SHUT UP, AND LOOK AT MY WAD:
L O A D S A M O N E Y
"I'm Yosser Hughes"
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Eight
Two Years Into the Modern Age
1. I Devote my Life to the Mystic Law.
Hey, you. Look at this chap:
It's a man, a young man, with a big smile, a confident smile, and he is wearing a voluminous jacket of unnatural fibres, and he is wearing jeans, which you cannot see, and in his right hand - which he is thrusting towards the camera - he is holding a large, thick bundle of twenty pound notes.
He is not a real person, he is a comedy character. The man in the outlandish costume is a man and comedian called Harry Enfield, and he was twenty-seven years old when that photograph was taken. I do not know who took the photograph. The money is prop money. His t-shirt says BONK AID: I BONKED THE WORLD, and is both a parody of the real-life "Live Aid", and also of the contemporary fashion for t-shirts with irreverent or naughty slogans. In real-life his t-shirt might have said WANK AID, but the word WANK was too rude for the cover of a pop single in 1988.
The character is called Loadsamoney, and he is a grotesque. He does not have a first or a last name, he does not have a real name, he is just Loadsamoney. In fact, he was essentially unnamed; Harry Enfield did not attempt to broaden the character or give him much of a backstory. Loadsamoney was a plasterer, self-employed, who spent his time doing up houses. Britain's Conservative government of the 1980s encouraged home ownership, and Loadsamoney was not short of work. An attractive, well-plastered house is worth a lot more than an unattractive poorly-plastered house; and furthermore, the cost of having one's house plastered is, although high, nonetheless much lower than the gain in the house's value. Loadsamoney was paid handsomely, and was paid with cash in hand. He was not ashamed.
In the character of Loadsamoney there is a blueprint, a blueprint of several subsequent British social stereotypes. In 1988, Loadsamoney was the personification of "Essex Man". Back in 1988, if you were a columnist for a broadsheet newspaper, you would have spent roughly half of your columns that year talking about the rise, impact, fall, rise, impact, etc of Essex Man. If you were lucky, you might have been commissioned to write a book about the phenomenon of Essex Man. Essex Man is hard to encapsulate in words, and is no longer relevant to modern society; the phrase and culture went the way of the dinosaur and of the Sloane Ranger, some time in the 1990s. Essex itself is hard to explain to people who are not British; it is hard to explain the concept of Essex to the kind of people who would not benefit from such an explanation, and thus Essex remains something you either know, or do not know, and never the twain shall meet. I have never been to Essex. But it exists, I accept that. It is east. East is a delicate matter.
Essex Man made way for New Man, and then I stopped reading newspapers and have no idea what they went on about from 1993 to about 2000, when the same columnists starting writing about the Chav. The Chav was an attack on the well-off, uncultured, white working class, and it was definitely an attack on the white working class, because the columnists who found the Chav so amusing - being themselves white, middle-class, with a veneer of culture and a university education - these columnists were both acutely on-message, and at the same time either oblivious or dismissive of non-white ethnic groups, because when you're white, middle class, with a veneer of culture and a university education, the only non-white people you see are either subcontinental Asians, who don't count, because they're civilised, or the non-white people on television. Thus the possibility of non-white people being caught in the blanket assault on Chav culture - despite the fact that the Chav perfectly mirrored the public image of a certain kind of non-white pop star - was avoided by the odd paradox of the anti-Chav faction being simultaneously sensitive to accusations of racism, and at the same time utterly unconcerned, indeed oblivious, to other ethnic groups except as abstractions. What a fascinating person I am.
2. Money, Money, Money.
Look at this chap again:
It's the cover of a novelty pop single, a dying art form which has always been around and which was particularly relevant in 1988, a time when the frank critical and commercial appreciation of undeniably manufactured pop music was novel, just as full frontal nudity had been novel in the cinema in 1974. Funk. The song is credited to Harry Enfield, Charlie Higson, Paul Whitehouse and William Orbit, who produced the musical sounds which appear on the record, and later went on to become a trendy name to drop, despite releasing a series of dreadful ambient house records and also producing singles by Madonna and All Saints - I ask you, you people who name-drop William Orbit, why do you do it? Who are you trying to impress? Who is impressed by William Orbit? Is it the name? It's not the music, which is dreadful with the exception of "Water From a Vine Leaf" which I grudgingly accept is, yes, a competent enough piece of whalesong-influenced floaty ambient ethnic dance world music etc.
