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 Everett True

Institutionalised sexism at The Guardian | The Chiffons vs George Harrison

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George Harrison Beatles

I like The Guardian‘s website. It’s my go-to site for news. It has Charlie Brooker. I enjoy reading reports of football matches I will never see. But I don’t like everything I read there, not by a long chalk. That would be crazy.

For example, I didn’t like this recent editorial celebrating the life of George Harrison on the 10th year anniversary of his death. In particular, I didn’t like these lines, regarding the similarities between his post-Beatles Number One hit ‘My Sweet Lord’ and The Chiffons’ excellent pop song ‘He’s So Fine’:

“There was a legal dispute about whether the melody and very nice chord sequence, with that distinctive diminished seventh, had been lifted from The Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine’. Maybe, but no one comparing their mindless “doo-lang-doo-lang” backing vocals with Harrison’s extraordinary multifaith mantra – which moves from Hallelujah to Hare Krishna – could dispute he was doing something new.”

Here’s what I wrote in reply.

This is age-old institutionalised sexism.

George Harrison created rock music (male) – serious, laden with portent, aimed at teenage boys, ripe for reading meaning into by half-arsed sociologists masquerading as music ‘journalists’.

The Chiffons created pop music (female) – disposable, flighty, aimed at teenage girls, ripe for ripping apart by half-arsed sociologists masquerading as music ‘journalists’.

Is “doo-lang doo-lang doo-lang” (The Guardian could at least quote the lyric properly – one would think they’d never heard the song) any more trite or mindless than George’s repetition of the line “my sweet lord”? Of course not. I’m sure The Chiffons believed in the beauty of what they were singing as much as George did. But, of course, to the (male) rock commentators at The Guardian, The Chiffons created ‘pop’ music and so it automatically is ‘mindless’.

“Doo lang doo lang” is just as much a mantra as “om madi padme hum”, if you choose to make it. Unless, of course, The Guardian believes that religious folk are somehow less ‘mindless’ than their irreligious counterparts?

It’s a shame that such thoughtless sexism has spoiled what otherwise reads as a decent effort to honour George’s memory.

Both songs are great (disposable) pop music. Why the need to devalue one to praise the other?

As another reader commented about the editorial, “You know nothing about pop music”.

P.S. It couldn’t be yet another attempt by (male) rock commentators to prove a (male) rock star’s authenticity, could it?

i.e. There’s no way The Guardian could have equated the lyrical content of ‘My Sweeet Lord’ to that of ‘He’s So Fine’ because to do so would have been admitting it’s a merely a (shudder) ‘pop’ song and hence in-authentic. Rock = male= serious = authentic, remember? And pop = female = in-authentic.

Bangs wept. I thought we were long past that.

3 Responses to Institutionalised sexism at The Guardian | The Chiffons vs George Harrison

  1. Darragh December 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I didn’t realise you were a fan of a) Brooker b) football and c) Harrison!

  2. Everett True December 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    To greater or lesser degrees, Darragh!

    I’m not a fan of football as much as I am of writing about football (I regularly bought When Saturday Comes for years, and I still would if I saw it).

    And I do happen to believe ‘My Sweet Lord’ is one of Harrison’s finest moments.

  3. tim footman December 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    I suspect the Chiffons were just as God-bothering in their own way as GH. But they also knew that pop music is about snogging (or at least wanting to snog). George forgot that shortly after he wrote ‘I Need You’.

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