It was decided that 1981 should be “The Year of the Disabled”.
Ian Dury thought it would be the perfect time to release a song he’d written:
Tim Yeo was the head of The Spastics Society.
He immediately objected and the BBC immediately banned the song.
Although The Spastics Society had the word ‘spastics’ in their name, they didn’t think anyone else should be allowed to use it.
Especially not in a pop song, and especially not having fun with it.
Tim Yeo decided to get offended on behalf of all spastics everywhere.
Even though Tim Yeo himself was not disabled.
So without any consultation with Ian Dury he had the song banned.
What he didn’t know was that Ian Dury was disabled.
So Ian actually had more right to an opinion than Tim Yeo did.
Ian had contracted polio when he was a child.
His arm and leg were partially withered.
Ian thought ‘The Year of the Disabled’ was patronising.
He said “Oh, 1981 is the year of the disabled is it? So we’re all gonna be alright in 1982. That’s a load of bollocks.”
Ian felt they were being swept under the carpet.
That was why he wrote his song “Spasticus Autisticus”.
Ian said “I’m not moaning, just the opposite – I’m yelling.”
He wanted it to be a cry of rebellion like the end of Stanley Kubrick’s film, Spartacus.
Everyone standing up, shouting “I am Spartacus” – “I am Spartacus”.
So “Spasticus Autisticus” was the chorus, over and over.
I recently saw a video of a disabled actor talking about that song.
Mabil Shaban said “The BBC don’t want a disabled person that likes to fuck and swear and wank and drink.
Ian Dury never got an angry response from any disabled person.
We should have occupied radio 1 until they played his record.”
But no one did.
Tim Yeo had his way and “Spasticus Autisticus” was banned from the BBC.
It makes you wonder if that’s fair.
If someone who’s not disabled should be allowed to tell people who are disabled how they can talk about themselves.
In fact why anyone has the right to tell people how they can talk about themselves.
Many years ago we made a commercial for Walkers Poppadums.
We had a young good-looking Sikh dressed up like Las Vegas style Elvis.
He sang “Keep your gums off my Poppadums” to the tune of All Shook Up.
It was a very funny commercial.
But the Daily Mail interviewed the actor to ask why he took part in such a racist commercial.
His answer was roughly as follows:
“It is a particularly white conceit that you think you are the only people confident enough to laugh at yourselves.
You treat every other race as though we wish to be white.
And so you don’t mention our race as if it was a disability.
Well I am a Sikh, and we consider ourselves second to no one.
We do not wish to be white, and we are confident enough that we can certainly enjoy laughing at ourselves, just as white people do.”
Which I thought summed it up brilliantly.
Everyone, whatever race, sex, age, or religion, likes to laugh.
IMHO the best guide to the subject came from Dawn French:
“If it’s bad taste it’s not funny, and if it’s funny it’s not bad taste.”