Fat & Frantic – Freedom is a Sweet Word

I get horribly nostalgic for the past these days – it must be a sign of age, I guess.

Recently, I have been really craving the music of a little-known band called Fat & Frantic who had a strong following in the UK during the late 80s but who, despite being a favoured band of top DJ Simon Mayo at the time, failed to make it into the charts.

I love them only partly because they were part of my growing-up years. I love them more because their songs were, on the whole, ridiculous and outrageously stupid. Songs such as “Last Night My Wife Hoovered my Head”, “Dictator Song for Swinging Fascists” and “Born to be a Brownie” gives you an idea of the level of maturity here.

So they were perfect for me.

When I began my teaching career in the classroom as a Music teacher it was (and still is) expected that you would teach singing and could yourself sing. Alas, what I knew about singing was about the same as the quality of my voice – frankly, lacking. There was no way I could teach choirs to sing classical songs nor encourage whole classes of bored thugs students to sing Mozart. I certainly did not want to teach them the primary school songs they all hated before they were 12 and there was no way I’d persuade my 14-year-old Year 9s to sing “Oom Pa Pa, Oom Pa Pa”.

So I turned to Fat & Frantic who never had the best of voices (so I could bellow their songs out and not have to worry about my pitching) but were musically very talented and wrote great, funny, weird and non-cheesy lyrics. Songs like “Uncle David” and “Dirtville Werewolf” went down a storm. I still remember covering an English class once and when I got there found it to be one of my Year 7 classes. They cheered when they saw me (which is always nice) and spontaneously burst out into singing “Uncle David” from memory perfectly! Possibly the nicest tribute I’ve ever received actually…

My singing teaching career was born!

Gradually I learned my trade, got used to conducting and running choirs and eventually even trained up choirs to sing things like Mozart’s Requiem at the Albert Hall but I never forgot what Fat & Frantic did for me. I still, occasionally get the chance to do a FaF song with a class at LAMB and I do so with respect and love for the band.

But there was a serious side to FaF too.

Both their fun and their serious side came from deeply held religious convictions which meant their humour never became perverse or offensive and their serious songs tended to deal with things like poverty and injustice.

Recently, with all the troubles going on in Bangladesh, I have been singing “Freedom is a Sweet Word” to myself instinctively and, in the end, had to go and download one of their albums from Amazon just so I could listen to it again and share the lyrics with you all.

As I say, they were a religious group, but the sentiments expressed here can, I think, be felt by people of any persuasion. The message, poignant in the 80s when entrepreneur-ism was at its height, is still just as valid today in our world run by bankers and politicians more interested in their freedom to make money than the injustices surrounding them. The song comes from their album “Aggressive Sunbathing”.

Freedom is a Sweet Word

Freedom is a sweet word

A taste to savour, say it loud

Exercise your freedom

Freedom means you are allowed to make and guard your pile against the people who have freedom to do

As they please but haven’t used it so constructively as you

You know that freedom is a sweet word

But freedom without justice is a freedom for a few

who have bought the right to tell us that their freedom lie is true

Whoa freedom without justice

Grows up into slavery

If you’re not a Barclay card-carrying member of the free.

Freedom is a sweet word

I heard it and my spirit leapt

But when I came to taste it

I found a free man there who crept right in and stolen all my children’s freedom, precious freedom away

And he laughed because he’d bought the judge the morning of the same day

Oh yes, freedom is a sweet word

But freedom without justice is a freedom for a few

Who have bought the right to tell us that their freedom lie is true

Whoa freedom without justice

Grows up into slavery

If you’re not a Barclay card-carrying member of the free.

Freedom is a sweet word

It shines and glistens like a star

But where’s the joy in freedom

When you’re free to obey the colour bar, you’re free to starve and free to die and free to do anything but express

That Jesus never gave to anyone the freedom to oppress

You know that freedom is a sweet word

But freedom without justice is a freedom for a few

Who have bought the right to tell us that their freedom lie is true

Whoa freedom without justice

Grows up into slavery

If you’re not a Barclay card-carrying member of the free

If you’re not a Barclay card-carrying member of the free.

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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12 Responses to Fat & Frantic – Freedom is a Sweet Word

  1. Helen says:

    I was also a big fan!! I had the cassette Waxing a Hottie! I liked “The Bald Man’s Revenge”: “I’ll tell you a tale of 2 Kings chapter 2, About the things Elisha used to do-oo-oo….” Happy days! Did I see them at a festival? Can’t remember, all so long ago!

    Like

    • I did get to see them – just the once – at Greenbelt. They were awesome, of course. I Remember the Bald Man’s Revenge very well and still find myself singing away “Get out of here you bald-headed man. Get on your skates as fast as you can!” much to the shock and bewilderment of my non-FaF fan family…

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      • Helen says:

        Ha! Still can’t stop singing b-a-l-d-h-e-a-d, still have the tape, think I’ll have to start playing it again, have old cassette player in old car, could be blaring out through Whitehaven all summer!

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        • Helen says:

          Wow, just listened to “Barry’s Car” (great fun, no longer so sold on the t..ology, bit presumptious, dominionist) but fun, fun, FUN! Mellowing already, where will it all end!

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  2. Richard says:

    I sang this once back in the 90’s in a folk club in Fareham, and I have a plan to sing it again in a few weeks at what is laughingly called a talent night. I’m not a frequent singer, so it is a little bit of a challenge. The bigger challenge though is that in the last 16 years I have aquired a Barclaycard! Am I allowed to sing it at all? Worry worry…

    Like

    • Lol – it is a good question Richard! I suspect FaF already had credit cards and the like when they originally sang the song and it is more about the attitude than the riches – so if your attitude is right I think you can get away with it! 🙂

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  3. Pingback: A gift for those who argue with me: More Fat and Frantic | kenthinksaloud

  4. SassySass says:

    :O I’d never heard of them. Must try to find them on spotify now. I’m always up for some good ol’ days music and I mean that in the most non sarcastic way possible. I guess we all miss our past at some point or another don’t we? Pretty soon we’ll sound like our parents “Back in my day…”

    Heck my husband does it every time the radio is on, “Music these days is crap. Alternative rock was so much better back in the 90s…” blah blah blah. It makes me laugh when I think of how’d we sound to our daughter once she’s a teenager. Oye.

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  5. Heather says:

    Now I REALLY want to play my cassettes. I had a worship tape by these too. Thanks for the nostalgia trip. Freedom is a very good song.

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  6. Quoting FaF shows your age dude, I never heard of this band despite being a British Asian, it must have been a million years before I entered this world – but I totally get the lyrics. It’s refreshing to read this post – considering where you are and what you are going through – I think you have every right to visit memory lane and revive that youth-feelings.

    Like

    • he he – well I did used to listen to them while I was a teenager in the 80s! And though they continue to enjoy a cult following, they never made it big in the mainstream. Glad you got into the lyrics though – that’s the reason for posting this bit of personal nostalgia on the blog. These lyrics truly do resonate well with what is going on in Bangladesh but they also resonate with how the world continues to behave, think and ignore what goes on around it.

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