Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Alan Sillitoe died earlier this year, 50 years after he came to prominence with the classic post-war Northern working class novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, first published in 1958:

'For it was Saturday night, the best and bingiest glad-time of the week, one of the fifty-two holidays in the slow-turning Big Wheel of the year, a violent preamble to a prostrate Sabbath. Piled-up passions were exploded on Saturday night, and the effect of a week's monotonous graft in the factory was swilled out of your system in a burst of goodwill...'

'Once a rebel, always a rebel. You can't help being one. You can't deny that. And it's best to be a rebel so as to show 'em it don't pay to try to do you down. Factories and labour exchanges and insurance offices keep us alive and kicking - so they say - but they're booby-traps and will suck you under like sinking-sands if you aren't careful. Factories sweat you to death, labour exchanges talk you to death, insurance and income tax offices milk money from your wage packets and rob you to death. And if you're still left with a tiny bit of life in your guts after all this boggering about, the army calls you up and you get shot to death ... Ay, by God, it's a hard life if you don't weaken, if you don't stop that bastard government from grinding your face in the muck, though there ain't much you can do about it unless you start making dynamite to blow their four-eyed clocks to bits'.

Sillitoe also wrote the screenplay of the film (released in 1960):

'I'm a fighting pit prop that wants a pint of beer, that's me. But if any knowing bastard says that's me I'll tell them I'm a dynamite dealer waiting to blow the factory to kingdom come. Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not because they don't know a bloody thing about me! God knows what I am'

'I'm out for a good time - all the rest is propaganda!'

The book and film have been endlessly mined in popular culture ever since. The Arctic Monkeys famously quoted the 'Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not' film line as the title of their debut album. The film line 'I want to go where there's life and there's people' inspired The Smiths' 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' (although the film's star Albert Finney - pictured above - refused his permission to be featured on the cover of 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'). The Specials recorded their own take, 'Friday Night and Saturday Morning': 'When my feet go through the door, I know what my right arm is for, Buy a drink and pull a chair, Up to the edge of the dance floor, Bouncers bouncing through the night, Trying to stop or start a fight,I sit and watch the flashing lights, Moving legs in footless tights'.

1 comment:

Heracitus said...

Steve Ignorant's new autobiography is titled "The Rest is Propaganda"