Scared for the Children - Jeff Beck
"If the voice don't say it
the guitar will play it"
is the opening line of the song "Pork-U-Pine" from Jeff Beck's 2003 album "Jeff".
Beck mostly kept his vocal mouth shut except for the angry and excellent 1985 album "Flash"
"he's not sure what he wants
so he just takes everything.....
....I'm not a bad man - just ambitious"
but he has been a long time critic of the damage done to society and the world by greed. It is the realisation that maybe the guitar's not enough, that "the voice has to say it" that fuels Jeff Beck's final album, "Loud Hailer".
When I was a student I railed, as students do, about just about everything in arguments with my parents and others of their generation: the police were institutionally racist and misogynistic, industry was polluting the world, the super rich were serially evading taxes, the major corporate lobbies had the politicians in both the US and the UK in their pockets and the government was polluting Cumbria by processing the world's nuclear waste at Sellafield. I was vaguely aware that I was striking an ideological pose, and only half believed these things myself. Later, my "sensible" friends would suggest that it was time to "grow up" and start "living in the real world". Of course, and amazingly, we now know that well over 90 per cent of what my teenage self was claiming has turned out to be true all along. And those same sensible people, have turned out to be champagne socialists or liptips (liberals in principal, tories in practice), who begin sentences with phrases like "it's all very well but...." and still take seven or eight international flights per year for leisure purposes.
This is the kind of realisation and anger that runs through "Loud Hailer", released in 2016. The album received a stinging review from London's Evening Standard, criticising it for being out of date in a song "Thugs Club" that names names, among which are David Cameron and George Osborne, who was to become editor of the paper within the year. "Thugs Club" also criticises the media for becoming the willing tools of the rich and powerful rather than being the traditional purveyors of unbiased news and entertainment, leaving one wondering if the Standard reviewer knew of the forthcoming appointment, or just naturally took a stance that reflected the views of the Russian paper owner, Alexander Lebedev, whose son Evgeny was subsequently given a life peerage by Boris Johnson in 2020. The review finishes with the flippant judgement:
"....and at least the instrumentals spare us Beck’s celebrity wisdom."
My question is why aren't more "celebrity" musicians getting angry and writing songs about the greed that is destroying our world? In other words, speaking out and shaming.
Reflecting the idea that his (and my) generation presided over (and continues to preside over) the destruction of the world, in "Loud Hailer" Beck teamed up with the next, younger generation. All of the musicians on the record, apart from Beck, are in their twenties or early thirties including Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenberg of Camden rock band Bones UK, who cowrote all but two songs with him. As well as the sustained musical and lyrical anger that is successfully maintained throughout the album, the record has a valedictory feel about it, a sense of departing despair.
It's a beautiful and moving record in which you can feel Beck's guitar coming straight from his heart; no track exemplifies this more than "Scared for the Children", where the lyrics hint at comparisons with his own boyhood, like a man looking back over his life.
The song finishes tellingly:
"No respect for anyone,
why would they after what we done?
What an example we have set, what a planet we have left-
let's be there for these children."