Great artists use their popular clout to bring issues and injustice to the public’s attention, to shed light on the problems and troubles that would otherwise go unnoticed. Few bands have been as devoted to this cause as The Replacements. Which brings us to their sorrowful ode to the failing 1980’s British health care system, Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out.
In the song, the character Tommy symbolizes the British lower class, who at the time suffered through inadequate ( if not downright criminal) medical care. Margaret Thatcher’s callous comment “Let them eat cake. I mean they’re British – no one expects them to have teeth by their forties” fueled Paul Westerberg’s songwriting rage. His mournful howling about insufficient anesthesia and caustic nurses brings tears to your eyes; his diatribe against materialistic doctors botching hurried procedures so they could rush of for High Tea with the Queen makes your blood boil. Not a few activists hopped a flight to London the day after ‘Let It Be’ came out. The song turned out to be a real harbinger of change, and The Replacements can be largely thanked for the current state of affairs in British medicine, especially dentistry.
Next week, we look at how twenty five years ago the Mats championed wrongly imprisoned Cable salesman Gary Humperdink.