Black Boys on Mopeds - Sinéad O'Connor
Last track Side One of "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" is "Black Boys on Mopeds".
The title refers to the death of Nicholas Bramble, who died when he crashed his moped while being pursued by police in 1989. The police were chasing Bramble because they thought he had stolen the moped, later confirmed to be his own, but many believe that the only reason for this suspicion was the fact he was black.
The album's inner sleeve includes a picture of the parents of Colin Roach, a young black man who died from gunshot wounds in 1983 after allegedly walking into an East London Police Station to answer accusations of theft. There were no witnesses to the event. Despite inconsistencies in the technical evidence and irregularities in police statements, a police inquest confirmed the coroner's verdict that Roach had committed suicide.
To say that Sinéad O'Connor courted controversy is an understatement. In 1990 she refused to appear on US hit tv show "Saturday Night Live" because comedian Andrew Dice Clay, who she considered sexist and homophobic, had appeared on the programme the previous week. She did this in support of regular cast member Nora Dunn who had refused to be on the same bill as Clay. Later the same year, O'Connor said she would refuse to perform at the Garden State Arts Centre in New Jersey if the American National Anthem was played by the venue beforehand, as was the practice. This caused a public outcry. She explained she wouldn't perform at any venue that played the national anthem due to the USA being a racist and patriarchal country, causing her to be vilified in the Senate and on numerous television programmes. The venue complied.
Two years later she made up for lost time with a performance on Saturday Night Live where after singing the words:
"we have confidence in the victory of good over evil" she ripped up a photograph of Pope, which she had pointedly held up at the moment she sang the word "evil", before then declaring "Fight the real enemy!"
Afterwards she said she did it because "Ireland has the highest incidence in Europe of child abuse...." for which she blamed the Roman Catholic Church because it was in charge of all education in Ireland, leading to "the murder of the human spirit".
The years between, even if she was pilloried for her views at the time, have proven her right in many instances. Apart from the fact that she was a great musician, perhaps the finest thing about her was her courage in standing up for what she believed, unlike many public figures, and condemning what is obviously wrong, no matter what the pressures are to do otherwise.
In this world of Orwellian "Doublespeak", raging propaganda and money-fuelled lies, such that we no longer know what the truth is, it's a shame there aren't more people like O'Connor to call things as they are. But there is a haunting sadness in this song as though she's resigned to how things are, as though the world has taken its toll, as indeed it did in the end. Her lyrics resonate today:
"These are dangerous days
to say what you feel is to dig your own grave...."