Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lyrical controversy


We recently received an email from someone concerned that the band had chosen to play a seemingly racist song 'I feel like a wog' on the Black and Blue tour.

We asked Jet to respond to this accusation and to set the record straight about the song's lyrics.

Here is his reply:

'I feel like a Wog' is an anti-racist song.

It is written in the first person from the perspective of a repressed racial minority figure, who, from his point of view, is put upon, and put down, by the white majority.

It was always intended as a lament to the privations of the racial minorities. A sympathy with their interminable adversity.

There have been a few criticisms of the song over the past quarter of a century, but usually as a result of a misunderstanding of it's message. We feel that that message is as valid today as it ever was. There is a need for someone, who can, to speak up for those concomitant with their fortuity of birth.

I feel like a wog people giving me the eye
But I was born here just like you
I feel like a wog
Got all the dirty shitty jobs
But everybody's got to have something to do with their time

I feel like a wog I don't wanna go home
I've got a lot of life to run through
I feel like a wog
I don't mean you no harm
Just don't ask me to shine your shoes

Golly gee Golly gosh
Don't call me your Golly Wog
Golly gee Golly gosh
Don't call me your Golly Wog

Let me tell you about Pimpo
We met him down at the After Eight
He wanted to sell us some limbo
But we said mister
You've just got to wait
You've got to wait
You've got to wait
You've got to wait

He wanted to take us down to St Pauli
But we said mister
We ain't got no bread
I tried to make him laugh
But he didn't get the joke
And then he said I wasn't right in the head
And then he made me
And then he made me
And then he made me feel
And then he made me feel like
And then he made me feel like
And then he made me feel like
You know I feel like
You know I feel like
You know I feel like
You know I feel like a wog

Jet Black/17th March 2011

25 comments:

  1. St Pauli?

    I always thought it was Sao Paolo.

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  2. I would have thought that these days the term "wog" is more likely to get people under 35 wondering what it means as it is hardly a term in mainstream use be it racist or anti-racist.
    At least the song has stood the test of time by the very fact that it still provokes a reaction, even if that reaction has come from someone who has kind of missed the point.
    I myself was blown away by the new set when I heard it, and have driven myself and other family members to distraction since Hammersmith by constantly blurting out Two Sunspots and trying to teach my 8yr old Sweden in Swedish, I am taking him to the Portsmouth
    gig for some musical education.
    All the best Pete

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  3. Jet - my wife and I saw Hugh sing "I Feel Like A Wog" at a gig a couple of years ago. She is a black African. Despite what you say about the lyrics being anti-racist, she felt humiliated, traumatised and embarrassed as the word "Wog" reverberated around the venue. She has been with me to see the Stranglers play many times, but I will be going to Bristol alone this time, as I don't want to put her through that again. And, if you still think it's not offensive, how about you change the lyrics to "I Feel Like A Paki" and see what kind of response you get?

    I understand the message you are putting across in the song, and that message is still relevant today, but please have a heart for the many fans you have who are black and have had to ensure racist taunts throughout their lives.

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    1. The whole point is that it makes the sentiment more powerful to use a racist epithet in the line. "I feel like a Paki" would work just as well if it scanned. It really is a shame how knee-jerk responses to "offensive" words currently seems to blind so many people to the potential ironic power they hold. John Lennon did it with "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World", Patti Smith did it with "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger"... in my view the pity is reactions like your wife's, not the art.

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  4. At a Stranglers' gig in Manchester in the 80s, I remember seeing a young Asian lad wearing a t-shirt with 'I Feel Like A Wog' emblazoned across the front.

    No misinterpretation about the lyrics there!

    Cheers,
    Richinblack

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  5. There's no accounting for stupidity... Some of us appreciate this song for its anti-racist message. My 17 yr old son (who is mixed heritage) is a big Stranglers fan for the same reasons I have always loved the band - intelligent lyrics, decent attitudes and above all outstanding music. We went to the gig in Leicester last Sunday - magnificent as always! Did my soul good to see my lad jumping around and loving proper music. We got nearly to the front near Baz and got thoroughly squashed, elbowed in the head etc. I hung on to some large, kind stranger like chewing gum to a shoe(Cheers mate!). At least me trying to avoid getting trampled made Baz smile at me - moistens the parts other smiles cannot reach! I woke up on Monday black and blue, hungover and feeling properly alive. Loved it! Thank you. Anyone find an earring?
    Cal x

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  6. Oh for fucks sakes, 'traumatised'. Wise up.

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    1. Whenever I read some smug tory who has never done a real days work going on about 'lazy working class people' while helping himself to expenses and advocating wage cuts, I don't feel 'traumatised', I feel powerless, I feel despair that people might get a bit of financial security and become snobs who forget their roots, but I don't feel traumatised, I can relate to 'I feel like a wog' though, it is as relevant now as it was then, the new 'wogs' are the British working class.

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  7. Those who want to be offended, will always find a way to be offended.
    Read the history and Get Real!!

    Rikki fae Jockland, sorry, Scotland for those easily offended.

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  8. I'm sure a few people have misunderstood the lyrics over the years. I know a couple from years gone by personally.

    What Jet says is of course true but it wouldn't be The Stranglers without a little playful controversy would it!

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  9. 'St Pauli'...when's someone going to tell Baz?

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  10. @ianmacd Jet confirmed yesterday that this is another commonly misheard/misreported lyric. The actual events in the song took place in Hamburg in Germany. The song mentions the After Eight club which was in the St Pauli district of Hamburg city. The lyric has often been wrongly given as 'Sao Paolo' but St Pauli is correct...

