The Washington Post made an apt, but unexpectedly hip analogy Friday, when Post blogger Christopher Federico summed up the corruption scandal involving former Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen by referencing the classic 1979 British post-punk anthem “We Are All Prostitutes,” by The Pop Group.
Under the headline “The Week In One Song,” Federico stated, “This week: Former governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and his wife, Maureen, are convicted of selling access to the governor’s office,” followed by an embedded YouTube video of the original Pop Group single, which features the printed lyrics to the song by Pop Group frontman and vocalist Mark Stewart.
While Federico was specifically referring to the political corruption of McDonnell who was convicted Thursday on 11 of 14 charges against him — with his wife also convicted on nine of 14 charges — the lyrics to “We Are All Prostitutes” refer more generally to the hypocrisy of consumerism and the capitalist economic system.
“We are all prostitutes, everyone has their price,” Stewart’s lyrics begin, which go on to state, “Capitalism is the most barbaric of all religions / Department stores are our new cathedrals / Our cars are martyrs to the cause.”
The song, played in an aggressive, even abrasive style combining funk and avant-garde jazz influences, concludes with a dire warning.
“Our children shall rise up against us,” Stewart intones, “because we are the ones to blame.”
The Pop Group formed in Bristol, England, in 1978 — classifying them as “post punk,” because the British punk rock movement peaked and then fizzled in 1977. Most of the ironically named Pop Group — whose sound was far from the comforting “pop” that dominated charts then as well as today — were teenagers when the band formed.
They produced three albums and several singles in their short time together, which ended in 1980. Their debut album Y is listed as the #35 best album of the 1970s by the popular online music site Pitchfork.
But in 2010, a full 30 years after their last appearance together, The Pop Group — whose lyrics often took a political or angst-ridden bent — reunited, issuing a statement explaining their decision.
“There was a lot left undone,” the group said in 2010. “We were so young and volatile. Let’s face it, things are probably even more f***** now than they were in the early 80’s — and we are even more f***** off!”
Below is a video of The reunited version of The Pop Group in October, 2010, performing the song cited by The Washington Post, “We Are All Prostitutes,” at the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey.