leather vest, strap some chains about my chest, and… and…

EDWARD NAUGHTON, VISITING FROM KENILWORTH: Robert, I think you have a secret. Is there something you'd like to tell me? A deep dark secret that you haven't told anyone else? Something that could be hidden in plain sight for many years if people just looked upon your style of dress but would not be able to admit to themselves because the fact of your identity could threaten their long-held opinions about masculine ideals?


ROB HALFORD: Well, Edward, I…


ROB HALFORD: Please, I beg you, don't tell my dad.

So antagonistic and overbearing were these depressing British industrial cities that even people who lived in collegiate or white-collar communities who visited one of these towns could not help but get sucked up into the morass of industrialized gloom, which furthermore seeped into their pores and blockaded their hearts with epic rage. This is exemplified in a conversation by two young men from Cambridge visiting a steel mill in Sheffield in 1970, as shown here in yet another of the Museum's seemingly endless supply of dubious transcripts:

ROGER WATERS: Right, so, Syd, why have you dragged me here to this depressing British industrial city?

SYD BARRETT: Oh, Roger, my opalescent man-pet, I listened to the spiny leaves as they rat-a-tat-tatted their communiqué to me, man. I am here to offer you something. For it is your birthday.

ROGER: I know, I just mean, a little greeting card or perhaps a nip at the pub would have sufficed.

SYD: But I got you something special. And it's for you to receive and do what you will with when I am no longer in your immediate range.

ROGER: Well, thank you. Where is it?

SYD: Look.

ROGER: Look where?

SYD: Up in the sky, Roger. Look up in the sky.

(long pause)

ROGER: Syd.. um...

SYD: Well, tell it, Roger! Isn't it marvelous?

ROGER: … it's a giant flying pig.

SYD: Yes!

ROGER: You got me a giant inflatable flying pig for my birthday?

SYD: Yes! Yes! Isn't it adorable?

ROGER: Where am I supposed to keep it? The house in Coventry doesn't even have a shed.

SYD: This isn't just any flying pig, Roger… it's a magic flying pig!

ROGER: It's going to get its leg caught in one of those smokestacks if you're not careful.

SYD: No, it has something else, Roger… look, as it's drifting towards us…

ROGER: Good grief, Syd, this one really takes the cake…

SYD: Look, Roger, the pig is almost directly over us!

ROGER: Great, great, Syd. A giant flying pig. I'll just go get my giant flying chicken and my giant flying bread and we can have a decent breakfast.

SYD: But this pig is magical, Roger! Hold on, it's directly over us now! Keep your head up! Keep looking.

ROGER: Good God… oh, all right.



ROGER: Err… right.

SYD: Hold on. Hold on.

ROGER: Seriously, Syd, I don't know why they still let you in at the druggist shop.

SYD: Patience!

ROGER: Listen, Syd, this is a really… really lovely, garish gesture but I… ow! What the… holy fuck, the fucking pig… it's…

SYD: It shits!

ROGER: What the hell, Syd? What the hell are you trying to do?

SYD: It shits! It shits beautiful little prisms!

ROGER: You got me a flying pig that – ow!! – that defecates prisms on people?

SYD: It just leapt out at me! I saw it at the notions shop! "My, what an adorable little giant flying pig that shits prisms! Roger will love the Carrollian overtones!"

ROGER: Overtones? Overtones? I'm getting pelted by prisms that have been shat from a pig!! I -- OWWW, FUCK! – I couldn't care less about these overtones! I'm getting triangular welts on my bloody back, Syd!

SYD: It's beautiful!

ROGER: It's a fuckin' nightmare, Syd! That's it! This is the most… the most… oh, no… oh, no… now it's shitting bricks!

SYD: Yeah, they came free with the pig.

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