Of the four of them, both Orbit and Higson were musicians, the latter in a funk band called The Higsons, although he is mostly famous nowadays for playing the shy landowner Ralph in The Fast Show, and also for writing "Silverfin", a children's adventures novel starring a young James Bond. Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield need no introduction to any British adult who has watched a fair amount of television over the last twenty years. They are the Reeves and Mortimer of conventional comedy, albeit that they map inversely, i.e. Whitehouse and Mortimer are the funny ones, they are the Spocks. Reeves and Enfield are the Kirks. I really need to sort out whether I'm going to put the titles of creative works in italics or italics with quotes e.g. "dobbin". Is The Fast Show more right than "The Fast Show" or just The Fast Show?
Nineteen hundred and eighty eight. I am twelve years old, and I have never seen an episode of Friday Night Live, but I know about Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney character. He is a young man who has a big fistful of money, which he refers to as his "wad", and he is not ashamed. He has loads of money. And he is not ashamed. In fact, he is proud of his money, he enjoys having it. He made his fortune as a plasterer, doing up people's houses; his wad is cash-in-hand, and although it is transient, he nonetheless has a lot of money, there is no doubt about that. He spends it, too, in an ostentatious way. He drives a car with a roof that folds off. He shouts at people and tells them to shut up and look at his wad. I have no idea how Harry Enfield stretched those attributes into a single comedy sketch, let alone three or four years worth of a career. George Harrison's "It's All Too Much", which I shall place in quotes and also in italics... was in Yellow Submarine... which I shall merely render in italics. Is that right? It's the kind of trivial thing that professional writing is all about. Italics and formatting and spacing and formats and style guides. I promise I won't shout any more.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. But that is pretty much all I knew about Loadsamoney when I was twelve years old, i.e. not much. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. But every twelve-year-old in Britain knew about Loadsamoney, so the lack of depth was compensated for with breadth. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
I have come to realise that Loadsamoney is working class. The character is a lampoon of working class people. Harry Enfield himself is unashamedly and self-admittedly middle class, and I respect him for admitting this. His attack on the working class is therefore bearable, because it is not a snake-like, slimy attack, it is not an attack which masquerades as something else - it is not the Soviet Union, ostensibly coming to the aid of Eastern Europe, but really to enslave Eastern Europe. No, it is a frontal attack, and I respect that. Harry Enfield hates me, and I hate him. We are fighting the same fight, against each other, but the same fight nonetheless. Loadsamoney is working class. He is bad working class. There is a good working class, but it is not Loadsamoney. The good working class is humble. The good working class is poor, and humble, and suffers. The good working class is the weak working class, the victims, the humble and the poor; objects of pity, to be looked down on, like the poor starving masses on television, the poor starving masses in foreign lands; but only certain foreign lands, only those foreign lands whose poor, humble victimship has been thoroughly impressed upon the Western mind.
Yosser Hughes was of the good working class, because he was a loser, and he lost. Yosser Hughes was a mirror image of Loadsamoney. He appeared in of Alan Bleasdale's 1980-1982 television soap-drama "Boys from the Black Stuff", and as with Loadsamoney he is familiar to more people than watched the vehicle in which he appeared. The working class was trendy in the early 1980s, because it was being crushed by Margaret Thatcher, who was herself a pillar of the establishment, being the titled daughter of an Earl or somebody; the left wing establishment, which had by that time thoroughly infiltrated Britain's poverty-stricken, backwards media, sought to destroy Margaret Thatcher, and thus the working class were used by people like Alan Bleasdale and Ken Loach as pawns in a Soviet-sponsored attempt to destabilise one of the founding members of NATO and a member of the UN Security Council. The BBC's "EastEnders" was similarly snake-like, although it generally presented the working class in sympathetic terms and, it must be admitted, everyone suffered in EastEnders, and generally at the hands of each other. There was no evil Tory plot to keep the people of Walford down; they did it to themselves. Loadsamoney was NATO's response, he was Air-Land: 2000.
