‘Dictating to the Dictators’ by Professor Matt Worley #HistoricalDesertIslandDiscs

In the second of a series, here are the Desert Island discs for a gaggle of dictators quarantined on an island for our own protection.


Given their heinous crimes, they don’t get to pick the tracks. Instead, I do (‘dictating to the dictators’, if you like). Here goes:

1) Cabaret Voltaire, ‘Do the Mussolini (Headkick)’

Dedicated to Benito Mussolini, Italy’s premier Fascist. This is a track from Cabaret Voltaire’s debut EP (1978). Strung from a lamp-post and kicked in the head, things didn’t end too well for Il Duce.

2) Adam and the Ants, ‘Table Talk’

Tapping into our fascination with the psyche of dictators, here’s Adam Ant’s dissection of Adolf Hitler’s relationship with Geli Raubel. They both committed suicide, she in 1931 and he in 1945. The song was released in 1979 …

3) Dead Kennedys ‘Holiday In Cambodia’

As much a critique of American foreign policy as of Pol Pot, the Dead Kennedys nevertheless capture the madness. First issued as a single in 1980, Jello Biafra here serenades the collapse of the murderous Khmer Rouge and the duplicity of the US.

4) Robert Wyatt, ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stalling’

Controversial choice, as this song is more a paean to Stalin than a condemnation, written by Willie Johnson in 1943. The b-side was called ‘Stalingrad’; Wyatt was a communist; it was released on Rough Trade. Politics are complicated.

5) Manic Street Preachers, ‘Revol’

And so here’s a more pointed critique, as the Manics take us on a tour of the Soviet-informed psychological failures that projected onto a people their leaders claimed to embody …

6) Prince Buster, ‘Idi Amin’

Released in 1977, the ‘Butcher of Uganda’ got his soundtrack. It’s a broody heavy dub, so testament or mood-piece? You decide.

7) Japan, ‘Visions of China’

From 1981, a fascinated view of China emerging from Mao’s shadow: young and strong in the party, building a vision of China.

8) Elvis Costello, ‘Less Than Zero’

Thankfully, he never made it. But Oswald Mosley was Britain’s would-be Fuhrer. On this 1977 track, Elvis Costello vents fury on the media’s continued fascination: fascism as light entertainment (here comes the 1980s).

A book for the island would have to George Woodcock’s 1962 Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. It may show them that there are other ways of doing things …

Luxury Object: A gun with not quite enough bullets.

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