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Friday, July 8, 2011

News of the World/The Jam, and others

This is a special tabloid edition of Classics Rock!

Sunday will mark the final edition of the infamous British tabloid News of the World. Founded in 1843 and currently owned by a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, the paper trafficked in sex, sleaze and celebrity scandal, and the methods used in gathering stories were sometimes ethically questionable. The paper was ultimately sacrificed by Murdoch in the growing phone hacking scandal that continues to unfold in the United Kingdom.

The News of the World was a cultural touchstone, for better or worse, and turns up in a number of popular songs. The Beatles gave it a shoutout in "Polythene Pam," from their classic 1969 album Abbey Road: She's the kind of a girl that makes the News of the World/Yes you could say she was attractively built. This seems to suggest that Pam would be a candidate for the popular "P. 3 girl" feature, which displayed photos of scantily clad women on page three of every issue.

The Pretenders' 1982 song Back On The Chain Gang, available on the album Learning to Crawl, includes the line The phone, T.V. and the News of the World/Got into the house like a pigeon from hell. This was probably inspired by the intense media coverage that attended the death of the band's guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, from a drug overdose.

Queen released an album called News of the World in 1977, though it does not feature a song with that title. However, the following year The Jam released a single called News Of The World, available on The Very Best of the Jam. Whether or not it referred specifically to the Murdoch paper, the lyrics offered good advice for readers of that tabloid:

Don't believe it all
Find out for yourself
Check before you spread
News of the world

Songs called "News of the World" have also been recorded by Mishal Zeera, None of Us, EL, TCManBREAK and The Wildhearts.

Updated 7/9/11 11:18 pm
This just in: The Smiths mention News of the World  in "This Night Has Opened My Eyes," found on their 1984 compilation album Hatful of Hollow as well as on their 1987 collection Louder Than Bombs:

In a river the colour of lead
Immerse the baby's head
Wrap her up in the News of the World
Dump her on a doorstep, girl

Thanks to Jack Shafer and Michael C. Moynihan for pointing out the omission.

And Paul Farhi suggests that we might want to include Joe Jackson's Sunday Papers, from his 1979 album Look Sharp!. It's not clear whether Jackson was referring specifically to News of the World, but his song certainly captures the spirit of the thing.

Updated 7/11/11 9:48 pm
Another musical mention of News of the World (as well as sister publication The Sun) in U2's Last Night On Earth, from their 1997 album Pop: She's at the bus-stop with News of the World and the Sun.

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