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    1. Whether the lyric was written as St Pauli, Hugh definitely seems to sing Sao Paolo on the track (1.50/1.51) https://youtu.be/nfvLowM6Nkk

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  11. It's bizarre that someone who has followed The Stranglers and attended, with his wife, their gigs on several occasions,has a pop at these lyrics for being racist.
    The term, and label "Wog" is Cassini's problem here and perhaps this term, predominantly used in the 70's, isn't acceptable in our society anymore, if it ever was - should be replaced with, "I feel Like a Non White"?...nah - wouldn't work.
    Whilst I empathise with the absorbtive generality of the word, the lyrics as I understand them are basically stating that, any country that welcomes immigrants, or for example, English born non white, mixed race individuals etc etc, should treat them the same as individuals of the native country to which they are in and not offer them, "Shitty Jobs" or treat them indifferently, therefore, The Stranglers track, "I feel Like A Wog" is standing up for rights and stating that "Sometimes, we feel alienated too"
    Consequently, if my wife was non-white and we were attending a Strangs gig, I would pre educate her by saying, "look love, there's an unnacceptable word in one of their tracks,but read the lyrics and judge for yourself before you go".
    £27.50 is an awful lot of coin to fork out to come away feeling traumatised when the sensible thing may have been to simply, "Not go".
    How can you support a body of people by purchasing their wares, watching them live (and I quote), "She has been with me to see the Stranglers play many times" and subsequently further down the line, complain about a word as that is what is basically being aired here.
    Replacing the word, "Paki" with "Wog" would have the same effect but in a different society time. It's the lyrics that count, not the word.
    I remember seeing Burnel @ Bradford on his Eurotour, a city steeped in racism, I have a West Indian Pal - he went with me, he knew Burnel was associated with The Strangs, he knew the lyrics to IFLAW and accepted them as a protest, not a racism flag.
    If it offends, don't follow - period.

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  12. Maybe 'I Feel Like A Hog' would be a better lyric, especially if the offended fans wifey is a bit of a 'non-looker' ;-)

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  13. Maybe Mr/Mrs Anonymous (last comment) should shut the fuck up....

    The chap with the african wife should have been proud to have her by his side when an anti racist song was being belted out by the Stranglers. An explanation to his wife should have sufficed. Perhaps it would have been prudent to have informed her prior to the gig and given her the choice to attend or not? Do you seriously think that the band should never play this song again? The lyrics are highlighting the fact that people with black skin are not foreigners...they are born here (UK)and this IS where their home is. The emphasis on the word "Wog" is that it IS a racist term frequently used by idiots and it is neccessary to include it in the song. Its like when John Lennon said "Women are the niggers of the world"...this shocking statement lays bare his belief that women all over the world are treated with the same type or contempuous prejudice that non-whites are routinely on the receiving end of. The emphasis on the racist name is needed because it is the term used. The Dead Kennedys?...Holiday in Cambodia?...sorry..but you need to take this in context, not out of it.

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  14. It is a bit like saying that Elvis Costellos 'Olivers Army' is racist for using the words, 'One less White Nigger' which of course refers to slavery in all forms. It is utter bollocks quite frankly. People really just need to get over it before they have their language wiped out...

    Here's a good point as an example http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/aussie-wogs-are-a-good-mob/2007/08/17/1186857771583.html

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  15. Hi, I'm Geraldine, I was the one who sent in the Email about "Feel Like A Wog"... I didn't say it was a racist or anti-racist song, I said, the song hasn't travelled well with time, because the word "Wog" is really offensive all by itself.. I was sitting with my Rastafarian boyfriend when they played this.... simple test... would you feel comfortable performing this song to a predominatly black audience... Oh and if you have to "explain" to an African/Black/Jamaican... why they shouldn't be taking offense to a song... then you've kinda missed the point yourself... methinks... also... my boyfriend said he wasn't the least bit insulted because "Wog" was originally a racist term for Chinese.... aah... White Folk and they're ignorance..... nothing if not well "ignorant but consistant"..

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  16. Christ, it is an uncomfortable song to listen to, but isn't that the point? Racism is uncomfortable. Ultimately it is a song about alienation and the use of the word has the affect of being completely alienating. It makes you feel uncomfortable. That's how art works, isn't it?

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    1. hear, hear! If you are not made uncomfortable, then it is not a protest, it is just mainstream music :(

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  17. This goes to all the non-black people (including mixed-race people) who think they get it just because they have a black partner or they're half black.

    How do you know what it's like to feel like a "wog" when you have never been one? Do you know what it's like as a black person to hear a song (even if it's anti-racist) which contains such a word? of course you don't. That is why this song is offensive. Once again we are being used.

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    1. so mixed race people as u put it are non blacks?
      you really dont have a clue do you?
      the song its self is making a statement..in the same way as slf's 'white noise' refering to them selves as green wogs (irish).
      there are plenty of rappers who refer to themselves as niggas...they are making a point.

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  18. it was written to be meant as it was written; there is no comeback for a time that just started to get it and before it all got reprogrammed to be politically correct. someone pls squeeze my tea bags thank you

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    1. Remeber the trouble Johnny Speight had around that time, when his virulently anti-racist and anti-sexist character Alf Garnet was taken as a role model and had his satirical comments quoted by the fascist apologists as gospel?

      Does that mean he should not have tried to educate the educable, just because there is always an uneducable portion in any given population?

      Writing this song now, it would undoubtedly be different, but that does not mean the history of the message does not have value still. By making young people talk about it, you increase their awareness of what their forerunners were fighting.

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  19. Far too appropriate given recent events.

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