Often people in Britain today - usually tabloid hacks or vainglorious politicians - fulminate about how society is meant to be in some sort of irreversible moral decline. It's the same everywhere, methinks. Youths of today, I don't know. They're too busy going out, getting drunk, and swapping STDs and not spending enough time at church/mosque/synagogue/wherever else they ought to be praying. They're grumpy, truculent, and expect to be waited on hand and foot, and they've got friends who are leading them into a bad way. That sort of thing. They then point to the latest red-top led tale of woe, about how a gang of "feral youths" stabbed a poor innocent commuter on a Tube train in broad daylight, and how nobody dared stop them, as proof of this mass of moral turpitude. Or they point to the latest ultra-violent horror film or video game and froth about how it ought to be banned because the godawful yoofs are spending all day watching it and then, brainwashed by evil corporate suits in Big Gaming, they go and inflict what they've learnt from the latest murder simulator on the poor, unsuspecting public.
None of these people have ever heard Noel Coward's song "Three Juvenile Delinquents."
Written in 1950 for his musical Ace of Clubs, "Three Juvenile Delinquents," hereafter referred to by its more urban and remix-friendly name of 3JD, is a charming, upbeat number about a trio of what would today be called "feral youths" or whatever. They happy-gallagher around, and, during the course of the song engage in many reprehensible activities, and enjoy their notoriety as a result. And this was long before Internet pornography or Manhunt 2.
Three juvenile delinquents, juvenile delinquents,
Happy as can be - we waste no time
On the wherefores and whys of it,
We like crime, and that's about the size of it!
People say that films demoralise us, lead us to a life of shame.
Mental doctors try to civilise us, psycho-analyse us,
Blimey, what a game!
They don't know how to treat us, for if they should beat us
That would never do!
When they say, "Go steady," we've the answer ready:
And the same to you!
Strip away the post war cockney silliness and high camp and you've got a pretty good satire of the alleged moral depravity of the youth of today, whenever "today" might be. Just as in the 1950s the press made a great song and dance about how young people in general were all out of control by extrapolating from a number of incidents involving "cosh boys." That, and the emergence of this strange new rock and roll stuff from America (and we all know that nothing good ever comes from there!) led to a feeding frenzy that I can't envisage as being too different from today's collective frothing about how all young people are out of control and need a good seeing to to get them on the straight and narrow, etc. etc. etc.
Noel Coward was also remarkably prescient in the antics he had the Three Juvenile Delinquents get up to; all of them would become moral panics of their own in the day - or at least have a disproportionate amount of column inches devoted to them. Joyriding? Check. In verse three they "pinched a Cadillac and drove her / from the Marble Arch to Kew" before crashing into a bystander and cheekily giving the poor soul a ticket on the number 22 bus. Lenient sentencing? Check. As the boys put it, "When the judge says, "Chokey," we say "okey dokey," - and the same to you!" Making Penny-Dreadful-level thrills for tabloid readers? Check. "We thrill the Sunday readers, but the poor ole bleeders, haven't got a clue!" The hits keep on coming.
I would try to update this musical gem for the 2010s, but alas, not even I can come up with something to rhyme with "Asbo." What would be win, though, is if someone updated it with a music video containing a trio of faux-Jamaican pretend gangsta kids (who the only Kingston they've ever been to is in Surrey) all dancing about to it.
(9 gleaming IRON NODES, gleaming IRON NODES, of my 30...)