Sunday, 30 July 2017

Embarrassment (1980)

"This is one Lee wrote. It wasn’t 'have you got a fascist friend' it was 'I’ve got someone racist in my family.'"

"Embarrassment might have sounded harmless enough, but strip away the bouncy music hall instrumentation and you're left with the chilling story of a young white woman who has been rejected by her family because she is carrying a black man's baby (...).
The song was a deeply personal response by Madness' saxophone player Lee Thompson to the news of his teenage sister's pregnancy by a black man. Written on tour in 1980, just as the band were starting to break big, it sketches the unfolding turmoil as uncles, aunts, mum and dad faced up to Tracy Thompson's mixed-race pregnancy. (...)
To fall pregnant, as Tracy had done, at 17, was frowned on - but out of wedlock, and to be carrying a "half-caste" baby was beyond the pale for some in the family, Lee recalls, as he thinks back to the experiences that informed the song." (Johnathan Duffy)
"It was just not accepted in those days. She was shunned by a few people in the family. My father tried to talk her into getting it terminated. My sister dug her heels in and I was caught in the middle, wanting everyone to be happy." Lee Thompson
Lee Thompson had a friend in the 1960s whose brother married a black woman and had a child with her: "I remember all the chat, the gossip, the cold-shouldering. He moved out of town in the end." (via)


Received a letter just the other day,
Don't seem they wanna know you no more,
They've laid it down given you their score,
Within the first two lines it bluntly read.

You're not to come and see us no more,
Keep away from our door,
Don't come 'round here no more
What on earth did you do that for?

Our aunt, she don't wanna know she says,
What will the neighbours think they'll think,
We don't that's what they'll think, we don't,
But I will, 'cause I know they think I don't.

Our uncle he don't wanna know he says,
We are a disgrace to the human race he says,
How can you show your face,
When you're a disgrace to the human race?

No committment, you're an embarrassment,
Yes, an embarrassment, a living endorsement,
The intention that you have booked,
Was an intention that was overlooked.

They say, stay away,
Don't want you home today,
Keep away from our door,
Don't come 'round here no more.

Our dad, he don't wanna know he says,
This is a serious matter,
Too late to reconsider,
No one's gonna wanna know ya!

Our mum, she don't wanna know,
I'm feelin' twice as old, she says,
Thought she had a head on her shoulder,
'Cause I'm feelin' twice as older,
I'm feelin' twice as older.

You're an embarrassment...