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A sensible genius

Captain Sensible – Wot

Well, hello Adam, where you been?
I said a'stand aside 'cause I'm feelin' mean,
I've had a gutful of you and I'm feelin' bad
'Cause you're an ugly old pirate and ain't I glad.
He said captain, I said wot
#CaptainSensible #Wot

In the 80s there were many brilliant artists, and many of them were indeed on the verge of pure madness, some perhaps even beyond. Artists with songs and videos out of the ordinary, unwilling to accept the compromises and rules of the music industry. Generally they were children of the punk experiences of the late 70s that in the following decade were able to transform their music by making it certainly more pop, but without denying their messages and their beliefs. Let’s think of Clash and Rock the Casbah, of all the music of Pete Wylie and his Mighty Wah! like Come Back and then Sinful!, or Billy Idol himself, who had played in Generation X with Tony James who was later at the center of the Sigue Sigue Sputnik project, even if there was very little ideology there.

There was another character, in England in the early 80s, who came from punk experiences in bands like Damned, and who then decided to go out on his own to give vent to his protests and his creative spirit. Perhaps more to creativity, which later resulted in social and political commitment. A character who said of himself that he was “a debauched maniac used to having fun regardless of the consequences”, who after living in the punk communes had embraced the ideals of pacifism and had anticipated themes that would become increasingly important in the years to come, such as animal rights, or vegetarianism. Because of this sensibleness, Raymond Ian Burns had chosen the name of Captain Sensible, and was often referred to simply as “The Captain”.

Captain Sensible was a character in the true sense of the term, with his own precise iconography. He practically always appeared with a red beret over blond curls, and white-framed sunglasses. After a few songs that were successful especially in England, in August 1982 the captain broke the charts of half of Europe, entering the top ten best-selling records also in countries such as Belgium, France, Austria, Germany, Holland and Switzerland.

His song, Wot, spelt in a slang, was simply irresistible. It does not have a real plot, it combines various elements in a rap prototype that was still a novelty in Europe (we are only a few months after Falco’s Der Kommissar), but which was certainly gathering a desire for more modern music.

Wot is a kind of narrative of the absurd, in which text and video are quite essential. Captain Sensible is sleeping in a hotel room when he is awakened by the sound of a piledriver. Aside from sleeping fully dressed as a captain, complete with a beret and sunglasses, Mickey Mouse’s alarm clock on the bedside table certainly deserves a mention.

Captain Sensible, infuriated by the noise, calls the hotel reception but they do not listen to him, so he decides to go out to protest directly with the worker. In the video, Captain Sensible becomes a kind of magic flute player who, with his music and his moves, gathers behind him all those he meets, who follow him to the worker.

Unfortunately, the piledriver man is the only one who does not follow him, on the contrary, he even reduces him to a cardboard shape! And at this point the video takes on a dreamlike dimension: Captain Sensible returns to relive the previous awakening (was it all a dream?) but this time the scene moves to a sinking boat, and into the boat, in addition to the maids of the hotel, there are even Queen Elizabeth and Margareth Thatcher!

Some details of the video are curious: in the meantime, the first people that Captain Sensible meets when he leaves the room, the maids who begin to follow him, were an English group, the Dolly Mixture, three girls who often acted as backup singers. Actually when Captain Sensible became really famous, and took them with him to Top of the Pops and other television shows, the girls were not very happy, because they feared being recognized only as the backing vocals of Captain Sensible. However, it is a fact that this was their moment of greatest visibility ever; moreover Rachel, the red-haired girl, became Captain Sensible’s first wife.

Then, when the Captain and his parade are about to leave the hotel, they meet a guy dressed as a pirate as the song says “Well hello Adam, where you been?”. of course the Adam in question is Adam Ant, leader of Adam and the Ants, who had recently had a great success with Prince Charming but who evidently did not receive the sympathy of Captain Sensible.

Finally, as we said, in the final scenes on the boat we can see the Queen and Mrs. Thatcher. In a way they also were a trademark of the Captain, because they also appeared on the cover of his album, with the fantastic title “Ladies and Captains first”, a clear warning for an impending shipwreck.

Over the following decades Captain Sensible also approached politics and in the 2000s he founded a party, the “Blah party!”, Which aimed to implement direct democracy to promote ecological and popular themes, such as the need to increase investment in hospitals or public transport. His experience in politics lasted several years, but without good results.

In short, if at first glance Captain Sensible might seem like a half-mad guy, sleeping dressed and with a Mickey Mouse alarm clock, now we know that we were probably in front of the first true genius of the 80s!

Captain Sensible on Wikipedia

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