The people of "Boys from the Black Stuff" are, in the aristocratic, university-educated minds of Alan Bleasdale and Ken Loach and Mike Leigh - insofar as they ever consider the real genuine people they want to use as cannon fodder - the people of etc were the good working class. They suffered. The good working class suffers. To an extent, this perception of goodness stems from our sympathy for the suffering; and the rich rarely suffer, because they have "fuck-off money", i.e. they can tell anyone, absolutely anyone they meet to simply fuck off. When you're poor, you can't do that. You have to pretend to like people, you have to be nice to people you detest, you have to perform acts you do not wish to perform, and you have to do it with a smile on your face, because you need them more than they need you, and they would not notice if you were no longer there. Even a dedicated man with a backpack full of explosives could not put out their fire. And the left wing preys on victims. The left wing is a vampire which sucks the blood of victims, of the working class; it bleeds the working class, makes it suffer, sucks its blood, pretends to help, sucks blood. The left wing is a vampire which feeds on the working class, it bleeds the working class, makes it suffer, makes it feel bad about itself, it's a religion like any other. With every passing year, the future moves further away. History does not record the poor. It records an idealised image of certain poor people, none of whom were poor anyway, or spoke for the poor, not the real poor. Perhaps this is because the media perverts everything, and that the people history records are not themselves, no matter which class. October.
3. A Pocket Full of Dosh
Loadsamoney was a comedy character created by British comedian Harry Enfield. The character first appeared in the short-lived late-1980s left-wing university revue show Friday Night Live, which ran on a Friday night, and was live. Friday Night Live was a continuation of an earlier show called Saturday Live, which etc. It is worth pointing out that the shows were not related to the American Saturday Night Live, other than being live comedy revues. They did not share cast members with their American imitator. Saturday Night Live had as much impact in Britain as Mystery Science Theatre 3000 or The Late Show with David Letterman had in Britain, i.e. none. All except MST3K were shown briefly on non-cable television in the mid 1990s, but the few dozen people who tuned in accidentally must have sat there agog and confused, and did not make the same mistake again.
Friday Night Live ran for ten episodes and, rather like the Sex Pistols' 1979 tour or "Boys from the Black Stuff" again, more people claim to have seen it than actually saw it. Nonetheless, Loadsamoney thoroughly penetrated Britain's popular consciousness. Rather like the characters of Max Headroom and Frank Sidebottom, or for that matter Hello Kitty and Domo-Kun, Loadsamoney seemed to just exist, begat of nothing, floating in space.
There were other parallels, most notably with the character of Alf Garnett from "'Till Death Us Do Part", which ran on BBC from 1966 to 1974, although the character of Garnett became a popular icon. Garnett had been intended by writer John Speight, and was portrayed by Warren Mitchell, as a racist monster, an unsympathetic loudmouth who had the answer to everything, but whose only means of putting the world to rights was to shout at it from his living room. It was this which made him comical, the gulf between his dream of the world, his desire to make the dream real, his ability to make the dream real, and his actual effort to make the dream real. The character of Alf Garnett was eventually transplanted to America as Archie Bunker, and a comparative search on Google for the two names reveals that the Americans are beating us in terms of numbers by a factor of ten to one. If I search for "make the dream real" I find, rather than Roger Waters - as I expected to find - I instead find a mixture of Morrissey and a page about menstruation, written by a lady who pretends to be a Native American.
Alf Garnett was etc intended etc monster, as Speight and Mitchell often pointed out, when interviewed. As it turned out, the audience which sustained "'Till Death Us Do Part" and its sequels was largely sympathetic towards the character, and as with so much popular satire a great number of people took upon themselves to subvert the artist's intentions. And so it was with Loadsamoney, who quickly became a poster boy for self-employed builders, plasterers, the newly rich, the vulgar, the young, and those who aspired to be any or all of those things. Loadsamoney is a good example of failed satire, indeed as with Alf Garnett he is a good example of satire which was so misguided as to imply that the satirist was trying to have things both ways, by simultaneously lambasting and appealing to a certain section of society. I believe that the character of Captain Mainwaring, from the ostensibly unsatirical "Dad's Army", probably convinced more actual Captain Mainwaring-types to mend their ways, than the character of Loadsamoney convinced plasterers, the vulgar etc to behave, insofar as this group of people could be convinced of anything. They are so self-contained, the vulgar, they are like animals, they do not feel shame.
And Loadsamoney also helped divert attention from Harry Enfield's other popular satirical character, a Greek restaurateur called Stavros, who was funny because he didn't speak English very well, and he made lots of mistakes with his English, although he was cheerfully unaware of this. He used to say "Hello everybody-peeps" instead of "Hello everybody / people", and he used to say "Up the Arse!" instead of "Up Arsenal", the football team he supported, which in turn was a bit of a joke because, of course, he was Greek, and thus probably into that sport where they run around on horses, using the body of a dead goat as a ball, or whatever they do in Greece. Lord knows how the left-wing comedians on Friday Night Live managed to justify laughing along to Stavros, when the same people would have cringed in horror if the character had been Asian or Black; presumably the fact that Greek people are nonetheless part of the western tradition and are essentially white, and thus part of the same ethnic group as Britain's left wing, that must have helped. Somebody should do up a table, or a flowchart, detailing which religious and ethnic groups can tell jokes about which other religious and ethnic groups. Catholicism and Christianity are fair game for everyone, and for this reason alone I would probably take up arms on their side, when Britain becomes The Former Yugoslavia. Hopefully I will be old or dead by then. As I say, the future I grew up with - spaceships and robots and so forth - is being pushed further and further away, by a rate of ten years per year. Short of a major space and technology race with China, which Western political party is committed - really, genuinely committed - to manned space flight? Neither of the American political parties. It doesn't matter who's third.
'Till Death Us Do Part ran on BBC1 for eight years, but the Alf Garnett character remained in the public eye until the early 1990s, and surprisingly In Sickness and In Health, the follow-up to 'Till Death Us Do Part, ran until 1992. The character of Loadsamoney had a shorter lifespan. After Friday Night Live, Enfield released a novelty book featuring Loadsamoney and Stavros, and appeared on Top of the Pops with a single called "Loadsamoney (Doin' Up the House)", which was a reference to the popular trend of using the word "House" as a reference to "Acid House", viz Coldcut's "Doctorin' the House", Jack and amp semi-colon Chill's "The Jack that House Built", The Hothouse Flowers' "Housey Housey House" and of course the classic "House" by Housemasters, feat. MC Howie House. I believe Loadsamoney was also in a series of television adverts for something or other. Where are the Buddhist terrorists?
And Loadsamoney fell dormant, until being killed off in 1990, in the last episode of the first series of Harry Enfield's Television Programme, at least according to Wikipedia, which sours quickly. There's almost nothing on the internet about Loadsamoney, because he doesn't really lend himself to analysis, there wasn't much substance behind the character, nothing he appeared in is available on DVD and 1988 is on the cusp of the Great Dark Patch between nostalgia and the recent past. You try to find anything substantive about British television comedy circa 1988-2000 on the internet, I dare you. Heavens, there seems to be more about Phil Cool than The Mary Whitehouse Experience. Phil Cool.
The thing which links Dirty Harry, Network and Rambo: First Blood Part II is that Detective Harry Callaghan, veteran broadcaster Howard Beale and whatever-rank-he-was John Rambo were, each of them, they were manifestations of the establishment, they were The Man, and they had become disillusioned. Their attacks had more substance than one from without, because they were part of the thing they attacked. All they wanted was to do their jobs, to become part of the establishment again. But they had come to realise that the establishment for which they fought and worked was sick, corrupt.